If you’re looking for a thorough, modern overview of human sexuality and relationships catered to young adults, “Sex Plus: Learning, Loving, and Enjoying Your Body” by Laci Green (September 2018) is high on my list of recommendation.
When this book first came out, I wondered if I really needed to own this book for my personal collection. I could easily check the book out at the library and decide from there. But I knew I wanted to review the book and I knew, for a variety of reasons, I would want to include this book in future book talks I occasionally give in the Library world.
The price point was definitely in my favor for purchasing the book. Many hardcover sexuality books of 300-400 pages are often priced over $25. This book has 528 pages altogether and is available for under $15. As someone who likes nice books and has to pinch pennies to meet my Book Budget, this was a great buy.
Regardless of the price, I’m really happy that I own this book.
I knew plenty of people who would be helped by a recommendation for this type of book, but I’ll be honest that at first I wasn’t sure if *I* would get much out of an overview-type book on sex. I’m The Unlaced Librarian after all… I’ve read a lot of sex books.
But, wow, was I surprised. I’m 31 years old and I learned things I didn’t know about my body in the chapter on periods (chapter two). And menstruation was like, the only topic covered in my meager sex education classes back in middle school.
The book was also packed with other facts and concepts that I hadn’t read about before.
One thing that really helped me was the inclusion and explanation of the Cass Model in regards to coming out, discussed in chapter four “Sexual Identity.” I’ve grappled a lot with my own sexual identity and had never heard of the Cass Model before. The Cass Model ends with “acceptance” and before I had seen this model I thought there was something wrong with me for not being stuck in a “pride” step. Being able to explore the acceptance aspect was helpful for me. This also prompted me to explore other models and concepts in coming out and self-acceptance.
This is just one example, of course. There were things I was familiar with in the book like the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (also in chapter four), an overview of many varieties of sex toys (chapter eight), and Basson’s Model of Female Sexual Response (chapter seven), among other things.
If I were to list everything I learned or was happy to see included this book this post would be far too long. But a few notable topics:
I learned about basic concepts in trans issues including social transitioning, medical transitioning, how hormone therapy effects the body, and how to support trans loved ones. I read about asexuality and intersex experiences in inserts written by guest writers sharing their own stories. There are guides to lubes, sex toys, birth control, and STI identification and treatment that all had new things to offer from other books. There are also sections on body image, sexting, and relationship attachment styles—which wonderfully helps to ground sexuality in the context of meaningful relationships with yourself and others.
But I’m not done! I was also so happy to see sections on kissing, pornography, consent, disability, BDSM, polyamory, dating/relationship violence, and, my favorite, pleasure. Honestly, my favorite chapter was chapter seven, “Masturbation and Orgasm.”
As with any book, there are a couple philosophical quibbles I have with parts of the text. But every reader has to be an active participant in what we consume. There’s nothing I feel I need to personally bring attention to for being problematic or misguided.
I was never a regular viewer of the YouTube show Sex Plus hosted by the author Laci Green. I have been subscribed to her channel for a while and I would watch videos of hers that piqued my interest. But like any content creator, there was some content of hers I really liked and some I just didn’t. I still think her videos are accessible and important to a younger audience and when I gave some book talks at colleges a few years ago, I included her videos in a list of resources for the students who attended. Now I can bring this book!
Which brings me to the question—what exactly is the age that I recommend this book for?
Honestly, if you have questions about sex, I recommend this book. But, I suppose we can examine a few factors regarding age.
The language of this book is definitely suited toward a younger audience, though I don’t think the tone is entirely catered to teens.
I believe the author is just a bit younger than me. Her writing style is genuine and she has a strong narrative voice. I would say the sweet spot readership would be early to mid-20’s. But that certainly doesn’t mean younger or older people won’t find this book valuable.
Does this book hold important information for teens? Yes. Does this book hold important information for adults? Yes.
For myself, I think this book would have been perfect for me for my college years, 18-21ish. I got married at 23 and my to-be husband and I were living together when I was 20. So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say that some of this information would have been great for me to have had when I was 16, 17, or 18 a few years before I embarked on this very deep, important multifaceted (and sexual!) relationship that ended up being my marriage.
Some might say a book that 16 year olds could be reading should not include information about BDSM or polyamory (open relationships).
But—surprise—my husband and I opened up our marriage before our first wedding anniversary. Before I was 24 years old I had no idea what polyamory/open relationships were. At the time, I would have greatly benefited reading about it in a book like this.
A part of opening up was my exploration of BDSM, and just like polyamory, I was almost 25 before I even knew what BDSM really was. I knew stereotypes, but nothing about the sexual outlet and social culture that was BDSM.
I knew I was kinky, bi/sexually fluid, and polyamorous since I was 12 or 13, and honestly, I can trace some signs of those back even further. For all my teen years through my early 20’s I had no information, was filled with shame and felt disgust about myself because I simply did not understand what was going on with my sexuality.
Basically, I knew absolutely nothing about open relationships or BDSM before I figured out what they were and started seeing if they could help my life.
Keeping the information away from teens and young adults will not keep them from exploring these things later on. They might be like me, confused and ashamed when the only mentions of these things are in pop culture or fear/anger-based conversations.
Navigating sexuality is hard. It takes place in the real world, with real people, and there’s no user manual. I made mistakes, found negative aspects in various sexual outlets, and had to be active in keeping myself safe and healthy. I’ve grown to a point where I can more easily take the good things in sexual outlets that help my life and leave behind the negative aspects that hinder myself or my relationships. But I had a lot of catching up to do. Fortunately, I found books and information I needed. (That’s how The Unlaced Librarian was born.)
Denying me access to information would not have made me stop pursuing either BDSM or an open relationship. But I strongly believe I would have made more mistakes and made unhealthier decisions for no reason other than I didn’t have the information.
Ultimately, I would recommend this book for people ages 17-22 but older or younger people will likely get a lot out of this book if they have questions about sex and relationships.
This book is informative, contextualizes sexuality within relationship dynamics, and has a down-to-earth, modern conversation about sex in the social age. I really enjoyed the time I spent with this book, and I hope it helps others who slip this title from the shelf.