As much as I think and talk about love and relationships, I had never actually read a book about it. Sex From Scratch: Making Our Own Relationship Rules by Sarah Mirk stood out to me.
It seemed like exactly what I needed to read at this point in my life; I’m a college student dating several people, constantly working on my relationships, and trying to figure out my needs as an individual.
The skills and stories I read in this book gave me so many new ideas about my own life and how to navigate the connections I will have in my life. I think it would do the same for many people.
The title itself is a perfect summary of Mirk’s main message in this book: Forget for a minute what society has taught you about what love means: you have the power to start from scratch and build up what you believe is the right way to love for you.
Instead of simply offering specific dating advice or telling you how you should be acting in any certain situation, this book is about unlearning the ways in which society pressures you to shape your relationships, and teaching you to figure out what is best for you.
Mirk helps you ask critical questions:
What do I really want/need?
How do other people fit into my life?
What does the world teach me about my roles in love?
Do I agree with those roles?
She constantly recognizes that every individual is different, every relationship fluid, and how that means only you can know what is best for you. Despite the overwhelming cultural expectation of heterosexual monogamous marriage destined to procreate, the possibilities and realities of love are actually endless!
I appreciated the structure of the book – although it’s a quick read, she covers a lot of ground. It’s divided into sections such as “Navigating Non-Monogamy” “Gender is Messy” and “Staying Childless by Choice”. Within each section, Mirk breaks down these complicated topics into bite-size “lessons” that may be a little easier to chew than rethinking your entire life plan.
Mirk draws from her own life experiences to explain how these concepts can actually play out, which gives the book an intimate and caring feeling. She lays out the ideas for you to process, gives real-life examples, then encourages you to take them further on your own and figure out how they apply to you.
The tone is very much that of a supportive friend on your couch at 3AM helping you dig deep into the parts of your psyche that can be difficult to face alone. Perhaps realizing how important that vulnerability can be for learning and growing, the author did extensive interviews with a huge variety of people across the country to give this book a more broad range of advice and experiences. Each section includes interviews with individuals sharing their stories and personal wisdom about relationships.
The relaxed language of storytelling and new voices let the reader feel less alone in their journey, opening up to new ways of loving themselves and others.
As a genderqueer pansexual polyamorous person, it can be really tough to find media that supports or even acknowledges my existence, especially surrounding topics of dating and sex. There is most often a heterosexual cisgender narrative that excludes queer people from engaging in these ideas.
This book does a wonderful job of keeping the language open so that anyone can read this book and feel like it was made to help them. There is even a chapter specifically about gender that gives trans people the microphone to share how they need to be respected and what they can teach about dating from a queer perspective.
In Sex From Scratch, Mirk never tells you how you should be or assumes that you will be a certain way, which makes this vital conversation around honest relationships and sex more accessible to people who might need it most.
My favorite thing about this whole book is the first chapter, “Loving Being Single,” and the fact that it is the first topic of the book. It can be so easy to lose your sense of self when focused on your relationships, but your sense of self is exactly what you need in order to work through those situations and life in general.
Hearing other people’s norm-breaking perspectives can teach you important skills for loving yourself, keeping an open mind, and building the kinds of relationships that work well for you. Anyone could learn from this book, no matter their current dating situation.
Mirk always keeps the reader in check with the most important lesson – are you looking out for your own happiness?
Through it all she teaches us that there is no correct way to have sex, love someone, or be yourself.
This review was written a few months back by winter intern and zinester, Neil Birch.