BEFORE TV and the Internet, all you needed was a good old book to school you in the art of seduction (and rejection). Elisa Scarton proves just how enlightening the written word can be.
Long before the ‘idiot box’ was invented, people were taking cues for their bedroom sessions from the good old paperback. In the early 20th century, ankle flashing and hand holding could be constituted as unsavoury behaviour, especially if it was not with your respective husband. Still that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two about sex, and more importantly, safe sex, from the books we all know and love.
So without further ado, here are five books with lessons we can all learn from.
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Lesson: infidelity and younger men can drive you to jump in front of a train. Unlike the shameless romps mentioned later in this article, Anna Karenina approaches sex in a sophisticated and clandestine way that was completely taboo in 1910. It is a classic not for the raunchy sex scenes – there aren’t any – but for the way it exposes the power of sex. Safe sex shouldn’t just be about the physical consequences. This novel teaches us that sleeping with someone almost always also has serious emotional ramifications, so you should think before you do it.
Sex and the City, Candace Bushnell
Just like the television series, Sex and the City is an anthology of columns about Candace and her friends’ salacious sexual adventures. For the ‘90s, it was quite controversial, and played an important role in destigmatizing sexual taboos. But no matter how kinky the sex was, the girls always used a condom. They also had the confidence to demand safe sex and the courage to walk away if their respective partners refused. But other unnamed, not-so-smart friends mentioned in Candace’s columns didn’t – and the ensuing horror stories about STIs are enough to scare anyone off unprotected sex for a long time.
Twilight, Breaking Dawn, Stephanie Meyer
We had to wait four books for them to do it, but when they finally did, it only took one trip to the bedroom and bingo! Pregnant. The lesson here? If you’re going to abstain until marriage, don’t undo all your good work by getting knocked up on the first try, unless that’s what you want. Otherwise, contraception is still necessary if you’re in a long term relationship, but not looking to start a family. And while we’re at it, there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with choosing not to abstain either. You won’t go to vampire hell, no matter what Stephanie Meyers tries to tell you.
Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L James
Even the nerdish, sexually un-adventurous graduate student can learn to love S&M if the guy who teaches her is rich enough. But seriously, this fan-fiction-meets-‘Mummy Porn’ novel does show us there’s no shame in experimentation- if you’re into kinky toys, have a safe word and a willing partner, that is.
Christian and Ana’s rocky relationship also serves as a good reminder to always keep the channels of communication open in a relationship. Never do something you’re not willing to do.
You couldn’t have a list of sexy literature without mentioning the Kama sutra. Thought to have been written in 400BCE, this collection of practical advice and prose is considered to be the standard work on human sexual behaviour. It should come with a massive warning though – leave the complicated moves to the experts. This book redefines the meaning of “safe sex” – with some believing taking tips from the Kama Sutra could set you up for serious injury if performed incorrectly, or at all. And in case you were wondering, yes, there is a free app that explains all the moves… with pictures.
And finally, an honourable mention goes to…
What’s happening to my body? Lynda Madaras
Whether you studied it in sex education class or were just, like me, unfortunate enough to receive it as a present from a concerned aunt, this book is the authority on puberty. Journey with Lynda as she reveals the wonderful world of growing up with… diagrams. But there is a great chapter on what happens when we have sex and how babies are made. It also sets down the foundations for safe sex practices, including how to use a condom.
Agree with Elisa’s list? Share your thoughts below.
*This article is part of Meld’s Sextember campaign where we’re hoping to present a range of views. Find out more about the initiative and how you can contribute here.