Nicole Guappone
Aug 24, 2018 · 5 min read

Reading list for sex nerds

Below is a list of books I put together about sex, sexuality, and kink/BDSM. The ones marked with an asterisk are from the bibliography of my MFA thesis, which was a half personal/half theoretical look at personal growth through kink and how the body responds to sensation. Everything else is just something I probably read for fun. Most of these books I’ve read all the way through. If I haven’t, I noted it. In a couple instances, I include a bit of a description of the book/why it might be on the list.

Guidebooks, How-Tos, & SCIENCE!

Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life (Dr. Emily Nagoski)

DIY Porn Handbook: A How-To Guide to Documenting Our Own Sexual Revolution (Madison Young) (More than just a how-to guide this book also includes some great writing about the importance of queer/feminist/DIY porn in general.)

The Ethical Slut (Dossie Easton, Janet Hardy)

Exhibitionism for the Shy (Carol Queen)

Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means (Cacilda Jetha, Christopher Ryan)

Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities (Richard A. Sprott and David Ortmann)* (Studies some really taboo kinks that “squick” many out. Has great sections on scat and age play and using BDSM to work through past trauma. CN: In one case, child abuse. Sprott and Ortmann are both psychotherapists.)

SM 101: A Realistic Introduction (Jay Wiseman) (Very 101 but includes some safety tips I haven’t read in other SM guidebooks.)

The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play, and the Erotic Edge (ed. Tristan Taormino)

When Someone You Love is Kinky (Dossie Easton, Catherine A. Liszt aka Janet Hardy)* (CN: this book was published in 2000 and, if I remember correctly, contains some cis-normative and/or transphobic language.)

Wild Side Sex: The Book of Kink (Midori)

Academic, Theoretical, & Research Texts

The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Elaine Scarry)* (I only read the introduction to this book for my thesis and it was SO INCREDIBLY DENSE. I hope to read the rest some time in the future.)

Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy (Hallie Lieberman) (I learned a lot about the history of certain sex toys from this book, but read Sarah B. Holliday’s great review of it here to get a better idea of what to expect.)

A Defense of Masochism (Anita Phillips)* (As a masochist, I LOVED a lot of what this book had to say. That said, it was written in 1998 and includes a lot of outdated, cis-normative/trans-exclusionary feminist thought and theory.)

The Feminist Porn Book (ed. Tristan Taormino et al.)

Pleasure Zones: Bodies, Cities, Spaces (ed. David Bell et al.)* (Older book, a lot of focus on gay male and leather spaces. Some great stuff from Patrick Califia here.)

Public Sex: The Culture of Radical Sex (Patrick Califia, published under Pat Califia) (Haven’t read the whole thing but the essays I have read have been amazing. There’s some wonderfully controversial content within these pages so check the index for content warnings.)

Safe, Sane, and Consensual: Contemporary Perspectives on Sadomasochism (ed. Darren Langdridge and Meg Barker)* (I referred to several individual pieces from this book in my thesis.)

Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism (Amber Jamilla Musser)* (Didn’t read the whole thing, but want to — about half the chapters, if I remember correctly, focused on specific authors/books. I was most interested in the content on masochism and race in general.)

Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality (Margot Weiss)* (Really dense ethnological study of the pansexual — mostly hetero or bi women/straight men relationships — BDSM community of San Francisco. Weiss isn’t part of the community and analyzes it through classist, capitalist, and neoliberal lenses. She really dives deep into how engaging in problematic/taboo role play is affected by and can have an effect on the world around you, even if you “only do it in your bedroom.”)

Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure (Lynn Comella) (Read my Rolling Stone piece about it here!)

Memoirs, Essays, Personal Writing

The Argonauts (Maggie Nelson) (Beautiful, lyrical, “autotheoretical” study of bodies and queerness. Nelson is pregnant and gives birth while her partner, Harry, transitions.)

Daddy: A Memoir (Madison Young)

Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice (ed. Mark Thompson)* (All of these essays are great, but a couple that really stuck with me are “The Catacombs: A Temple of the Butthole” by Gayle Rubin and “Swastika Toys” by Arnie Kantrowitz.)

Sex With Shakespeare: Here’s Much to Do With Pain but More to Do With Pleasure (Jillian Keenan)

Times Square Red, Times Square Blue (Samuel R. Delany)* (The form of this book inspired the form of my thesis. The first half, personal, the second half a theoretical take on a lot of the personal stuff. It’s super dense, but Delany is worth it.)

Fiction

Graceling (Kristin Cashore)* (This is YA fiction. It isn’t about BDSM or masochism, but the way the main character describes experiencing pain and her “superpower” — the skill to kill — speaks to how the body reacts to and processes sensation.)

Kushiel’s Dart (Kushiel’s Legacy series) (Jacqueline Carey)* (Epic high fantasy series. Super sex- and BDSM-positive. I mean, they believe becoming a courtesan is basically a religious calling. I can’t recommend this series enough, especially if you’re kinky and into high fantasy.)

Leash (Jane Delynn)* (Dark, graphic tale of the main character’s D/s relationship with a dominant woman which moves into some intense pet play.)

Master Han’s Daughter: Tales from Depraved NeoTokyo (Midori) (Midori told me herself this isn’t romantic erotica, this is smut. It doesn’t always have a happy ending and for me, pushed the boundaries of what can be erotic.)

Single pieces

“Consensual BDSM Facilitates Role-Specific Altered States of Consciousness: A Preliminary Study.” (James Ambler, et al. Read in Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 22 Sept. 2016)*

“Dungeon Intimacies: The Poetics of Transsexual Sadomasochism” (Susan Stryker. Read in parallax, vol. 14, no. 1)*

“On Using Dangerous Tools and Toys” (Nicole Guappone for The Rumpus’ (K)ink: Writing While Deviant)* (Yes, I know, it’s my own piece, but you might enjoy?)

“Sex, Power, and the Politics of Identity” (interview with Michel Foucault for The Advocate, 1977. Read in Ethics: Subjectivity and Truth.)*

“The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” (Audre Lorde. Read in Sister Outsider.)*

Video

bell hooks Hosts an Open Dialogue on Transgressive Sexual Practice (with Samuel R. Delany, Marci Blackman, M. Lamar)*

Not directly sex- or BDSM-related

Chroma: A Book of Color (Derek Jarman)*

Nicole Guappone

Written by

Writes about sexuality, kink, & sex toys. Also the pelvic floor. @RollingStone @glamourmag @Into @The_Rumpus @RebelliousMag @bust_magazine @ESTBLSHMNT

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