I don't know what I was thinking," Amber Madison says, laughing. "Everyone I tell that story to, they're like, 'Are you serious?'"
The 27-year-old author, sex columnist, and frequent TV guest is referring to a particularly entertaining anecdote from her 2006 book Hooking Up: A Girl's All-Out Guide to Sex and Sexuality. In a chapter about sexual pleasure, Madison describes stopping a guy mid-hookup, drawing a labeled diagram of the vagina, pointing to the clitoris and saying, "Touch me here."
"I could have done it more tactfully," Madison admits over the phone. "But it worked, and he wasn't horrified. I think the lesson from that story is that no matter what you do to show a guy what you want, it'll be fine."
Hooking Up, a slim, pink volume with chapters titled "Vaginas—What the Hell?" and "Sexually Transmitted Diseases—Feel the Burn," marries Madison's personal anecdotes with medically accurate advice about everything from condoms to crabs. Her frank, funny approach to sexual education is a far cry from the abstinence-based sex ed most people receive in school.
"I talk about all the information you need to know as a college student about sex. I start out talking about vaginas, because I feel like that's something both guys and girls need to know about," Madison says of her lectures. "Most people who come say they have a good time. They're laughing. It's not like, 'Oh my God, freak out, you're going to get herpes.'"
She stresses that although her book is written for girls, her talks—which cover sexual pleasure to STDs—are geared to both men and women. "The vagina stuff at the beginning? That is damn good for guys to know. Unless you are a gay man, a vagina is a huge part of your sex life," Madison says. "And even if you're a gay man, you should come to the lecture and just ignore the first 10 minutes about vaginas. All the stuff about STDs, how to communicate with your partner about what feels good, that certainly applies to anybody. Gay relationships, straight relationship— they all go through the same crap."
Madison grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., and credits her parents, who came up with sexually explicit raps for birthdays and graduations, and for giving her such an open attitude toward sex. While a sex columnist in college, she started writing Hooking Up the summer between junior and senior year in college, and published her second book last year, Talking Sex with Your Kids: Keeping Them Safe and You Sane—By Knowing What They're Really Thinking.
What resonates most with the people who come to her lectures, she says, is her relationship advice. "I take questions at the end, and it's either about the G-spot, squirting or relationships. For the most part, it's 'I'm dating this guy' or 'I'm dating this girl,' and trying to navigate that part of it."
Madison's next book, due in September, addresses what she sees as the biggest misconception people have about sex: that men and women have completely different, Mars-and-Venus priorities. "We're not really that different," she insists. "We always try to say guys are like this, girls are like this. You can't make assumptions about people just because one's a guy and one's a girl. Pretty much the only assumption I'd say you can make [about a guy] is that he has a penis. Deep down, we pretty much all want the same thing."
Amber Madison speaks Tuesday, Feb.15, in the gym at SSU. 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 8pm. Free. 707.664.2782.