Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Review: The V-Word: True Stories About First-Time Sex – Amber J. Keyser (Editor)

The V-Word: True Stories About First-Time Sex – Amber J. Keyser (Editor)

First time sex is a big unknown. Will it be candlelight and rose petals or quick and uncomfortable? Is it about love or about lust? Deciding to have sex for the first time is a choice that’s often fraught with anxiety and joy. But do you have anyone telling you what sex is really like? 
In The V-Word seventeen writers pull back the sheets and tell all, covering everything from straight sex to queer sex, diving-in versus waiting, and even the exhilaration and disappointment that blankets it all. Some of their experiences happened too soon, some at just the right time, but all paint a broad picture of what first-time sex is really like.

Review: Have you ever fallen down an Internet rabbit hole? Like, you start researching one topic, and then suddenly you’re reading about something completely different, and then you find yourself buying a book about virginity for teenage girls?

Yeah. That’s what happened to me.  

I started out looking for lists of 2016 books that had been challenged in schools. After much clicking, scrolling, and getting distracted by Twitter, I came across The V-Word. The synopsis got my attention. When 11-year-old-me took sex-ed. classes, the teachers basically told us “Babies and diseases occur when Tab A is inserted into Slot B.” That was it. Very scientific. No discussion of emotions or relationships. No discussion of LGBTQIA issues. No discussion of rape. Not nearly enough information to satisfy our curiosity.

(Funny story: I first saw the word “masturbation” in a Stephen King book when I was a young teenager. I had no idea what it meant, so I looked it up in the dictionary. It’s probably not ideal for kids to be learning about the human body from Stephen King.)

Anyway, The V-Word sets out to give girls all the information they don’t get from school. The essays in this book are no-frills, honest, and straightforward. Sex isn’t masked by beautiful writing. The writers describe exactly what happened during their first sexual encounter. The book isn’t unnecessarily graphic, but it definitely doesn’t hide anything. In addition to essays, the book has information for parents and additional resources for teens. (Including recommendations for YA books that have accurate portrayals of sex.)

I love the diversity of perspectives in this collection. You get to hear from doctors and sex experts as well as straight women, lesbian women, bisexual women, and trans women. They talk about different ways to have sex and how porn and YA novels are unrealistic. They show that emotions are complicated and relationships often don’t work out. The first person you have sex with may not be your “true love.” There is a lot of discussion about consent and using your words. This book is all about giving teens realistic expectations.

“Two people can choose to have sex for no other reason than that it feels good. It doesn’t have to be the next step in a committed relationship. It doesn’t have to be about love. But if you tell me that it means nothing, I’ll lift an eyebrow in disbelief.” – The V-Word: True Stories of First-Time Sex

My biggest issue with this collection is that there’s no asexual representation. There also isn’t much representation from disabled people. Ace and disabled girls have thoughts about sex, too! I think their perspectives would have added a lot to this book.

The V-Word contains tons of no-nonsense info about sex, but parents should probably read it before handing it over to their teens. Some kids may feel overwhelmed by it. There is a lot of information packed into this tiny book.


  1. I agree one should not learn about the human body from Stephen King lol!! The book sounds interesting.

  2. "It’s probably not ideal for kids to be learning about the human body from Stephen King." DYING. So true bwhahha.

    This sounds SUPER important. Like you, that was ALL the info we got too. And my parents were never like "sex is bad", but they never really said ANYTHING about it at all. It is unfortunate that there isn't more asexual or disability rep, but it does sound like a really great starting point- especially since real talk about sex, especially for girls, is SO hard to come by! I am glad you randomly stumbled upon this one, it sounds really great and well done!

    1. It is an important book. Kids are curious about sex, and we should do a better job of talking about it. If we don’t, they’re going to learn about it from Stephen King.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. Stephen King as the health teacher...not a great idea. I do think this kind of book is a good thing. It is okay to talk about sex and this kind of collection sounds like a realistic portrayal. Great review!

  4. This sounds like a really important book for teenagers to have! I had a 15 year old girl tell me Fifty Shades was romantic, which made me cry on the inside and wonder how healthy it can be if she thinks those books are good representation of sex. I would have liked to steer her toward a book like this instead!