When I was sixteen, my mother got me a copy of 'Woman's Experience of Sex' by Sheila Kitzinger. I was slightly embarrassed, shelved it spine-backwards and didn't touch it until two years later when I suddenly realised that I was probably old enough to have sex and really ought to know more about it. Kitzinger's fascinating, sensitive and only slightly dated look at how women feel and behave sexually was exactly what I needed, and when I finished it I jumped enthusiastically into any sexual parts of 'Our Bodies, Ourselves' that I could find. Alas, the latter was just a little too clinical. New Zealand has perfectly good sex education and I've already had the details of every sort of contraception enumerated to me a few times over. It was the emotion that I wanted to understand.
I was aware, though, that there was also another side to the story. Kitzinger sifted through statements from hundreds of women on what sex meant to them and presented them in a book, allowing some sort of validity to the whole broad range in true liberal fashion (for all that her own middle class status -- and, indeed, her feminism -- definitely acted as a lens). The book she ended up creating was, for me, almost a map of the possibilities of womanhood. It was invaluable. But if that is woman's experience of sex, what is a man's? Books like Kitzinger's, like 'Our Bodies, Ourselves', like Natalie Angier's 'Woman: An Intimate Geography' (which is also excellent) are frequently touted as essential reading not only for women but for lovers of women. As a heterosexual woman, naturally I am interested in finding the male equivalent.
Gee, but you men got short-changed! Well, okay, you still have a bit more money, more political power, dramatically less chance of being labelled a slut -- but I think you're missing out on this particular point. I did find one halfway decent book for men: 'Secret Men's Business' by John Marsden. Secret, huh? I read it anyway. Sorry, but I considered my curiosity to be an entirely benevolent impulse to understand what you guys feel like in bed (and outside of it). It was quite good (not actually all that sexist, either) but it seemed to feel the need to cloak any and all advice with the authority of the Great (And Somewhat Mysterious) Notion of True Masculinity. Which is a pity, because the freedom to deconstruct or discard the Acknowledgedly Silly Notion of Femininity whenever we feel like it is one of the best aspects of the liberal feminist tradition.
Perhaps I'm just holding every book on masculinity I find up to feminist standards. Celia Lashlie's book 'He'll be OK' about bringing up teenage boys was also very good, but Lashlie is a feminist. And it would be better if men were speaking for themselves. (Lashlie recounts an amusing exchange with the principal of an all-boys school. After the two had agreed that men need a movement of their own, the principal remarked slightly wistfully "I don't suppose we could get you to do it for us?" No, says Lashlie, no, we couldn't. Nice try, though.)
I am aware, of course, that the sensible thing to do would be to find a nice man to have sex with and then ask him how he feels about it. Indeed, relying on books rather than reality would be a sorry way to live. Ah, well. I'll get there.