How to choose a book on women's orgasms

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Dear Sex Counselor,

I see quite a few books on orgasms for women here...how do I choose?


Contrary to popular belief, orgasms don’t just “happen” to many women. In many cases, it’s hard to know where to begin to learn about your body and what brings you pleasure. Whether you’ve never had an orgasm before, feel as though you can’t have them anymore, or simply want to have more, better or stronger orgasms, a multitude of literature is available to help you on your quest.

The Elusive Orgasm, by Vivienne Cass, PhD, is an excellent book to help women who have never had an orgasm, or who used to have more or stronger orgasms than they do now. It is accessible, inclusive, fun to read, and quite comprehensive in scope. It has an accurate anatomy section, which includes the entire clitoris and related structures. We like that this book is inclusive of women with no partner, a male partner, or a female partner, and at any life stage or age, as well as physical ability. We also like the inclusion of a chapter on how arousal works both physically and emotionally, what orgasm actually is, and how it varies from person to person.

The Elusive Orgasm offers help for a variety of types of orgasm difficulty, with step by step suggestions for change in an extremely individualized format. There are self-evaluation checklists, exercises, and step by step suggestions to try. These steps are easy to understand and are presented in a very positive way, always encouraging relaxation and decreasing stressful thoughts and self-pressure.

For Yourself is by Lonnie Barbach, a certified sex therapist, and is another excellent step-by-step program for women who want a specific set of exercises to follow on the path to greater sexual fulfillment. As the title indicates, there is a focus predominantly on learning to enjoy sex for your sake, not to satisfy a partner. For this reason, although the writing seems geared toward male-female partnerships, anyone wishing to enjoy their body more can benefit from the exercises.

For Yourself details the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of reaching orgasm, from your body’s response to physical stimulation to your mind’s response to the emotional intimacy orgasm can sometimes bring about. It is quite comprehensive in its approach, focusing equally on all aspects of orgasm rather than just the physical sensations. Because the focus is on the fulfillment of female sexuality specifically, this book is also a good choice for male partners who are supporting their female partners in their journey to become more sexually satisfied.

I Heart Female Orgasm is a friendly, fresh, sex-positive book all about the female orgasm. This book is a must-have for those who want to learn more about how to give and/or experience female pleasure. From the “Low-down of the Big O” to “Coming with Pride”, this guide provides accurate information, techniques, real-life experiences, and humor to make it a fun way to explore the female orgasm. A few subjects the book covers are: detailed advice of how to have your first orgasm, techniques and tips for oral sex, how to have orgasm with intercourse (and why most women don’t), and there are also tips for partners in every chapter. So if you are looking for a book on female orgasm that feels more like a conversation with a good friend, this is an excellent choice! I Heart Female Orgasm is written in a way that works for all readers, and even includes a chapter for people who are (or whose partner is) transgendered or intersex. 

Orgasms by Lou Paget is another book that doesn’t take readers through a “program” of any type. Instead, Orgasms provides a fun look at what we know about orgasms and, more importantly, what we only think we know. Paget is also the author of How to Be a Great Lover and How to Give Her Absolute Pleasure, and approaches the subject matter from a partner-based perspective.

This book is a good choice if you want to debunk some myths surrounding orgasm, learn some new techniques to try out with your partner, or get some basic information about your body and your sexual response pattern. This isn’t a good choice for women who have never had orgasms (or haven’t had them in a long time), as it doesn’t give any pointers for “where to begin,” but if you want to spice things up a little in your sex life, this could be the key for you.

Orgasms is quite comprehensive and provides basic information on a wide range of topics, from different varieties of sex toys to intercourse positions to medical and health issues. The sections on safer sex and medical/health conditions affecting sexual response are especially good, as is the extensive section on Spiritual Sex (which includes some basic Kama Sutra and Tantric practices). Overall, the book provides a good overview of a variety of sexual and orgasmic topics that you can use as a springboard to seek out more specific information elsewhere.

Sex for One is a groundbreaking work by Betty Dodson, who is something of a pioneer in the field of sexuality, having energetically advocated masturbation (self-love, as she calls it) to thousands of people over the past three decades. “Sex for One” was originally titled “Liberating Masturbation,” and published in the 1970s. Dodson has been conducting Bodysex Workshops since then, in which women gather in her home and learn how to pleasure themselves, both with their hands and with vibrators (the Hitachi Magic Wand is her tool of choice).

More of a “why-to” book than a “how-to,” “Sex for One” details Dodson’s personal philosophies about masturbation and sexual pleasure. Don’t expect to learn many new techniques (although the chapter on creating a night-long date with yourself is highly recommended), but expect instead to learn to view masturbation and orgasm as satisfying, fulfilling activities in and of themselves. If you’re new to masturbation, this book can provide some excellent inspiration for your journey of self-discovery. Likewise, if you’re in a relationship but not feeling completely fulfilled through intercourse, Sex for One can give you some pointers for making sure both you and your partner leave your sexual experiences happy ant satisfied.

Because this book focuses so strongly on self-love, it’s a great resource for people of all genders, relationship statuses, and orientations.

Of course, this is just a sampling of the wide array of literature focused on orgasm. If you don’t see anything that suits your specific needs here, or if you have more questions, please feel free to call, e-mail, or stop in to the store for more information.

The Sex Counselor