I know what you guys are thinking. You are intimately acquainted with vaginas, perhaps several of them. (Assuming you sleep with women, otherwise, you definitely aren’t thinking that.) You know what you’re doing. You don’t need a map or puppet show or whatever. Yeah, well, I have one, and these books were enlightening.
As is often the case, common knowledge and what you think you know (thanks porn) don’t match reality. Let’s be honest, most sexual education in the U.S. is a weird mash-up of guilt, unrealistic expectations, and personal gaffes. All I’m saying, is if you read a few of these vagina books learning from experience may be more pleasurable with fewer fumbles. Even if you’ve been having sex for a long time and even if you’ve been having sex with the same person for a long time, you can improve on a good thing.
Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha
Now, this book isn’t specifically about vaginas, but it provides a counter narrative to typical evolutionary psychology ideas about human sexuality. It’s a fun, scientifically sound read that helps explain why we hook-up the way we do, namely for social bonding, enjoyment, and yes, some gene competition. Sex at Dawn also busts the myth that women just aren’t into sex because they’re choosy baby makers; it’s really quite the opposite. We could all do with a more realistic and, I believe, humane way of looking at sexual relations. It also provides great conversation starters for cocktail parties, like why bukkake is a thing!
Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski
While the target audience for Come As You Are is women, it remains a trove of sexual information and focuses on what makes sex pleasurable for you. Some people are almost always ready to go while others may need specific circumstances to get in the mood, neither is bad and both come with challenges. Nagoski provides evidence, exercises, and advice for how to have the sex life you want. She covers topics like arousal non-concordance (when your body’s response and level of desire don’t match), the anatomical similarities between men and women, why the some things can be a turn-on or turn-off depending on the situation, and lube. Lots of lube. This is a great book to read in general, but especially if you and a partner are having sexual frustration or miscommunication.
I’ll Show You Mine by Wrenna Robertson (editor) and Katie Huisman (photographer)
This is literally a book full of vulva photos accompanied by the reasons why the models chose to participate. I know, it sounds intense, but chances are if you’re reading this article you already seek out photos or videos of vulvas. When there’s so much mystery and, recently, expectation around what women are supposed to look like, there’s something to be said for just looking at the wide variety of vulvas there are. I have to admit, even I was surprised by some of the photos, but it helped me realize the breadth of what is normal. The models’ stories also help shed light on the kind of pressure porn and some inconsiderate partners put on them, as well as the significant positive influence sexual partners can have. I’ll Show You Mine is worth a read, even if you’re only reading for the pictures.
Woman, An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier
After I read this book I immediately loaned it to a friend, who was in her late twenties, and then surreptitiously gave it to my teenaged niece. (Yeah, I’m that aunt.) I couldn’t stop talking about it and providing all my friends with amazing factoids: The vagina is a self-cleaning ecosystem! Your fallopian tubes move around! What do you mean this doesn’t improve brunch?
Unlike the other books on this list, it’s more of an anatomical and social book as opposed to a sexy book. Understanding the female anatomy beyond how squishy boobs are (pro-tip: They’re not like bags of sand) can be invaluable to being a better partner in and out of the bedroom. This book can also help you better understand women’s experiences, which can help you talk to your partners about what they want and even what you want.