It happens at a different time for everybody. Perhaps, for you, it was an act of teenage rebellion, a long string of furtive nights in front of Google. Or maybe you started in college with a workshop, or a conversation with an outspoken roommate, or a giggling trip to a sex store. Maybe you began at 28, when your sex life got dull and you couldn’t quite figure out why. Perhaps you started after your divorce was finalized.
Most people reach a point in their lives when they want to learn more about sex and how to enjoy it more.
The Sex Guide: A Journey Through 35 Sex Schools and Workshops by Yella Cremer is a compilation of overviews and resources for those who are, in Cremer’s words, “setting out to explore”. It targets the beginner – the person who has passing to little familiarity with any formulated philosophies on sex or sexuality. Cremer makes an effort to cover the most popular schools of thought, including some that she finds less beneficial, in order to supply beginners with a comprehensive understanding of what they might find in their research. And she successfully covers a lot of ground – Cremer reviews everything from Dodson and Ross, to Tristan Taormino, to Qigong energy workshops, to the PUA community.
The book is structured in two parts – part one is a pair of exercises for guided self-reflection, coupled with advice for how to proceed through the process of sexual exploration. Part two is comprised of reviews, descriptions of the 35 sex schools mentioned in the title. Cremer groups the reviews into categories – “humanistic”, “spiritual”, “erotic explicit” (i.e. porn stars, doin’ sex ed), “pickup artist”, and “BDSM”. This categorization is helpful for orienting beginners, though Cremer often acknowledges how readily the groups blend.
Greatly to the benefit of the book, Cremer encourages readers to think carefully about their own strengths and weaknesses before engaging with any workshop. While the exercises she provides are slightly convoluted, they’re still very useful for people at any experience level – everyone can use some personal self-reflection from time to time, and Cremer provides a methodical way to reason through one’s strengths and weaknesses in the bedroom.
Additionally, the resources compiled in the book alone make it worth downloading. With each review, Cremer includes a long list of links to books, videos, and websites, creating a home base for each school of thought that readers can return to as they explore options and educate themselves. I read the book on my laptop, and on the Kindle app for iPad, and the experience of clicking the links and exploring the web resources was delightfully seamless.
It’s important to note that Cremer is openly and honestly writing from her own experience (which is vast – she founded LoveBase, and has been active in the sex education community for a while). She uses the first person, she regularly discusses her own personal impressions, and she’s not shy about sharing her background. This gives the reviews life and personality – overall, her openness regarding her bias is an asset.
That said, I’m just going to be honest – if you’re not Yella Cremer, your mileage may vary with this book. While Cremer reviews a program or two that cater specifically to homosexual singles or couples (Joseph Kramer’s erotic massage is an example), I found myself wondering while reading many of the reviews whether or not these workshops would be inclusive or safe for people who were not cisgendered heterosexuals. While most reviews include an audience indicator (Cremer states whether the resource is intended for men or women, singles or couples), Cremer attempts to review feminist workshops and pick-up artist videos in the same terms, and fails to mention any possible dangers or intolerances. The intent behind this even-handedness is admirable, but for a true beginner, the lack of this information could be misleading.
Furthermore, Cremer could use an editor. If creative syntax and liberties with grammar rules send you into paroxysms, you might want to skip this book – you also might want to take an anger management course or like, sit on top of a mountain for a while or something, because grammar just is not that big a deal, but that’s beside the point (fight me, Internet). There are also some inconsistencies in chapter structure that left information to be desired, and the book could benefit from another edition.
Overall, however, the book is a useful jumping-off point. It’s free, it’s a compilation of resources, and whether you agree or relate to Cremer or not, the book gives readers sufficient latitude to form their own opinions. It’s also a quick read (I blew through it in three hours, doing a close read), and a useful resource around which to structure future research. For those new to sexual exploration, or those looking to broaden their experience, this is certainly worth downloading.