Sarah Barmak is an author and journalist who writes about sexuality through the lenses of science, culture and social justice. Her first book, Closer: Notes From the Orgasmic Frontier of Female Sexuality (Coach House), was published in 2016. She adapted it into a TED talk, “The uncomplicated truth about women’s sexuality.” Closer was translated into French by Aude Sécheret in 2019 as Jouir: en quête de l’orgasme féminin (Editions la Découverte), which was nominated for the ELLE 2020 Readers’ Grand Prize. Sarah has taught journalism at the University of Toronto and led workshops on female sexuality. She is currently at work on her second book. She lives in Toronto with her husband, the author and meditation teacher Jeff Warren, and their child.
A provocative look at why our current understanding of female sexuality isn’t getting us off.
We think of the modern woman as sexually liberated – if anything, we’re told we’re oversexed. Yet a striking number of women are dissatisfied with their sex lives. Over half of women report having a sexual complaint, whether that’s lack of desire or difficulty reaching orgasm. But this issue doesn’t get much press; the urge is to ignore or medicalize it (witness the quest for ‘pink Viagra’). If so many ordinary women suffer from sexual frustration, then perhaps the problem isn’t one that can be addressed by a pharmaceutical fix – or isn’t a problem. Maybe we need to get hot and bothered about a broader cultural cure: a reorienting of our current male-focused approach to sex and pleasure, and a rethinking of what’s ‘normal.’
Using a blend of reportage, interview and first-person reflection, journalist Sarah Barmak explores the cutting-edge science and grassroots cultural trends that are getting us closer to truth of women’s sexuality. Closer reveals how women are reshaping their sexuality today in wild, irrepressible ways: nude meetings, how-to apps, trans-friendly porn, therapeutic vulva massage, hour-long orgasms and public clit-rubbing demonstrations – and redefining female sexuality on its own terms.