Review of The Whole Lesbian Sex Book


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review by Vamp

[Note: This review is of the first edition this book, but it applies equally well to the revised and expanded second edition.]

The Whole Lesbian Sex Book: A Passionate Guide for All of Us
by Felice Newman
Cleis Press, 1999

This book is SEXY!

I haven't seen anything so up-to-date, inclusive, and hot in quite awhile. I really cannot put across how impressed I am at how well this was done. Although the title suggests that this is a book written for lesbians, I want to assure you that a much broader range of people will be interested in it. It definitely is coming from a lesbian viewpoint, but it has a lot of information and techniques of interest to anyone who intends to have sex with a woman or wants to know more about the female body and the wonderful variety of sexualities that can accompany it. I wish every woman could be given this sort of information in an owner's manual at birth, since many of us tend to search a good long time for the depth of explanation and technique we'd find in here.

This book is INCLUSIVE. If you are looking for a book on women's sexuality that includes topics such as gender, transexuality, polyamory, and kink in a sensitive and enlightened way...this is it! It isn't pushing an agenda or telling women about how they "should" feel or experience things, instead it presents the panorama of sexuality and encourages you to explore and find joy in what ultimately appeals and feels good for you. As the author has written so eloquently, "No good will come from attempting to mold your desire into something that looks like everyone else's."

Here are some things you can expect to find in this book:

This book has the insight to start with the concept of desire. It has the guts to really look into different fantasies and motivations in sexuality without being judgmental or trying to push anyone onto a certain path. The chapter reassures you that fantasy is healthy and can be a great tool in lighting the fires of the libido. Some really great tips that the author offers include thoughts on nurturing your fantasy life, making a space in your life for pleasure, and finding support in your efforts to educate yourself and make the sex life you dream about a reality. I really liked her suggestion involving keeping a journal of your erotic thoughts and sexual evolution, I've found that my own writing has been instrumental in my journey and I know many other women have also.

The book goes past desire and looks into anatomy, but in a fresh and intricate way. So often books tend to describe female anatomy in a way that makes it seem lifeless and simple. This book describes things in a very sensual way and takes the time to explain the effect arousal has on the body. I must admit I learned things about the clitoris that I'd never heard before. If you don't know about the crura and bulbs of the clitoris, this is the book that will tell you about them, and it may just change the way you think of touching your clitoris when you learn more about its structure! Are you interested in female ejaculation? This book gives a quick but thorough explanation. She also recommends the books The Good Vibrations Guide to the G-Spot by Cathy Winks and Fanny Fatale's "How to Female Ejaculate" for those interested. This is a good example of how the author packs a lot of information into a rather small space while remembering to give great references to find out more.

This book also goes into practices that many don't seem to think of when they hear "lesbian", such as anal sex. It goes over the basics of anal sex including tips about going slow, using lots of lube, breathing deep, and not accepting pain. It also goes beyond basics and speaks of anal fisting. I was happy to see that the topic was dealt with positively and myths were carefully dispelled. She addresses fears that people have about such practices, such as how many believe after being fisted someone could drive a truck up their back end. I remember having that fear awhile back, and I know how important it is to have those fears fought off with proper education and reassurance.

I was so happy to see that BDSM was given its own chapter, and it isn't looked upon like some deviant practice to be snickered at and sampled with shame. It is explained incredibly well (as one could expect from Felice Newman) and she is careful to detail concepts surrounding safe practices and the difference between abuse and SM. She boldly explores some aspects of fantasy within this chapter that many authors would have shied away from such as rape fantasy and age related role-play. She describes these things sensitively and seems to sum up a lot of it with the statement, "...often things that make us uncomfortable also arouse us sexually -- at times, it seems that the erotic charge is in direct proportion to the degree of unease we feel." As someone who struggled with some of my own fantasies for years for precisely that reason, I couldn't agree more.

Some beautiful features of this book that I haven't mentioned yet are some of the most important.

The first is that throughout the book she includes short comments, anecdotes, stories and such from the more than 300 respondents she had to questionnaires she distributed that asked questions about lesbian and bisexual women's sexuality and health. The answers she received run the gamut from red-hot comments that make you weak in the knees to the hilarious that makes you laugh out loud. The author has done a very good job of giving the reader the feeling that they are in a group of women as they read the book. I almost felt as if I was hearing their comments, jokes, and incredible insights along the way as I read. I think it was fabulous that the author went through the massive effort it must have been to compile all of these responses, because it is beautiful to see the variety and depth of these women. I felt I was in a group of friends as I read, and could imagine many women I hold dear saying some of the things quoted.

The second feature I want to explain a bit is that she PACKED this book with resources and documentation. I love that in an author! Along with various references brought up within the text of the book she also carefully includes footnotes for each chapter that answer the question I always ask when I read books without them, "WHERE DID THEY GET THAT??" I wish more authors that write about historical information, bring up miscellaneous "facts", or mention "some study" would take the effort to tell us where we could find out more about them or verify them. Along with the footnotes, each chapter includes online resources to look up things mentioned in that chapter. The resources are excellent and include references as diverse as The Guide to Lesbian Chat http://www.grrltalk.net which explains how to talk on IRC and find lesbian chatrooms and The Clitoris.com at http://www.the-clitoris.com which discusses many aspects of female sexuality. One site that I was particularly happy to find was Glyde Dams at http://www.sheerglydedams.com which markets barriers that are far superior to the dental dams recommended for safer sex.

A third aspect to this book that I forgot to mention are the wonderful succinct miniature style articles that are highlighted throughout the book. Some of them are creations of the author, and others are sections from other author's works and resources such as excerpts from Co-Dependants Anonymous, Fairy Butch, Tristan Taormino, and the brilliant additions of Come As You Are (a group from Toronto that is dedicated to making sex accessible to the disabled and can be found at http://www.comeasyouare.com).

A fourth wonderful feature of this book is the extensive bibliography covering much more than the standard list of books you find in most lists. She includes references to articles, audiotapes, CD-ROMs, E-zines, magazines, and videos that I hadn't even heard of before but am eager to investigate.

Yet another great bonus is an extensive resources section in the back that covers bisexuality, disability, gender and intersex, health, retail and mail order, safer sex, BDSM organizations, play parties, sex education workshops, web resources, mailing lists, and where to meet girls on the web.

Could you possibly want more?

I emphatically recommend that you pick up this book if you have any interest in women's sexuality. The only people that I would not recommend this book for are those with no interest in women and those that have ethical problems with alternative lifestyles. If you are a heterosexual woman, this is still a great read. If you are a heterosexual woman who has difficulty with the concept of lesbians, this isn't your book.

Reading this book gave me very good dreams, and a wonderful new approach to my own body. I sincerely hope you pick it up!

Vamp :)=

This review is Copyright © 1999 Vamp Ire.


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