You probably think you know a thing or two about sex…and I’m sure you do. But, you probably don’t know more than the handful of writers I’ve chosen to profile below, because these people are hardcore. By that I mean, they really know their stuff, and their stuff is quite sexy. Most of them write about other topics as well and do a fine job of it, but for the moment I want to get you acquainted with their sensual sides.
Jesse Bering writes the outstanding Scientific American column, “Bering in Mind”. His essays and books are consistently rich and engaging, but some of his best writing comes in response to reader questions — and people will ask him just about anything. The remarkable thing is that no matter the question–whether it’s about a latex fetish or scatological arousal–Bering has a well-researched, erudite response that teaches more about whatever sex-related topic is at hand than quite a few books I’ve come across. I have yet to come away from reading one of his essays or responses to reader questions and not feel considerably better informed than I was just minutes before. Be sure to also check out his latest book, “Why is the Penis Shaped Like That?: and Other Reflections on Being Human” that’s scheduled for release in a couple months.
Sheril Kirshenbaum is an example of a science writer (and scientist) with many interests and the talent to cover them all well, but her claim to fame is a book she wrote about the science of kissing, entitled, fittingly enough, “The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us”. You think you know what’s going on when your lips meet his/hers? Read this book and I guarantee you’ll start seeing the kiss and physical affection overall in an entirely new light. Kirshenbaum’s triumph is that she’s able to pull that off without leaving us with a clinical, sanitized aftertaste. There’s a fine line between scientific insight that broadens and enriches our perspective, and dispassionate knowledge that dulls our appetite for being human. Fortunately, Kirshenbaum knows where that line is and doesn’t cross over to the dark side.
Jena Pincott is talented, sharp, and an extremely nice person — but most importantly for this list, one hell of a writer. Her sex science gestalt came with her book,“Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes? Bodies, Behavior, and Brains–The Science Behind Sex, Love, and Attraction”. I read the book a couple years ago in preparation for an interview with Pincott and can still remember my astonishment coming across stuff I couldn’t believe I didn’t know. Seems like there’d be an age of sexual cognitive ripeness after which there aren’t any new surprises. Read Pincott’s book and you’ll know that’s far from being the case. More recently, she wrote a book about pregnancy entitled, “Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy”. If you are considering having a child, or even if you already have kids, this book will teach you a few new things with a style that will make you feel like you’re chatting with someone in the same room.
Mary Roach holds the high honor of having written perhaps the best known sex-science book to hit shelves in the last 10 or so years: “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex”. When I spoke to her about her experiences writing the book (and she had a few notably salacious ones), she said “Bonk” is what happens when a liberal arts kind of person takes on a science topic — she had to experience the topic to do it justice. If you are already acquainted with Roach’s writing, you know that she is as funny as she is smart. You’d have a better chance of being bitten by a shark in your swimming pool than you would getting bored while reading “Bonk” or any of her other entertaining books.
Kayt Sukel’s work was just recently brought to my attention, but I’m already seeing why she’s a sex-science notable. Her first book, “Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex and Attraction” is receiving several favorable reviews and, from what I have read so far, strikes me as a judicious blend of neuroscience, psychology and sociology. She also writes about sex and other topics for The Washington Post, USA Today and The Christian Science Monitor, and writes a regular blog about sex, love and life for The Houston Chronicle. And she’s one of the few writers that I’ve seen embraced with equal passion in the pages of Elle and Scientific American on the same subject. She’s clearly doing something right.
When it comes to finding an expert on all things sex, you can’t come much closer than Marty Klein. He’s written seven books and over 200 articles on the subject, and he writes a regular blog at Psychology Today called “Sexual Intelligence”. Of course, there are thousands of credentialed sex experts out there, but what makes Klein different (and worthy of this list) is his ability to communicate what he knows. He’s also one of the more controversial of the writers on this list for his position on sex addiction (he calls it a “dangerous concept”) and his outspokenness on what he calls the “Oprah-ization of therapy.” His strong stances on those and other issues contributes a grittiness to his writing that I find refreshing. Klein is going to tell you what he thinks with straight-to-the-point prose, and the best part is you’ll learn a lot from reading what he has to say whether you agree with him or not. Check out his latest book, “America’s War on Sex”.
David DiSalvo: I’m a science, technology and culture writer who contributes to Forbes, Scientific American Mind, The Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, Esquire, Mental Floss and a smattering of other publications. My first nonfiction book, “What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite” (Prometheus, 2011) is available in paperback and Kindle, and my second book, “The Brain in Your Kitchen” is now available for Kindle. More at my website: www.daviddisalvo.org. Contact me at: disalvowrites [at] gmail.com. You can find me on Twitter @neuronarrative and at my website, The Daily Brain.
Even if you don’t watch porn—even if you think porn should be illegal—you still get the benefits of the porn industry’s fight to safeguard your freedoms as an American. And this goes way beyond your right to watch porn, to areas of privacy, capricious taxation, and elsewhere.
Here’s the latest.
Say you produce adult porn films for a living (go with me on this). You, the government, and society all agree that only adults should act in such films. And in fact, the adult film industry has an amazing record of accidentally employing almost no underage actors/actresses girls in the last 30 years—a far better record than the number of oil spills, crashes, or explosions in any other industry.
So it’s illegal for underage people to act in adult films. No problem. The government goes a step further, and requires age documentation of every participant in adult films. You must prove you’re an adult. No problem.
One day you decide to make a film featuring only 50-year-olds. All participants must prove they’re adults, and they do. But the government has this law (called “2257”) about record-keeping, unique to the adult film industry. They can come into your office unannounced, with no warrant or even probable cause, asking for the IDs of the 50-year-olds in the film; if you don’t have them handy right there, you can be prosecuted and sent to jail. You can go to jail not because you have underage actors in your film, but because you can’t prove that three 50-year-olds are over 18.
This law isn’t keeping underage talent out of films—because they haven’t been in commercial films to begin with. It’s simple harassment of a legal industry, which no other industry has to suffer. It’s an unconstitutional invasion of privacy—government agents coming into your premises unannounced not because they have a reasonable cause, but because the law allows them.
So here’s the big news—the porn industry has challenged this law, the government asked the case to be dismissed, and a federal judge refused.
In this case, the porn industry is protecting all Americans’ rights—to be, as the Fourth Amendment says, “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Here are just three other ways (there are many others) the porn industry protects your rights, whether you watch porn or not:
* Fighting arbitrary zoning: Cities and counties around the country try to prevent adult bookstores from opening by inventing discriminatory zoning rules—which are also used to prevent swing clubs, education centers, and religious centers from opening.
* Fighting taxes based on content: Several states now tax strip clubs more than other forms of live entertainment. If they can do this, they can levy extra taxes on any form of communication they want to discourage (such as violent video games or religious newspapers).
* Fighting government agencies advancing a moral agenda: Even though there is no HIV problem in the adult film industry (you’re safer sleeping with a porn actress/actor than a stranger you meet in a bar), Los Angeles County plans to require condoms and dental dams on all porn shoots. If they can do this, they can supervise any legal activity of which they disapprove, such as fashion shows, church bake sales, and campus protests.
So whether you watch porn or not, whether you think porn is evil or not—this holiday season, give thanks that, in addition to making films, porn producers are protecting your rights.
Dr. Marty Klein is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Certified Sex Therapist, and sociologist with a special interest in public policy and sexuality. He has written 6 books and over 100 articles about sexuality. Each year he trains thousands of professionals in North America and abroad in clinical skills, human sexuality, and policy issues.
Marty sees men, women, and couples in his Palo Alto office for psychotherapy, couples counseling, and sex therapy. For an appointment, write Klein AT SexEd.org or call 650/773-2425.
Each month Marty publishes the electronic newsletter Sexual Intelligence,TMwhich examines the sexual implications of current events, politics, technology, popular culture, and the media.
For an archive of his original articles, lots of Q/A about sexuality, and other material, see www.SexEd.org.
Marty’s current award-winning book is America’s War On Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust, & Liberty.