My boyfriend recently brought home a book called something like, What Every Man Wishes Every Woman Would Know in Bed. Some of the ideas in that book seemed ridiculous to me and are a real turn off. The person who wrote the book is no different than me, by that I mean, she is not an educated expert on sex. I often look at the columns about love and sex in the magazines I read too, but it is hard to tell fact from opinions when it comes to this subject. Who do you trust with your questions?
This is a great question and one that has been on my mind lately as I too am frequently offered a wide range of books on the topics of love and sex to review. Like you, I am disappointed by the opinions that parade as facts as well as the lack of background that stands behind them. This is the gift and challenge of living in a country that protects free speech, where anyone can say anything and these days, publish it at little expense.
For me, the best and most reliable way for me to interpret the wide range of sex columnists, book authors and bloggers on love and sex is to begin with a basic understanding of what good sex education consists of. The first criteria of sex education, whether it is something you read in a book, magazine, blog or hear in a bathroom is that real sex education provides accurate, evidence based information. This means that the information should be based on scientific knowledge about how bodies function and work together, rather than an expression of the writer’s values, morals or political point of view.
Good sexual writing should help the reader to understand that sexuality is an intrinsic part of what it is to be human. A lot of opinion writing separates sexual behaviors and ideas from the rest of our life experience, which does a disservice to both sex and life. Too much of sexual education in the media is interpreted by people who are not always developmentally prepared for the information presented. Finding developmentally appropriate resources that apply to the person’s experience is essential for any real learning to take place.
Reading books that claim to know “What women really want in bed” presumes that the prescriptive ideas will fit for all women. Human sexuality is probably the most subjective and individual experience we have in life. The materials you read and advice you get is only as good as it is at acknowledging the diversity that exists among people’s sexuality. While this includes things like differences in cultural or religious orientations, it also should embrace the wide range of sexual orientations and experiences of pleasure that make us all unique.
The most engaging columnists in sexuality and relationships capture our attention because they offer new ideas and ways of thinking about your sexuality in the life-long learning process that it is. Reading a book or a post by someone who makes you feel included in a larger community and who speaks to your curiosity while also encouraging you to think in new ways is a gift. If you feel alienated, excluded or misunderstood when you are engaging in learning about your sexuality, it is time to find another teacher.
Real teachers help you to find the best in yourself and there is no place in life that deserves this learning integrity as much as our sexuality.