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Sex in the stacks

There are whole shelves in Perkins dedicated to sex.

Nestled in the back of the third floor, a particular cluster in the early HQs boasts titles ranging from the classic “Joy of Sex” to the more argumentative “Pornland: How porn has hijacked our society.“ Duke Libraries online even has the search term “sex instruction.”

No doubt some of you have pillaged those pages, for either academic pursuits or out of personal curiosity. I personally hadn’t until a couple weeks ago, when I chose to investigate a book my friend had stationed on her coffee table as a half-joke—“The Guide to Getting it On.” The 800-page tomb is an endearing tour of all the pleasure-seeking elements of sex, and I can testify that it was an enjoyable and informative skim.

I wonder why we don’t do this more often. Conversations about sexual education often fixate on birth control and STI’s, but rarely touch on more intimate intricacies. Searching for information concerning the pleasure-seeking aspects and dynamics of sex definitely has an unhealthy taboo attached.

There are a few contributing forces we can identify. Coming into college, there’s a pressure to be or seem experienced with most things, including sex. People don’t want to talk about it, out of fear that their lack of knowledge (and yes, there always is a lack!) will be exposed. We’ve devolved into using an unfortunate language of absence when it comes to sex—letting the imagination fill the emptiness of conversations that simply never happen.

Sadly, this lack of discussion feeds myths that only hurt us. For one, I’m not really sure how the average 18-year-old guy is supposed to know how to single-handedly (get your mind out of the gutter) bring a girl to orgasm—without talking to her—but that seems to be the expectation.

Besides the lack of public dialogue, there is a lack of private dialogue. We’re uncomfortable with talking about sex with our partners. We’ve even invented a dance that allows us to rub genitals without facing each other. One could conceivably spend a night of dancing with someone without even knowing what they look like, or what their voice sounds like. It’s just … creepy.

My guess is that most freshmen didn’t go trotting over to this particular section of Perkins soon after their arrival at Duke to answer such questions. I know I didn’t even consider it.

So consider this: There is an entire section of the library dedicated to sex. There’s also this super awesome machine you can use to check out books without having to interact with other human beings. If you don’t like talking about sex with other people, if you want truly accurate information, or if you’re just curious—why not check out the books in the library? Once I return the guide mentioned above, it’ll be waiting at call number HQ31.J63.

Of course, as any reasonable sex advice book or resource will tell you, the best information always comes from your partner. Books can be helpful sources of supplementary information, before or after these conversations.

Some readers might think that it’s weird or unnatural to go to a sex advice book for help. They may wonder why they’d need advice to do something that they is supposedly straightforward. To them, I suppose I’d say that it depends on what your goal is in having sex. If your goal is to have a generally mediocre and unfulfilling time, I’d definitely encourage you not to ask any questions at all, of either your partner or other sources. If, on the other hand, your goal is to have a better and potentially awesome time, seek as much information as you can.

Those who are sexually informed will be more comfortable talking about sex. Those partners who are discussing sex openly will have more of an understanding of their sexual encounters. Being informed also increases confidence, which changes all kinds of dynamics in a sexual relationship. Plus, in learning more about sex, you may find yourself validated, and happier because of it.

I am by no means a sexpert, but hopefully I’ve turned you on to a resource you may not have stumbled upon during your forays in the stacks.

Ellie Bullard is a Trinity junior. Her column runs every other Wednesday.

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