Sex Ed: An Inclusive Teenage Guide To Sex And Relationships by The School of Sexuality Education

The Blurb On The Back:

Everything you need to know about sex and relationships in the 21st century, with words from an award-winning team.

Find out about:

Consent

The body

What is sex?

Sexual health

online life

Relationships

Reproductive health

Gender & sexuality

Body image.  

SEX ED: AN INCLUSIVE TEENAGE GUIDE TO SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS was released in the United Kingdom on 16th September 2021.  Thanks to Walker Books for the review copy of this book.

You can order SEX ED: AN INCLUSIVE TEENAGE GUIDE TO SEX AND RELATIONSHIPS by The School of Sexuality Education from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

The School of Sexuality Education is a UK charity comprising doctors, teachers, activists and artists who visit UK schools to talk about sex, bodies, relationships and identity.  This YA book (illustrated by Evie Karkera) aims to answer teens’ common questions and improve general sex education.  There’s a lot of information and common sense here but the lack of anecdotes (especially on embarrassing topics) means it lacks a human connection.

The book has been co-written by members of the charity (Amelia Jenkinson, Evie Karkera, Sophie Whitehead, Dolly Padalia, Ruth Eliot, Katie Spark, Becky Lund-Harket, Dr Emma Chan, Dr Adam Clarke and Gayathiri Kamalakanthan) who come from a variety of backgrounds, including medicine, psychology, teaching and activism including prevention of sexual violence.  You can tell that a lot of expertise has gone into the book and it is genuinely very thoughtful about the various dilemmas, questions and issues that arise for teens about sex, relationships, their bodies and their identity.  I also liked the fact that there is a mini biography of each contributor at the end of the book, which includes their preferred pronouns (something that I think teenagers who are non-binary or trans will particularly appreciate).

The book has chapters on each of the following topics: consent; gender, sexuality and identity; relationships; the body; what is sex?; reproductive health; sexual health; body image; and online life.  There are notes at the end for parents/caregivers and for teachers about the topics covered, which I think was very clever because it can help them in knowing how to tackle conversations about these subjects and/or deal with them in class. 

The sections on the body; what is sex; reproductive health and sexual health are clearly written, not patronising but also quite clinical and despite the fact that there are some “unembarrasable moments” anecdotes in there, there’s nothing incredibly mortifying in there and certainly nothing of the type of question that I’ve heard teens talk about (e.g. condoms and sex toys getting stuck and what to do about it – which is strange as there is a section on tampons getting stuck).  And that is, for me, one of the weaknesses of the book – it’s very pragmatic and sympathetic but there’s not a huge amount of humour in here and certainly nothing that gave me a big sense of human connection or that sex between consenting adults can be funny and intimate.

As someone who was a teen in the days before there were conversations about consent, gender or sexuality (thanks Section 28!) and also in a pre-internet age, I thought that the chapters dealing with these topics were well done, particularly on the tricky topic of pornography, sexting and sending nudes.  Certainly I think there’s enough there to help teen readers make their own, informed decisions on the topics.

Ultimately, I think that this is a good book to read if you’re a teen with questions or a teacher/parent/caregiver who wants to be able to address these topics with the teens in your life.  However, it’s a shame that it doesn’t use humour more than it does because I think it would have broached a lot of the awkwardness that’s inherent in these topics and would have made it much more relatable.  

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