William Giraldi's ascerbic essay-review on Fifty Shades of Grey delivers a very important point: that we are what we consume.
In contrast, quality sexual literature (fiction and non-fiction) depicts sexual relationships realistically with depth and insight.
"I'd tell men and women to put down these books because they are bad for their health, but people never listen to advice about their health. Quality sexual literature can be found among the poems of Sappho and Catullus, in the satires of De Sade, and in the novels of Nicholson Baker. The Story of O and Venus in Furs [have] some psychological depth and the prose isn't toxic. The best sexual literature knows what to leave to the imaginative and what not."
Lily Zheng, president of Kardinal Kink, an advocacy and support group for the kink community at Stanford:
"I would recommend Delta of Venus and Little Birds by Anais Nin, which feature fantastic erotic writing. I have edited several erotic anthologies. Pleasures is of real experiences and reveals what women really like. Erotic Edge features excellent writing for couples to enjoy together via the exploration of men's and women's perspectives on sex."
Russell J Stambaugh, chairman of the AASECT AltSex Special Interest Group:
"Market theory says people automatically get the entertainment they deserve. Aesthetic theory suggests mostly that they deserve better. Excellent scene writers like Pat Califia, or Laura Antonieu have written much-admired works like Macho Sluts and The Marketplace that BDSMers find genuinely hot.
I would personally recommend Mary Gaitskill's Bad Behavior and Two Girls: Fat and Thin. Gaitskill writes with economy, precision and feeling about outsiders and their sexuality. Bad Behavior contains 'Secretary,' from which the screenplay for the Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader movie (2002) was adapted."
Avital Norman Nathman, a writer, advocate, and contract employee with the Yale School of Public Health:
"There is a general sense that women readers will accept and enjoy sub-par quality, especially when it comes to erotic writing, and that's simply not fair. There's definitely an art and skill to writing in the genre. Part 1 and Part 2 of this roundtable I facilitated offers some great suggestions for quality sexual literature."
Tania De Rozario, award-winning writer on issues of gender and sexuality:
"I had the misfortune of hearing some excerpts from Fifty Shades before I got a chance to read it, [which] put me off it forever. There's good sex and then there's bad writing."
Russ Linton, speculative fiction writer and former FBI Investigative Specialist:
"Sexuality is our most fearless and pure expression as human beings. The hottest sex scene I can think of on paper is a torrid moment in Terry Southern's Blue Movie. There are erotic poems like William Butler Yeats' 'Leda & the Swan' and verses of quiet yearning by Sappho. There are long, sumptuous passages in the works of D.H. Lawrence, William S. Burroughs, and Henry Miller's up close and personal couplings."