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

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  436 ratings  ·  68 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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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  436 ratings  ·  68 reviews

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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 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
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
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
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
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
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. ...more
Sep 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shockingly inept and unscientific. This book is not based on true scientific research and no conclusions can be drawn from the ridiculous survey the author did of a few thousand people. While he complains about Freud, he should worry about fraud in the name of science, from a guy who is endorsed by Dr. Phil.

This "social psychologist" asks people online to complete a survey of over 350 questions, then draws wild conclusions about all of America from the very non-scientific results. So many proble
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.
A really fascinating read on sexual fantasy. Basically, we all have similar sexual fantasies, but in part because the US education system is so f*cked when it comes to sex ed, we all carry a lot of shame around those fantasies, think we're weird for having them, and aren't great about communicating about them. This book has honestly profoundly changed the way I view sex and my own fantasies, for the better. Combined with Come As You Are, this is one of the most empowering books about sex tha ...more
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
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
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.
Shirley Rougely
Mar 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first heard of Tell Me What You Want from Dan Savage's Savage Lovecast, where he interviewed Justin Lehmiller about his book, and I bought it wanting to continue the journey of overcoming my awkwardness of reading about and discussing sex and relationships in general among other things.

The main theme(s) I picked up on after reading this book was communication (or lack thereof), how misinformation and outdated mindsets on sex, have basically repressed many of us to the point that we dare not ev
Sep 05, 2020 rated it liked it
2.5 rounded up. I'm grateful someone is doing this research and talking about this. The normalization effect alone would earn 4 stars. I could use a lot less of the author constantly littering the text with his own hunches as to the causes and motivations behind the raw data. The discussion of the 7 top fantasies is useful. The 15 questions were largely useless - give us a website or app that implements them and makes hard predictions. The guidelines on sharing fantasies was way too cursory and ...more
Maritza Valle
A reader-friendly book for all audiences discussing the results of extensive interviews on sexual desire, and the meaning/implications of those findings. Assigned in semester one of PhD program.

I have met the author and attended a weekend where he spoke on this information soon after having published. He was kind and informative, but in no way did his work justice. I varied between the physical and audiobook copies, and the audiobook, narrated by the author, was particularly tender in it's asser
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
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
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, non-fiction
Last week the internet brought me a very interesting article by the author of this book that was discussing the different kinds of sexual fantasies that Republicans and Democrats had, which was new information to me, so I checked the ebook out from my library in hopes of learning more interesting things. And, well, I'm really glad I didn't pay money for it.

This is not, per se, a bad book. I am sure that someone somewhere will find it incredibly helpful, because it's basically an advice book abou
Jun 09, 2021 rated it liked it
This book felt very dated to me, even though it was published quite recently (2018). Though the author included information about LGBT individuals, some of this language seemed a bit dated, as did the near constant pop culture references (like, why, dude?) These always age super fast and really, really date a book. These references rarely added anything to the book’s content and just made the author seem desperate to appear relevant.
Also, as I was reading, I kept thinking, “Who is this book for?
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
Jan 11, 2021 rated it liked it
As someone in the sexual health research field the topics were lackluster. However, it was good to see a book out there normalizing various sexual fantasies in a digestible format for different reader background levels. However, I found the gender differences and evolutionary psychology sections disappointing-> these theories are weak and socialized and incredibly binary, and, in my opinion, should not be accepted at face value because they are THEORIES, not facts, and we cannot parse out the in ...more
Brigit Delaney
Mar 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I found this book fascinating, especially as it related to me personally (call me self-centered). I think the book was organized in a way that made the information make theoretical sense first, followed by a good explanation of how to apply it. Yes, it does focus more on heterosexuals, but...that makes sense given the percentage of people in the study claiming to be heterosexual. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and felt I learned quite a bit about fantasies and desires...what causes them and how b ...more
Apr 26, 2021 added it
After some investigating it does seem like Lehmiller has done his research, though I didn't click on every study listed with his name. The true test of any research study is evaluating its method and how its population was sampled, but most of the concepts in this book aren't surprising - so either they're embedded in the American psyche because they're true or because they're stereotyped. The biggest point Lehmiller seemed to make was that fantasizing about sex is common and there are many shar ...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
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132 likes · 49 comments
“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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