Drawn to Sex: The Basics
Erika Moen, Matthew Nolan
Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, the creators behind Oh Joy Sex Toy, used Kickstarter to bring their newest book, Drawn to Sex: The Basics, to life. A practical look at sex, Drawn to Sex takes readers through what sex is, how to have it safely, and what it means to have sex with yourself and with a partner or partners.
Writer’s note: I make no apologies for the number of double entendres I have stuck in this review. If that sort of thing gets a rise out of you, you might want to exercise some self-love and find a review that’s a bit less cheeky.
As the child of a public health educator, I developed an appreciation for the concept of sex education at a fairly young age. Unfortunately, as a student at a fairly conservative Catholic school, sex education in practice—aside from what I gleaned from a rather horrifying sophomore biology class video on reproduction and a wide array of Harlequin romances—was fairly limited. If I had found a resource like Drawn to Sex, while it would have banged straight into all that Catholic guilt over the idea of premarital sex and masturbation, it would have saved me a great deal of confusion and consternation when I finally did dive into the world of sex.
Drawn to Sex reaches out to readers and leads them by the … hand through the emotional and physical quagmire that is sexual activity, with Moen and Nolan as the readers’ enthusiastic guides. They begin by exploring what sex is, with lots of caveats that what they consider to be sex might not be the same for everyone. And they do it with a mix of humor and research, citing their sources as they go about why virginity isn’t a thing, but anal actually is sex.
One topic that rises again and again is the need for communication among sexual partners (and, in the section about masturbation, about being honest with oneself when exploring personal turn-ons). Neither Moen nor Nolan beat around the bush. Talking about your likes, dislike, needs, and boundaries isn’t just necessary, it can be sexy as hell. Moreover, if you don’t communicate, you can’t get or give consent, and there’s nothing sexy happening without consent.
Moen and Nolan also place a premium on sexual health, providing multiple examples of how to protect oneself. Recommendations to get tested for STIs pop up left and right. They explore a variety of contraceptive options while reminding readers the list isn’t comprehensive and deeper digging may be required to find something that works for them. Even something as seemingly simple as “if it hurts, stop doing it because you might be hurting yourself or your partner” warrants a mention or three. They’re conscious of the responsibility they have taken on to provide sex education, and they don’t hesitate to speak frankly about the health and safety side of bumping uglies.
When it isn’t teaching readers about the birds, the bees, and how to safely fist one’s partner, Drawn to Sex gets busy being one of the most inclusive and body-positive comics I’ve ever set eyes on. Advice goes down easier when readers can identify with its recipients, and so many readers can find themselves reflected in these pages. Moen and Nolan’s comic selves speak to a wide variety of people. Cis, trans, non-binary, intersex, poly, gay, straight, bi, pan, ace (and they define all those concepts, too, for readers who may not be familiar), abled, disabled, many points on the masculine/feminine continuum, thin folks and fat folks and in-between, and people of color all fill the pages and get their freak on.
The color palette Moen and Nolan use in Drawn to Sex could, in hands less interested in being inclusive, have been used to subtly exclude POC. Most of the book is illustrated in varying shades of pink and gray, with occasional pops of blue. Depicting every body in the book as unfilled outlines against the white background would have been incredibly easy, but Moen and Nolan refuse to take shortcuts when it comes to fulfilling their readers. The palette also avoids feeling gendered despite the socialization of “pink = female, blue = male,” I think because almost everything and everyone is some shade of pink. The illustrations invite readers to plunge right in.
At the end of the day, Drawn to Sex: The Basics is only a first step, which Moen and Nolan readily acknowledge. That’s why this book is subtitled The Basics. The creators fully intend to plumb the treasure trove of sexual knowledge and deliver their booty to the masses in future volumes. But it’s a valuable first step that I think many, maybe even most, late teens and adults could benefit from taking.