Every Body

An Honest and Open Look at Sex from Every Angle


By Julia Rothman

By Shaina Feinberg

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 5, 2021. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Experience a radically inclusive and informative collection of stories, essays, interviews, and art about sex, relationships, and body confidence.

Have you ever had a question about sex—whether out of curiosity, desire, or the sneaking suspicion you’re, somehow, different? Every Body will help you feel less alone. It’s a huge collection of anonymous stories, essays, artwork, and expert tell-alls on myriad subjects, all rolled into one. Really, it’s the conversations most of us are too scared to start.

Thanks to talented duo Julia Rothman and Shaina Feinberg, we don’t have to. The stories, essays, and interviews they’ve compiled touch on a wide array of topics, including first times, open relationships, body acceptance, accidental pregnancies, sex toys, pleasure, fear and trauma, sexual discovery, and more.

Framed by dozens of artists’ illustrations, deeply personal interviews, and expert essays that address stigmas and clichés, this book is an informative, welcoming, and inclusive user’s guide to your body, no matter its shape, size, or preferences.

A dynamic group of voices and styles makes Every Body an essential resource and helpful companion as you explore your own body (and more!).





I read and listened to so many people’s sex stories to make Every Body, and naturally those stories reminded me of my own experiences. As the collection came together I began to examine my entire sexual and romantic history, and I was full of questions: Why am I attracted to unavailable people? Why do I need sexual validation to feel good about myself? Should I experiment more? Am I weird for liking that? Had I given consent that time? What do I really want? Why am I alone?

I signed the deal for this book right after a breakup. I was single, I was missing my ex, and I was dating furiously—using a variety of apps. On first dates, I would mention that I was collecting sex stories to be published anonymously in a book. In response, many of the dates offered to tell me their stories. Some of them thought it would impress me to hear about their threesomes. One guy told me about his deformed penis. Another about slicing a girl’s leg and drinking her blood before sex. I’d pull out my phone and start recording. After saying good night, I would rush home and transcribe.

I also collected stories for the book through a website, which I promoted via social media. On the website was a long drop-down menu of topics to choose from. Hundreds of stories came through pretty quickly. To guarantee a wide diversity of contributors, I requested personal data with each submission. Stories arrived from everywhere—across the country and other countries, too: Mexico, England, Australia, even Kazakhstan.

As the stories filtered in, I became overwhelmed and decided to bring on my friend Shaina to help me. Shaina is a filmmaker and is experienced at organizing wild projects. It was her idea that we go stand on the corner to solicit more stories. She thought we could interact with people in the street we wouldn’t be able to reach through our networks. We made a sign that read TELL US YOUR ANONYMOUS SEX STORIES! I printed out consent forms; Shaina bought hand sanitizer.

Our first stop was Union Square, the hub of downtown Manhattan—where tons of people come in and out all day long. We sat on a bench with the sign propped against our legs. Shaina is fearless and would call out to people, “Can we talk to you about sex?” I was always quiet. A middle-aged man in a fedora sat down between us and admitted he was having an affair. He had been married for a very long time, but only since his affair had he finally understood love songs. A woman—it turned out she was a tourist from France—saw our sign and made a beeline for us. With trembling hands she told us how vaginismus prevents her from having sex with her new husband, and how she is seeking help from a hypnotist. Two women who had met in a halfway house told us about the sex work they’d done in the past. Shaina and I set goals. After we had spoken to twenty people in a location, we’d go home.

We collected stories all over New York City—the Fulton Mall, Coney Island, Washington Square Park. We flew to New Orleans and did the same thing in the French Quarter, where tons of people were walking. People would see our sign and run over to us, eager to share. At one point, a crowd had gathered. One guy compared having Viagra in his pocket to the feeling of having a loaded gun—which he knew all about, because he carries a loaded gun. Another woman described losing her virginity in a Baptist church bathroom. And another told us how she explicitly educated her daughter (and all of her daughter’s friends) about sex because her own mother had never mentioned it.

I was lucky enough to have a mom who talked to me about sex. When I was eleven years old, my mother sat me down and told me I could ask her anything about sex—anything. I am so grateful for her openness. My mom also gave me the book Our Bodies, Ourselves. In that book there are real stories interspersed with information. I loved reading those stories—people’s secrets, their innermost feelings, their desires. I wanted to read more of those. I wanted a book made up exclusively of those stories.

So many of the stories that came in for this book were sad. Eventually—while soliciting stories—we had to ask specifically for “positive stories” because we had collected so many stories about abuse, loneliness, heartbreak, and fear. It was hard not to reach over and hug people when they teared up. Some people confided they had never told anyone what they were telling us. They said it felt good to share. Some people seemed disappointed when they were finished talking and we said goodbye.

I became obsessed with certain stories. I read them over and over—imagining the feelings the person was having, imagining having those feelings myself. I talked about the project in therapy. I talked about it with my mom. Why did I want to know people’s intimate secrets? Why did I want to connect so intensely with everyone?

I thought about it. It’s true I had no expertise, but I wanted to make this book because it didn’t exist. Because not everyone had a mother like mine, who would sit them down and talk to them about sex. And because I wanted people to know they’re not alone.

But I think the real reason might be more selfish: Ultimately I made this book so that I wouldn’t feel alone. And it worked. I am forever grateful for everybody who shared their stories with me, with us, with you. Thank you.


For full transparency, here are the demographics we collected of all the people whose anonymous stories you will find in this book. The stories were collected through a submission form on a website and in-person conversations.

We tried our best to reach as much of the diverse population that would speak with us, but we will always strive to do better as we continue this project and others.

We can’t guarantee the accuracy of these stories or demographics. These were all told to us, and we trust that the contributors were honest in their accounts. (We have changed all of the names in these accounts with the exception of those of the named contributors.)


We provided a fill-in-the-blank for the question: Do you have a disability?

0.5% of anonymous story contributors whose stories appear in this book wrote in that they do have a disability.

Heres a list of the things they wrote: Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, HIV+, Ileostomy, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Parkinson’s, Heart Defect, Bipolar disorder, PTSD.



SHAINA I first learned about sex from that book Where Did I Come From? I loved the pictures of the two chubby people having sex.

JULIA I had that book too! The people were so cute—remember they were in the bathtub together?


JULIA How did you learn about sex? was always the best question to ask people when we first approached them for stories on the street.

SHAINA Totally! It got the ball rolling!

JULIA I feel like it really took people back—they had to really think for a while.

In grade school, I think I was eight years old, we were learning about organisms in school. And I was in the car with my dad and we had just driven into our garage and I guess I accidentally asked my dad, “What’s orgasms?” Then he was like, “Son, let me tell you…” and he spent half an hour with me in the garage talking about all this sex shit. My dad was a doctor. He was really point-blank and would answer in a very scientific way. And I was like, whoa—I didn’t want to hear about that! I thought we were talking about organisms.

Sex ed came in high school. It was already way too late, though. We were already finger fucking by then. I remember hearing in sixth grade about a guy putting his hand down a girl’s pants.

I learned about sex from this goth chick with huge tits in seventh grade. She told me everything I needed to know and showed me the way. We did it in a park. I lived in the suburbs then. My parents told me nothing about sex. My parents still think I’m a virgin—and I’m twenty-eight!

Sophie Page

My parents were highly sexual. My dad was not embarrassed to flaunt it in every aspect of his life. It’s fair to say I first learned about sex from him—his behavior and mannerisms. We were a blue-collar family, lower middle class. The house was small. The rooms were next to each other. It wasn’t a spacious house where my parents could tuck away and hide. My father had porn on VHS. Once I was twelve or thirteen, I became curious. I started snooping around my dad’s room. It was almost instinctual. I knew there was something to find. I do specifically remember a first conversation where my dad asked me, “Are you having sex?” We were all gathered on their waterbed watching a flick and he posed the question. It was me, my mom, my sister. We were just hanging out. It was real casual. And I lied.

In Japan, there was no sex education. No parents talk to their kids about sex. Ever. They never say a word. It should all be secret. Yet there are porn movies and magazines everywhere. You can buy sexy cartoon magazines at 7-Eleven. When I was fifteen, my friends and I started watching porn. A lot of Japanese pornos use an octopus; they put it in a pussy. It’s boiled and hardened. A lot of pornos use the tentacle legs. That was what I was watching as a kid.

I learned about sex from porno—old-school porno from the 1970s and ’80s. Hairy porno. VHS porno.

My parents’ idea of sex was very buttoned-up. We never had a conversation about sex. My dad told me when I was fourteen that an orgasm was like when you have to shit and you finally get to shit. And I was like, okay…? So I had a lot of shame about sex at first, but I’ve worked on being more open about it.

I had my first period when I was eleven years old. I didn’t tell anybody. My mom asked about it when she was doing laundry and found my bloody underpants. I felt completely embarrassed about my periods for years. When my mom and sister were having “the talk” with me, I faked coughing the whole time because it made me feel so uncomfortable.

Nowadays I am okay with blood and tampons, but I feel more ashamed of the fact that I don’t know anything about my natural cycle because I’ve been on the pill for half of my life.

Luke Kruger-Howard

I learned about sex by doing it. It felt good, so I did it. I’m of age. I’m not a kid. Nobody talked to women about sex back then. It was a responsibility, so we did it. It was the 1970s. I was in high school, everyone was doing it. So I did it. And I got pregnant. 1979. I had the baby. She’s a grown-up now.

One of the things I tried to do with her growing up was to be more open about sex, explaining the parts and what the parts do and what feels good. I taught her and her friends. Like a community woman, like a Dr. Ruth. And then my daughter was like, “Ma, why did you do that?” But her friends were always like, “We love your mom, she talks real.” I talked to them about masturbation. They were like, “What is that?” They cracked up. It was fun. We used to have Blockbuster [video] night—that’s how long ago this was. I would tell her friends all about it. I was teaching about masturbating because as a woman you need to learn how to please yourself. Or else how are you going to teach your partner? That way you can guide him.

Rachelle Baker

Back in prehistoric times (the 1960s) when I attended a Catholic school, our sex education was talking to a priest for an hour. This was a big day for my fifth-grade class! All those mysterious rumors I had heard about the inconceivable and horrific activities my parents secretly participated in would be unveiled. Every day a kid was plucked out of our classroom and would return to their desk, quiet and slightly embarrassed. When they returned, I expected them to look different—maybe older and wiser?

My day finally came and I went to the rectory across from our school and sat in front of Father Schmidt, who was visibly uncomfortable and anxious. I honestly don’t recall what he told me—it was basically biology and made no sense. The only thing I remember is ejaculation. I was alarmed to find out that something other than urine came out of my penis. I persisted in asking him questions about it long after he wanted to move on to another topic. His irritability was showing. “What is this stuff—sperm? Does it hurt? What’s it look like? Can you stop it if you want? How much comes out?” I must have asked that last one three times. Finally, Father Schmidt said, “It’s white, and it’s about a tablespoon.” I silently winced in horror. Ten minutes later I returned to the class. My sex education was over and I felt more confused than before.

I got the best lesson from my parents about sex. They said the one thing we want you to know about sex is you’ve done nothing if your partner isn’t happy. That was before anything. Before I learned about the birds and the bees. Just understanding that this is a very intimate thing that happens between two people. And both people have to be engaged and enjoying it. I think that has a lot to do with how picky I am. I won’t just take any woman. She has to be like a dope in so many ways and a great counterpoint to who I am. And really know herself. So much of the sex you see on TV is meaningless and between two people who barely know each other.

Manjit Thapp

I went to a private international school in Ethiopia. We were in fifth grade. Class was canceled for a week. And in that time we had other classes devoted to sex and puberty and our bodies. We weren’t learning about pleasure or masturbation. It was more of the physical aspects: these are the types of sex, this is what your body is doing. I think it helped me compare to what I hear Americans say about sex ed. I didn’t have any of the stigma or shame around having sex. I’m very open about talking about sex.

When I was sixteen, I told my mom I was ready for birth control—and, therefore, sex. She kept her cool but quickly threw away my idea. No matter how many times I talked to her, she never took me to a gyno. Years later, when I was twenty, I got pregnant. Although I love my now-four-year-old son with all my heart, I really tried to reach my mom for help when I was a teenager, when I didn’t have a single clue about sex at all. It would be nice to change parents’ minds when it comes to preserve a daughter from sex (my mom’s words). Sex is natural, sex can be safe, and it’s a part of everyone’s life.

Jesus Dirt


I had recently seen the documentary The Devil’s Playground, which is about Amish kids and how at sixteen they have a Rumspringa where they go out into the world and do anything they want to with no religious consequences—I decided that I would take a one-year break from being Mormon (this, by the way, is totally not allowed). But I decided the only way to know if it was true was to leave and then come back to it.

My plan was to go wild. I had an imaginary list of men I would sleep with. But the second I was free to do whatever I wanted, I couldn’t. It was like there was an invisible electric fence around me. The closer I got, the more paralyzed I became. Especially when it came to sex. In Mormonism you’re taught that sexual sin before marriage is the second most serious sin next to murder. You’re told that if you engage in it you won’t be allowed to be with your family in the afterlife. I’d had some sexual experiences before, but never anything more than groping—and that one time my neighbor kissed the outside of the crotch of my pajama pants and I’d had an orgasm.

I’d become a regular at this tiny bar/dance club called the Beatrice. During the first few months of my break I’d go there almost every other night, meet a guy, and we’d go back to his place and make out. I’d want to do more. He’d want me to do more. I’d stare at the bulge in his pants and think about touching it. But that just seemed rude. Inappropriate. So I wouldn’t do anything. It was a mixture of the religious stuff—this is murder, I’ll lose my family—and plain old insecurity: I was scared of being bad at it. I was twenty-seven, an age by which people expect you to be sexually experienced. No one would ever guess I was doing things for the first time. Which meant that if I was bad at sex, or blow jobs, or hand jobs, they’d just think I sucked. They wouldn’t know it was my first time. And this fear of being inexperienced kept me from getting experience. I’d inch closer and closer to the dick, but chicken out and leave abruptly.

After months of doing this, I confided in my friend Andy.

“I have a close friend who left Orthodox Judaism in his mid-twenties,” Andy told me. “He went through a lot of the same things. I’m going to introduce you. I bet he’d be a helpful person to talk to about this.”

I met David at a small Italian restaurant in the West Village, one where you had to walk downstairs to get in. It was dimly lit with candles and had the kind of ambience that just feels sexy. He was cute. I’d googled him beforehand, but he was hotter in person. He had an energy about him—like he was aware that he was in charge. During my Google search I’d read some articles he’d written. He was a very accomplished writer, which made him seem older and cooler than me. But right when I sat down I felt comfortable. We talked for two hours. He told me about his decision to leave. And asked me questions about mine. I told him about my concern that my family would find out and it’d be heartbreaking for them. And about my anxieties and the fear of making a choice I couldn’t take back, which at this point had become paralyzing.

“I felt the same way when I left,” he said. “How long have you been out?”

“About five months,” I said. Not clarifying I was technically not out at all.

“You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. It’s going to take a lot longer than you think to get used to everything. Don’t feel the need to rush it. Be patient with yourself.”

“Yes, but I have only a year.”

“What do you mean?”

I leaned in. As the candle flickered in his brown eyes, I went into detail about my decision to take a Rumspringa and my plan to potentially return to Mormonism at the end of the year. He found this amusing.

“So you’re on a break.”


“And what have you done so far?”

“What do you mean?”

“Have you been drinking?”


“What about drugs? Any drugs?”


“What about sex? Have you had sex yet?”

I looked into his eyes not wanting to answer. “Honestly? I have no idea what to do with a penis.”

He stared back at me, unflinchingly. And then, looking directly into my eyes, he said, “Do you want me to show you?” (He said this like it was some form of community service all formerly religious people had to do.)

I bit my lip. This was maybe the sexiest thing that had ever happened to me.

“Yes,” I said.

Within ten minutes we’d settled up, hailed a cab, and were back in my apartment. We sat nervously on the couch, with the lights on, staring straight ahead.

“You’ve seen a penis before, right?” he asked me.

“Yes,” I said, with a little too much bravado to sound believable. It was true. Sort of. I’d changed diapers before. So, baby dicks. I’d seen baby dicks.

Now here I was, about to see the real thing—the adult version. I tried to mentally prepare myself so I didn’t make the wrong face. Not that I knew what the right face was. David turned and looked at me, as if to say, Are you ready? I nodded my head yes. He unzipped his pants and slid them down a little. Then he reached into his underwear and took out his dick. I looked at it with wide-eyed wonder.

“It’s so big,” I accidentally blurted out. (And it was. Compared with, say, a baby’s dick.)

“Wow,” he said. “You’re already good at this.”

What followed was partly erotic, partly instructional. First, David gave me a guided tour of his dick. “This part here is called the head,” he said. He gestured to each section as he spoke: “This is called the shaft. These are the balls.”

“And you’re not supposed to touch those,” I said. I was basing this information on America’s Funniest Home Videos. When men got kicked in the balls they always fell over. So it seemed like balls were off-limits.

“No, you can touch the balls.” He took my hand and placed it on his balls.

“They’re so soft,” I said. “Like a baby bird.”

We both cringed.

I lifted my hand. It hovered over his penis for a second. I wanted to touch it. But I was too afraid.

“It’s okay,” he said. “You can touch it.”

I touched it lightly with one finger, the way you might wipe ketchup off someone’s face if you didn’t know them very well: cautious but kind.

“Here,” he said, taking my hand and wrapping it around the base of his penis. “You can be a lot more firm with it.” He put his hand around mine to show me the amount of pressure. Then he took his hand away. I held on a little tighter.

“Not that firm,” he corrected me. And I wanted to die.

“If you move your hand up and down the penis, it feels really good,” he explained. “But you need moisture.”

David spit into his hand—like a ton of spit—and rubbed it onto his penis. I had to actively control the face I wanted to make: What? You just spit on your penis!

From here he took my hand in his and showed me the speed and pressure I should use when I stroked his dick. After a minute he took his hand away so I could do it on my own, and then every thirty seconds he’d put it back to help me stay on rhythm. It was a bit like learning to drive—if you were using only the stick shift.

“Yeah. That’s it,” he said, encouraging me. “And now go a little faster.” My hand bobbed up and down in the narrow space between us. It occurred to me how strange it was that this was happening. We hadn’t even kissed yet. So I leaned in toward him, and he kissed me. We kissed for a little bit. Our tongues pressed together in synch with the bobbing of my hand. I pulled back a little and looked into his big brown eyes. He looked back into mine.

“Do you ever get over the guilt?” I asked. The second I asked that, I knew it was the wrong thing to say. His expression can best be described by that record-scratching-to-a-halt sound effect.

His penis, which had felt strong and firm against my hand, suddenly turned into a limp noodle. I struggled to get a grip on it. I now know that this is called losing an erection, but at the time I had no idea what was going on.

“What’s happening?” I said, in a panic. “Did I hurt you? Are you okay?”

“No,” he tried to reassure me. “It’s not you.” We both moved around awkwardly. He took my hand off his penis and set it back in my lap with a little pat, as if to say, You stay there.

Then he tucked his penis back into his underwear. “I… I don’t think we should do this,” he said.

“No!” I said. “I’m totally fine—I want to do this. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.” I tried to pull him back toward me, but he blocked my advances.


  • An impressively diverse blend of artistry and perspective, Rothman and Feinberg’s book is an entertaining and insightful voyeuristic playground ... features a liberating body-positive honesty sure to delight any reader fascinated by stories of human sexuality. A delightfully audacious anthology of carnal confessionals.—Kirkus Reviews
  • Boisterous and beautiful...Visually stunning, and running the entire gamut of human emotion, this will make readers laugh, cry, and cheer. —Booklist Starred Review
  • A thorough and impressively frank picture of human sexuality.—The New York Times
  • Ambitious and progressive, Every Body is a thoughtful and well-rounded addition to anyone's sex ed shelf.—Shape
  • Have you ever had a question about sex — whether out of curiosity, desire or the sneaking suspicion that you’re, somehow, different? Every Body will help you feel less alone...Framed by dozens of artists’ illustrations, deeply personal interviews and expert essays that address stigmas and clichés, this book is an informative, welcoming and inclusive user’s guide to your body, no matter its shape, size or preferences.—O'Henry Magazine
  • ...an inclusive, awkward, tender, silly, discomfiting, emotional, and, above all, candid collection about what it means to be a living person...The book addresses a wide range of experiences, from being horny to unlearning religious inhibitions to drunk sex to watching porn to enduring a miscarriage, all while demystifying stigmas and clichés, normalizing uncertainty, acknowledging trauma, and celebrating desire and playfulness.—Elle

On Sale
Jan 5, 2021
Page Count
304 pages

Julia Rothman

Julia Rothman

About the Author

Julia Rothman is a highly acclaimed contemporary illustrator and author of many best-selling books, including Nature Anatomy, Farm Anatomy, Ocean Anatomy, Food Anatomy, Nature Anatomy Notebook, and Wildlife Anatomy.  Her illustrated column, Scratch, is featured biweekly in the Sunday New York Times. Clients for her illustrations and pattern designs include Target, the Washington Post, MTA Arts & Design, and more.  She lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Learn more about this author