by Jack Lowery
This book gave me a lot to think about. The title is pretty self-explanatory; it gives insight to the lives and projects of the activists themselves, but also the culture of the time.
Growing up long after the worst parts of the AIDS crisis were over, it felt like a part of history: tragic, but not particularly relevant to my own life as a queer person. This book gave me insight that I lacked.
Of course, using “pandemic” in the title is probably catching a lot of attention and I naturally found myself making the comparison between the response to coronavirus and HIV/AIDS. (The iconic line “kissing doesn’t kill” would probably not be a great option to reprise during COVID…)
That said, I think this is a must-read for anyone interested in public health, politics, art, or the intersection of the three.
by adrienne maree brown
In the introduction, the author recommends achieving orgasm for every chapter of the book, which felt unrealistic to me personally, but is the kind of aspirational thinking that I can get behind.
For the most part, Pleasure Activism provides philosophies and strategies for personal growth, rather than guidelines for collective action; it’s a great exercise in broadening your own views, especially if you are new to sex positive discourse.
It’s broken up into sections that make it easy to read about specific topics, if you’re not looking to read the entire book. There’s a huge focus on sex and sexuality, but only as part of a holistic approach to embodying pleasure.
Various interviews within the book touch on the pleasure of relationships, humor, masturbation, activism, drug use and parenthood.
This book was an approachable and engaging read. It would be an excellent choice for a book discussion group, especially, with the “hot & heavy homework assignments” scattered throughout.
by Heather Radke
Radke’s exploration of the cultural significance of butts in the U.S. and its roots in Victorian England is definitely interesting stuff and I ended up reading most of this book in one sitting, which is often a struggle for me with nonfiction.
For the most part, she uses the stories of individual women woven together to tell the overarching history of celebration and exploitation of women’s bodies in America; especially with regard to dominant White narratives revolving around Black bodies.
There are brief acknowledgements of gender-nonconforming individuals, but the main focus is cisgender women in a heterosexual culture, so if you’re looking for information on the role of asses in queer culture, probably look elsewhere.
At the very least, this book is an excellent critique of the absurdity of the modern clothing industry, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll probably enjoy what it has to offer.
by Meg-John Barker & Jules Scheele
Are you looking for a quick and easy introductory text to sexuality and sexology? This might be a good option for you. There’s a lot of great illustrations that break up the text nicely and the book/graphic novel touches on a lot of the major topics in modern sex-positivity discourse.
It’s very Gender & Sexuality 101 and should be approachable to the majority of readers, but the tradeoff is that there’s not a lot of room to go into depth on a lot of the topics and theories presented (the history of sexology section leaves a lot to be desired and, really, should only be seen as dipping your toes in if you haven’t read up on the subject).
This is the type of book I wish I had the chance to read as a teenager.
by Shiri Eisner
So, this book is pretty theory-focused and could feel a bit textbook-y at points, but I found it to be a pretty engaging read overall.
Eisner takes a pretty radical approach to bi politics and makes it clear early on that she’s not very interested in appealing to respectability politics. Going in you should expect to probably disagree with her perspective on some issues.
What I found most useful about this book was the way she gave concrete language to concepts that had been kind of nebulous when it came to my own thinking about some LGBTQ issues. It's a worthwhile read if you are especially interested in focusing on issues for the bi+ community (unsurprisingly).
It’s been 10 years since this book was published and the issues and arguments she responds to feel dated at some moments, while others feel like they could be published today and cut to the heart of today’s discourse.
By Lamya H.
I seriously loved reading this book and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys memoirs and/or queer literature in general.
The writing is fun and approachable, but it’s super interesting conceptually as well; the author connects her own experiences as a queer Muslim woman to historical figures in the Quran.
It focuses on the dual discrimination she has to navigate towards both the LGBTQ+ individuals within (some) parts of her family and Islamic culture as well as the islamophobia she faces from the mainstream American queer community. All of this within the context of trying to survive and maintain her visa in a dangerous time for Middle Eastern immigrants in the U.S.
It unearthed some of my own biases and maybe will help you do so, too?
by Regina Kunzel
This is an excellent text that covers a topic that isn’t necessarily on the radar for a lot of sex-positive activists. You really don’t need much background in the criminal (in)justice system in the U.S.; this book should still be reasonably accessible to you. There’s a good mix of historical data and the philosophy behind modern prisons, so it’s not hard to understand the points the author is making. (That said, I do recommend getting more information about this topic, whether it’s through books, podcasts, documentaries, etc.)
Kunzel highlights the many ways that conditions have improved for convicts and inmates over time as well as how, in some ways, things haven’t gotten much better at all. She also explores how the puritanical views on sexuality during the system’s creation still impact the culture today.
Very much worth a read if any of this sounds appealing to you.
by Arielle Greenberg
This was very exciting for me personally because I was lucky enough to do a Q&A with the author, Arielle!
Superfreaks is very accessible in terms of writing style, but could definitely be a little bit shocking to individuals who have never learned about or experimented with kinky sex and the fetish community. The author makes no apologies for this and explicitly writes that if something isn’t taboo, it’s not kink.
The text combines extensive research with the author’s own personal narrative to take readers through a unique exploration of fetishism through the eyes of mainstream culture as well as behind the curtains, unveiling some of the more obscure and uncommon practices and rituals of kinksters throughout history.
This is a worthwhile read for those looking to learn more about non-normative sexual practices outside of just the stereotypical BDSM relationships (even though there’s a lot on those, too).
This article was written by Aren Briggs. Aren is a librarian, zine maker, and social justice advocate who has been a part of Pleasure Pie for many years.