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Where do I even get started in educating myself about sex?

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aguynamedrourke asks:

I'm a 19-year-old virgin and I don't know enough about sex, period. I went to Catholic and Christian schools with terrible sex-ed classes (I learned the basic biology but virtually nothing about actual sex, condoms, safe sex, or anything like that). I looked at your list of books to read and I've browsed through the questions, but I still don't know where to start. I know a lot about gender but very little about sex. What kinds of books should this straight pro-feminist college freshman read?

Heather Corinna replies:

I thought that your question was a great opportunity for some peer-to-peer education. So, I asked Arianna, an awesome Scarleteen reader your age who always seems to do a great job getting to the heart of things, if she'd help you out.

She was happy to do so, and gave you some great advice, resources, and even built you a mini-curriculum with articles right here at Scarleteen.

Here's what she had to offer:

First, you get a humongous gold medal from me for wanting to educate yourself before jumping into sexual activity.

It's so tough dealing with sex education that doesn't apply to or consider what your needs actually are, skirting the issues that you actually want (and need) to be sexually healthy. My advice? Start slow.

It's okay to not know everything all at once. If you want to learn about sex, start by exploring and evaluating your feelings, values, and turn-ons by yourself, at your own pace. The added bonus to this is that if you do choose to engage in partnered sexual activities at one time or another, then knowing these things about yourself will better equip you to communicate them to a partner.

As for books, I would say the best place to start would be a book that covers a little bit of everything. A lot of books about sexuality are pretty sensational, and focus strongly on "how to be the absolute best ever at this particular sex act." While they serve their purpose, you might be better off with a text from an explicitly sex-positive source, such as >The Good Vibrations Guide or Moregasm . Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the Scarleteen book, S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College!

Books like these are very comprehensive and will let you flip directly to the chapters of most interest to you as your curiosity sees fit, now and down the road.

I'm also going to include some articles here that relate to some of the things you mentioned. You mentioned that you got some basic biological information, but sex education classes will often take biological information and use it to talk only about reproduction and not about pleasure, especially female pleasure. So, I included an article that talks about both. I'm also including a whole slew of articles about condoms and safer sex, as well as a pair of articles that cover the other two "c's" of good sexual practice: consent and communication.

I wish you the best of luck on your journey!

written 13 Dec 2010 . updated 25 Sep 2013

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