Rebel Love

Break the Rules, Destroy Toxic Habits, and Have the Best Sex of Your Life


By Dr. Chris Donaghue, PhD

Foreword by Amber Rose

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In Rebel Love, Dr. Chris Donaghue, PhD (TheAmber Rose Show with Dr. Chris ), reveals how traditional dating “rules” are toxic, why everything you’ve learned about dating and relationships is wrong, and how to have the best sex of your life.

Dr. Chris is the sex expert you’ve been waiting for. He refuses to pathologize those whose sexuality doesn’t fit in a neat little box and he doesn’t just pay lip service to the pro-sex, feminist, and body-positive mores of the day — he demands them.

Rebel Love welcomes all sexualities and identities no matter where you fall on the spectrum and empowers people to be authentically who they are both in and out of the bedroom. Dr. Chris’s prescription for hotter, healthier sex — the two go hand in hand — encourages you to stop participating in patriarchal stereotypes, broaden your sexual horizons, and have amazing sex. Best of all, he shows you how with real-world examples and inspirational case studies.



And just like that, we became best friends. Unorthodox in many ways, my friendship with Dr. Chris blossomed over the mic. We patiently listened to one another’s perspectives as Dr. Chris explored, delicately yet fearlessly, the prevailing theories on sex positivity, love, and relationships.

It’s rare to find a companion who aligns so closely with one’s personal mission, and it’s an honor to have Dr. Chris by my side as a boundless rebel of thought, a “work husband,” and a forever friend.

Together we’ve inspired, transformed, and pushed each other forward as we’ve worked to dismantle and challenge the problematic forces that oppress people’s true sexualities. As a feminist and social justice advocate, Dr. Chris works tirelessly to challenge slut-shaming and sexism, help put an end to rape culture, and support under-acknowledged voices.

We spend so much time and energy trying to be different from who we really are and struggling to conform to others’ expectations. We believe we need to be who we are told to be. But by following other people’s rules, we only end up disguising and disowning our most beautiful, special parts.

Rebel Love, like all of Dr. Chris’s work, helps to liberate and heal us from falsehoods with a sex-positive and compassionate approach. Live the message of Rebel Love, and live honest and proud as whoever and whatever you may be. Dr. Chris reminds us that it’s okay to be you, whatever that may look like right now.

—Amber Rose


Everything you’ve been taught about sex and dating is wrong. All those dating rules from your therapist; all your friends’ well-meaning suggestions about when to text, call, or sleep with a new partner; and most of the dating books on shelves today are wrong. While most dating books are well intentioned and try to be helpful, they are actually full of advice that both counsels you away from being your true, authentic self and reinforces sexist gender values.

I want to help fix this. For more than fifteen years, I’ve earned my clients’ trust as a certified sex therapist with a strong personal connection to left-of-center, misunderstood, and marginalized communities. These are among the hundreds of thousands of people who follow me and listen to me on The Amber Rose Show with Dr. Chris (formerly Loveline), the popular podcast I cohost with Amber Rose.

Rebel Love is a different kind of sex and dating book. It focuses on how to be genuine and self-accepting, not how to be respectable, classy, or a “lady.” Healthy relationships ignore gender roles (and gender altogether) and focus instead on desire and compassion; they’re about expression and freedom, not regulation and control.

What needs to be addressed is not how to catch a man or woman or how to be “better” in bed, but rather how to build authenticity from the inside out, gain appreciation for body and sex positivity, eliminate the harmful practice of slut-shaming both in your own life and in wider society, and bring an end to rape culture.

Most dating advice is outdated and oppressive. I want this to be a book for the rest of us: the smart, informed, open-minded masses who sense that traditional sex and dating norms are repressing us, but want to go beyond simply acknowledging this and actually do something to change it. Together, let’s turn all the old-fashioned sex and dating rules that are harming our relationships and our culture on their heads.

I want to show you how to make your sex life hotter and your relationships healthier (and no, those two goals aren’t mutually exclusive), no matter where you fall on the gender or sexual identity scale. To help combat the toxic messaging we’ve been steeped in all our lives, I’m presenting a whole new set of touchstones, some of which may be controversial or unfamiliar to you. Let’s take a look.

People are diverse and it’s time to embrace that.

This book is for everyone: all genders, races, ages, backgrounds, sexualities, and body types. (People who body-shame don’t want a partner; they want a fantasy. If you complain about the size of your partner’s penis, go buy a dildo—you aren’t ready for a real relationship.) I’m in support of redefining gender, embracing all kinds of sex, killing stereotypes, and empowering people to be who they are, both in and out of the bedroom.

There are no more dating rules or sex rules, period.

This means no ego-based lists of dream-partner requirements, no more “should I or shouldn’t I?” texting games, no more setting limits on who you’ll date or have sex with. I advocate for doing what feels right, even if that’s texting her five minutes after you’ve met, having sex with him on the first date, or trying any consensual type of kink, fantasy, or nontraditional relationship that turns you on.

Self-acceptance is everything.

This means learning to radically accept not just your body but your mind and your sexual desires. It’s not about being classy, appropriate, on-trend, IG popular, or “respectable.” I don’t believe in changing who you are; this book is about choosing not to cooperate with ageism, thinspiration, slut-shaming, body-shaming, and so on.

Anonymous sex can be a relationship in and of itself.

One-night stands can be just as valuable, intimate, and transformative as years-long relationships. I differ from most conventional therapists out there in that I encourage people to have lots of sex with lots of people. Why? Because it helps you connect with others and yourself.

Self-help is selfish.

As a culture, we’re overly focused on individualism and self, often forgetting that we grow most within relationships. Plus, we are always in relationships (even when we’re alone, we are still emotionally and psychologically connected to people). I encourage people to focus on relational help, not self-help, and relational esteem, not self-esteem—think we, not me.

Your sexuality is fluid.

How you identify now isn’t necessarily how you will identify for the rest of your life. Though sexual fluidity has been getting more public recognition in the past few years, there are other sexual identities still commonly neglected; for example, asexuals and solosexuals (asexual = someone with no sexual drive; solosexual = someone who gets off alone but has no interest in partnered sex acts). No matter how you identify, your sexuality isn’t an unimportant afterthought, and I’ll address the entire spectrum in this book.

At heart, this book is an “anti-dating book” dating book. It scraps all the worn-out ideas of men being from Mars and women being from Venus, not to mention the backwards concept of “acting like a lady, thinking like a man.” It scoffs in the face of pretty much every well-regarded relationship expert on TV or otherwise. (As we all know, the old guard’s way of relationshipping hasn’t worked out so well: we’ve got a 60 percent plus rate of cheating and divorce, and 45 percent of today’s population is single—the highest rate ever.)

In today’s hyperconnected online world, we need face-to-face interactions with people—which includes dating and sex. Thanks to the pressures of social media and the Internet, people are lonelier than ever before. This isolation is making us sick; in fact, research has found that it’s a bigger health hazard than smoking and can even contribute to early death. For these reasons, we should all be reaching out for more connection, love, and physical touch, not less. In my world, nobody’s faulted for seeking out more love or sex.

The biggest question all my patients struggle with is “Am I normal?” People come to me miserable and searching, but desperate to feel okay as they are. And why wouldn’t they struggle? We live in a world that feeds on social comparison. Entire industries are built on knocking down our self-confidence, especially women’s. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and the radical transformations I’ve helped facilitate in my work are similar to the ones I want for you as a reader. Every single one of those transformations occurred because my clients finally reached an understanding that they’re okay as they are. They don’t need to change. They don’t need to diet. They don’t need to invest in new clothes, hair, personalities, or anything else. They can move through the world, date, and fall in love just as they are right this second.

The only path to intimacy is authenticity and vulnerability: being open and honest about every part of yourself. This is why I’ll never tell you to lie, scheme, fake disinterest, or play games to “get” the person you want. That’s not love—it’s manipulation.

One of the biggest myths I counter in this book is the idea that sex, dating, and relationships are trivial and aren’t things that will change your life. Dating and sex are among our most significant areas for growth and self-reflection. They’re a tool we can use to help liberate ourselves, both from our own negative self-perceptions and from the systems that hold us hostage psychologically and sexually. That’s something I learned firsthand when I shifted gears from standard (and problematic) psychology and became a certified sex therapist.

I was educated in a more traditional, psychological framework, one that was, like most of our culture, incredibly sex-negative. My early clinical work was focused on sex addiction, which I now know is one of the most problematic, pathologizing fields. My teachers and peers believed that any kind of sex outside a relationship was unhealthy and that there was only one right way to have sex or be in a relationship. Anything beyond vanilla, monogamous, husband-and-wife, penetrative sex was considered wrong or unhealthy. They also believed that using porn and masturbating “too much” or at all were signs of sex addiction.

I’d always been an activist, but I still inadvertently transmitted some of that negative messaging to my clients. When I began educating myself in a new model centered on feminism, queer politics, and social justice, my entire personal and professional mission shifted. My clinical work finally felt authentic, meaningful, and like… me. With this, my clients’ lives changed, too.

Since that pivot in my career, I’ve had years of clinical experiences that prove that sex and dating are both meaningful and profound, with the potential to trigger major internal transformations.

We are here to break the rules, especially when the current trends are unhealthy and keep most of us feeling disconnected and alone. There is so much power in our sexuality, and when you move your sex life beyond the system and its rules, you become even more powerful. How you fuck, sext, and manage your sexuality is an indication of how empowered and liberated you are; it’s also an opportunity to change the world.

This book is not another sexist piece of gender-training propaganda. Instead, it calls out the dangerously flawed concept that men and women are “opposites” who require different sexual or relational skills. This erroneous idea of opposites actually becomes its own problem, setting people up for their current dating- and sex-related obstacles. (Stop reading those other dating books!)

We have to unlearn a lot. We have to unlearn the idea that being different or authentic is not cool, beautiful, or healthy. And in order to do that, we need real talk.

If you’re confused about where you fall on the gender or sexuality scale, this book is for you. If you haven’t had a partner in fifteen years, this book is for you. If you’re in an open marriage and looking for new insight on how to deepen your primary connection, this book is for you. You may be grappling with the realities of dating a handful of people at once, or wondering whether you’re “not normal” for only getting off on anal, or struggling to find your place on a small suburban campus that doesn’t quite grasp the definition of identifiers like gender-fluid, pansexual, or nonbinary. This book is for people who insist on pushing themselves when it comes to how they view and experience love and sex.

This book will also challenge what so many of us have unknowingly held to be true when it comes to sex and relationships: that porn is bad, that sex addiction is real, and that heterosexuality and marriage are the automatic gold standard for a happy life. It will force you to unlearn what you’ve been taught all your life. It will show you how redefining your relationships can help you redefine who you are and who you want to be. It might even make you cry—not from shame, but from relief. Like so many of my clients, you will feel freer, happier, and more confident in yourself, just the way you are right now.



I want you to start breaking every rule you’ve ever been told when it comes to sex and dating. Why? For one, the rules clearly aren’t working (you’re reading this book for a reason, right?). For another, they’re dysfunctional. They’re outdated. They’re sexist and sex-negative.

But the biggest reason? They keep us feeling disconnected and inferior. If we want to start actually feeling good about our sex lives, we need to unlearn nearly everything we’ve been taught—even as far back as that incredibly awkward sixth grade sex ed class. In my sex ed experience, the boys and girls were separated into different rooms while an anxious adult rambled on and on about heterosexuality, penetrative sex, anatomy, and procreation. We need so much more than that, because heterosexual penetrative sex in order to have a child is not why most of us have sex! Sex is a massive part of development and is also about pleasure and fun; we need to be talking to kids about masturbation, porn, the beauty of diverse sexual orientations, and the breadth of the gender spectrum.

Most traditional dating advice—especially from so-called experts—is centered on archaic, sexist stereotypes about what “men” and “women” are supposed to do, be, and look like. Men want sex, while women fight it off; men are hypersexual initiators, while women are fragile and coy; men are big, hung, and buff, while women are tiny, toned, and tan (with huge boobs, obviously).

All these stereotypes are bullshit, because gender roles are bullshit! Not only are these ideas often incorrect, but they’re outright harmful. And despite what so many “experts” insist, those heterosexist and misogynist standards aren’t based on good science or current psychology. They’re pulled from messed-up cultural norms that have been in place since years before we were even born, they harm and limit us all, and they negate the realities of an ever-growing population of people who don’t fall neatly into society’s little boxes. Sexual and gender fluidity are real, people.

Of course, I didn’t wake up woke. I grew up in the same toxic American culture most of us did, and early in my career I used to hand out the “hate yourself” Kool-Aid to clients who struggled with sex issues. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it was just what I’d been taught—to pathologize healthy parts of everyday sexuality, to view white, cis hetero, monogamous relationships as not just the norm but the ideal for health. Luckily, everything changed when I found feminism, social justice theories, and queer theory.

I realized that I had broken every definition of sexual and social health as defined by the “experts” yet I was still successful and happy. I was dating all genders, and sometimes having open sexual relationships, despite having been taught that healthy sex takes place exclusively within a committed partnership between a man and a woman. My friends and I masturbated as much as possible—sometimes many times a day!—using porn, yet I’d been taught that this was wrong because it was linked to sex addiction (an abusive, made-up term I’ll discuss later).

The truth is you can find your own version of happiness, no matter whose rules you choose to follow (or ignore). When you challenge your thinking about your own sexuality and see the truth about our system’s toxic mores, you become more powerful (and, in my view, far more healthy). It’s time we all learned to rebel against our culture’s most absurd expectations. Below I’ll explain how to do just that.

THEIR RULE: don’t have sex too soon—and never on the first date.

This one is a holdover from your parents’ (and grandparents’!) era. Back in the day, women were discouraged from having lives, minds, and careers of their own. Because they had so little actual power out in the world, they were encouraged to use sex as currency—a ticket to marriage, kids, and a “good” life. They were taught that men would lose interest if they “got the goods” too early. Sadly, that outmoded idea is still being regurgitated, even by prominent experts, authors, therapists, and dating coaches. Hello, it’s the twenty-first century! Why are we behaving like it’s 1949?

Waiting to sleep with someone simply because it’s what society has always insisted was normal and respectable is actually game playing. And it’s manipulative and dishonest.

Sex is a critical component of any romantic connection, and if you value your sexuality, you don’t have to hide it, stifle it, or “save it for later.” There’s no cogent reason to divide up intimacy into a hierarchy. Lead with your sexuality. Commit to seeing where it takes you, even if this means you get naked on the first date—or within the first hour. And if you want to have sex quickly but you can’t quite pull the trigger because you’ve internalized that fear of “What will people think?”—shut it down. I understand how powerful that fear may feel. But it’s entirely culturally created. And that’s why nonjudgmental, open-minded friends who don’t slut-shame are essential. If you don’t have any, go find some.

MY RULE: have sex early. Sex can be a great lead-in to a real relationship.

I literally laugh out loud when I hear someone say, “I’m waiting to have sex because I want to really get to know this guy.” Sex is a way of getting to know someone—a tool to learn about how much closeness, intimacy, and affection someone enjoys, and a must if you want a long-term committed relationship. For people who say they’re delaying sex, is the act just a meaningless, empty banging of genitals to you? And if that’s the case, why do those same people who put off sex later ask for monogamy as a way to keep this soulless, impersonal activity solely between them and their primary partner? See the hypocrisy? It’s an example of how confused and afraid so many of us are when it comes to sex.

I’m all about consent and personal agency, and I’d never advise someone to have sex if they didn’t actively want to. But if you go out on a date and you’re feeling each other, and you can’t stop imagining what your date’s outfit would look like in a heap beside your bed, be bold. Squash the puritanical bullshit and make a move. No high-quality human would reject you for that, and if they did, you wouldn’t be compatible anyway.

In my clinical practice, I’ve seen couple after couple come into my office frustrated, fighting, and miserable because they made sex a low priority in their relationship. They assumed that their sexual satisfaction could be figured out later, that it would “work itself out” if they loved each other enough. Sadly, that’s not always true.

I specifically remember working with two heterosexual couples who delayed—or outright ignored—the sexual component of their relationship. Both women married men with low sex drives, and both women told me, “I cannot imagine going the rest of my life without having a guy grab my ass and tell me he wants to fuck me.” Because they shelved that part of themselves when they married these guys, both women ended up frustrated, grieving the heightened sex lives they had when they were single and dating.


When they’re dating, some couples delay sex because they think if they do it too soon, the other person will lose interest. Hey, it’s happened to all of us, and it sucks. But if someone does stop texting you after you sleep together, that is a sign there was no other level of compatibility or interest beyond sex, and they’re revealing important information. If sex is literally a person’s only interest in you, you need to know that now. If they’re into you and there are other levels of chemistry and compatibility, they will call or text.

When to have sex depends on how soon you really want to get to know someone. Going for dinner or coffee is a great way to learn about what TV shows someone watches, what their career goals are, and whether or not they want kids. But body esteem (the specific way we feel about our bodies’ worth and social desirability), deep affection, and real intimacy are uncovered through touch and sexual exploration. By the way, sexual compatibility is also a hugely important factor if you’re considering someone for a long-term monogamous relationship. Please don’t think that if you love someone enough or find them hot enough, good sex will just happen—it doesn’t.

My last three serious relationships were initially intended to be sex-only; we hopped in bed first and asked questions later. But after starting to explore each other sexually, we realized there was something real there and figured, hey, we might as well go to dinner. Those dinners eventually became a relationship. Sex encompasses everything: the biological, the physical, the intellectual. When you’re on a coffee date, it’s easy to stash your true self away; your dynamism and complexity get lost in superfluous chatter about everyday minutiae. But there’s no room for bullshit in bed.

THEIR RULE: dress to impress. Make a killer first impression. Do whatever you have to do: lose weight, dress differently, get plastic surgery.

I call bullshit. Strategizing ways to impress someone is just another game. It diverts the focus from making a true connection to simply getting what you want: validation and approval. If you have to try that hard to make someone like you, the chemistry is off and you’re not being authentic.

Sure, the idea of wearing something you feel comfortable in instead of something uncomfortable that you look objectively “hot” in might be kind of scary. But the payoff is immense. Dress “sexy” only if that’s how you like to dress; then you’re staying true to yourself, and the confidence driving that decision is even more alluring to others.


  • "And just like that, we became best friends. Unorthodox in many ways, our friendship was one that blossomed over the mic. We patiently listened to one another's perspectives and you explored delicately yet fearlessly the many prevailing theories on sex positivity, and love and relationship talk. Dr. Chris, it is an honor to have you by my side. This book is yet another literary game changer and the most honest expression of truth. You are a boundless rebel of thought, my counsel and forever friend."—Amber Rose
  • "I've been doing it wrong this whole time!!! Thanks for the eye-opening read, Dr. Chris!"—Perez Hilton
  • "An inspiring, sex-positive guide to dating and relationships that is refreshingly non-traditional, non-binary, and non-conforming. It's also not without a tremendous amount of heart."—Ian Kerner, PhD, author of She Comes First
  • "Embrace sexual authenticity, live bravely, and reject all the shame you've been force-fed your whole life! Revolutionary Dr. Chris Donaghue offers us a guidebook for radical sex in the new millennium."—David Ley PhD, author of The Myth of Sex Addiction
  • "This book is the Bible of sex, love, intimacy, and authentic expression. Brace yourself for the life-changing affirmations you need and deserve."—Ashlee Marie Preston, writer, activist, host of Shook with Ashlee Marie Preston podcast
  • "As someone who has had and talked about sex a myriad of ways, Dr. Donaghue is one of the few people who helps me to see myself and my sexuality from different and unexpected angles. I always put down his books and leave conversations with him feeling like the great weight of sexuality has been lifted."—Corinne Fisher, co-host of Guys We Fucked: The Anti Slut-Shaming podcast and co-author of Fucked: Being Sexually Explorative and Self-Confident in a World That's Screwed
  • "Dr. Chris Donaghue is a forward thinker and unabashedly admits to thinking outside the box. And thank goodness he does! His work targets outdated and rigid beliefs about what sex, love, and dating is and should look like. He provides a shame-free foundation for people to find their own way to self-confidence that works for them, not someone else who told them what love and sex should look like. This is a must-read book for anyone who wants to break out of someone else's "shoulds."—Joe Kort, PhD, sex and relationship therapist

On Sale
Jan 8, 2019
Page Count
224 pages
Running Press

Dr. Chris Donaghue, PhD

About the Author

Dr. Chris Donaghue, PhD, is an international lecturer, therapist, educator, and host of the Amber Rose Show and Dr. Chris Show, the #1 podcast in the sex and dating category. Prior to this, Chris hosted Logo’s Bad Sex and has appeared everywhere from the New York Times to Nightline, Vice, The Today Show, Newsweek, CNN, OWN, Refinery29, and Access Hollywood. He is also a frequent guest on The Doctors as well as high-profile podcasts like Sex with Emily, Guys We’ve Fucked, and Sex Nerd Sandra. Dr. Chris lives in LA.

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