María Hesse is an illustrator born in Huelva and raised in Sevilla I’ve followed for a little while so when I saw her newest book I didn’t hesitate to buy it. Her books are a type of book I would only care for the illustrations alone, moving the text and story to a second priority, however, the best kind of books are those who can strongly manage both and Maria succeeds. Her illustrations and delicate and gorgeous while the book presents a “difficult” topic in a casual manner it should be. The book is funny and raw and personal.
I’ve always considered myself lucky to be in an environment where there is a certain freedom of exploring sexuality, intimacy, and other taboo subjects. Artists have a unique way of seeing the world and opening the doors to topics that many people would not be too comfortable to speak of, even when they shouldn’t be.
In the book, great female figures are referenced along with personal anecdotes and a little background on the biggest female oppression of human history: Religion.
From Lilith—the first woman who abandoned Adam according to Jewish mythology—and Eve, the woman who we have to thank for painful labor, to Anaïs Nin and Colette, not forgetting Mata Hari; Cleopatra; Helen O’Connell; plus fictional characters with the quality of Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, and OfGlen.
Maria Hesse speaks of the pressure of not having sex, then having sex, saying no and not saying no; a chaotic wind whirl of emotions and contradictory obligations society has pressured into.
The book also rightfully criticizes de lack of sex education in college. As a millennial girl born in a very small town in Mexico, I could relate to this part the most; I was never taught of the female anatomy besides the basic reproductory system and I was not even taught the elemental ‘put the condom in the banana’. My period was never discussed among my family, I think they just figured at some point I had had my period, or not and moved on. The anatomy I learned until I was in college with my first boyfriend and didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Maria talks about the importance of her sex educations thanks to her friends, unfortunately for me it wasn’t that. My friends were all a bit conservative and even a few of them had the nerve to give me their retrogressive opinions, one of them being: “Aren’t you scared that your next boyfriends won’t want you because you opened your legs to the first guy you were with?” So yeah, slut-shaming is still a thing.
Another topic briefly discussed is mainstream porn: How porn is the only source of education for both men and women and creates an unrealistic image of what sex and bodies should look like. In porn, women are seen as objects and not subjects worthy of pleasure.
The book is brief and light; a must if you love buying and collecting illustrated books.