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What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl's Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety
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What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl's Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  421 ratings  ·  50 reviews
In this empowering, accessible guide, Jaclyn Friedman—co-editor of Yes Means Yes—gives young women the tools to decipher the modern world’s confusing, hypersexualized, sometimes dangerous landscape so they can define their own sexual identity. Friedman decries the hypocrisy and mixed messages of our culture (we’re failures if we don’t act sexy, but we’re sluts if we actual ...more
Paperback, 341 pages
Published October 25th 2011 by Seal Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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Jul 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Well, that's a book I wish I could have read as a teenager. So much excellent, sex-positive information in one place, with references to dozens of other sources, too. There's a kind of workbook/therapy element to it, with assignments at the end of each section; I didn't do them, but kind of think I might like to sometime, because some of them seem like really useful exercises.

Most of the book is applicable to life in general, not just sexual relationships—it focuses on learning to communicate i
The Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health
In sex-negative American culture, shame, blame, and fear affect the sex lives of many women, wreaking havoc on one’s ability to enjoy sexuality in a happy, healthy way. While healing and exploring one’s sexuality is an important life journey, many who wish to begin that journey have no idea where to start. Jaclyn Friedman’s handy guide, What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Guide to Sex and Safety comes to the rescue, packed with mythbusting, stories from real women, and compelling exerc ...more
Emily Joyce
Friedman's book embodies how I've always defined sex positive feminism- a practice that is built on personally established desires and boundaries, enthusiastic consent, and shame free communication between partners, and ultimately the idea that sex-however an individual chooses to practice, abstain, or define it-is truly enjoyable for all involved.
Friedman acknowledges the spectrum of sexualities, races, and bodies of women who might be seeking to better understand their needs and desires when
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Every one should read this book. Not just women. If I had a teenaged son Id tell him to read it too.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent guide for young women looking to become comfortable with their sexuality. Although this is really basic info for anyone who grew up in a sex-positive environment, readers who come from more conservative backgrounds should get a lot out of it.

Although the subtitle says this is a "girl's" guide, the author is trans friendly and includes interviewees of various gender identities (FTM, MTF, genderqueer, etc.) and presentations, as well as women of different sexual orientations.
Maya Reid
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book, but I think that it was directed at women who are younger and/or vastly less experienced than me, the kind of woman who is first asking herself what she wants sexually rather than the woman who is evaluating the sexual decisions she's actively making. In short, me three years ago would have probably given this book 4 stars, but current me was bored.

I will certainly flip through this and perhaps redo the activities again if need be. This is a good book to look through again.

Original Review (27 Aug 2016)

The title grabbed at me and I wanted to read this because I was struggling with how I felt. I grew up in a society and country where sex and sexuality are not talked about. Most of the time it is seen as "bad" and "sensitive".

To get it out of the way, this book does not teach the reader how to have sex. But it shows them how they can c
Apr 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I didn't get all that much out of this book, but only because I'm already extremely familiar with sex positivity, gender studies, and all that sort of stuff. However, this would've been incredibly useful to have when I was in high school and didn't know all of that stuff. Therefore, it's definitely still getting five stars.
This is a good beginner's guide to sex positivity, particularly for the younger/inexperienced. It's well written and goes straight to the point, even provides extra sources for further research.
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017reads
Read this to screen it for possibly sharing with teens or parents of teens in my life. Perspective is sex positive, body positive, and about helping young women learn to use their words to advocate for their own pleasure and safety. She covers a lot of ground-- from just being able to verbalize attraction and consent, all the way through kink/BDSM. On the one hand, the older I get the scarier it is to consider teens I know thinking about things like kink when they're first getting sexually start ...more
Anna Bearne
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, although it is probably aimed in a younger audience (I'd say <20). I didn't do any exercises, but I think you still can get something valuable out of it by just reading. I wish I had read this book years ago. Maybe I wouldn't be so confused at some point in my life and I would avoid confusing (and hurting) other people, who I really loved and cared about. And maybe I wouldn't get involved in this 2-years-long abusive relationship later on in my life, or at least leave ...more
Zuzka Jakubkova
This book is great for three reasons:

1. Awesome guide on deciphering multiple influences on women's sexuality and figuring out what's really under the hood (of our minds).

2. Multiple personal testimonials help to illustrate the point way better than any statistics could have.

3. Book also offers the reader an interactive element of personal introspection through smaller written tasks and exercise.

In all honesty, this book is the best thing on the market for any girl who wants to get in touch w
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I wish someone had given me this book when I was 16!

I am not the target audience as I am already fairly familiar with queer theory, BDSM literature, feminism, etc, and have done a good deal of thinking about and exploring my sexuality. However, this book has the potential to do a lot of good in the right hands and I will hang on to it until I find a young woman I think would appreciate it.

Actually, I'm tempted to give it to my mother.
Lourdes Bernabe
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the best "feminist" books I've ever read. I devoured Friedman's words as they continuously reaffirmed everything I know about my sexuality and how I might like to handle discussing sexuality with a young girl or maybe even my sister. Every woman should have a copy of this book. It helps to understand that no one fits the Virgin/Slut dichotomy. I'm not a virgin or a slut and neither are you.
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the book, I just think I would have gave it 5 stars if I did all the journaling stuff it advised through out the book. I just really couldn't, since I read the book while I was at work on breaks. But it does make good & very valid points. ...more
Nov 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: put-on-hold
Not really my cup of tea; as the book is more of a journal-ing type book. I was expecting a comprehensive discussion on sex positivity and was disappointed by the more campy, psychologist-session-like feel the book has to it.
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
I think this guide would come in handy for young women (I would've liked to have had it at 16). And I think I might give it to my sister, but all in all it's a bit too straight focused for me right now. Though the writing exercises are fabulous!
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I wish I had read this book 15, 10 even 5 years ago. I'd encourage girls to read this at a young age so they can develop healthy views about their sexuality. If I ever have a daughter this will be recommended reading.
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Overall this is a solid book. It is likely more useful to younger readers than older ones, but as someone who is probably older than the target audience I still found the book offered much wisdom and insight.
Nov 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
A must-read for any woman who wants to explore her sexuality safely and on her own terms.
Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you're a woman, it's worth a read.
Good information, a bit dry, but lots of really specific activities so you could use it as a workbook if you want.
Mar 11, 2012 added it
Shelves: read-in-2016
Jaclyn Friedman is insightful, honest, and critical. I read this book to consider teaching it in an undergraduate feminist theory class and the answer is a resounding yes.
Apr 04, 2012 is currently reading it
This may take me a while as I am not a self-help-type book reader.
Jul 28, 2012 rated it liked it
some good points especially for discussion but much of it is very intro. would be great for girls to read instead of cosmo when they are in high school.
Aug 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
A good book for people trying to figure out how to embrace their sexuality. This is a sex positive way to figure out what you want.
Interesting, and really engagingly written. I didn't do any of the exercises or anything, but definitely worth reading.
Mar 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: half-way, psychology
Taking back sexual empowerment and having an open conversation around healthy sexuality. Great book
Jun 10, 2013 rated it liked it
It def. got me thinking, which is what I was looking for. I still have some of the exercises to do, but as far as reading, I've finished.
Jul 13, 2013 rated it liked it
would probably get more out of this book if I actually did the writing exercises/reflections. Might try doing those in the future.
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Jaclyn Friedman is a poet and performance artist whose writing has been published in many places, including,, Pedestal Magazine, the Underwood Review, and Sojourner. She has been the Program Director for The Center for New Words and New Words Live since January 2000. She is the recipient of a 2001 Cambridge Poetry Award, a 2004 Fellowship to the Vermont Studio Center, ...more

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