Get the Sex Education You Never Had With These 9 Books

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It’s not too late to learn something beyond the keep-your-legs-closed approach. Virginity not required.

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Chances are, if you had sex ed in America, your sexual IQ is suffering. To help get you up to speed, we asked top experts to weigh in on their fave books on sex and sexuality, from newer releases to tried-and-true classics. Consider this your actually good resource on what to read.

A playbook for your vagina problems

Our Bodies, Ourselves, by the Boston Women’s Health Collective

“This classic belongs on every woman’s bookshelf. It is a very comprehensive guide to most sexual-health issues that you are likely to encounter in your life and frequently connects critical medical information to its cultural context.” —Laci Green, online sex educator and author of Sex Plus 

An LGBTQ “instruction manual”

This Book Is Gay, by Juno Dawson

“Growing up, it’s common to have lots of questions about sexuality, attraction, love, and relationships. Being LGBTQ can add an additional layer to those questions and sometimes it’s hard to know who to talk to or where to get information. This book is filled with great info about sexual health, as well as stories from LGBTQ youth.”  —Nora Gelperin, director of sexuality education and training with Advocates for Youth 

A true story about sexual assault

Missoula, by Jon Krakauer

“I’m recommending this book to highlight sexual assault and rape on college campuses. This story stresses the need for sexual-assault education at the college campus level but provides insight on the need to provide this education at an early age. And it also sheds light on the need to address the justice system on college campuses.” —Jennifer Driver, state policy director for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) 

An almost sci-fi take on female anatomy

Woman: An Intimate Geography, by Natalie Angier

“An OG guide to the female body. Natalie Angier does a great job dissecting stereotypes while outlining research (and lack of research) on the exact anatomy that life comes from. Twenty years later and this is still a go-to guide.” —Eileen Kelly, editor-in-chief and founder of Killer and a Sweet Thang 

A refreshing brushup on periods, relationships, and consent

GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You, by Karen Rayne

“I chose this story because Karen runs one of my favorite sex-ed organizations, Unhushed. It’s similar to my book, Sex Plus, for those looking to expand their perspective.” –Green 

An illustrated explainer on “sex stuff”

It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

“This read provides comprehensive information about how bodies work, how pregnancy happens, various attractions, and sexual orientations. My go-to sexual-health book with fantastic, inclusive content and wonderful illustrations that help explain all this complicated sexuality stuff.” —Gelperin

The textbook you should’ve had

Changing Bodies, Changing Lives, by Ruth Bell

“Ruth Bell was part of the team that wrote Our Bodies, Ourselves, which revolutionized sex education in 1976. In this book, she includes poems and cartoons from real teenagers, making it feel more lived-in and more realistic than many others. We desperately need more options for sex-ed books that have an intersectional feminist lens—especially ones that prioritize transgender kids—but Bell’s updated work is sex-positive and LGBTQ-friendly.” —Samantha Dercher, federal policy director for (SIECUS) 

Gen Z giving their take on sex

Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, by Peggy Orenstein

“Peggy Orenstein traveled the United States interviewing more than 70 young girls between 15 and 20 to figure out what it’s like for girls growing up in today’s day and age. This is a highly insightful read into how the digital landscape is changing everything around us, shaping the way society views women and how girls and women view themselves. It’s a necessary read.” —Kelly

A classic about the angst of girlhood

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

“Judy Blume’s 1970s novels are iconic for a reason—the world has changed, but preteen anxieties don’t. Although today’s kids have probably never heard of a sanitary belt (recent editions of the novel have updated the text to more modern menstrual products, but I prefer the original book!), Margaret still serves as a representation of that universal tween feeling of not belonging. It might not feel as modern as it once did, but Judy Blume—and Margaret—revolutionized how preteen girls view themselves and their bodies and made the terrifying unknowns of puberty seem a little less scary to me.” —Dercher

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