11 Sexy And Sex-Positive Beach Reads That Don't Star Christian Grey

Up until a few years ago, I didn't know "beach reading" was a thing. I mean, you read everywhere, right? I assumed people just packed up whatever they were reading at the time before they headed for the coast. So it shouldn't surprise you when I say that the last book I had in my beach bag was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire .

Now, I see the point of reading erotica when you're on vacation. With the sun, the surf, and the half-naked people, the beach is the perfect place for some light, tawdry reading. Since everyone is paying attention to their own fun in the sun, you don't have to worry about being judged for what you're reading on the beach.

But finding books that are both sexy and sex-positive can be surprisingly difficult. Too often, what you thought would be your new favorite romance novel turns into a story with docile-bodied women who have read one too many "14 Ways to Please Your Man" articles. Or the heroine is in peril of being sexually assaulted at the turn of every page. Or the entire story revolves around how she must redeem herself after being sexually active.

Look, I know that sometimes the sex scenes are the only good part of a novel, but I don't think it's too much to ask for a sexy read that doesn't require a trigger warning. So, for your next beach trip, here are some great books — in varying degrees of smuttiness — that will leave you feeling good about yourself.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levitan

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Even if you're not a teenager anymore, sometimes it takes a book about young people's sexcapades to remind you of how great sex is, whether that reminder comes from the joys of youthful abandon, or because first times are awkward and unsatisfying. Although the story is told from the perspectives of both titular characters, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is really all about Norah's sexual healing and awakening. It's a warm, sexy little book that will remind you that love is all about wanting to hold someone's hand and never let go.

Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin

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Anaïs Nin pioneered women's pornography. Delta of Venus is a collection of erotic vignettes, written on commission and published after the author's death, that largely focus on the significance and sensation of sex for women. Some are kinky, some are funny, and all are enjoyable. Although Nin's stories were not well-received in her own time, Delta of Venus is now hailed as a masterpiece of sex-positive erotica.

The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance by Kirsty Greenwood

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What happens when you throw a down-on-her-luck party girl into the home of her Susie Homemaker grandmother, and ask the latter to teach the former how to find a husband, all for the purpose of writing a new woman's guide to life? Hilarity, casual sex, and a lot of discourse on 1950s women's underwear. The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance is Bridget Jones for a new generation, and I'm sure you'll love it.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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Wild is the story of writer Cheryl Strayed's post-divorce, personal discovery hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. Alongside tales from her journey, she reflects on her relationship with her late mother, her self-destructive behavior patterns, and her failed marriage. It isn't as depressing as it sounds. Wild is all about owning your decisions — sexual and otherwise — and learning how to keep moving forward when tragedy strikes.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

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Jeanette Winterson's YA novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit , is the coming-of-age story of a young lesbian, raised by evangelical parents, who dreams of being a missionary. Based loosely on the author's life, Oranges is about the discovery of sex and your sexuality, reconciling dreams with reality, and forging your own path. Read it if you're using the beach to recharge or rekindle yourself.

Bad Behavior by Mary Gaitskill

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Do you remember Secretary, that 2002 Maggie Gyllenhaal film? You remember; it was Fifty Shades before there was a Fifty Shades. Well, Secretary was adapted from Mary Gaitskill's short story of the same name. Bad Behavior is full of more sexy short stories from this proven author, exploring the reasons why we have sex, in all their glory.

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

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Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer was the catalyst for a string of obscenity trials in the mid-20th century. Edited by fellow list author Anaïs Nin, the novel is famous for its graphic language and frank depictions of sex. Tropic of Cancer is classic, literary smut, and you'll love its continued ability to scandalize nearly a century after it was first written.

Emmanuelle by Emmanuelle Arsan

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This self-titled erotic novel caused quite the sensation when they were first published in the 1950s. The titular Emmanuelle is a bored housewife who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and self-fulfillment after an adulterous sexual awakening. Emmanuelle blurs the lines of sexual orientation and propriety, and the result is a shockingly sexy read.

The Friendly Young Ladies by Mary Renault

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Don't let the title fool you: there's a lot more than mere friendship going on here. The Friendly Young Ladies follows Elsie, a teenager, who runs away from home to live with her sister, only to find her sister living an illicit bohemian life with another woman. It's a charming romantic comedy about mid-century lesbianism, with more than enough camp to make it an enjoyable beach read.

The List by Joanna Bolouri

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After discovering her boyfriend's infidelity, 32-year-old Phoebe Henderson makes a sexy, 10-item bucket list and sets out to make all her fantasies come true. It's a rom-com novel in which the leading lady takes charge of her sexual experience and gives up the "good girl" ghost. Whether you're newly single or spicing up your monogamy by living vicariously through a good book, The List should be in your beach bag.

Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

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Like Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Francesca Lia Block's Weetzie Bat focuses on love and sex for young people in the modern age. Its discussions of the AIDS epidemic, abortion, and premarital child-bearing have landed it on banned book lists since its publication in 1989. Criticism aside, you'll love the cast's nebulous sexuality and fast-paced jive.