Don’t Hold My Head Down is a memoir about sex. It starts with the author having a disappointing, drunken wank to internet porn, and ends with her having day-long orgasms and taking on the most powerful newspaper in the country. In her mid-thirties, Lucy-Anne Holmes realised that something was missing. When it came to sex she still felt like a novice: she lacked confidence and felt incapable of asking for what she wanted. But when she looked for a how-to guide or a workshop, she found that everything she googled was geared towards the male gaze rather than women’s pleasure. So, she made a ‘fuckit list’ of the things she’d like to try – among them slow sex, ejaculation, different types of orgasm, being sexual with other women, BDSM, sex parties and making porn – and set out on a journey of discovery. This is the book that Lucy wanted to read in the first place; a frank, eye-opening and inspiring account of the search for better sex that shares her tips, revelations, failures and triumphs.
(Mom, if you’re reading this, STOP HERE!)
Ahem. I’m really interested in books about sex and sexuality. Even though it’s an activity that a lot of people do, there can be such a mysterious, taboo air about it. I think this is especially for women – and even more so for women who primarily sleep with men. So when I saw that this book was super cheap on Kindle, I thought I’d give it a go. And oh boy!
Lucy really blows down the doors and tells the reader everything – from her earliest sexual experiences, to her terrible one-night-stands, to learning how to have a full-body orgasm. She really journeys from not being able to have sex unless drunk, to willingly attending sex parties and festivals and celebrating all people’s bodies – including her own. I absolutely loved comparing her attitude towards sex at the beginning and at the end of the book, as they couldn’t be more opposite. Because I didn’t read the full description of the book before I bought it, I didn’t actually realise that she was a) bisexual and b) into kinky stuff. When she gets into these topics (especially in the second half of the book) I really started to pay attention, because these are areas that I’ve struggled with in the past. It was so interesting to read about her discovering these new aspects to her sexuality, and fully embracing them.
This is simultaneously a really sexy book, and a really funny one. She has great descriptions of some of the mind-blowing orgasms that she has, as well as the hilariously awful ones. Her voice really reminded me of the Bridget Jones novels, which really appealed to me. It’s quirky and British and a bit self-deprecating. However, I could see how this could be annoying. Personally I thought it really worked. She unpacks a lot of heavy stuff such as sexual assault and the trauma of childbirth, and it just wouldn’t be a fun book to read if she hadn’t inserted a bit of her personality.
The one thing that I would change is some of the wording in the book. She does pretty heavily equate vaginas = women, which obviously isn’t true. It would have made the book truly sex positive if she had more frequently acknowledged trans and nonbinary people.
As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed this book. I’m a nosy person, truth be told, so to be given insider access to someone else’s sex life is pretty awesome to me. I also think that if we had more books like this, I don’t think rape culture and the prioritisation of male pleasure would be as big problems as they are. I love the idea that this book is inspiring people everywhere to go out and be more sex positive, whether it’s their thing or not.
Trigger warnings: graphic descriptions of sex, descriptions of BDSM, sexual assault, masturbation, fatphobia (challenged), excessive use of alcohol, transphobic language