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Start Small, Think Big: Jaclyn Friedman’s Favorite Books on Sexual Empowerment

Get a better understanding of the complex nature of sexual power, and learn to navigate your own sexual identity with these books.
by Natallia Darozhkina | Dec 6 2017

The writer, sex educator, and activist, Jaclyn Friedman, wants to help women get unscrewed by a system that diminishes their sexual power.

In this book list, Friedman recommends books that grapple with the history of single women, broader sexual culture, and how that affects your relationships, both with others, and with yourself.

Jaclyn Friedman’s Book Recommendations

1. American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus by Lisa Wade

College hookups are part of life, but still a little misunderstood. Lisa Wade’s book situates the college hookup within the history of sexuality, higher education, and the unfinished sexual revolution.

Jaclyn says:
“I definitely will recommend Lisa Wade’s book American Hookup. I think it’s fantastic and so illuminating. And it’s also a great read.”

2. All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister

In a provocative, groundbreaking work, National Magazine Award finalist Rebecca Traister traces the history of unmarried and late-married women in America who, through social, political, and economic means, have radically shaped the nation.

Jaclyn says:
“I can’t recommend All the Single Ladies enough. Her thinking about single woman in America definitely influenced me.”

3. All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks

bell hooks’ trilogy All About Love presents radical new ways to think about love by showing its interconnectedness in our private and public lives. The author explains how our everyday notions of what it means to give and receive love often fail us, and how these ideals are established in early childhood.

Jaclyn says:
“I’ve been influenced for a long time by bell hooks’ series on love. She has a trio of books about love, from a feminist perspective and relationships, and they definitely shifted the art of the possible in my brain.”

4. Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why by Sady Doyle

Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck explores a centuries-old phenomenon and asks what it means now, in a time when we have unprecedented access to celebrities and civilians alike, and when women are pushing harder than ever against the boundaries of what it means to “behave.”

Jaclyn says:
Sady Doyle’s book Trainwreck is fantastic. She writes about women that get written off as trainwrecks, basically like a Britney Spears kind of situation, and what that narrative does in the culture, and how we need to take a different look at it. And also Sady’s just a brilliant writer.”

5. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Hunger is an honest memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed your hunger while taking care of yourself. Roxane understands the tension between desire and denial, between self-comfort and self-care, and writes about food and bodies, using her own emotional and psychological struggles.

Jaclyn says:
“[I’d recommend] Roxane Gay, but I feel like that’s so boring, because everyone loves Roxane Gay. But Hunger is just – I just feel like I wish every human would read it. It was just so powerful.”

Simplify Extra Credit Reading

1. The Boundaries of Desire: A Century of Bad Laws, Good Sex and Changing Identities by Eric Berkowitz

The Boundaries of Desire explores the checkered history of sexual relations and the law in the United States. These blinks show how women have struggled with sexual harassment and abuse, pointing out that a system run by men for men has simply perpetuated systemic injustice. You’ll also learn how US law historically has failed black people, homosexuals and children.

2. Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law by David Cole

Engines of Liberty is an exploration into the influence citizens can have on government, and the changes that can be brought about through activism, spreading information, and the mobilization of one’s peers. When it comes to the big issues of our time, like gay marriage, guns, and human rights, it’s passionate citizens who are speaking up for what they believe in and bringing about change.

3. She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman by Ian Kerner

She Comes First is a guide to improving a woman’s sexual experience through the act of cunnilingus. It emphasizes the value of the female orgasm and argues for a reduced focus on penetration.

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