Tag Archives: What You Really Really Want

Review: What You Really Really Want By Jaclyn Friedman

8 Dec

Cover art from

What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Guide to Shame-Free Sex and Safety by is a valuable and accessible guide for women to finding happy, healthy sexuality despite societal pressures to live with the “terrible trio: shame, blame and fear.”

Jaclyn Friedman is one of the most prominent 3rd wave feminist writers and thinkers of our time. A former IMPACT self-defense instructor, she may be best known for co-editing with Jessica Valenti the ground-breaking Yes Means Yes: Visions of A World Without Sexual Assault. With , a compilation of essays, Friedman and Valenti brought into popular discussion the idea that in order to create a world without sexual assault, we need to create a world in which women are equally free to say yes as we are to say no. In her new book, released in November 2011, Friedman helps readers to evaluate what it is exactly that they want to say yes and no to (which will likely change over time), and hardest of all, exactly how to have those conversations with sexual partners.

Sexuality is such an intimate and vulnerable topic that any book on the subject, particularly a how-to guide, needs to meet the basic requirement of making the reader feel safe. Friedman walks a perfect balance. She does not hold back from stating some facts and expert opinions that might make some readers uncomfortable, yet she recognizes and honors the diversity of her readership and never tells the reader what decisions she should make in her own life.

Friedman uses two main teaching tools throughout her guide: 1) Writing exercises throughout each chapter allow the reader to delve as deeply as she wants. These are an accessible jumping off point for self-discovery and make the book customizable to the individual. 2) Stories and feedback from a diverse group of women who workshopped the book throughout the writing process bring a variety of voices and experiences to each chapter. Sometimes funny or sexy, sometimes painful, these additions bring the book to life.

What impressed me most about this book was the breadth of content covered in such a concise, readable way. Friedman’s voice comes through as your friendly, approachable, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny tour guide through a whole world of ideas about sexuality. Although the intended audience is young women (I plan to give this book to my little sister when she becomes a teenager), women of all ages will find places for reflection and growth in this guide. Men, too, could gain sensitivity and understanding from reading this book– or maybe find themselves asking the same question of what it is they really really want!

If you’re still not sure whether or not this book is for you, check out the at the companion . It starts off with a quiz that you can score yourself to know if you should read WYRRW (my vote: you should!). The site is also packed with handy resources referenced throughout the book. So go ahead! Pick up a copy or two (one for a friend!) and check it out for yourself.

*If you’re in Madison, WI– please support our local independently-owned feminist by buying your copy there!


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