Books & Films

Lockdown Reading Recommendations for People Who Like to Read About Sex

April 10, 2020 by Justin Lehmiller

I know that many of you are bored and horny right now during this lockdown and quarantine period, so allow me to recommend some of my favorite sex books! If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably already seen a few of my recommendations, but here’s a more extensive reading list.

  • Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Sex and Science by Mary Roach. Bonk is a great place to start! I read this book back when I was in graduate school working on my doctorate in social psychology and it was actually a big influence on me in terms of wanting to become a sex researcher. Roach does a fantastic job of tracing the history of sex research in an engaging and entertaining way, while also making clear why this research is so important for all of us and how it has improved—and will continue to improve—our lives. It’s also full of fun sex facts and tidbits, some of which are very timely—like the fact that fear releases adrenaline, and adrenaline enhances blood flow to the genitals. This is why people in fearful states sometimes have a sexual response. Hmm…maybe that partly explains why so many of us are kinda horny right now? She also discusses the science behind the health benefits of sex and and orgasm. Among other things, it can cure intractable hiccups, relieve stress, and (potentially) help us live longer (after all, sex is a form of exercise). So if you’re stuck in lockdown and find yourself with hiccups that won’t go away or you just want to get some physical activity in, well, now you know what to do!
  • A Billion Wicked Thoughts by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam. Two neuroscientists analyzed the contents of over a billion searches on some of the most popular porn sites and the results were fascinating. As someone who studies sex for a living, this is one of the most frequently referenced books on my shelf. They don’t just report what people are searching for, but also what our porn searches say about us. For example, among their many fascinating findings was that the most popular search term on Pornhub was “mom.” But it’s not just that—searches for MILFs, cougars, and mature women were also quite popular. So why is that? As they explain, part of the appeal resides in the fact that a lot of heterosexual men are drawn to self-confident and sexually experienced women—women who will take the lead in bed. Of course, this book covers far more than just MILF porn—it explores the vast diversity that exists in people’s porn searches and preferences.
  • Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger. This book explores the tension that exists when the conclusions of scientific research conflict with people’s personal identities and politics. This tension often arises when scientists study things like sex and gender because the results of this research don’t always confirm people’s preexisting beliefs about the world or tell them exactly what they want to hear. And that’s where trouble often begins. Dreger documents a series of conflicts between scientists and activists, while also offering practical lessons in how to deal with uncomfortable scientific conclusions in productive ways that will ultimately lead to truth and justice. Check out my full review of this book here.
  • Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire by Eric Berkowitz. History is full of examples of government and religious authorities going to great lengths to regulate people’s sex lives. By today’s standards, many of the older laws—and their corresponding punishments—seem, well, downright absurd. Case in point: “In ancient Greece and Rome, the husbands of adulterous women had several options for revenge. Most of the punishments allowed a husband to shame his rival by inserting foreign objects, such as spiky fish and radishes, into his anus.” This fascinating book explores the myriad ways in which societies and cultures throughout history (and still to this day) have tried to regulate sexual behavior through the law, and how these laws usually had little to do with actually dispensing justice.
  • The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig. The birth control pill is something that a lot of us take for granted today, but there’s actually an extremely interesting story behind it. The “birth” of the birth control pill is a tale of many great secrets, lies, and bluffs. It includes a colorful set of characters, too, including a woman with a dream (Margaret Sanger), a wealthy widow (Katherine McCormick), and a scientist who was fired from Harvard for experimenting with in-vitro fertilization in the 1930s (Gregory Pincus). It’s truly a fascinating read.
  • Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them by David Ley. Curious about the psychology of cuckolding? This is your book! Ley interviewed dozens of male-female couples from around the United States who were engaged in a “cuckolding” or “hotwifing” lifestyle, in which the men get aroused by watching or knowing that their female partners are having sex with other men. He explores the history of the practice, the controversies and taboos surrounding it (including the frequent interracial themes), as well as how it impacts people’s relationships.

This should be enough to get you started for now; however, if you’re in need of additional reading suggestions in this area, scroll to the bottom of the Sex and Psychology Store, where you’ll find a more extensive list of recommendations. And, of course, if you haven’t already done so, check out my book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life if you want to learn more about the science of sexual fantasies—including tips on how to talk to a partner about them and potentially incorporate them into your sex life.

Here’s to some happy (and sexy) lockdown reading time!

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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