With stores stocked full of candy hearts, bouquets of red roses, and oversized stuffed animals, it’s hard to miss that Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. In 2017, nearly 70 percent of millennials surveyed by SKYN Condoms reported that “Valentine’s Day is the occasion on which they have the most sex.” With these heightened expectations around engaging in sexual activities, consider the role sex positivity can play in your life.

The International Society for Sexual Medicine defines sex positivity generally as “understanding your own sexuality and what it means for you and your relationships.” Some facets of being sex positive include prioritizing clear consent and respecting sexual boundaries, practicing safe sex, openness to learning about the human body and various sexualities, and talking about sex without shame.

For many people though, being sex positive is easier said than done. The talk about “the birds and the bees” looks different for everyone, and the information taught by formal sex education varies across the US. There also may be religious or cultural expectations complicating your efforts at being sex positive.

Small, independent presses across the country are leading the way in cultivating conversations about human sexuality through their fiction and nonfiction publications. Check out these four indie publishers promoting sex positivity, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Cleis Press

Cleis Press offers fiction and nonfiction titles focused on “LGBTQ, BDSM, romance, and erotic writing for all sexual preferences.” Their books include a myriad of erotica anthologies, relationship guides, instruction manuals, and even coloring books.
Notable books from Cleis Press:

  • Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships by Stella Harris
  • The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability: For All of Us Who Live with Disabilities, Chronic Pain, and Illness by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg, and Fran Odette
  • Sex Work: Writings by Women in the Sex Industry by Frédérique Delacoste and Priscilla Alexander

Microcosm Publishing

Microcosm Publishing is headquartered in Portland, OR, and is a “vertically integrated publishing house that equips readers to make positive changes in their lives and in the world around them.” Many of their publications offer education and advice about having more open conversations about sex, a key part of sex positivity.
Notable books (and zines) from Microcosm Publishing:

  • Consensuality: How to Love Other People Without Losing Yourself by Helen Wildfell
  • Sex From Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules by Sarah Mirk
  • Sex Without Roles: Transcending Gender by Eli Sachse

Cipher Press

Cipher Press is a publisher focused on fiction and nonfiction books by members of the queer community. Their goal is to “amplify queer voices and to champion LGBTQIA+ writers in the UK and beyond.” Cipher Press is a newer publisher, with their first book released in the midst of the pandemic in August 2020.
Notable books from Cipher Press:

  • Limbic by Peter Scalpello
  • Unreal Sex edited by So Mayer and Adam Zmith
  • There Will Always Be Nights Like This from Cipher Shorts

Thornapple Press

Thornapple Press is a Canadian publisher with its founding roots in Portland, OR. Their focus is on nonfiction books that “discuss relationships, love, sexuality, and relational ethics from unique and underrepresented perspectives.”
Notable books from Thornapple Books:

  • The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression, and the Conversations We Aren’t Having by JoEllen Notte, with a foreword by Stephen Biggs, RP
  • Nonmonogamy and Neurodiversity: A More Than Two Essentials Guide by Alyssa Gonzalez
  • Love’s Not Color Blind: Race and Representation in Polyamorous and Other Alternative Communities by Kevin A. Patterson, with a foreword by Ruby Bouie Johnson

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