Quercus is publishing Women on Top of the World, a book about what women think about when they're having sex. The title is the brainchild of non-fiction publisher Katy Follain and has been edited by Lucy-Anne Holmes, the feminist activist who spearheaded the campaign to abolish The Sun's Page 3 photos of topless women.
Follain came up with the idea of a book revealing what women really think about during sex to further "the obvious need for narratives for women by women about their journeys of sexual self-discovery".
She approached Holmes—who is represented by Jo Unwin from JULA—who then went on to interview 51 women from all walks of life from across the world. The result, according to Quercus is "an understanding of the female experience—consisting of testimonials from heterosexual, gay, pansexual and transgender women, as well as non-binary people—that will contribute to the changing way we recognise sex to be something that is more inclusive, nuanced and representative than it is currently in society. At the same time, these testimonials delve deep into issues such as self-esteem, racism, sexual abuse, body positivity, pleasure and taboos."
Thirty-one artists have also contributed to the project, including The Pretenders founder Chrissie Hynde and actress and author Jenny Eclair, who are painters in their spare time.
Holmes said: "There is something very special about Women on Top of the World, and it was an absolute honour to have worked on it. These women opened up to me about this very intimate act; some had never spoken of these things before, others hadn’t even thought about this part of themselves in this way. During the interviews, we laughed and cried together, and I came away thinking how amazing women are, and also how triumphant. So often women have experienced such pain and shame around sexuality, with little to no healthy education on the subject, and yet against these odds they find ways to overcome this and experience the pleasure that is their birth right."
Follain said: "This feels like an urgent and important publication that just had to happen. I’ve lost count of the number of activist illustrators who have said to me how thankful and relieved they are that there will be, at last, a book that explores sex in a way that is so individual but also so universal. The fact that we have contributors from every sexual orientation makes it a rich and rewarding book. Working with Lucy-Anne has been brilliant, she’s so incredibly sensitive and open-minded, and that is reflected in the testimonials she has accumulated."
Quercus, which owns world rights, will publish in February 2021.
The illustration from Women on Top of the World is by London-based Brazilian artist Bárbara Malagoli.