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Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  304 ratings  ·  53 reviews
A leading expert on human sexuality and author of the blog Sex and Psychology offers an unprecedented look at sexual fantasy based on the most comprehensive, scientific survey ever undertaken.

What do Americans really want when it comes to sex? And is it possible for us to get what we want? Justin J. Lehmiller, one of the country's leading experts on human sexuality and au
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published July 10th 2018 by Da Capo Lifelong Books
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Dr. J.
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I spend a lot of time in the sex fantasy world writing, sex-positive literary erotica, it thrilled me when this book came out. As a retired sex therapist who loves sex science, I couldn’t wait to see the results of a large research study.
Justin Lehmiller writes with a knack for plain speak about research topics. It makes this a solid read for researchers and non-researchers alike. Not only does he provide new information for the world about what Americans think, he positions his work with a dos
Oct 24, 2019 rated it did not like it
The book is based on survey responses from around 4000 people. While his survey results aren't representative of the entire population. The vast majority of people would not take the time to fill out a very long questionnaire of this sort. So I don't think you can make broad generalizations from it.

This book is full of complete BS. After a certain point, I realized that a lot of generalizations/assumptions were happening. The author would provide a number on how many people fantasized about a pa
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
The bad: not necessarily a bad thing, but I was expecting a book on how the science and all the statistics presented in a book actually translate to novelty in the bedroom. Specific techniques or similar. The book feels, in fact, like a scientific manual, but it's presented like a set of statistics of different experiments and aggregations of the former. It feels like a scientific compendium versus an applicable book.

The good: it's an interesting read with some surprising findings out of these a
Joseph Scaduto
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-improvement
This science-driven, evidence-based book was both interesting and enlightening, as well as entertaining. Although I wasn't surprised by the range of sexual fantasies survey respondents indicated (with some notable exceptions), I was intrigued by how these fantasies correlated with various personality traits and past experiences. I appreciated the author's attempt to "normalize" various fantasies (statistically) for a society that is hyper-concerned about acceptance and the potential for embarras ...more
Missy Ghoul
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting book. I really appreciated that the author was trying to get the message across that we as a society need to rethink what we consider "normal." Turns out we all have fantasies and there are some that are pretty common among most people. Having read a few other books on sexuality, this one fits for the most part along with the concepts and ideas in those. What infuriated me when reading this was the end of the book when the author starts discussing the ways American ed ...more
Graham Holloway
Apr 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have ever read. As someone studying to be a sex therapist and sex educator, I cannot stress the importance of this book enough. A lot of people today find it's easier to have sex than to talk about it, hopefully this book kick starts a long overdue conversation about sex.
Oct 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
As the author says toward the beginning, browse this book for what you need. Lots of information both scientific and practical, with emphasis on the latter. Covers the important matter of what to talk with your partner about, and how.
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Tell Me What You Want by Justin L. Lehmiller is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late June.

Clearly, I need a little more education and acceptance to master with sex, because, while reading Tell Me What You Want, I frequently exclaimed, "Damn!" or "Eww!" while reading the findings and results of the author's own report from a survey of 350 questions taken by a pool of 4,000+ people. Among all of the jaw-dropping personal testimonials, the mixture of shame and empowerment involved in revealin
Oct 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: human-sexuality
I picked this book up because I hoped it'd be educational, which it partially was. As I kept reading, it became clear to me that there was a distinct focus on heterosexual cis people. In sections where I expected the author to talk more about different sexualities or gender presentations, he did not. There were a lot of generalizations based on the survey data that we weren't privy to, so it was hard to draw more nuanced conclusions than the author. This is especially true when the author talks ...more
R. Felini
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
From Da Capo His site:

Mr. Lehmiller did extensive research on men’s and women’s fantasies about sex and wrote up his conclusions. The book is interesting as far as you want to know what’s on the minds of other people in general. Overall it is a bit slow reading as he explains how the data was collected.
The info he shares on these fantasies which include group sex, BDSM, and novelty in sex can show you that you may not be the weirdo you thought you were. Yes you! An
stephanie ✿
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
It was okay. It started off really interesting to see just how many people were fantasizing about certain things. None of it was particularly surprising to me, but it was intriguing nonetheless. After a certain point, I realized that a lot of generalizations/assumptions were happening. The author would provide a number on how many people fantasized about a particular action, give a quote from an individual, and then the rest of the section seemed to be just him assuming why people felt the way t ...more
Megan Leigh
For a book based on thorough research there are a lot of sweeping generalisations and use of phrases such as “tends to” without showing actual data.
David Harlan
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the central points of Lehmiller’s research is that most Americans share an enthusiasm for several common fantasies: group sex, BDSM, and voyeurism/exhibitionism. Most of our sexual desires (and parts) fall within the general definition of "normal."

I liked the book and think it made feel a bit better and more normal. I want to have a threesome before I’m so old that its gross. Now I know lots of other people are interested in that too.

I also found it helpful to know that while most heter
Lisa Butterworth
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brain-books
Summation of one of the largest bodies of research on sexual fantasy. The strongest part was the presentation of the research in the first few chapters.

It got much much much weaker (thought about lowering it 3 stars) in the later chapters discussing implications and suggestions for moving forward with the research. His discussion of fantasy and evolutionary psychology was rooted in the very worst that field has to offer and in the male/west centric arguments that have been thoroughly debunked
Joel Cigan
Mar 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Americans who “Switch hit,” those that bend their gender, others who practice the Coolidge Effect coined because many roosters in the coop like fresh new hens to have sex with or those who get turned on by the smell of another’s flatulence were many of the topics discussed in this “sex education” book if you want to call it that.

I found the information often very mediocre and a chore to read. The chapter that discussed the ideal male or female sex partner was the most enjoyable. It wasn’t all ho
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I got this book from my girlfriend, who got it from the author at a conference on alternative sexualities. It was presented to me as a book explaining the findings of the largest study on sexual desire and fantasies ever conducted, and it definitely lived up to that, so I was really confused by all the negative reviews! Turns out, the title of the book—which I didn't read in full until well in the second half—is a bit misleading. If you are interested in learning a lot of trivia about what Ameri ...more
Mauro Pereira
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is quite a fascinating book. Not exactly what I expected, it is more of a statistical analysis of sexual desires and fetishes in America, with some extrapolations based on the data. But it is very important research. The relationship of most Americans ( and a lot of the modern world) with sex is quite antiquated and honestly somewhat dangerous. So many teenagers grow up so misinformed about sex and how to approach it. Sex should be a comfortable thing to discuss and teach, it would help soc ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I’m pretty comfortable discussing my sexuality, so I don’t think I was able to glean much in terms of applying the knowledge this book imparts to myself, but I found the results intriguing, nonetheless. I like that the author emphasizes that, in terms of sexual desire, men and women are more similar than not, as the opposite is ingrained in our minds from puberty, if not sooner. Parts read a bit like scientific “data dumps,” but, generally, it was a fun and easy read that I’d recommend to others ...more
Woody Chichester
Nov 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Full disclosure: I checked the one out because I wanted to read about the salacious fantasies of the American public! Cue sad trombones cuz that's not what I got. Instead I got a lot of very good research on the main types of things people fantasize about (no spoilers, but it's pretty standard stuff. America, how dare you!?!? So boring. I'll wait for a German version). This book is very well researched and well written, and does a good job trying to push the idea that having fantasies is normal. ...more
Lori Gibbany
Jan 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I was not sure of the intended audience of this book. I love the research aspect but felt like things had been dumbed down. Its probably just me because there is great amounts of information in this book and i believe in the right hands it could help your relationship. I love that he states in certain places that his findings may be off due to the nature of the research. The people willing to answer the quedtions asked in the surveys he conducted may have a different outlook from those who would ...more
Dec 17, 2019 rated it liked it
I wanted to like the book more. I appreciated the length that the author went to in sharing potential issues with validity within the study, and can understand that with such a taboo topic, there is really no way to truly study sex and fantasy with a certainty. I agree with other reviews... this book was mainly numbers he found in his study, some quotes and situations about the topic, and then a lot of hypothetical reasoning. Though there were limitations to the study, it was interesting overall ...more
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is extremely intriguing. Written in such a way that the data from Lehmiller's study is easily accessible and readable.
I found some of his conclusions to be rather interesting, especially surrounding BDSM and the psychology behind it. However he does always preface his conclusions by stating that they're based on having the fantasies. As that's what his study was based on. Not on the actual enactment of said fantasy. Great insight into human sexual fantasy and the depth and breadth of what
Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it
It was interesting. In some ways I was a little disappointed that it wasn't more in depth. I would love to see a follow up book with further in depth research and maybe an even wider study. Still, a lot of interesting things. I think it's especially worth knowing about if you haven't been keeping up with sex research - some of it was not at all surprising to me but some of it managed to still surprise me!

Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While an interesting overview, I found that the author often didn't account for personal histories when drawing conclusions about a persons responses to the survey on which the book is based. And that's ok, because it makes one think about why a person might act or decide to act in certain ways. That said, I would hope that the reader does that bit of mental work and doesn't take the author's conclusions as the only interpretation of "why".
EscaPe iNTo thE PaGEs
This was a fun and thorough read that I finished in one sitting. Mind you, sexual psychology is a topic I find interesting in general but Mr. Lehmiller's work here was compelling and was conveyed openly and welcoming to all. I experienced this work through Audible read by the author and it was refreshing to learn about the different kinks that people have and I will definitely read more from him.
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobook
I listened to the audiobook and I found this really interesting. It was a good reminder that we all have fantasies and how our society tends to shame sex instead of encouraging people to actually talk about it. I think this book gives an unique perspective on how all kinds of fantasies are more "normal" that people think.
Claire Garand
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book reviews the largest American survey of sexual fantasy and discusses why Americans are fantasizing about these things. I enjoyed that the book was full of science and stats while not being out of reach for the layperson. I feel like I learned a lot and also developed new questions about this topic that I can dig deeper about.
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
I definitely thought this was going to be more about the science of desire/longing as it related to sex.

instead it's almost a self-help book about sexual fantasizing and slicing and dicing a dataset.

if you have some unmanifested philias you'd like to engage with somebody else on or feel better about the fantasies in your head - read this book.
Pearse Anderson
It goes and goes and does its own thing, and I'm alright with that, but after 7 hours I was like haha yeah lot of talking about this stuff y'know and he was like pretty good about stuff, save for some sexual/gender stuff, which is super surprising y'know given his background. Alright alright this is a 7/10 I'd say
Heydi Smith
Nov 04, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult-non-fic
As some reviewers suggested, I chose to only read the last three chapters of this book. It turns out really, you just need to read the title and you're good. There's nothing more here. The author just repeats himself a billion times.

Basically, tell your partner what you want. Do it smartly, being conscious of their feelings. That's it. You're done. Move on to a different book.
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“For the most part, people seemed to initiate sex in fantasy as often as they did in reality—this was true for both gay and straight men, as well as lesbians. By contrast, however, straight women—the group that said they were the least likely to initiate sex in the real world—were the only group that fantasized about initiating sex far more often than they actually did. This finding makes sense in light of the sexual double standard: in the real world, straight women often fear that they will be judged for being sexually assertive because this isn’t a trait that is consistent with the traditional female gender role. As a result, straight women often hold back and let men take the lead. My survey results suggest that women aren’t content with this state of affairs and would prefer to initiate sex more often than they actually do.” 0 likes
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