“Closer” – Sarah Barmak

This book ended up being one of my favourites for the entire year of 2019. I wish I would’ve come across it earlier in my life & wish that literature like this would be part of sexual education rather than the outdated program that is currently still being taught to teenagers all over the world. It manages to offer such eye-opening insights that it might make you question the standard of sexual education in our society or rather contemplate its non-existence.

“In the absence of a clear sense of what feels good, the default for many girls has long been to simply acquiesce to sexual demands from boys because they figure that ‘this must be what sex is like’. Knowing the possibilities that sex holds, learning what you’re attracted to and what kind of touch, pressure and stimulation feel good, is a key tool in helping to know when touch feels wrong, too hard, too fast or painful. (…) In a vacuum created by poor or nonexistent sex ed and the reluctance of parents to talk to girls about anything beyond avoiding pregnancy and sexual assault, however, young women are turning to the internet for sex ed. That’s not working out so well.” (p. 150)

Sarah beautifully outlines various topics touching female sexuality, illustrating them with scientific studies, a historical background, as well as interviews with individuals. This probably was what spoke to me a lot, a mix of personal & impersonal, making up the perfect combination of views to give a diverse enough representation of such a broad subject. It’s also Sarah’s way of writing that makes the book incredibly enjoyable, her sense of humour making you chuckle while reading. She manages to guide you through a variety of ideas, presenting you answers to some questions you might have been wondering about, but most of all, inspiring you to continue your personal research by sparking your interest.

Parts that especially appealed to me were:
– The debate about a “viagra-like” pill for women to be able to jump start their sexuality (like men) & how such an idea came about (p.15);
– How recent the exact physiological & anatomical portrayal of female sexual organs is (p. 27) & for how long a part of the body has been pretty much made invisible, namely the clitoris “packed with over eight thousand nerve endings, (which is) likely the only human organ whose sole purpose is pleasure – unlike the penis, which is responsible for procreation and urination as well.” (p.28);
– The illustration of the complexity of how women are “literally” sexually wired, going into details with explanations of the stimulation of the brain and nerve routes (p.53);
– The background of shame & how it’s bread into us from an early age, impacting all our future interactions (p.148) and many others!

On its last pages, the perfect summary of the book is given:

“This little book is meant as a provocation, a poke, a food for further thought. It is descriptive rather than prescriptive. (…) It is simply (…) a look at the way an aspect of the world we often take for granted (…) . It is meant as an objection to the idea that there is one way of being sexual – or at least one ‘normal’ way. Sexuality is about individual expression. (p.155)

I think it’s an absolute “must read” for both a female & male public and I’ll be merrily suggesting it around in my circle of friends, perhaps even more on the male side.

P.S. Almost forgot about it when writing the review – the book cover!!! It’s absolutely stunning & also makes it onto the list of one of my favourite book covers of all time ❤ A shout-out to the talented Shannon Gerard & her beautiful embroidery work!!!

“Closer” – Sarah Barmak

★★★★★ (5/5)

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