“BANG! Masturbation for People of All Genders & Abilities” Is the Rare Sex Ed Book Getting Inclusivity Right

When I’m picking out summer reads it’s usually a blend of old faves that I know won’t let me down, something new that I’ve seen circulating around Twitter, and a graphic novel or two. But sometimes on those really melty summer days, I just want something cute, kinda slutty, and fun to read aloud to my friends when we’re at the pool or sweating it out at the beach.

I love chatting about all things sex — especially masturbation. I’ve talked endlessly right here on this very site about why I think it’s important, I know it’s not something that everyone digs but for those who do It’s incredible to learn all about. I can only speak to it from my experience as a cisgender queer woman, and as much as I like talking about how I love getting off on my own, there are so many other bodies and genders that deserve to know all about how to fuck themselves — and that’s where BANG! Masturbation for people of all genders & abilities comes in.

In about 120 pages, BANG! chats through all things masturbation from getting in the mood to play with yourself to getting out of your head while doing it, and even processing the guilt or shame that may come with pleasuring yourself that some folks experience. The main pull of this book for me is the focus on being hella inclusive. Inclusivity when talking about sex very rarely hits the mark, and that’s usually due to the folks who are writing about it not staying in their lane. Meaning, it’s people who have zero lived experience in the subject writing away about it as though they do, and not only is that whack but it’s really fucked up.

BANG! called on real folks to illustrate, tell their stories, and give advice. In the chapter “Setting up for Solo Sex” (featuring Andrew Gurza & A. Andrews) the writer talks through how a wheelchair user might masturbate and navigate any issues that might come up, in “Finding You-Phoria” (featuring Rebecca Bedell & Lafayette Matthews) there are personal narratives and advice about self-pleasuring as a trans person, and my absolute favorite chapter in the book — “Guilt.” There is also a chapter about Shelli’s’ favorite thing in the world: say it with me class, DATA!!

But back to my love of the one on all things guilt.

A lot of masturbation when I was a child was very much so because I was a curious horny monster, but damn did I feel hella guilty after. It was wrapped up in confusion about my feelings towards girls, remembering things I’d been taught in church about sex, ashamed ‘cause I thought I was the only one doing it, and just so much more. Those guilty feelings didn’t just leave when I became an adult, in fact, they worsened before they got better. Creeping into my sexual relationship with myself in college and settling there for a while afterward.

This chapter hits on pretty much all of those points and offers comfort in the simple fact that it addresses guilt as well, a thing. It doesn’t take the easy way out when chatting about it and is noticeably one of the few chapters in the book that doesn’t have many illustrations — focusing on how important it is and allowing space (mentally and physically) to allow the reader to process. I scribbled some thoughts out, highlighted things, and felt beautifully seen all in just the eight-page chapter.

Basically, I truly dug this book. It’s such a chill read, and the use of illustration and laying the book out as sort of a “choose your own adventure” helps make a subject like masturbation less daunting. I also really hope that it makes its way into schools! There are facts, figures, and all sorts of sources, but the personal touches are what make it extra special. Giving people the space and opportunity to talk directly to their respective communities about sexual health and experiences is needed. It’s also dope because folks outside of those communities can use the material to educate themselves — it also takes some pressure off of people who didn’t sign up to be your teacher on the daily and kinda just wanna exist.

So go on, get the book and get to touching — I wanna say let me know how it goes but that’s not really my business now is it?

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Shelli Nicole is a Detroit-raised, Chicago-based writer. Her work has appeared in Bustle, HelloGiggles & Marie Claire. She is terrified of mermaids and teenagers equally.

Shelli has written 114 articles for us.

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