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56 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on June 20, 2007
There are so many things to recommend this book aimed at youth 16 - 22 (but containing info valuable to a much wider age range) that it's difficult to know where to begin. S.E.X. contains a lot of the information you find in guides aimed at a young readership - anatomy lessons, safer sex guidelines, a breakdown of birth control options, definitions of various sexual activities and infections. The difference here is Heather Corinna's (who as the founder of the world's most awesome sex ed site, Scarleteen, has seen and heard it all) dedication to tugging the rest of society closer to her dream of a world where everyone is "healthy, happy and whole in themselves and their sexuality: in body, heart, and mind."

To that end the book is truly inclusive. In a section on sexual identity Corinna points out that "this isn't the gay chapter" and indeed the book doesn't assume a heterosexual default the way many do - or root itself in traditional gender roles. Nor does it assume that sex is better when connected with love or marriage. The emphasis is unfailingly on communication, being as safe as possible, respecting your own and others' boundaries and fitting sex into the rest of your life in a healthy and enjoyable way.

The slant seems so balanced and logical that it's a wonder society at large is in such a mess when it comes to sex and sexuality. But popular culture with its constant projection of a hyper-sexuality which is unvarying and prescriptive (dictating what sort of bodies we should have, the kinds of activities we should be engaging in and who should be performing them - and how) would seem to be the enemy of this logic. To counter these negative messages and arrive at a healthy body image, Heather suggests reducing TV watching and binning your fashion magazines, noticing the diversity around you in your everyday life, focusing on things other than appearance and concentrating on physical activities you enjoy (whether that be team sports, canoeing, whatever).

Of course there's a lot of sex in this book and sexual activities are catalogued along with their pregnancy and STI risk. You'll learn that the idea that female virgins are supposed to be "tight" is pure myth. "A woman having first intercourse very well might be tight, but that is likely due more to nervousness, fear, and anxiety than it is to whether or not she has had partnered sex before." If a woman's relaxed, aroused and lubricated enough with a patient partner first-time sex doesn't need to be painful. The idea of premature ejaculation is "a bit bogus" too. There's no "minimum time that is acceptable for erection" and sexual activity can continue in other ways afterwards. There's no reason that all (or any) of the fun has to spring from penetration.

Unfortunately, not at all sex is consensual and S.E.X. also discusses healing from abuse and rape. "One-half of all rape victims are raped between the ages of fourteen and seventeen." Roughly a third of "high-school and college students has experienced sexual, physical, verbal, or emotional violence in dating relationships."

As adults, we don't do near enough honest talking about these issues. How can we expect young people to deal with the rampant sexual assumptions and expectations, misinformation and pressure created by living in a society that on the one hand tells them sex is something serious and special to save for later while simultaneously drowning them in images that promote the very opposite?

For starters we could buy them this book. If everyone read, digested and lived by the philosophies espoused in S.E.X. our sexual problems would be a thing of the past.
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44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2011
Fabulous book. I just gave copies to my sons, 14 and 18, and I'm convinced it's the only sex education book they will need from now well into their 20s.

I gave each of them a copy along with this note:

"Mom and I are giving you this book, and the notes here, so that you have a great source of factual information about sex and relationships all in one place.

"We know you have had quite a bit of "sex ed" already at school, but there is always more to learn, and after looking around, we think this is one of the best resources. It goes well beyond what school teaching offers, and does a better job than I could even in hours of conversation. It's not easy for parents to talk to kids about sex, so this book at least gets the right information out to you and then opens the door for questions and discussion, whenever you want. I have been married once before and was in various other relationships, so I know a lot about this stuff and I want you to know I am totally open to questions and discussion, any time.

"Mom and I like this book because it's really straightforward and very complete, and also free of any judgmental or moralistic viewpoints. Mom and I both think that's the best approach. You have both been raised to be good and moral persons, so you will use your own "gut" (and advice from us, whenever you want it), to choose what you think is right for yourself and the people close to you.

"Giving you this book is not a substitute for talking about these issues whenever we want or need to. In the meantime, here are some tips on sections that we think you should definitely read ..."

From there I went on to highlight the "must read" sections (safe sex, contraception, consent, etc) and told them we would talk about these.

It's a great book and offers comprehensive information in a matter-of-fact, adult manner and in a format that's easy to flip through to find what you're looking for.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2007
Growing up with a mother who volunteered as a counselor for Planned Parenthood, you'd think I would have had a good education in the area of sexuality - but far from it, really the only thing I heard about was birth control. Sexuality is such a huge part of every human being though, it's amazing that we leave the "education" to pop culture. Now the parent of 3 teenaged daughters, I was absolutely thrilled to get a copy of this book. I plan on getting a couple MORE copies, since I haven't been able to pry it from my middle daughter's hands since giving it to her.

As many previous reviewers have mentioned, the book covers everything - not just STIs and birth control, but the psychological and emotional ramifications of becoming sexually active as well. It's thoughtful and not at all condescending, and I have to wonder how much better the world might be if kids had THIS as their sex education instead of music videos.

Corinna is fearless when it comes to discussing the gamut of topics, so as a parent I had to be fearless as well, knowing in my heart and head that accurate information is the best gift I could give my daughters.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2007
Many years ago, when I started working as a moderator on a teen debate site, the person whose job I was taking over told me to direct all sex-ed related queries to a site called Scarleteen.com, because they would answer the questions better than we ever could. I myself did not check out that site until about a year and a half ago, and when I did, I regretted not having visited in my teens: The site offered everything I was was was desperately looking for but could not find - honest, down-to-earth, realistic advice on all things concerning sex, sexuality, birth control, safety and relationships.

This miracle-site is the brainchild of one Heather Corinna, sex-educator extraordinaire. And now Heather has finally managed to publish the sex-ed guide to end all guides. Like her site, the book is open, honest and straight-forward. It answers all questions without skirting truths or hiding facts. It's body-positive and inclusive, and it is always respectful and never judgemental. In short, this book is the companion you want to have with you during your teen years, and well beyond.

It you want to do yourself or a teen in your life a favour, buy this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I had good sex-ed books growing up, from what I remember. They were straight-forward, science based and once I got over the obligatory "eww gross!" reaction, they were really quite interesting. This book, however, outshines them all.

Let me get my one complaint out of the way: the subtitle. "The all-you-need-to-know progressive sexuality guide to get you through high school and college" alienates anyone who doesn't finish high school, doesn't plan to go to college, or pursues an alternative education and quite often these are the people who most need access to reliable information about their sexual health. In reading the book, I didn't find the content to reflect this bias which was a relief.

But back to the book itself. The author is the founder and owner of Scarleteen, probably the best web resource for teen sexuality. If anyone knows what teens actually want and need to know about sex and sexuality, she'd be the person. Right from the start she tells us that she won't be spending much time on discussing abstinence, backing that decision up with the following statistic: "...about 26 percent of young adults 'practicing abstinence' will become pregnant within one year." Instead she accepts that most young people will want and eventually have sex and tries to prepare them for that eventuality. Unlike may sex-ed books, she goes beyond just explaining how not to get pregnant or contract an STI - she actually talks about how to have GOOD sex. The discussion of safer sex includes the usual physically safer sex, but also emotionally safer sex.

There's a ton of good stuff in this book, including realistic descriptions of what you will experience in an OB/GYN appointment, how to use the various kinds of birth control (including cost and effectiveness), and what an abortion is actually like without all the scare tactics. There is also a recognition that teens don't always (or often) wait for a long-term relationship in order to have sex; many will have hook ups, one night stands or friends with benefits. Queer, genderqueer, and kinky teens will all find themselves represented here which is refreshing change of pace in the world of sex-ed.

Above all the author stresses communication: if you can't talk to your partner about what you want and need from a sexual encounter, you should probably rethink having sex with them at all. Will this prevent anyone who reads it from having bad sex? Probably not, but the more that message gets out there, the sooner they WILL start demanding what they need in their sexual lives, something that people of all ages will benefit from!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2013
Bought this for 16 year old younger brother. Then decided to get myself a copy to have on hand at age 22. He is a straight male jock in the rural high school bubble; I am a queer graduate of a liberal sex-positive college.

I think this book is the best of a couple I looked at including Nikol Hasler's Sex: A Book for Teens (advantage of that is the shortness and readability if you're worried your teen won't put the time in; however, not as thorough or generally on point with inclusivity) and Changing Bodies, Changing Lives by Ruth Bell (just out of date since 1998 publication i.e. AIDS as death sentence, cultural changes; however, really great narratives from teens about their experiences and feelings). This is definitely the only one of those that I would want as an adult/college student.

I recommend reading or skimming this book before giving it to someone - I ended up adding some notes. For instance, the book is very comprehensive, but I added some notes on technology and sexuality i.e. social media, sexting and associated risks/legal repercussions. I think that is one of the few things that has changed or rather we have developed a greater awareness of the issues since 2007. Also told him now we say "transgender" and not "transgendered." Only other complaint is I didn't always love the organization of the book for use as a reference, but I think as long as someone reads through a lot of it at some point, it wouldn't matter.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 10, 2010
Talking about sex is hard. Talking about sex with your teen is nearly impossible, if you ask me. After months of struggling through and trying to follow the advice of inserting "the talk" into normal conversation or using songs as springboards for discussion, I finally took a friend's advice and ordered this book.

It has been a great investment. Not only does Corinna have chapters on just about everything you can imagine--from homosexuality to sexual abuse to friends with benefits to Internet dating to fisting--she gives the information factually and in a way that isn't embarrassing. She also tells how to be safe every step of the way, both emotionally and physically.

I like that my daughter can look up answers on her own and that she and I can use the book to discuss various topics. I also like that the book has information for years to come. It's definitely got a more liberal take on things, but then this is a very different world we live in. As long as you have a loving relationship with your teen, then the book will provide a wealth of helpful information that can be balanced with discussions at home about what he or she is comfortable with and what your personal feelings are. Lack of knowledge is not better in these situations and neither is forbidding kids to do things.

I highly recommend this book and consider it an important sex ed tool.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2007
This is the book I always wanted (but never found) when I was a teenager -- straightforward, down-to-earth, and perhaps most importantly, incredibly comprehensive. Even at 29, after more than a decade of relationships with people of assorted genders and a stint as a volunteer at Scarleteen, I learned new things from reading S.E.X., and am very happy to have it as a resource on my bookshelves next to the classics like Our Bodies, Ourselves. I've already given a copy to my partner's younger brother, and while my best friend's son is a little too young to do anything but chew on it, he'll be getting a copy too in a few years. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to learn more about sexuality and sexual health.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 20, 2007
One thing that's so great about this book is that throughout, there's a balanced, fair, easy going approach to whatever the topic is. The writing keeps you engaged; the actual content keeps you informed. All those questions you never knew the answer to? Check it out, it's probably in here, and odds are it's not what you expected.

This book covers *everything*, not just the basics, either. It's a far cry from simple "tab A into slot B" sexual education: It covers everything in between, including dating, relationships, and taking care of your whole self mentally and physically.

Here's hoping that this book will find it's way onto shelves and into the hands of everyone (girls and boys both) who needs it. Get one for yourself, and get one for that teen in your life. You'll be glad you did.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I have to preface this review by stating that I wrote an article for Scarleteen called "The Making of a Homo", so my relationship with the author will indicate a slight bias.

I read a book at age 7 that explained the scientific principles of how babies are created; I never connected what I read with sexual intercourse. When I was 11, my mom handed me the book Ask Beth : You Can't Ask Your Mother and left me to my own devices. I had no understanding of what I had read. Fast-forward to 14 and my dad explained what stroking an open hand in front of your crotch actually meant.

Heather's discussion of all things sexual is prolific, at times political. The subject matter is extensive and graphic - a few times I caught myself shocked - but also honest. But as she states in the beginning of her book, its purpose is not for you to hand to your children and leave them to their own devices. Buy this book, take time to read it from cover to cover, and then sit down with your children for a healthy, honest conversation about sex. Even if you don't talk about everything in this book, what you and your children learn together will create positive connections.
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