One of the places we can feel the most self-conscious about our bodies is in the bedroom. Even if you’ve been with your partner for a long time, like I have, being naked physically still comes with a lot of emotional triggers. It takes time to be comfortable with yourself and with your partner, but it’s a journey that can have some mind-blowing rewards, once you’re able to free up your mind and your body.
That’s why this month, in the spirit of celebrating body positivity, I’ve selected five books that explore intimacy and sex, and how we can all feel a little more connected to our bodies, our partners and our own pleasure.
I know firsthand how hard it can be to keep things exciting in the bedroom: It’s hard for any couple to carve out time to have sex, and when you do, there’s some pressure to make it count. Not to mention that if you have kids, there are plenty of days when you’re exhausted or the kids want to jump into bed: Goodbye sexytimes. I’ve found, for me, the more open I can be about my feelings around intimacy, the better it is, and the better I feel about my body.
Each of these books offers an interesting perspective on intimacy that I hope you find helpful, or at least thought-provoking. Happy reading!
The Good Girl’s Guide to Bad Girl Sex by Barbara Keesling, Ph.D.
Even those of us who consider ourselves good girls (*raises hand*) can learn a thing or two from sex therapist Barbara Keeling’s unabashed, balls-to-the-wall approach to sex. After all, there shouldn’t be shame in experimentation or loving your body or orgasms or anything else that goes on in the bedroom. If being a bad girl is wrong, maybe we all shouldn’t want to be right anymore.
Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
I know just as well as anyone that sustaining desire when you’ve been married for a while—and have a couple of kids running around—can be a challenge, to put it mildly. Couples therapist Esther Perel digs deep into ways in which we can stay stimulated and engaged when you’ve been with someone for a long time.
She Comes First by Ian Kerner
Sure, you could look at this how-to book as a playbook for your partner, but She Comes First is an essential read for anyone who wants to know more about female pleasure. When we know more about our bodies and what feels good, we’re able to enjoy sex that much more—and ask for/show our partners what we want. Consider this one a boost for your own sense of empowerment.
Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm by Nicole Daedone
I know what you’re probably thinking: “I have a million things on my plate, and you’re telling me to ‘slow down’ with sex?” I totally get that. But Nicole Daedone’s book isn’t actually about spending hours and hours having sex: It explores a technique that is designed to help women get in touch with their bodies and the ability to feel and enjoy our own arousal. It’s called Orgasmic Meditation, and it can be a life-changing way to truly connect with your body and partner.
Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Claudia Jetha
Are human beings meant to have sex with one partner? If you’re curious and want to understand the history and anthropology of human sexuality, this book is a fascinating read. It looks at how we’ve been programmed as a species, exploring how humans went from being hunter-gatherers with multiple sexual partners to accepting monogamy as the norm. It stirred up a lot of controversy when it came out, and it’s easy to see why, but it’s thought-provoking for sure.
Has anyone read these books, or have other titles you love? Drop me a comment below!
Thank you so much for the suggestions! I’m currently single and unfortunately cannot have any children, but I still feel that self love and exploration is extremely important for overall health. One of my personal favorites is called the five love languages. It focuses on the ways that humans show love. Whether it be physical, acts of service, words of affirmation, etc, knowing how we love ourselves and others can be very helpful. Thank you so much for your content! Love you ?
Great list. I’m working on Sex at Dawn currently. Which is a trick with my very curious 11 year old always around. ? but that’s another topic for another day! I Love what you’re doing so far. Keep it up. You’re killing it!
Gifs Dee & Gen
Yes that’s right, as a good sex lover, I love to inform me, because a good sex will not depend just on him , I need to know better about me and my body to know what I like and how I like! I’m loving your posts, are quite productive! ??❤❤❤
As a mom of two, and someone who has struggled with intimacy and body image for many years, I’m excited to check out some of these reads!
We need more women like you to spread body positivity!! When I’m older i wanna be like you. You’re such a role model. Love you.
Gifs Dee & Gen
Hey Gen! I’d like to make a suggestion, how about a video of you with a sexologist answering fan questions! ?
I think I definitely need to read Mating In Captivity. My husband and I have been together for 20 years. We have 4 children from age 20-5. It’s exhausting!! Not to mention the youngest still won’t stay out of our room at night!!
Thanks for this lit list! I’ve been married for 15-years and “Mating in Captivity” sounds like something I need to read asap. Two kids, both of us working full time and rushing to take our kids to their after school activities, weekend games, etc. …we’re tired! This book sounds like the perfect pick me up for us. Thanks!
I have read The Good Girl’s Guide…very good read. I would love to find a book that discusses the sexual issuesany women endure such as vaginismus and other physical and psychological issues women deal with and are “hush hush” about. I dealt with vaginismus for many years..and still occasionally do…and I discovered that very few gynecologists are educated on it and many women who suffer from it are shamed and told to “get over it”. So, so sad.
I heard Daniel Vitalis talk about the book She Comes First, but I haven’t bought or read it yet. I will someday!
Gen is incredible in everything her does love his work and his dedication to his family.
And beyond all this she takes care of herself and beautiful and I adore her a lot I love you gen ❤??
Michelle Lee Vela-Jones
Just Thank You!
Michelle Lee Vela-Jones
I just wanted to say thank you for spreading body positivity? and openly talking about sex and pleasure! Everybody could use a little encouragement and positivity?
As a survivor of childhood sexual assault and for 5 years the wife of an incredible man, this list is perfect for me right now. Late last year I testified in a trial against my abuser who was also my father and he was found not guilty. Since testifying and bringing back up all of the trauma I went through, I have been struggling immensely with being intimate with my husband. He is so amazing and understanding, but I want to be able to take charge of my sexuality again after feeling like a victim. I’m really hoping that these books may help me find my strength again and be able to be intimate with my husband again without the anxiety and fear I currently experience. Thank you for making this list.
Thanks for the book recommendations! Definitely going to check out a few! Love the blog Gen!!?
My best friend loves you and your husband. I doubt you will see this but its worth a shot. My friend is OBSESSED with supernatural and its all she ever talks about. She’s one of the kindest, generous, and loving people I know, and she truly just wats to make people happy. My other Best friend and I want to repay her for all that she’s done for us and we were wondering if you could do us a favor. If It’s to much to ask I understand, but if possible could we arrange to make a video of Jared and you saying hi and her name and just other stuff. Thanks so much! Love your blog, btw.
Thank you for the book list! I read “she comes first” last year and found it really educational and helpful.
This certainly is a squishy topic! Good and fun and satisfying married sex is something that I advocate! I have been married twenty years. It is wonderful to have a single person with whom I am comfortable to be around in my own blemished naked skin. I believe that is the first thing everyone needs in order to have good sex. You need to be comfortable with yourself first. I am not without my concerns though. Sometimes the act of penetration is painful for me. I have finally decided that I need to talk to my doctor about this. I just do not want to tell my husband! I do not want him to know that he is hurting me. I don’t really know how to get over that. I’m embarrassed to admit this to anyone face to face. Does anyone else have this problem?
Hi, Gen. I can totally relate to the body image part. I have no problem talking about sex, body parts and things off that nature. But I have terrible body image. I have scoliosis and spinal stenosis. The scoliosis b4 my back surgery was 98 degrees and my spine was crushing my lungs. After surgery they got me to 48 degrees. Not really great but better. So if you look at me you can see the disfigurement. After my spinal stenosis surgery, they went back in and fused the rest of my spine to my tail bone, my neck looks crooked. Because my hips can’t compensate for the curves. I hate my body. I’m deformed and have scars almost everywherebbon my torso and neck. I also I the flattest ass around. So bc of all that my sexual positions are limited and often in pain or depressed, or both. I also have major depression bc of it. None of my dreams came true and my life sucks. With all of that said I would like to know why these things happen. What does my brain look like with the depression and what other problems are connected with scoliosis. Maybe not exactly what you’re talking about, but the body image does. I have body deformia, not sure if spelling is right.
I think it’s amazing that you speak so honest about this topic! And for me it was really helpful to watch your latest video! I’m definitely gonna read some of the books above…
Greats from Belgium
I would suggest ‘The Beauty Myth’ by Naomi Wolf. It’s not specifically about sexuality but it explores how unrealistic standards for physical perfection and “beauty” are used against women. When talking about body positivity and creating a healthy relationship, I think this is one of the classics.
And being a historian, I would also suggest reading books about the origins and history of human sexuality. It could be ‘The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution’ by Faramerz Dabhoiwala or ‘Sex and Punishment. 4000 Years of Judging Desire’ by Erik Berkowitz.
Thank you so much for posting this! After 13 years of marriage and 3 kids I thought it was just me being self conscious and getting older. I think I’m going to invest in some books… and a good door lock.
As a mom of 2 and wife of a disabled military veteran, let me just say, I’m so darn glad you found some good lit that covers a bit of that self-love topic. Sex has changed a good bit after being with my husband for over 12 years, and after only 5 of those years, he became disabled. I’m very much looking forward to reading these just to feel empowered again and hopefully to get in touch with myself so I can possibly find new and exciting ways to bring sexy back to the bedroom again, in new and creative, yet intimate and POSSIBLE ways. Thanks for the list Gen!
I find that, even after knowing my husband since high school, together since 2009, and married for 4 years this year, I still feel self-conscious in the bedroom. It’s something that I hate – a lot – feeling self-conscious with him. Over time, I’ve become convinced that a lot of it stems from negative body image. He can tell me that he thinks I’m pretty and that he thinks I’m just perfect til he’s blue in the face, but I still have a hard time believing it. The strangest part, I think, is that I wasn’t as much this way when we started dating. Call it the euphoria of falling in love with someone new maybe, but I feel like I’m taking steps backward, not forward.
I have owned and read Good girl’s guide to bad girl sex. It’s not a bad read, just a little tame. If you want wilder sex, then you are going to have to look elsewhere.
I have to say the first book is really tame. Which is great if you’re a virgin or inexperienced. If you really want to get things going in the sack…I rec “How to Tickle His Pickle” by Sadie Allison. You have to make things fun. Shake it up. Sex isn’t just about the ladies.
I am so excited for this conversation to continue. After seeing this video, I immediately shared it with my best friend. We realized how much in this area we share, being both in our 40”s raised children, having been raised by generations of body conscious women, both overweight … the most interesting thing we realized is our view of our body actually had little to do with how we look physically. We realized the when we were young and in our hot twenties wearing our bikinis, we still hated our bodies. That is when we realized that this conversation you are beginning with us your listeners is a life altering conversation. We both look forward to more. Thank you for your openess and honesty.
Personnally, I’ve read some of those titles and they are a great references. But if I may, we rarely discuss the matters of mental health and the impacts on a couple’s sexuality or even the dynamic at home. It’s extremely hard to deal with depression, anxiety or OCD and still enjoy the most of our sexuality, alone or with a partner…
I’d like to thank you for your work. Thanks for sharing. Sharing is the key to compassion. xx