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Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality

3.26  ·  Rating Details ·  127 Ratings  ·  32 Reviews
"New York Times "bestselling author Suzy Spencer posted a simple online request: "Need to talk about sex..."
Suzy Spencer set out to investigate sex in America--to go beyond the talk and find out what people are really doing in their private (or not so private) lives. What she discovered online, at sex clubs, and elsewhere was truly eye-opening.
She started talking to men
ebook, 352 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by Berkley Books
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(showing 1-30)
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Oct 18, 2012 Ebony rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: relationships
A writing professor told me once, “writing is not therapy.” Perhaps, they didn’t teach that to Suzy Spencer at Baylor or perhaps they did and she shucked the adage when she decided to ignore all professional ethics when she wrote Secret Sex Lives, which, by the way, is more about Suzy’s nonexistent sex life than anything else.

From the outset, the book is about Suzy. If you’re not interested in a self-effacing, middle-aged, immature, paranoid white woman who quite possibly maybe asexual, then th
It can be challenging enough to write about the taboo subject of those who engage in the BDSM and swinger lifestyle, let alone write about it from a perspective of self-discovery and intimate honesty. Suzy Spencer blends and balances the two perfectly. In between the voyeuristic sharing of her interviews, correspondence, and in person interactions with her subjects, Suzy also courageously explores her own sexuality with curious wonder.

What I most respected and loved about this book wasn't what
Rachel Kramer Bussel
This is one of the best books about sex I've ever read, and I've read a lot. What I thought made it stand out is that Spencer is up front, from page one, about her own biases. She's afraid of touch, though she doesn't know why. We later learn she hasn't had sex in ten years. She weaves her personal story in and out of the one she tells about her work as a journalist jumping into an unknown world that takes her to various parts of the United States to explore swingers, casual sex, affairs and mor ...more
Nov 23, 2012 Forrest rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Revelation and conflict

Seldom will you find a book with so much internal tension and conflict between the author and the subject matter. Suzy Spencer, a best-selling true crime writer, at the urging of her agent, set out to write a “true life” book about sex – more specifically, the furtive world of “under the radar” sex. This realm of internet liaisons, swing clubs, BDSM groups and the rest, conflicts with Suzy’s background. This gentle, private person who had a strict Southern Baptist upbringi
Dec 03, 2012 Ashley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What an odd book. It's like a series of sweeping diary entries disguised as an investigation of "secret sex lives"... a strange book that doesn't really know what it is or wants to be. I'm not sure the author really resolved anything with this, to herself or to the reader, despite the confessional-style reporting. I dunno... just kind of felt like it was a big, self-indulgent therapy session wrapped up in Christian guilt that only really skimmed the surface of just about everything brought up in ...more
Feb 17, 2013 Skyqueen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If i could use one word to describe this book it would be - Sad. Sad for all the lonely people out there. Sad because they think sex will make it less lonely, not realizing until much later that sex is the RESULT of not being lonely; it's not the means to the end. Sad for all the mistreatment so many people have had by those who should have protected them. Sad that Suzy is just now going through these growing up feelings, and I thought i was a late bloomer in my thirties!

This book was not what I
Tejas Janet
Sex on the fringes is often flaunted rather than closeted in Austin, Texas, where I reside, so I didn't find the material here groundbreaking. Much more interesting was the tension between the author and her subject, and her exploration of her own self-described dormant sexuality. I wound up wishing her book had taken up this thread as its primary focus, instead of it being included as, "oh, by-the-way." Perhaps, she will pick up this thread in her next book and pursue it with more clarity and f ...more
Sara Molinaro
Mar 13, 2013 Sara Molinaro rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don't expect charts, graphs, or tables. Don't expect a stack of statistics or a 30 page bibliography of professional citations. If that's what you're looking for, you're probably better off with 'The Kinsey Report'.

However, if you're looking for a glimpse of what outwardly normal Americans are engaging in behind closed doors, then 'Secret Sex Lives' is your book. Reflecting on her own personal sexual experiences, Spencer balances a near-phobia of sex with the exploits and tales of middle Americ
Jennifer Ready
Oct 15, 2012 Jennifer Ready rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not exactly what I expected, but a great book! I was fascinated by the participants' sex lives and their motivations, although there weren't a ton of psychological insights included, or tie-ins to research or studied. I would say that this book is partly a collection of sexual anecdotes and partly a memoir. The author starts out by being a removed researcher, but with the nature of her research and with her methods, it becomes impossible for her to hold herself separately. The result is a deep l ...more
Nov 11, 2012 Jlpresley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality challenges beliefs. Suzy's words, observations, and revelations makes one question the very essence of their soul while at the same time reminding us to be gentle with one another as we are all fragile beings. Change is supposed to be uncomfortable, right? Suzy's book changes perceptions and prompts conversations. This is never a bad thing. Buying the book will lead you to fall in love (or disgust) with the real-life characters contai ...more
Joanna Barrett
Aug 28, 2013 Joanna Barrett rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
You spend an entire book calling these people freaks and judging them. You decide to participate, insinuate rape, and then conveniently can't remember if you participated willingly or the details of the event. B.S. and hypocrisy all rolled into a nice neat package.
Dec 22, 2012 Melissa marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
My copy just came in the mail today (1/10/13) and it's next on my to-read list.
Ermisenda Alvarez
Read the full review at Ermilia blog:

I thought this book was going to be a collection of scientific case studies. Instead, it was a memoir with Craigslist interviews thrown into the mix. Coming from a science background, I felt myself cringing at HOW subjective this was. When I finished the book, it took me a while to process what I read and what I gained from it. Even though it was very subjective, I feel like it was still a decent read. But I was disapp
It's by no means an academic study on American sexual lives (meaning this isn't exhaustive across all spectrums and pretty much all of her sources come from Craigslist meaning the stories they tell may just need to be taken at face value) but for what it is the book can be somewhat intriguing.

The people that Suzy researches are into various involvements such as BDSM, swinging or kink. She places an anon ad on CL and the subjects she writes about in her books respond to the message and agree to
Dana Delamar
Feb 04, 2016 Dana Delamar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. I'd been expecting a survey of people's sex lives in America. Instead, this book ends up being more about the writer and her own sexuality (or lack thereof) than it is about what's going on across America. So if you're looking for a more scientific book, move along. This isn't it.

That said, Secret Sex Lives is still a fascinating read. I did learn quite a bit about BDSM and swingers during the course of the book, but much of it seemed to be colored by Suzy's views. She struggles to s
Randy Austin-cardona
This is not your typical sex book.

Secret Sex Lives is not a how-to or an academic examination of adult sexual behavior. It’s because it’s unlike any other book that I’ve read about sex that I recommend Secret Sex Lives by Suzy Spencer.
What started out as a journalistic survey of online hookups turned into a journal of the author’s curiosities and conflicts regarding the sexual practices of those seeking like-minded sex partners. Consequently there’s a lot of push-pull throughout the book - repor
Nov 23, 2012 josh rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ?
Recommended to josh by: Shelf @ UAPL
I don't know...

Two degrees in the social sciences have me looking at all the sampling errors in it and questioning the data. It's certainly interesting as far as the vignettes on the individuals who did respond and were referenced - a series of n=1 case studies. I guess I was expecting too much when I thought that it was going to be a more rigorous sociological or psychological study with extensive excerpts from interviews / email exchanges.

A few segments were hard to follow, as the author was i
Apr 06, 2013 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I normally don't read anything but true crime. However, out of the respect I have for Suzy Spencer as a writer, I decided I would pick this one up and give it a go! I can't imagine the courage it took Suzy to write this book - the courage to meet, befriend and hang out with all these strangers from different walks of life....not to mention the fact that she bares her own soul. Not only is it extremely poignant and well-written, this book will take you on a journey of discovery of your own. Follo ...more
Dec 22, 2012 Heidi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2013
An enjoyable read. Suzy begins her study of sex in America staying professionally detached, ever the researcher. We learn her fears, her cautiousness when it comes to her own sexuality, and we wonder what lies beneath the shell created by her religious upbringing. She sidesteps offers to watch and participate in the activities her sources tell her about. We wince when she isn't approached but breathe a sigh of relief that she is safe. Part study, part memoir (mostly study), this book brings to l ...more
Michelleandderek Nakagawa
Ah a lot of people I am curious about what others are doing and even why they do it. While I had no real expectations this book would give me any new information, I read it to see what the author would learn. Surprisingly, certain parts of this memoir did actually inform me about things I hadn't really thought about. Most notably statistics from the CDC on STDs contracted from oral sex. Unfortunately, I know I'm not alone in my ignorance. Scary thought, I know.
Mostly though, by the en
R.J. Heald
Jun 27, 2013 R.J. Heald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book presents a fascinating insight into the lives of Americans behind closed (or not so closed) doors. It is neither an academic study nor a work of fiction, and therefore manages to combine the pace of fiction with an in depth look at the sex lives of a select group of Americans. Spencer writes the book with compassion, and on the way she moves from distancing herself from the people she refers to as her "sex freaks" to empathising with them and developing a unique understanding of their ...more
Oct 03, 2013 Jackie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the premise of the book intriguing - a woman who is mostly asexual researching secret passions and kinky sex. The problem is it got pretty repetitive after a while and there wasn't enough insight into the people and the psychology of their actions. In fact, it was all kind of superficial. I wanted to know more. The author especially seemed to hold back when discussing her own personal life, which I felt was an aspect of the book that could have been further explored and would have made t ...more
Kevin Tankersley
I really enjoyed this. The author introduces us to and lovingly talks about her "sex freaks" and all of their kinks and fetishes, but does it all in good taste. She spoke to my writing classes a couple of weeks ago, and did a great job. Considering that all of her books have been about horrific crimes and "fringe" sexuality, her talk was clean and professional, just as she promised. She's great, and so is this book.
A fascinating read into a world of sexual derivations from the norm.

Final Recommendations: If you enjoy in-depth interviews with swingers, BDSM, and serial causal encounter Craigslist users, this book is a excellent read. Although it's a little on the dry and sometimes spends way too much time with the author's original sexual hang ups.
Strong start, but sputters and then limps across the finish. I was fascinated by the way Spencer inserted herself into her research, but it became cumbersome and whiny after a while. The thing I did take away from this memoir is that it is only about physical sex on the surface; in reality it is about loneliness.
Jt O'Neill
Jul 08, 2014 Jt O'Neill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was just plain interesting! Sex is so odd - the culture doesn't know what to do with it and this is a great look at its place in our society now. The read is light and informative with a bit of the personal thrown in there.
Drew Swearingen
A great book by a wonderful writer.
Feb 11, 2013 Christena rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I hated this book so much. It was our book club book for February, but I could barely get through it. Nothing good to say about it, sadly.
all I can say is 'WOW'
Dec 10, 2013 Bubba rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very informative and an eye opener. Like the conflict between her own sexuality and her sources. Enjoyed it a lot.
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Suzy Spencer is known for her true crime books, including "Breaking Point," the story of Andrea Yates, and "Wasted," a New York Times best-seller. Her newest book is "Secret Sex Lives: A Year on the Fringes of American Sexuality."
More about Suzy Spencer...

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“Jessica planned on having her very last Craigslist date the following night. "I just want to find a guy worth keeping in touch with," she said.

I thought about that. In fact, I thought about everything she'd written me. Everything so many had written me. All the talk of orgasms and lovers. Having many of one and unable to have even one of the other. Especially when it came to lovers -- the inability in both men and women to find that one person, that one partner, who totally "gets" you. No matter what anyone said, they 'all' seemed to want that.”
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