Books & Reading,  My EJC Responses

A Book-ish History of Sexual Education

I think it all started with…

My dad had a few hidden between the towels in the bathroom cupboard. I can’t imagine how he thought that was a suitable hiding place, though I’m sure it was more about accessibility and less about logic. The first time I found them, I looked through them and wondered at the reason for having such a thing. I was maybe a first or second grader at the time, so I could read, but at that tender age, reading wasn’t what I was doing as I flipped through the pages. Ironically, later in life, I would subscribe to the magazine…for the articles (and fiction).

Later there was….

I vividly remember reading an article where the term “masturbation” came up. Rather than reading on, I, like any inquisitive young reader would do, stopped and asked my dad what the word meant. After his initial stammering, he explained, without detail (because it wasn’t needed and both of us were blushing), that it was “playing with yourself.” And, I don’t know that I ever asked him what a word meant again. I did, however, read the magazine pretty faithfully until I was at least 15 or 16. It taught me quite a bit about kissing, the body, and relationships. It likely also added to my body-image issues and made me want a lot of things I couldn’t have or couldn’t afford. I stopped reading magazines like this in my late teens because of that. The hopelessly thin women and the focus on appearance, make-up, and fashion, just lost my interest. I took to wearing black and hating society at large at this time, anyway. You know…normal teenager stuff.

In my mid and late teens, I borrowed quite a few of my moms romance novels. The one I remember having the most impact was one by Nora Roberts, but the title escapes me. I vaguely remember the story being something about a woman being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. She becomes part of a harem and earns her way to the top, through her tempting and seducing ways. I’m sure it ended well, as these books do…and she made it back to her family or some wonderful, handsome man came in and rescued her. But, I remember her actually sort of falling in love with her captor. Maybe it was Stockholm syndrome, and I’m sure there was soooo much wrong with the events of the book….BUT…I loved it. It was sexy and romantic and completely unrealistic. Every once in awhile I go back to these types of books…usually right at the beginning of my summer vacation when my brain just cannot think deeply and needs a rest with a story line that is sweet and completely predictable.

Sometime in my mid-teens, I found Anne Rice. I was in love with the paranormal at that time (go figure…I was a teenage girl), and there was sort of resurgence in popularity for The Vampire Chronicles.

I found the beginning of this book to be one of the most erotic things I had ever read. In fact, I read and re-read the scene where Lestat takes Louis (turning him into a vampire) time and time again. So. Fucking. Sexy. I read every book by Anne Rice that I could get my hands on. I worked at a book store at the time (go figure), and we got a copy of these.

I asked for them for Christmas, and my aunt (obviously not having a clue what doors she was about to open for me) gave them to me. I had never heard of BDSM, and swung the doors (and windows) wide open on this subject. I stayed up reading for three nights to finish the whole trilogy.

And then I entered college. As a literature major, I spent pretty much every waking hour (and then some) reading books. But, few of them were sexy in any way. And, because the number of books I was reading at any given time for classes, I had little time to read anything by choice. It wasn’t until I took a class called The Bodice Ripper as a masters student that I finally found myself reading anything remotely sexy in college. I honestly don’t remember any of the titles I read in this class, and I didn’t keep any of the books. It was more of a feminist criticism study of works mainly written by men, and the sex scenes were less sexy than ridiculous and contrived.

I did, however, around this time, find my way to Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. I became fascinated with their relationship and with their writing, Nin as a woman who studied and crafted a language of female sexuality all her own, and Miller as a man who tore down every possible expectation about sex and stomped on it, creating raw visions of sex that never wore the pretense of art. This was when I began collecting rare books by the authors. Nin was really my introduction to “erotica,” and I was fascinated, not only by her stories, but her her study of language. She did research on D.H. Lawrence, so this is also the time when I read Sons and Lovers, Women in Love, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, and The Rainbow, some of my all-time favorite books.

Today, I mainly spend my time reading other people’s blogs and erotica online. There is such a wealth of possibilities there. However, when I do read sex on paper, it is either of the anthology type:

Or the memoir type (since I prefer most to learn about people’s real experiences in order to learn more about my own):

Or the informative type (mainly to learn about low-sex drive and sex-starved marriages, non-monogamy, and D/s):

Though, one of the best sexy things I’ve read in the past few years was Alison Tyler’s Dark Secret Love trilogy (fictionalized memoir?):

Reading is a huge part of my life, and I’ll admit, it’s how I learned most everything I know about sex and sexuality. It has always served as a low-risk way to experience things I’m either too afraid to experience in real life or would never want to. It has also been a way for me to (on my own terms and in my own time) learn about things that are new to me, mainly through the experiences (failures and successes) of others. I wish I had more time for it, really…reading books that is. I read erotic content pretty much continuously, but there is something to be said for the relaxation provided by simply meandering why way (or ravenously devouring) a sexy book.

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  • Elliott

    I can remember finding my Dad’s Playboy magazines and how thrilling that was. I was 14 and had only masturbated a few times with some nudist magazines he had. It was very exciting to look at naked women at that age (still is now). I enjoyed your post, Brigit, brought back a lot of memories. ‘Peyton Place’, was first time I saw ‘fuck’ in print, I wasn’t sure what it meant. Nobody said fuck in the 50’s and even through the 60’s most people didn’t really use it. Now… Everybody says fuck.

    • Brigit Delaney

      I know…even within my lifetime fuck has morphed into everyday language. Things change so quickly. And yet, we seem to be growing more puritanical in some regards…when it comes to sharing content on the internet. Why is sex still shameful?

  • missy

    Some great books here and some great memories for you. It is so interesting the way that something resonates with us at the time and, although we don’t understand, it becomes something we come back to with more clarity. Definitely some overlap with our reading materials too. ❤️

  • E.L. Byrne

    Some great book recommendations. Now that you mention this- I remember sneaking into my dad’s nightstand when I loved with him after college and “reading” his porn magazines. I also remember once I was living on my own, finding the furthest convenience store away from me and going in and buying a penthouse or playboy for myself- red-faced and trying to act cool.

    • Brigit Delaney

      Ha….I can picture you doing this. I just ordered them and had them sent to me. I’m too chicken to by sexually themed items in public. Adult stores make me cringe…though my husband has dragged me into several.

  • May More

    Great post Brigit – have read so many of the books featured over the years – including playboy 😉 I may have already said I once found an Anne Rice book called “Belinda” – was intriguing… Lestat was my fav of the vampire series

    • Brigit Delaney

      I read Belinda, too. In hindsight, I think it is better than the Beauty series. When I read Beauty, it was earth-shattering for me. I tried to reread it recently and didn’t care for it. I guess my tastes have changed. Go figure.

  • Kayla Lords

    For me, it began in 3rd grade (when I was 8) with my mom’s romance novels. I didn’t exactly understand what I was reading (it was a LONG time before I understood what a creamy loin was) but I knew how it made me feel. I snuck those for a few years. And yep, I read the Vampire Lestat books as a teenager too (loved those!). I ended up reading the Beauty Trilogy in my mid-30s (so not that long ago, lol).

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