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Lucy-Anne Holmes, Don’t hold my head down: in search of some brilliant fucking

Unbound, 2019; 320pp; £14.99

Image‘If feels like we’re always talking about it, but never really talking about it’, British author Lucy-Anne Holmes observes about sex.

After reading her very funny and very explicit sex memoir, I can safely say no one will ever accuse Holmes of not discussing sex ever again!

The book starts with Holmes, circa her mid-30s, coming to the realisation that her whole sexual history has been full of usually drunken, sometimes painful, and ultimately dissatisfying sex – what she calls ‘normal, slightly porny sex’.

She pledges to seek out better, ‘beautiful sex’, centred on her own sexual pleasure and not that of her male partners. This journey takes her to sex festivals and sex parties, workshops on Pussy Worship and Female Erotic Leadership, navigating an open relationship and exploring BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism).

Accessible and hugely relatable, with many laugh out loud moments, Holmes deftly weaves practical sex tips and serious arguments and concepts around the often Bridget Jones-level farcical situations she gets into, including complex ideas of consent (‘an ongoing conversation, liable to change at any point’) and Betty Martin’s Wheel of Consent.

She rarely mentions the word, but feminism – the liberal, ‘sex-positive’ kind – underpins the whole book. Holmes was, after all, the founder of the successful No More Page 3 campaign in the early 2010s. For example, she links her own body hatred and low-confidence to growing up in a patriarchal society, and ends with a humorous, though pointed, potted Herstory of Women and Sex.

While many feminist activists will love Don’t hold my head down, I think the book is most useful in introducing feminism and feminist framing about sex, relationships and society to those who might not see themselves as being activists, or even politically active.

Holmes makes her aim clear in her conclusion: ‘If telling this story inspires just one young woman not to feel she has to compare herself to the images she sees in magazines, or take part in sex that she feels uncomfortable with, or it inspires her to start a petition and challenge something that makes her feel small… then I feel it is a story worth telling.’

I would add one thing: men, too, have much to learn from this brilliant book. File alongside the equally vital Girl Up from Everyday Sexism’s Laura Bates.

Topics: Feminism | Gender