It’s hard to imagine having casual sex right now. Fortunately, Allison Moon’s Getting It: A Guide to Hot, Healthy Hookups and Shame-Free Sex is about more than scissoring strangers — it’s about cultivating self-awareness and sexual self-esteem. Part “how to” and part pep talk, Getting It glosses over the traditionally parroted sex ed basics, teaching readers how to flirt, how to clearly and kindly turn someone down and how to take responsibility for your choices. Of course, Moon offers plenty of between-the-sheets advice, too, which readers can apply to FaceTime sex, phone sex, “quarantine-and-then-bang” sex and all the other ways we’ve been knocking pandemic boots. But her between-the-ears advice is what’s needed most in sex ed discourse.
Author Allison Moon is a storyteller, erotica writer and sex educator who previously authored Girl Sex 101, which was lauded for its inclusivity and candor. While Girl Sex 101 was a collaborative effort, including sections by other experts like Ignacio Rivera, Tobi Hill-Meyer and Carol Queen, Getting It is written entirely in Moon’s candid, confident voice. Moon is uniquely qualified to write the book on casual sex for a broad audience. As she explains in the introduction, Moon has had a lot of casual sex with all kinds of people, and her personal anecdotes throughout the book give us a peek at her extensive sexual resume. While some sex educators disclose their sexcapades for shock value or bragging rights, Moon shares her tales with sincerity and zero bravado, giving readers a trusted narrator to guide us through the tough stuff.
Before she covers the etiquette of playing well with others, Moon asks readers to engage in some introspection. The book’s first section, “Getting Yourself,” includes some of the expected questions about what sensations you like and what words you use for your body parts, but Moon’s primary focus lies elsewhere. She teaches readers how to deconstruct sexual shame, how to build confidence and how to handle rejection and insecurity. This unique approach helps readers build a strong foundation for better communication with partners, whether those partners are long-term lovers or one night stands.
Most of us have been taught that flirting is rooted in the art of subtlety, which can be a recipe for miscommunication and missed opportunities. In the “Flirting and Finding” section, Moon teaches readers how to clearly state our intentions when we flirt and how to understand the intentions of others. She goes over some of the flirting tips you might anticipate (dudes, don’t flirt with women at the gym), and offers a “What Is Creepy” list, which includes things like being attached to an outcome or assuming there’s a “trick” to getting folks to put out (hint: there is not). The most critical subsection, “Risk and Power,” lays out the very uncomfortable but very real ways that privilege and power impact flirting dynamics. Race, gender, mobility, trauma, class, access to health care — these all make Moon’s extensive list of identities and experiences that affect our romantic relationships, and Moon sagaciously asks readers to pay attention to our differences.
“Consent and Communication” is the boldest section in Moon’s book. She presents consent as an opportunity to learn more about our partners and acknowledges that “enthusiastic consent” — a term some educators use to differentiate “real” consent from consent under duress — has its limitations. What if you want to try a specific sex act but you’re not sure if you’ll like it? What if you’re trying to get pregnant but you’re not really in the mood? There are all kinds of situations in which sex is useful, healing or experimental that might not get a “hell yes” from all parties involved. Moon’s willingness to acknowledge that consent is complicated proves that she’s invested in real sex between real people in everyday life — not just the very explicitly pre-negotiated sex that happens between play party hobbyists.
This section also covers sex under the influence, another area in which Moon is willing to offer a complicated take. Oversimplified consent education teaches us that if any party has had even a sip of wine, absolutely no sex should happen whatsoever, but Moon is willing to acknowledge a very real fact — people often fuck while they’re using substances, and the age-old traditions of “drinks-then-sex” and “joints-then-sex” aren’t going away anytime soon. Moon primarily focuses on self-assessment around substance use, helping readers determine when they’ve reached a point at which they can no longer maintain clear boundaries. Regarding partners under the influence, Moon says, “A drunken yes just isn’t the same thing as a sober yes” and reminds us that, “You being equally smashed doesn’t absolve either of your responsibility for doing things you shouldn’t have done.”
In the final section, “Heads, Hearts and Other Parts,” Moon teaches us that casual sex doesn’t mean all our feelings go away. Instead, we can develop the adult skills required to manage those feelings and design relationships that suit our particular needs. This section drives home exactly who this book is for. Sure, it’s for the schemers and dreamers who can’t wait to get back to their old slutty practices once it’s safe to do so. Yes, it’s for people of all genders and orientations and experience levels. But primarily, it’s for readers who are willing to do the work. Moon demands self-awareness and consistency from her readers, making Getting It a book that’s best for adults and introspective teens.
Hookup culture might look different right now, but communication and boundaries are perhaps more important than ever before. The skills outlined in Getting It will help you navigate virtual slutdom in this challenging new era of distance. And if you want to gracefully transition into a post-pandemic world of IRL sexcapades, then you better start studying up now.