My goal is to recommend things I'm familiar with that are informative and respectful of everybody. Some of my biases: I am a white intellectual middle-class American in a U.S.-liberal city. I'm unfamiliar with most video-based media.
Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by Emily Nagoski. This book has so many lovely thoughts. They are mostly about the mind because the mind is so much more important than many people think. She is good at describing the anatomy of people of all sexes and genders. She also writes the blog The Dirty Normal.
Women's Anatomy Of Arousal: Secret Maps To Buried Pleasure by Sheri Winston. This book describes not just anatomy but also typical arousal patterns. The philosophical part can help men understand their arousal patterns too.
The Ultimate Guide To Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration For Men And Their Partners by Charlie Glickman and Aislinn Emirzian. There aren't very many good, progressive, nonjudgmental books on male sexuality. This is one.
Note about sex-specific books: most sexual anatomy has homologous parts in men and women — parts that start as the same part of an embryo and develop into different things in men and women. Often the sensations of homologous parts have similarities. The books I recommend acknowledge this.
- clitoris = glans (head) of penis
- prostate = paraurethral glands or urethral sponge (the urethral sponge contains the paraurethral glands, and there isn't enough science about the details here or I haven't found it)
- erectile tissue in penis = erectile tissue in genital area
- nipples = nipples
- ovaries = testicles
- uterus = nothing, as far as I can tell
Knowing this is helpful:
- as a starting point to understand the sensations of someone whose body is different than yours
- for transgender people to conceptualize their genitals in a gender-appropriate way
- because intersex people exist
Consent and communication and knowing what you want
(Many of these suggestions are not specific to sex/romance because consent and communication is also super important to all parts of life.)
Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall B. Rosenberg. Warning: this book is somewhat opinionated (in a very nonviolent way). (Not specific to sex/romance.)
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher, William L. Ury, and Bruce Patton. (Not specific to sex/romance.)
I Never Called It Rape: The Ms. Report on Recognizing, Fighting, and Surviving Date and Acquaintance Rape, by Robin Warshaw.
The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy (a.k.a. Catherine A. Liszt). It's one of the two cheeriest nonfiction books I know. I learned how to be a more effective friend from it. Its thesis is that the basic sexual unit is one person, not two. Despite its focus, it has plenty of insight relevant to non-polyamorous people.
Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships by Tristan Taormino. This is a manual of advice about lots of relationship styles and facts. (It is a little bit short of info on monogamy, but it is clear that monogamy is a valid choice.) Taormino also writes about kink and directs feminist pornography; I'm not familiar with those works but I would recommend them to interested people.
The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education, by Grace Llewellyn. Has nothing to do with relationships, but lots to do with letting yourself discover what you want to do with your life, which might relate to what you want to do in relationships. Also, it's the other cheeriest nonfiction book I know of. Being a teenager is not required to enjoy this book.
Blogs about relationships and sexuality
The Dirty Normal by Emily Nagoski, sex nerd and Ph.D. Discusses responsive desire; the "freeze" response to similar circumstances as "fight" and "flight"; zillions of other things.
Fugitivus, about thriving as an abuse survivor.
Asexuality and alternative desire spectrums
About asexuality: two-page handout (PDF)
Not everybody wants to have sex all the time, or ever. A great many people are poorly served by the idea that there's one correct way to have sex and everybody knows it already. In fact, I daresay that idea is wrong.
One reason it is wrong is that we don't educate or talk much about how to arouse and be aroused well. Many people would be benefit to learn about their and their partners' erotic anatomy. I found that learning about typical human arousal was helpful even when it didn't apply to me or my partners, because it's still less distorted than the typical ideas about sex that I hear in the news (that I would otherwise be relating my experiences to).
Also, people vary. Relationships vary too: it is common for someone to want some things with one person and different things with another person.
I am looking for good advice on talking about feelings that resemble attraction when my feelings don't fit the cultural defaults.
These are lists of possible activities to help you discuss with a person what things you do/don't want to do together.
These ones are written with people in mind who like to touch each other in a way that's not well-described by "friend" or "sex/romance":
Some of the above books have example checklists.
If you know of more good lists online, let me know.
Safer sex information and services
I found Planned Parenthood much more knowledgable and nonjudgmental about sexual health than my regular doctor (I only have experience with one of their branches, though). They do lots of sexual health related services.
American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) website. Recommended to me by Planned Parenthood people. It has more complete information about STI and pregnancy risks and prevention than any other source of information I've found.
I've had mixed luck with Scarleteen - sometimes it's great, sometimes I can't find the info I'm looking for.
Support Vasalgel, a male contraceptive in preliminary medical trials.
Buying sex supplies (condoms, vibrators etc.)
- Babeland (also: their water-based lube "BabeLube" is glycerin/paraben free and cheaper than Sliquid)
- some are sketchy and worth avoiding
- Amazon could be okay, but half the reviewers are like "tee hee I'm reviewing a sex toy". I found the reviews on Babeland much more earnest and helpful.
- as of April 2014, cheap condoms if you like this kind. They seem fine to me.
- Good Vibrations (some cities)
- Oh My Sensuality (Northampton, MA)
- drugstores generally sell condoms, sometimes a bit expensive per condom than other sources. They often have vibrators in discreet packaging near the condoms.
- sometimes places have free condoms (college campuses, Planned Parenthood, various programs for young adults...)
Dental dams are not wide enough to stay in place easily, in my experience. Plastic wrap (Saran wrap) is much wider and cheaper. However, microwave-safe Saran wrap has microscopic holes, and if you nick it with the box's sharp edge then it may have small holes large enough for a visible amount of liquid to get through. I believe the consensus on plastic wrap is: much more effective a barrier than nothing, but not nearly perfect.
Historical/cultural/minority perspectives on sexuality
I like understanding how other peoples have done things. It's a first step in guessing at which things about sexuality are more biological and which are more learned. I care because things that are learned are more likely able to be relearned differently if I want to.
Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, by John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman.
Gender Diversity: Crosscultural Variations, by Serena Nanda.
Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls On Life, Love and Fashion, edited by Virgie Tovar.
Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, edited by Matt Bernstein Sycamore.
Stories that incidentally have insightful views on sexuality:
The Fifth Sacred Thing, by Starhawk (also Starhawk's nonfiction is great).
Fire Logic, by Laurie J. Marks (and sequels).