Book review: The V-Word by Amber J. Keyser

The V-Word by Amber J. Keyser
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: January 1, 2016
Source: Borrowed

An honest and poignant collection of essays by women about losing their virginity in their teens. The V-Word captures the complexity of this important life-decision and reflects diverse real-world experiences. Includes helpful resources for parents and teens.

Losing it. Popping your cherry. Handing in your V-card.

First time sex is a big unknown. Will it be candlelight and rose petals or quick and uncomfortable? Is it about love or about lust? Deciding to have sex for the first time is a choice that’s often fraught with anxiety and joy. But do you have anyone telling you what sex is really like?

In The V-Word seventeen writers (including Christa Desir, Justina Ireland, Sara Ryan, Carrie Mesrobian, Erica Lorraine Scheidt, and Jamia Wilson) pull back the sheets and tell all, covering everything from straight sex to queer sex, diving-in versus waiting, and even the exhilaration and disappointment that blankets it all. Some of their experiences happened too soon, some at just the right time, but all paint a broad picture of what first-time sex is really like.

Funny, hot, meaningful, cringe-worthy, gross, forgettable, magnificent, empowering, and transformative, the stories in The V-Word are never preachy, but provide a map for teens to chart their own course through the steamy waters of sex. With The V-Word girls can finally take control, learn what’s on the horizon, and eliminate the fear and mystery surrounding this important milestone.

Honestly, I have no idea what made me check this book out from the library, but I’m glad I did. I’m going to get to my review eventually, but first I want to share some thoughts on the whole concept of virginity. This is a conversation that’s come up a few times within the last few months and it’s something that I wish I could have talked about when I was a teenager.

The thing is, virginity is an arbitrary concept. It’s just something that someone decided should be a thing. It doesn’t actually mean anything. Your virginity is not an object that you give another person. It’s not something that you can lose. It’s not a physical part of your existence. Holding onto it or losing it doesn’t make you any better or worse than anyone else. It’s just a concept. That’s it.

All of that said, I was really excited to read this book, which features seventeen stories about first-time sex. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about it, but I ended up really liking it. Of the seventeen stories, I think my top three were

  • “Wanting Everything” by Amber J. Keyser,
  • “What Counts” by Carrie Mesrobian, and
  • “It’s All in the Choosing” by Kelly Jensen.

One of the really great things about this collection is the diversity: in addition to heterosexual experiences, it also includes a range of stories from lesbian, bisexual, and transgender writers. Some of the first experiences are pretty hot. Some of them are incredibly awkward and cringy. The book is very sex-positive, with the commentary never judging any of the writers for their experiences, whether they were good or bad, but always encouraging consent and safety.

The book ends with a discussion on safe sex that emphasizes having open and honest conversations with your partner, something that I feel can’t be stressed enough. It provides resources in the form of other books and online articles, giving an opportunity to learn even more about the topics that the book brings up. I think this is a great resource for teenagers, whether they’re considering having sex or not. I would have loved to read a book like this when I was younger.


#ps19: a book with a plant in the title or on the cover


Have you read The V-Word? Do you know of any similar books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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