Skip to main content

Book Review: This Thing We Call Sex

David Steinberg’s 2015 book This Thing We Call Sex (A Radically Sensible Look at Sex in America) is now one of my favorite sexuality books and a prime example of great personal essay and non-fiction writing.

I had not heard of this author until a few people in my sex-positive network shared the book. Looking into it, the book piqued my interest and I decided I needed to read it. I’m so happy I did.

This Thing We Call Sex is a collection of columns, personal essays, photography, and poetry by the author. Some of the pieces had been previously published, most notably several from Steinberg’s sexuality column Comes Naturally that ran for Spectator magazine. There are also some pieces that were written for or published for the first time in the book.

The range of topics covered is marvelous. From Jack-and-Jill Off parties to sex work and how sex is handled in families to sexuality in art. He talks about many issues for transsexuals and many aspects of kink. He delves into personal experiences involving Viagra and the deeply impacting story of when his partner had an abortion.

More striking even than the incredibly wide range of topics, the essence of the author’s writing is heartfelt and healthy. If you are interested in any kind of non-fiction sex writing, I highly recommend giving this collection a read.  

For example, a column that appears early in the book is about taking sex toys through airport security. I have to admit I was reluctant to read another essay on a topic that I’ve seen other sex writers tackle in a cheesey, situation-comedy type narration. But I was definitely won over. The essay was unique and refreshing and very different than other takes. He still had heart and texture in the story that made it far from cheesey. After that, his essays on porn, family, erotic transformations, and gender were quite fulfilling. There is certainly humor and playfulness at times and just the right amount of weight when appropriate without being dramatic. In short, this book is a read that satisfies.

His black and white photographs that accompany each essay adds further dimension to the book. Several essays in the book address his journey as a sexual photographer and a whole section is dedicated to images of sex. Each photo is a couple Steinberg photographed having sex. These images are real, raw, funny, beautiful, and intimate. Most of the photos are focused on facial expressions and gestures of connection between the couples and showcases a range of pairings.

Ultimately, I highly recommend this book to anyone in the sex positive community, but in particular those who have an interest in sexual writing/art as well as kink, pornography, and gender.

I will keep this book for the rest of my life. I’m fortunate the work found me when it did. You may read more about the author and his work here.


  1. Hi Leandra. Thanks so much for your enthusiasm about This Thing We Call Sex. It's always great to get a positive review, of course, but it's especially rewarding when someone likes something I've written for all the "right" reasons -- meaning for the things about my writing that matter the most to me. So thanks specifically for that. Word of mouth about TTWCS is building gradually, and reviews like yours are a core part of that process. Thanks for helping spread the word. FYI, you can contact me via email if you like, at david@davidsteinberg. us.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Excerpts from "Cast From the Earth" a polyamorous romance

I had so much fun sharing inspiration photos and excerpts from my novel Booked that I wanted to do one for Cast From the Earth, my polyamorous romance with zombies set in the 1890's. This book features a F/F and M/M/F pairing and lots of fighting... for love ;) Check out some snippets below!


Dust billowed up as the wagon ambled down a worn dirt road reserved for indigents and invalids. Curled in the back of the wagon clutching her satchel, Cordelia was certain she was neither. She had been offering a perfectly legitimate trade on that street corner back in town. Yet someone still turned her in for begging in public.

Cordelia found herself with no means to pay for a room at the boardinghouse and not a single establishment in White Spring would let her wash dishes or sweep floors for even one day.

Without any further discussion, Cordelia was shoved into the back of a wagon to be hauled off to the Clay County poor farm.

There had been a brief exchange in which the man entrusted with…

Ways Porn Has Helped My Life

Earlier this week @KelseyObsession on Twittier ( posted a poll asking if porn has helped people’s lives, hurt people’s lives, or been a neutral force. I answered that porn has helped my life... because it has!
I see the sentence “porn ruined my life” so often but I can honestly say that in many ways porn saved my life. (It’s a bit too click baity even for me to use as a headline, but it doesn’t make it any less true). On top of that, there has been another anti-porn wave on social media lately, so I thought I would go ahead and dedicate a post to the ways porn has helped my life.
First things first. When I write about porn, I usually get a lot of the same questions so I’ll just preface by answering those questions now: 1. No, I don’t work in the adult industry. Aside from one erotica story I wrote being published in an alternative porn magazine and a few erotic photoshoots that have never been published except as cropped header images for my blog posts, I’ve never be…

Book Review: The Mistress Manual: The Good Girl's Guide to Female Dominance

I must confess that I become quite melancholy this time of year because I dreadfully miss going "back to school." But this time around, I almost felt like I was back in school because I had this book. Mistress Lorelei Powers has such a wonderfully authoritative and insightful voice with just enough snark, charm, and wit. I truly felt as though I were her pupil completing some very important homework as I studied this text.

Though I am involved in BDSM on some levels my interests rest mostly in fetishes rather than power exchange. So I admit that I consumed this book as a reader just as much as I did a sex blogger. And the experience was delightful.

This book is the perfect length and quite reader friendly. There is a lot of information packed into this manual, but it is enjoyable to peruse a second or third time and great to have as a reference.

The first part of the book addresses many concepts and issues in female dominance. What if you are reluctant to take the dominant…