Sexual Revolution Reads

Kerry O’Sullivan takes us through some sex and relationship reads to fill those lockdown days

Like the rest of us, you’re probably finding yourself with more spare time during this lockdown than any other. It’s easy to waste days away with mindless scrolling and staring into the existential void. With that said, why not take a break from the pages upon pages of seminar readings and treat yourself to a bit of escapism into the world of feminist contemporary fiction and some of the most interesting studies of gender and sexual revolution you can get your hands on right now.

  1. Why Women Have Better Sex under Socialism by Kristen R. Ghodsee 

If you wanted yet another reason to lament capitalism, then this is the one for you. Think angry, witty, and blunt. In reading this, you’ll see that women really do draw the short straw when it comes to unregulated capitalism and those in the position of being primary caregivers. Free labour historically leaves women trapped in dependent relationships with men, not known for being generous sexual partners. This super quick and accessible read was written by an anthropologist from the University of Pennsylvania, and it has steadily wormed its way into bookshops and onto the bookshelves of popular sociology and gender studies. Albeit a click-baity title, the book provides a really interesting take on some of the hurdles women must overcome in relation to the division of labour and its unexpected results. 

  1. Red Clocks by Leni Zumas 

This book came out a couple of years ago and did not receive nearly as much hype as it deserved in the sex and relationships book market. It details a dystopian world where abortion, contraception, and IVF are illegal in the United States – much like they were in Ireland a mere 30 years ago. It includes stories of various women grappling with this new reality. It’s an interesting exploration of bodily autonomy, what it means to own your own reproductive rights, and is all the more pertinent given the current attitudes towards organisations like Planned Parenthood in the US, where reproductive rights are consistently being threatened. My only criticism would be the lack of acknowledgement of the multiple countries in which reproductive rights are still not a given. The “science fiction” take on female realities around the world is very much realistic. To that I say: read at your own discretion.

  1. New Erotica for Feminists by Caitlin Kunkel

A coffee table book that you absolutely need. Think satirical erotica where women get what they really want, ie: promotions, respect, emotional satisfaction etc. Welcome this biting, sarcastic, and comedic break from the torrents of more serious feminist contemporary fiction. We feminists need happiness every so often.

  1. Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy 

A brave and impassioned book about why the Middle East owes its women a long overdue sexual revolution. It is a pretty heavy read, but an extremely informative and necessary one. It’s one of the few books I’ve found written by a Middle Eastern woman that is also devoid of a Euro-centric perspective, which really allows the reader to dive deeper into the lacerating accounts of injustice. The main argument of the book is centered around the necessity of a political, social, and sexual revolution in the Arab world, and, without this, no progress will truly be made. This book leaves you thinking for days and days, perfect for some lockdown boredom with a book that will really impact your worldview. 

  1. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo 

I’m sure you’ve seen this book all over Instagram. It has become something of a phenomenon in the last couple of months. The story follows 12 women in the UK and is one of the best representations of diversity I have read thus far. It doesn’t “other” the female experience, unlike most gender theory, and prioritises the stories of queer black protagonists with an honest overtone. The book transports you into these women’s lives, so if you’re looking for a little escapism, this is the one for you. One thing that books seem to struggle with is glossing over the awkward bits of sex. This book, thankfully, doesn’t do that; the sex in it is honest and realistic, a welcome change from the unattainable, simultaneuous-orgasm, straight sex that seems to prevail in popular literature. A brilliant compelling read that you’ll truly want to finish in one sitting.

It’s so important to read outside of your comfort zone; uncomfortable topics are what make history and these books are no exception. If we all read within our own demographic, then we can never learn from one another and benefit from our shared experiences, in this case as sexual beings. You truly can start the revolution from your own bedroom by taking the initiative to educate yourself about what is going on in the other side of the world in lives completely different from your own. Getting out of your own head in the time-honoured fashion of burying your head in a book is more important now than ever before. 

Kerry O'Sullivan

Kerry O'Sullivan is the sex and relationships editor of Trinity News 2020/21 and is a senior fresh student of middle eastern and european languages and cultures.