Closer by: Sarah Barmak GLOBE AND MAIL BEST BOOKS OF 2016

We think of the modern woman as sexually liberated – if anything, we’re told we’re oversexed. Yet over half of women report having a sexual complaint, whether that’s lack of desire or difficulty reaching orgasm. Perhaps we need to rethink what’s ‘normal.’ Using a blend of reportage, interview and provocative reflection, journalist Sarah Barmak explores the cutting-edge science and grassroots cultural trends that are getting us closer to truth of women’s sexuality. Now in its third printing.
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"(A)n engrossing look at the state of female desire in 2016... Barmak believes that if we accept the complexity of female desire and actually work to figure our partners out, our sex lives might become less 'predictable and porn-mechanical' – and more hot. In that, Closer is a provocation for women and men alike."
  • Zosia Bielski
  • The Globe and Mail
"Closer: Notes from the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality (is) an exploration of the ways female sexuality is being redefined in scientific research and today’s sex-obsessed culture. The book takes readers from a feminist sex shop in downtown Toronto to an orgasmic meditation demonstration in the Nevada desert, shedding light on the fears, hopes and frustrations of modern women and anyone identifying as female."
  • Lauren Pelley
  • The Toronto Star

Redefining Female Sexuality | TEDXToronto Talk 2016

About the author
Sarah Barmak

Sarah Barmak is a Toronto journalist and author who writes about sexuality, gender, women’s health and social justice. Her first book, Closer: Notes From the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality, was published in 2016 by Coach House Books. Sarah was nominated for Kobo’s 2017 Emerging Writer Prize and Closer was named one of the Best Books of 2016. Sarah writes about sexuality for The Walrus magazine and teaches journalism at The University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.

Click here to see some of her recent articles.

Click here to read more about Sarah.




September 7, San Francisco: Closer book signing, reading and Q&A with Sarah on women’s sexuality and today’s female sexual underground. 7:30 p.m., Green Apple Books (1231 9th Avenue, San Fran).

September 15, Montréal: Closer book signing, Q&A with Sarah and onstage conversation with Ashley Opheim, editor of Metatron. 7 p.m., Librarie Drawn & Quarterly (211 Bernard Ouest, Montréal).

September 21, Toronto: Sarah talks female sexuality and pleasure with Good For Her founder and author Carlyle Jansen. 7 p.m., Good For Her (175 Harbord St., Toronto).

October 16, Brooklyn, New York City: Closer Book Brunch! Enjoy a midday morning book signing and Q&A about female sexuality and pleasure along with your coffee and pancakes. Vulva colouring, Babeland sex toy raffle and more. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The House of Yes (2 Wyckoff Ave).

October 27, Toronto: Sarah gives a talk at the TEDxToronto Conference on why women’s sexuality is uniquely important, and how women are countering centuries of misunderstanding and oppression in order to redefine sex for themselves. Koerner Hall, Telus Centre for Performance and Learning (273 Bloor St W., Toronto).

May 3, 2017, New York City: Sarah appears at the PEN World Voices Festival with its theme on gender & power. She speaks on the panel Forbidden: Too Liberated with writers Jill Filipovic & Mona Eltahawy and graphic novelist Sabrina Jones at the Housing Works Bookstore (126 Crosby St) on the Lower East Side.




How Not to Have an Orgasm

In a sex-obsessed culture, women still have trouble asking for what they want in bed

The ladies trickle, slowly and tentatively, into the sex shop. Rather than turning right through the main door toward the sales floor’s hot-pink vibrators and tattooed staff, they keep left, climbing a narrow staircase into a little carpeted attic. They shake rainwater off their umbrellas and find seats in the circle of chairs, scooting around each other and mumbling “excuse mes” and “sorrys.” They look shyly at their laps, poke at their phones. One floor above the array of silicone toys promising advanced pleasure to the adventurous, these fifteen or so women aged twenty to sixty are here on a much braver quest: to learn how to have an orgasm. For nearly all, it will be their first one.

In contrast to the riotous main floor of Good For Her, Toronto’s sex store built for women, the quiet attic is solemn, its lights soft. The five-hour workshop, held on a drizzly Sunday morning in April, isn’t meant for drop-ins. Participants have planned many weeks in advance, driving in from surrounding suburbs, leaving kids with grandparents or husbands.
The store’s founder, Carlyle Jansen, stands, tall and self-contained. “This is probably the first time you’ve been around people who understand you,” she says softly. She asks everyone to say their name, a little about why they’re here and, lastly, to share something they have recently learned.
Porn has become our mainstream aesthetic where our ideal body is one that is sculpted, tanned, and hairless—ready for nudity at a moment’s notice.
The room is quiet. Someone clears her throat.
“Hi, I’m Sherry. I’ve never had an orgasm,” begins one woman, with a mix of reluctance and relief. “Um . . . and I’m learning to salsa dance.”

To read more from this book excerpt published in The Walrus Magazine, click here.

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