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S.E.X. Review: Verbena Health

S.E.X.: Spelling Out All You Need to Know about Your Sexuality
By Heather Corinna/ Marlowe & Company, 2007 ©
Review by Marian DiPerna, Verbena Health Newsletter, Spring 2007

Have you heard? Abstinence is in these days. Providing teens with access to contraception is out. Any sex education other than “abstinence only” is out. Encouraging teenagers to make rational, well-informed, safe decisions about sex and providing them with the resources to do so is also out. Thinking about and discussing gender and sexuality—yep, that’s out, too. Does this sound like bad news to anyone else out there?

Heather Corinna’s book, S.E.X.: Spelling Out All You Need to Know about Your Sexuality, is here to save the day! S.E.X. is an articulate, comprehensive, and just plain fun resource on all things sex. Covering topics ranging from sexuality to relationships to safer sex (and every step in between), Corinna deftly presents each issue with a refreshingly straightforward, accurate, and honest approach.

I want you to choose to create a healthy, happy and fulfilling sexual life that is fantastic for you and for everyone else in it.

S.E.X. sets out to empower young adults to make healthy, informed decisions about their sexuality and begins with a wonderful challenge: “I want you to choose to create a healthy, happy and fulfilling sexual life that is fantastic for you and for everyone else in it.” This challenge is at the heart of every chapter. By beginning with a highly informative chapter on bodies and all of their inner-workings and immediately following it with an excellent, practical chapter on body image, Corinna lays an important groundwork for assisting her readers in thinking about sex and sexuality. She also nicely introduces the idea of “sexy” as being a whole body experience that “celebrates our bodies to the fullest.”

With this in mind, Corinna devotes an entire chapter to solo sex, arousal, orgasm, and fantasy. She matter-of-factly addresses many questions young adults may have, debunks the plethora of myths surrounding masturbation, and never passes judgment on any of the possible choices that exist. She takes a similar approach in the following chapter, where she grapples with gender, orientation, and sexual identity. S.E.X. covers the gamut of related topics with excellent information on various gender identities, being an ally to trans and queer folks, and strategies for coming out. The coming out section is particularly strong, as it addresses the many people and situations that might call for coming out, issues of safety in coming out, and concrete strategies for doing so.

In the pursuit of providing accurate information, S.E.X. devotes a large amount of time to defining and explaining partnered sex activities. Each entry begins with the technical term for the activity, followed by common slang terms, a forthright explanation of the activity, and a rating for risk of sexually transmitted infections. No euphemisms, no glossing over of details, no condemnation—just the facts.

An equal (if not greater) amount of time is devoted to safer sex issues, for, as Corinna emphatically notes, “Sexual safety isn’t just about avoiding pregnancy, abuse, or the most deadly infections and diseases. It’s about doing what you can to safeguard yourself and your partners in body and mind.” The information on safer sex encompasses self-care, navigating the healthcare system (and knowing personal rights within that system), prevention, mechanics, and dealing with safer sex in relationships: all the tools needed to make healthy, long-lasting sexual health decisions.

While S.E.X. is aimed primarily at adolescents and young adults, it has a lot to offer for any adults with teenagers in their lives—or with questions of their own! S.E.X. addresses the potential awkwardness of talking with a teenager about sexuality and suggests multiple ways to open up communication; plus it’s a great way to brush up on your own knowledge surrounding sexuality and become another source of good information.

Chapter after chapter, Corinna reaffirms that her goal is for her readers to make informed, healthy choices that best suit their lives. She sets them up to do just that by framing each chapter—and the book as a whole—from a holistic view that acknowledges that things like body image, health, relationships, and support networks all play a role in sexual health. With S.E.X., Corinna has created an exceptional book that levels with young adults and provides the comprehensive information and resources necessary for making informed choices.

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