Review: Christine Emba: Rethinking Sex


I have a lot of thoughts about this book but I’ll try to keep this brief.

To start, this book has a very odd citation format. The author directly cites journalists, blog posts, magazine surveys directly in line, but then deeper resources, ie Academic Studies, Medical Journals, are cited at the back of the book - and not many are cited compared to how many Journalists are. This creates a problem where many times in the book the author will say something along the lines of “many studies show…” but not actually directly link to a study.

Secondarily the first two thirds of the book are dedicated to convincing you that most women are having bad sex, which is odd, not because I necessarily think that’s not true, but because I’m already reading your book - you’ve sold me on your problem premise, so why keep reaffirming it? I found this very off putting and couldn’t figure out why this was the case until I reached around the last fifty pages.

The truth is that while the problems Christine Embra are highlighting are real and do exist, her “simple” solution is not so, and I feel therefore she conceals it. Essentially, her argument is that sex is not just about consent, but to be mutually uplifting, and her solution to having more uplifting sex is to do so monogamously in a heterosexual relationship, to not rush into it - to have sex less often.

Here’s the problem - in spite of lamentations of hookup culture, consent rules making initiating relationships confusing, and a very weird diatribe about deciding which “problematic” kinds should be scrutinized - we are having less sex culturally 1 than in the past. Therefore, should the problems she is outlining not therefore be solved? I think not.

This sticky lack of acknowledgement of our culturally declining “Penile‑Vaginal Intercourse Frequency” (horrible term) undermines the rest of her arguments completely. People are rethinking sex, and it’s not the solution.


  1. Archives of Sexual Behavior (2022) 51:1419–1433 ↩︎