Not for the prudish or faint of heart, 22 year old Amber Madison explores the sticky and sweet aspects of sex in her new book, Hooking Up: a girl’s all-out guide to Sex and Sexuality, published by Prometheus Books. A recent grad of Tufts University in Massachusetts, Madison spent two years writing the sex column for their newspaper, Tufts Daily. To discover exactly what issues she visits in her book, merely flip to the table of contents: “Vaginas: What the Hell?,” “Pleasing Yourself: Masturbation, the Big “O,” and Communication,” “STDs: Feel the Burn,” “Pregnancy: The Big ‘(Uh) O.'” Madison tackles these daunting issues in a candid, offbeat way through her prose. She regales the reader with personal anecdotes, statistics, a few cartoons and diagrams (ever wondered exactly where your clitoris was?). You almost feel eager to go in for your annual pelvic exam – key word being almost.
If you ever fell asleep during Sex Ed in high school or think there are a few details Mom or Dad left out along the way, Madison’s book is a must have. As witty and funny as the book comes off, she balances a keen sense of humor with sensitivity and reliability.
Lucky enough to catch Madison on the phone for about half an hour the other day, I got to pick her brain about some of the tough sexual issues she explores in her book. Below are a few snippets of our conversation:
Sara Dyer: So you discovered through your column that a lot of people have misconceptions/misinformation [about sex]. So did you feel, after you studied sexuality at Tufts, a duty to write the book?
Amber Madison: I guess I felt a duty. I don’t know, that sounds more heroic than I feel [she laughs] …I just felt like, you know, this is something that’s so needed. …The issue about where girls get their sex information is that they can relate to their friends, so they get it from their friends- but that’s not necessarily medically accurate. If they want medically accurate, then they can go to a sex book, but that’s not necessarily something they can relate to. And both, clearly, are very important but I thought that there needed to be something out there that was really a fusion of both of those two things. So that was my thought process.
SD: Do you think that a book like yours would ever be published for guys?
AM: …The typical teenager or college guy probably wouldn’t admit their vulnerability of needing a book about sex. I think it’d be a hard thing to get guys to buy but I mean… they clearly need that information too.
SD: Your chapter on sexual assault kind of made me step back and look at Colgate in particular, since I’m here… At such a small school, I think girls feel really uncomfortable coming forward if they have been sexually assaulted because everyone hears about a rumor or gossip the very next day. What advice do you have about dealing with [that]?
AM: “…My advice to everyone: to make [it] easier on victims is to be way more supportive as a community towards sexual assault victims… In terms of coming forward, you know, I feel very strongly about girls who are sexually assaulted getting help and seeking counseling and I think that that’s something that everyone should do. I think that it’s a very personal decision who you want to tell about your sexual assault. …Maybe it makes the most sense for that particular victim not to come out to the entire school population. That’s a very personal decision that victims need to decide for themselves.”
SD: …You comment on how a girl that hooks up a lot is a slut and a guy who hooks up a lot is a pimp. I think [the stereotype] is pretty pervasive in our culture, and definitely true on many of college campuses. Do you think there’s any hope for combating this social stereotype?
AM: “…One thing that I think is really important that helps me deal with that is recognizing (and this sounds pretty basic) but women get horny too! Women have sexual desires and sexual drives and sexual needs… Maybe sex is something that women do want to do, not always for the emotional bond and not for the guy; it’s something that women want to do for themselves and get physical enjoyment out of it.”
For her next step, Amber Madison has signed on with a speaker’s bureau and will be traveling to various colleges around the country (maybe Colgate?) sharing her sexpertise. She is not yet ready to write again. “This book took so much out of me– the thought of doing another book right now- I’m going to start small, like, with emails [she laughs].”
Madison’s book answers all the questions you’re afraid to ask. Whether you need a sex-refresher or you’ve always wondered just what an oral dam is (I had no idea until I read the book!) pick up Madison’s Hooking Up at your local bookstore and keep your eyes open for a possible visit to the Colgate campus.