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Bad Sex: Truth, Pleasure and an Unfinished Revolution (Plume)
From Teen Vogue sex and love columnist Nona Willis Aronowitz, a blend of memoir, social history, and cultural criticism that probes the meaning of desire and sexual freedom today.
At thirty-two years old, everything in Nona Willis Aronowitz’s life, and in America, was in disarray. Her marriage was falling apart. Her nuclear family was slipping away. Her heart and libido were both in overdrive. Embroiled in an era of fear, reckoning, and reimagining, her assumptions of what “sexual liberation” meant were suddenly up for debate.
In the thick of personal and political turmoil, Nona turned to the words of history’s sexual revolutionaries—including her late mother, early radical pro-sex feminist Ellen Willis. At a time when sex has never been more accepted and feminism has never been more mainstream, Nona asked herself: What, exactly, do I want? And are my sexual and romantic desires even possible amid the horrors and bribes of patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy?
Nona’s attempt to find the answer places her search for authentic intimacy alongside her family history and other stories stretching back nearly two hundred years. Stories of ambivalent wives and unchill sluts, free lovers and radical lesbians, sensitive men and woke misogynists, women who risk everything for sex—who buy sex, reject sex, have bad sex and good sex. The result is a brave, bold, and vulnerable exploration of what sexual freedom can mean. Bad Sex is Nona’s own journey to sexual satisfaction and romantic happiness, which not only lays bare the triumphs and flaws of contemporary feminism but also shines a light on universal questions of desire.
Nona Willis Aronowitz is the sex and love columnist for Teen Vogue. Her work has been published in the New York Times, The Cut, Elle, VICE, The Washington Post, and Playboy, among many others. She is the co-author of Girldrive: Criss-crossing America, Redefining Feminism (Seal Press, 2009). She is also the editor of an award-winning anthology of Ellen Willis’s rock criticism, called Out of the Vinyl Deeps (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2011), as well as a comprehensive collection of her mother's work, The Essential Ellen Willis (Univ. of Minnesota Press, 2014), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.
Ann Friedman is a journalist, podcaster, and co-author of the best-selling book Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close.
Praise for Bad Sex -
"Cultural criticism, memoir, and social history collide in Aronowitz’s no-nonsense investigation of all that ails young lovers, like questions about desire, consent, and patriarchy. It’s a revealing read bound to expand your thinking." —Esquire, The 20 Best Books of Summer 2022
"Everybody's always talking about sex, but Nona Willis Aronowitz is truly saying something about it in Bad Sex. More than the act, this book touches on our conflicting narratives around pleasure, fear, hope, honesty, and at times, family. Aronowitz invites the reader into a conversation we may want to shy away from, but does so with so much enthusiasm and curiosity of her own we can't help but follow down another rabbit hole or into another memory. All roads are littered with jewels in this gorgeous exploration of humanity and desire." —Ashley C. Ford, author of New York Times bestseller Somebody's Daughter
“Bad Sex is Nona Willis Aronowitz's deft exploration of the triumphs and the unfinished work of both feminism and the sexual revolution. Deeply informed by intellectual and familial history, Bad Sex is intimate, thoughtful, and accessible to anyone struggling with the persistent, maddening inequities of contemporary sex. Willis Aronowitz looks to the groundbreaking work of her mother for insight, yet has written a book that will surely inspire and enlighten the next generation of politically and sexually aroused feminist thinkers.” —Rebecca Traister, author of New York Times bestseller Good and Mad
“Aronowitz’s chatty tone and corpuscular language explodes myths in ways that will help readers clearly recognize the lies they’ve been fed. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal (starred)
"Courageously frank." —Kirkus
“An intelligent and disarmingly honest book about sex, love, marriage, radical feminism, the yearnings that echo across generations, and the true meaning of sexual liberation.” —Amia Srinivasan, bestselling author of The Right to Sex
“A revealing personal and historical exploration of the disappointments, rewards, and ambivalence women experience when they explore sexual desires and relationships that challenge societal expectations about gender, race, class, and love. Well-researched, candid, and at times painfully perceptive.” —Stephanie Coontz, author of A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s
“With Bad Sex, Nona re-centers sexual agency in feminist history—and in her own life. This is not only a brilliant and evocative personal memoir, it also examines the critical goal of sexual liberation since long before the feminist second wave.” —Susie Bright
“Fascinating.” —Erica Jong