A visit to the bookstore

07/10/2009 at 10:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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I missed an appointment with my chiropractor/acupuncturist today. I’m still feeling kinda crappy and still dealing with a side effect from the medication I was taking. Obviously since I’m still getting sick & getting infections, this treatment doesn’t seem to do much good for my immune system. Yet I still go to him once every few weeks, since the chiro/acupuncture treatment helped me manage some mysterious pelvic pain.

I missed the appointment since I was stuck in traffic. The office is nearby a bookstore. I figured I was already near the store, and my evening was free since I didn’t make it in for the appointment, so I stopped in.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular at the bookstore. I already have enough sexuality & feminist lit to keep me going all through the summer and then some. I was curious about the selection. I wanted to see if anything caught my eye, hoping something would.

I was somewhat disappointed.

Shopping in a retail store isn’t like shopping online. Online I can find almost anything, although out of print books & imported goods tend to cost more. But physical locations can’t have an infinite inventory. Retailers have to pick & choose what’s most likely to sell. That’s not an easy call to begin with, but I imagine it’s compounded when you’re in the middle of a recession.

I looked at some of the women’s Health books, hoping but not expecting to find some new vulvar health care books. Something with new, updated research. Nothing new though. The store had “The V Book” in stock, and more generally several copies of  “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” and “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom.” But I already own those, and I was not interested in other women’s health care topics at this time.

I left the Health section empty-handed.

As I moved on, I couldn’t help but notice – my goodness, but there certainly are a lot of diet & cook books. My god it’s like the entire center of the store was all about food & fitness.

I looked at the Sexuality books. My impression of the section on sexuality is: A lot of the books are actually the same book. That’s not entirely true, I know. I’m sure each book brings something new to the table, although some are bound to be better than others. But so many of the titles sounded like they had the same theme – “Great sex,” or rather, “GREAT SEX” in big bold letters. A big chunk of the reason I think all the sex books are the same, is because they all used the same exact font! Most of these book covers were exclusively text with a solid color background. Lots of blacks, purples, reds. If a cover’s background wasn’t a solid color but a photo or image instead, the photo was rarely of people. I saw more photographic covers with hints of fabric, promising fun times in bed. When covers did show human figures, the images were stylized, like outlines, or else did not show an entire figure – the faces were obscured or there was no head for a face to be on. And as for the bodies themselves – not a lot of variety there, lots of conventionally beautiful white men & women.

So much of the same theme repeated over & over again… Or maybe I just felt like it was the same few books, since the sexuality section was so small. Not much of a selection at all.

“Great sex” was definitely the predominant theme – whatever the hell that even means. Those books seemed so in-your-face, so much “Come on and read me, I dare you! Look how hip & edgy & bold I am. I’m a book about SEX! I’m gona tell it to you straight up even if what I say makes no sense can be found online for free is a stereotype makes you mad.” Books that promise “Great sex” no doubt have to explain what the authors actually mean later on in the text, and in my experience with the sexuality books I already own, I would hope that the authors take a broader view of sex. It doesn’t seem revolutionary to me anymore, to expand the meaning of sex in order to enhance your experience of it. I’ve been exposed to that for awhile now. But I look around at the media & how intercourse-centric it is, and maybe it really is revolutionary.
But what if the sexual advice books really do just mean one kind of sex?

Besides that, there were a lot of books about the Kama Sutra. A few titles promised to give details on how to perform non-intercourse activities, such as oral sex & mutual masturbation. There were two books about erotic massage exclusively. A few books promised to talk about orgasm – what it is, how it works, how to have one. In the past, I’ve seen this store sell books about sex toys but there were none in stock today. Mostly vanilla heterosexual activities today.

I think what I was looking for, was not a book about “Great sex…” Somehow, when I see themes like that, I feel excluded. In my mind I think to myself, “I’m sure these books are great for people who already have a healthy sex life and who are able bodied enough for some athletic positions, but I’m still new at this and I’m not ready (emotionally or physically) for advanced positions, if that’s all the authors have to offer.” Perhaps the marketing of sex books holds them back from me. Or maybe it’s how sex is marketed in general, and I’m bringing my own internalized notions of the word with me to the bookstore.

I think I was looking for something more like, “Sex after pain. Pressure-free sex that doesn’t have to be GREAT every time yet can still be pleasant for everyone involved. Sexual intimacy. Slow sensuality. A beginner’s guide to kink.” I’m making the titles up now, although a quick glance on Amazon let me know that such things may actually exist. They’re out there, but not on retail shelves. Apparently titles like what I’m looking for, are not popular enough to take up shelf space during a recession. Or probably at any other time.

I did see some recommended titles with staying power that I probably would purchase at a later date – like, after I finish reading some titles I already own (that the bookstore doesn’t sell!) But overall the sexuality section was… small, skewed towards newer titles, and had a lot of overlapping information. There were some oldies but goodies in there, but very few. I didn’t even see anything by Betty Dodson.

I looked at the Gender Studies section and it was even more paltry than the Sexuality shelves. It probably didn’t help that the books were just disheveled & allover the place – on their sides, laying flat… general disarray. It was a mess.

There were a couple of oldies but goodies were available which I probably should read at some point in the future. Other books I’ve been thinking of picking up were out of stock (or just not in stock to begin with.) I’d prefer to thumb through some titles before I buy. I may have to order them online. I recognized a lot of titles available on the shelves were published by Seal Press, including some of the notably controversial ones that have been analyzed in sometimes heated discussion online. Some books about media, sexism, ageism, self-help, survival, sex work.

But other than that, just, not much in Gender Studies… the bottom 3 shelves out of a several-feet high wall. Not as wide a variety of topics as I expected.

I wound up leaving the store with something I didn’t go in looking for – an art book. Because believe it or not, I actually do have other interests, too.


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  1. “…I think what I was looking for, was not a book about “Great sex…” Somehow, when I see themes like that, I feel excluded. In my mind I think to myself, “I’m sure these books are great for people who already have a healthy sex life…”

    I know this feeling all too well.

  2. […] the most part, I felt welcome to indulge in Sex Toys 101, unlike with other sex books. Often when I’m browsing for new books about sex, I feel left out. “Oh these books […]

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