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22 LGBTQ Books About Sex, Feminism, and Intersectional Desires

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Rebel Love: Break the Rules, Destroy Toxic Habits, and Have the Best Sex of Your Life by Dr. Chris Donaghue is a must-read for anyone who desires a hotter, healthier, happier sex life. Donaghue, who many know from the popular sex and dating podcast The Amber Rose Show with Dr. Chris relays sound advice in a straightforward nonjudgmental tone, encouraging readers to think outside the box in terms of sex. Though Donaghue is LGBTQ-identified, one of the best things about Rebel Love is that is not geared toward specific sexual identities, but rather is inclusive of everyone regardless of where one falls on the spectrum. The lovely foreword written by his cohost, the bisexual activist Amber Rose, is just icing on this sweet, sexually liberating, and educational cake. (Running Press) — Desiree Guerrero

A Lover’s Pinch: A Cultural History of Sadomasochism by Peter Tupper seeks to demystify the world of BDSM culture by examining its historical roots. Originally born out of controversial religious practices that focused on discipline and shame, sadomasochism has evolved into a full-fledged lifestyle and taboo cultural phenomena. Whether relaying juicy stories of Victorian gentleman with (consensual) sex slaves or explaining the connection between Robinson Crusoe and modern BDSM porn, Tupper uses his own extensive experience in the BDSM and sex-positive communities to add richness, humor, and authenticity to this fascinating book. (Rowman & Littlefield) — DG

Outrages by Naomi Wolf (author of Vagina and Give Me Liberty) delves into the real-life story of an English scholar, John Addington Symonds, who, risking imprisonment, wrote a memoir about his homosexuality some 170 years before the country’s legalization of gay marriage. Through years of intense research, Wolf brings to life the intense friendship (and possible romantic relationship) between Symonds and American poet Walter Whitman. A fascinating peek into gay life in the early nineteenth century and what Wolf herself calls the first rights manifesto in the West. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) — DG

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Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Changed the Business of Pleasure by Lynn Comella is a history lesson in sex-positive feminism, as it recounts the story of a specific group of pioneering feminist entrepreneurs who started a liberation movement in the 1970s. Weary of an adult industry geared only towards men, these trailblazers fearlessly reinvented what, and for whom, sex shops were for. Not only did the creation of female-centric stores like Eve’s Garden, Good Vibrations, and Babeland give women and queers a new power commercially in the sex shop industry, it gave them a new power politically, as part of the intensifying women’s movement. In this brave new world, social activism and entrepreneurism combined to create true change and a healthier, more sex-positive future for all. (Duke University Press) — DG

Respect: Everything a Guy Needs to Know About Sex, Love, and Consent by Inti Chavez Perez is a much-needed manual for the modern man who wants to healthily navigate a post-#MeToo world. An experienced sex educator, Chavez Perez brilliantly illustrates the importance of consent, from first introducing yourself to first sexual encounters, in a frank and honest tone. Men are encouraged to hard look at the toxic messaging they may have received growing up that may have blurred lines of consent and take responsibility for their behaviors. Originally published in Sweden, a country known for its progressiveness in sex education and gender equality, Respect has now been released in the U.S., where it should be required reading for boys and men. (Penguin Random House) — DG

Precious and Adored: The Love Letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890–1918 edited by Lizzie Ehrenhalt and Tilly Laskey retells the beautiful love story between two women through 30 years of correspondence between them. Rose Cleveland, sister to President Grover Cleveland, began writing to Evangeline Simpson Whipple, a wealthy widow, in 1890. Over the years in their letters to each other, the two intellectuals discussed their shared passion for advocacy and humanitarian work — and each other. (Minnesota Historical Society Press) — DG

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The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison "Promiscuous" Women by Scott W. Stern tells a rarely-discussed discriminatory program in American history. The “American Plan” — officially in place from the 1910s to the 1950s, but in some places,  remnants lasted into the 1960s and ‘70s — made it legal for women to be imprisoned just for being suspected of being sex workers, carrying an STIs, or simply being “promiscuous.” Nina McCall was one of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of women victimized by this program, and through her story Stern reveals its true horror, as well as our country’s dark history of systematic sexism. (Beacon Press) — DG

Unladylike: A Field guide to Smashing the Patriarchy and Claiming Your Space by Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin is the perfect manual for finding your feminist voice. Frank, funny, and unapologetic, Unladylike takes no qualms about calling out the patriarchal B.S. in our society, including the constructed notion of what is and what is not deemed “ladylike” behavior. The authors encourage readers to abandon the confines of this system of rigid judgement — one that implies women should be sexy but not slutty, smart but not intimating — and loudly proclaim their place and power in the world. Vibrant illustrations by artist Tyler Feder add a fun and charming touch to an already exciting read. (Penguin Random House) — DG

Girl Talk: What Science Can tell Us About the Nature of Female Friendship by Jaqueline Mroz takes a scholarly and scientific approach to examining platonic relationships between women. Mroz, a science writer for the New York Times, gives us a fascinating historical explanation for why female friendship are often deeper, yet more fragile, than male friendships, and then later looks into how changes in body chemistry, like menopause, can affect relationships. Along with the author’s own extensive research, Girl Talk explores the topic through interviews with a variety of experts, including some of the country’s top scientists, anthropologists, biologists, and psychologists. (Seal Press) — DG

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All The Women in My Family Sing is a collection of short stories, essays, and poems written by 69 different women of color — including America Ferrera, Belva Davis, Miriam Ching Yoon Louie, and Samina Ali — that describe their unique experiences, struggles, and triumphs in a world plagued by sexism and racism. Edited by author and activist Deborah Santana (who also wrote the foreword), the book was not only written by but entirely produced by women of color, from publishing to marketing to cover design. Some touching, some funny, some sexy, each woman’s narrative is ultimately inspiring. (Nothing But The Truth, LLC) — DG

She the People by Jen Deaderick and illustrated by Rita Sapunor takes a historical look at the evolution of women’s rights in the United States. Starting at the country’s birth in 1776, the book is divided into twelve time periods that recount, often in a humorous or sarcastic tone, the many injustices women have had to fight against over the years. Sapunor’s quirky illustrations add much-needed comic relief to the often infuriating subject matter. Covering everything from the suffrage movement, to Roe vs. Wade, to the battle to get the Equal Rights Amendment officially added to the US Constitution, She the People is both entertaining and educational. A must read for anyone concerned about equal rights in this country. (Seal Press) — DG

Most people have internalized the world “ugly” to represent some of their deepest insecurities and darkest thoughts. But in Yetta Howard’s new book Ugly Differences: Queer Female Sexuality in the Underground, the author contends that the term is actually at the core of queer female sexuality—from poetry, comics, film, and all forms of performance art. In a world that often categorizes ugliness as anything non-white, non-male, and non-straight, Howard offers a helping hand to LGBTQ people of all ages to truly investigate what “ugly” actually is (Who decides what ugly is, anyway?) and to break free of society’s brainwashing messages about ourselves, using fine examples in art and culture that prove when we look our “ugliness” in the face, it no longer has power. (University of Illinois Press) — David Artavia

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I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya may be a small thin (82-page) treatise, but it packs a powerful punch, and should be required reading for any cis gender woman who ever imagined that trans women have been (due to being assigned male at birth) inoculated to the routine threats of male violence that so define the female experience. The South Asian-Canadian artist (filmmaker, writer, musician, visual artist) shares what has made her afraid of men — and admits that even this litany of offenses pales in comparison with those of so many others who are raped, beaten, and killed. She also acknowledges a fear of cis women, a fear born of ridicule for her failure to adequately conform to feminine standards. These attacks on her femininity are ironic, given that Shraya felt compelled to build a masculine, muscular body to hide her femininity before acknowledging and embracing her transness. Similarly, she argues, “How cruel it is to have endured two decades of being punished for being too girly only to be told that I am not girly enough.” For anyone who was moved by Dr. Christine Blasely Ford’s testimony, Shraya’s recollection of laughter that still “reverberate in my ears” will strike a chord. Only in this case, the giggles came from a girl, laughing as a boy repeatedly spit on a young Shraya. For the trans artist, the girl stands in for all the women who have encouraged, allowed, or defended men as they threaten or enact violence upon others. She calls on all of us to not only address male violence, but to imagine a world where children (and adults) could express their gender however they pleased without facing policing and punishment for perceived failures — whether it be of masculinity or femininity. (Penguin) — JAM 

Countersexual Manifesto by Paul B Preciado was written in the late 1990s but only recently translated into English. The new edition features a foreword by queer studies theorist Jack Halberstam, who affirms the still-radical nature of Preciado’s theories. His concepts revolve around countersexual practices, which he defines as including the use of dildos, the eroticization of the anus, and the establishment of contractual BDSM relationships. Sexual reclamation of the anus as an erotic zone disrupts theories of sexuality and economy especially those that view the core division of labor: separating males (penises) as producers and females (vaginas) as reproducers. While the dildo and other ‘artificial technologies’ which he views as including hormones, organ transplants, and pharmacological management of chronic diseases (like HIV) trouble both essentialist and constructionist feminism. Much of the former butch lesbian-identified academic’s theories revolve around dildos, which he imagines as both sexual and gender-affirming organs that refute binary ideas (including about what’s natural/artificial and male/female). It’s not just the materials dildos are made of but the way they can both mimic natural penises, but also exceed them in sizes, shapes, colors, and uses. In a new introduction to the English edition, Preciado argues that 3D printing will soon enable us to print our own sexual organs, imaging that this will then enable us to invent entirely new shapes—and that these new sexual organs will engender their own novel desires. Rather than calling for a revolution, Preciado’s Manifesto argues the revolution has already begun. (Columbia University Press) — JAM

Times Square Red, Time Square Blue by Samuel R. Delaney proves its continued relevance with this special 20th anniversary edition, which includes a new forward by literary and cultural critic, Robert Reid-Pharr. During the two decades before its original publication in 1999, Delaney witnessed the slow gentrification of the once-infamous 42nd Street in New York City — watching red-light institutions like porn theaters and peep shows eventually replaced with Disney stores and Starbucks. In the book, he paints a vivid picture of the complex (and predominantly queer) social systems and spaces that once ruled the area. (NYU Press) — DG

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Misogyny: The New Activism by Gail Ukockis (Feb 2019) is a timely evaluation of the historic evolution and social context of misogyny and offers concrete examples of what can be done by activists to combat it. Drawing examples from politics to academia and news stories to pop culture, it offers introductions to (among other issues): sex trafficking, sports culture, toxic masculinity, rape culture, slut shaming, and the demonization of Hillary Clinton. It references Roy Moore, Say Her Name, the Brock Turner case, bathroom bills, and attempts to outlaw abortion. The actions it recommends are presented in context with historical examples of how using, for example writing, oration, or social media have made a difference. Includes a section on how to be a trans ally. Most seasoned activists will find the book a little too rudimentary. Still, it’s perfect for college students and those new to activism, feminism, or intersectionality. (Oxford University Press) — JAM  

#NSFW: Sex, Humor, and Risk in Social Media by Susanna Paasonen, Kylie Jarrett, and Ben Light explores how and why social media content is labeled as not safe for work. The authors examine who the NSFW label is both a warning and an invitation. Since there are no explicit warnings for content such as with more specific advisories for television and movies, the tag non-specifically signals the inclusion of sexually explicit content that could range from nude selfies to pornography. #NSFW takes a long look at the dick pic and the issues of agency, desire, consent, and social power that arise from it. The authors also deal with the use of risqué workplace humor, as well as sexist and misogynist harassment online. They caution that this notion of unsafety goes beyond risk of employment or public shame but can lead to attaching an unspecified risk to sexually explicit content, media, and communication in general. Their book is both an honest look at a complex subject with the recommendation to look beyond content and instead focus on context and consent. (MIT Press) — DP

When Time Warps: The Lived Experience of Gender, Race, and Sexual Violence by Megan Burke uses a feminist phenomenological perspective to examine the lived experiences of women and what it means to be a woman. This scholarly inquiry studies the production of normative womanhood with colonial domination and racist tropes in mind, building upon the foundational principle that the lives of women are oppressed by sexual violence. Burke uses the lens of time rather than space to reveal the sexualized racism at the center of the experience of women throughout history. When Time Warps proposes provocative new concepts of how the temporal existence is changed through experience in the lived time of gendered individuals, while also introducing the ideas and observations of important new women of color theorists. Burke has a PhD and MA in philosophy as well as a MA in Women’s Studies and a BA in English and Cultural Studies. They are currently assistant professor of philosophy at Sonoma State. (University of Minnesota Press) — DP

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Herlands: Exploring the Women’s Land Movement in the United States by Keridwen N. Luis is an exploration of how women-only communities are providing space for new forms of culture, sociality, gender, and sexuality. Deeply rooted in feminist politics of the 1970s, women’s lands are collective communities across the globe composed entirely of women ranging in form from urban households to isolated rural communes. They provide a gender-isolated means of deliberately and accidentally challenging ideas about gender, sociality, and sexuality. As a participant-observer, Luis brings a unique perspective and insight to the lives of the women in these communities and breaks new ground by exploring not just culture and gender theory, but also the concept and development of lesbian identity in North America. Luis is lecturer in the departments of anthropology; women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and sociology at Brandeis University. She also lectures in the departments of women, gender, and sexuality and sociology at Harvard University. (University of Minnesota Press) — DP

Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History by Blair Imani and illustrated by Monique Le is a celebration of 70 women, girls, gender nonbinary peoples, and others who have brought about progressive social change through their heroic words and actions. Despite their contributions to society, many of these trailblazers have remained relegated to the sidelines while others received recognition and glory. Imani seeks to bring awareness to the deeds of these traditionally overlooked peoples, not just women but also people of color, queer people and trans people, Muslims, and young people. Modern HERstory tells these important stories in an easy-to-follow format with vivid and colorful illustrations. Imani is a political journalist and commentator, author, and Black queer American Muslim activist. She is the founder and executive director of Equality for HER, a nonprofit educational platform for feminine-identifying individuals. (Ten Speed Press) — DP

Renegade Women in Film and TV by Elizabeth Weitzman with illustrations by Austen Claire Clements is a charming and timely tribute to the women who broke the glass ceiling in film and television. The accomplishments of 50 extraordinary women are revealed through fascinating biographical profiles, exclusive interviews, and stunning illustrations. Among the talented and groundbreaking individuals profile can be counted Mary Pickford and Mary Tyler Moore, Hedy Lemarr and Lucille Ball, Sigourney Weaver, Barbra Streisand, Barbara Walters, Ellen DeGeneres, and more. Renegade Women is the perfect book to introduce modern young feminists and entertainment enthusiasts alike about the groundbreaking efforts of these talents women, many during a time when women were relegated to roles as secretaries and housewives.  Weitzman is a journalist, film critic, and author of books for children and young adults. Clements is a freelance illustrator and designer whose work has been featured in Glamour, Teen Vogue, InStyle, and more. (Clarkson Potter) — DP

Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and Digital Humanities edited by Elizabeth Losh and Jacqueline Wernimont is a wide-ranging yet interconnected anthology of scholarly essays that present a diversity of contributions to digital humanities. By using intersectional feminism as the starting point, the editors have assembled a wide range of analyses and thought from a diverse group of progressive intellectual minds. Bodies of Information is a comprehensive volume that is perfect for the classroom and academic study. It is helpfully organized around the keywords of materiality, values, embodiment, affect, labor, and situatedness. The contributors analyze the impact of Roe v. Wade, queer and feminist digital humanities, issues of agency and identity, and more. Los is associate professor of English and American studies at The College of William & Mary with a specialization in new media ecologies. Wernimont is assistant professor at Arizona State University. Both are authors of numerous books on varying topics. (University of Minnesota Press) — DP

Tags: Exclusives, Books

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