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"Smart Sex" by Emily Morse, PhD

26 June 2023

On “Smart Sex” by Emily Morse

I admit, I’m not usually one to purchase a book because I’ve seen it promoted on social media. For me, that’s normally a detractor; I shy from both what’s currently popular and what seems to be self-promoted—yes, it’s a bias I am aware I might need to inspect.

Nevertheless, this book’s title caught me at just the right moment. I’d recently been wondering why our culture is so repressed that nobody ever talks openly, candidly, calmly about sex. I’ve wanted to have conversations with friends, siblings, even my partner about sex, but I didn’t know where to begin, how to initiate the dialogue, and a sense of social taboo prevented me: I felt a shushed shame in doing so—even though I could not really validate why that shame existed or whence it stemmed. Even when I was Christian, I believed sex within marriage was celebrated; why shouldn’t we talk about it? Now that I’m no longer Christian, that question persisted with greater intensity: why don’t we talk about this? There were other questions too. What are other peoples’ sex lives like? Is my experience normal—could it be better? What actually is a “great sex life,” and how do people even define that? How much don’t I know? Could knowing more improve my life’s pleasure and satisfaction? Who’s to say, considering how very little information I had? In truth, I knew next-to nothing!

The book couldn’t have crossed my feed at a better moment.

Dr. Emily Morse is a sex therapist (yes, she has a PhD in Human Sexuality) and media personality. Her Instagram account was recommended to me by a close friend. She’s hosted an exceptionally popular podcast called Sex with Emily since 2012. Her book is precisely the sex education we all deserved but never received.

Emily’s approach to sex education is shame-free and rejoices in the human body’s capacity for pleasure—no matter the reader’s gender or sexuality. Her take that pleasure should neither be enshrouded in shame nor socio-cultural taboo is refreshing at least and liberating at best. Yet she never crosses that line into careless hedonism (she even has a disclaimer about this, delineating between healthy pleasure-seeking and compulsivity/addiction). Here’s my take on her take: we experience plenty enough suffering during our lifetimes; why shouldn’t we maximize the pleasure we can experience in this life—healthy sensory pleasure, that is—especially if this can be pursued ethically? Of course, do no harm, but then…just imagine the possibility!

Along these lines, Dr Morse repeats this epithet throughout the tome: “Communication is lubrication.” That is to say, most important to a healthy sex life is intimacy—which can only be attained through clear, consistent, compassionate communication with our sexual partner(s). To want a greater sexual connection with your partner is wonderful, especially because to achieve it means diving with more depth into your shared connection. What a phenomenal message—and I know that you’ll concede its truth without hesitation.

Beyond this, Morse’s book covers just about any topic I’ve ever dreamed regarding sexual relationships—plus many topics I did not even know existed. Most of these chapters and sections are relevant to me, some are not (based on my gender, my sexuality, my relationship, and my life choices), but she covers it all with detail, expertise, and professionalism. Morse’s writing is simple, friendly, easy to read, and the chapters are exceptionally well-organized.

I’m not sure I could recommend a book with more enthusiasm. What better way to blast through the ill-conceived socio-cultural shame bubble surrounding this issue? I’d even encourage my kids to read it…although I might wait until they’re 18 (almost there). Please read this book! You deserve to know better!

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