All About Sex: A Family Resource on Sex and Sexuality.
All About Sex: A Family Resource on Sex and Sexuality. By Planned Parenthood Planned Parenthood
A service mark used for an organization that provides family planning services. Federation of America, Inc. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Three Rivers Three Rivers, Que., Canada: see Trois Rivières. Press, 1997, 362 pages. Paper, $20.00.
Reviewed by Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, P.O. Box 830801, Lincoln, NE 68583-0801; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where can you turn for a comprehensive book on sexuality that speaks to all members of a family? A visit to your local bookstore will probably lead you to one of two areas. First, you may find yourself browsing the "Your Changing Body" section (or some similar aisle heading), where you will find books written primarily for young teenagers about "where babies come from" and pubertal development. Second, you may be led to "Human Sexuality This article is about human sexual perceptions. For information about sexual activities and practices, see Human sexual behavior.
Generally speaking, human sexuality is how people experience and express themselves as sexual beings. ," where you will find everything from sex manuals, how-to books, self-help guides, and even the new Sex for Dummies (yes, seriously), all aimed primarily at adults. While the books in each section might address specific concerns, you will be hard-pressed to find a book that has a format and range of information appropriate for the whole family. The good news is that Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. has developed an exciting resource on sex and sexuality for contemporary families in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. that transcends both bookstore categories. The intention was to provide thorough, current information on sex and sexuality in a format that all members of a family can understand and use. Planned Parenthood hopes that individuals can use this information to deepen both the understanding and the enjoyment of their sexualities. All About Sex proves to be a solid success.
The authors anchor the book with four guiding facts: "sexuality is a healthy, natural, and normal part of being human"; "human sexuality is diverse and complex"; "all people are sexual from birth to death"; and "sexuality serves many important purposes other than reproduction" (p. xx). The authors integrate these facts into each subject they consider; this book does not segregate seg·re·gate
v. seg·re·gat·ed, seg·re·gat·ing, seg·re·gates
1. To separate or isolate from others or from a main body or group. See Synonyms at isolate.
2. gender identity, sexual orientation sexual orientation
The direction of one's sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes, especially a direction seen to be dictated by physiologic rather than sociologic forces. , sexual behavior sexual behavior A person's sexual practices–ie, whether he/she engages in heterosexual or homosexual activity. See Sex life, Sexual life. later in life, or the personal responsibility for sexual health into minor chapters. These issues are considered in the first chapter as the very issues that define contemporary sexualities. They are then carried throughout the book as central themes relating to relating to relate prep → concernant
relating to relate prep → bezüglich +gen, mit Bezug auf +acc all aspects of human sex and sexuality.
As much as I was excited to see human sexuality diversity addressed directly, I was concerned about several problematic definitions. The authors state: "Gender identity means the degree to which someone is considered to act feminine or masculine" (p. 5). This is a strangely external definition. In the glossary, a more accurate definition is given: "feelings about one's gender and gender role" (p. 326). Also, the definition of transvestite--one who wears clothes of the other gender because it gives sexual pleasure--is problematic and outdated. Usually this word has referred only to men, and does not necessarily imply sexual pleasure; further, transvestite trans·ves·tite
One who practices transvestism.
transvestite Sexology A person with a compulsion to dress as a member of the other sex, which may be essential to maintaining an erection and achieving orgasm. See Transsexual. has been replaced in common usage with cross-dresser and transgender transgender or transgendered
Transsexual. . Finally, the authors write "transgender people The people on this list have been selected because their fame or notoriety is in some way due or connected to their transgender identity or behaviour. Each person in this list has hir own Wikipedia article, where each subject can be studied in much greater detail. typically have two different identities, and even two names for themselves--one female and one male" (p. 8). This is inaccurate. Certainly these are contemporary issues that are not easily defined or discussed, and I commend Planned Parenthood for making a commitment to providing information about these issues. I am concerned, however, that some of the definitions provided are not more current and accurate (refer to GenderPAC at www.genderpac.org for recent information about gender and transgender issues).
The book continues with a frank look at how we individually come to understand sexuality. The important roles played by families, peers, media, religion, government, and law are each examined in Chapter 2, followed by a consideration of Western cultural and historical influences on the ways we think about sex and sexuality. While clearly written for the contemporary United States, attention is given to non-Western cultures and histories and how cultural differences influence the understanding of sexuality.
One of the great benefits of All About Sex is that it is written at an intermediate reading level so that it is accessible to all reading members of the family, beginning in the pre-teenage years. There are times, however, when the desire to simplify leads to overly broad generalizations. One example is the statement: "Soldiers, away from home, want sex. That's why sex workers flock to military camps" (p. 48). This could be funny if it were not meant to be true. The relationship between the sexual behaviors of members of the military and sex workers is a complex topic that cannot he characterized this simply.
The third and fourth chapters focus on anatomy and sexual development from birth through old age. The section "Talking About Our Bodies" emphasizes the importance of using proper names for body parts. Of particular note in these chapters is a section on "Body Variations and Our Sexuality," in which the authors discuss with honesty and sensitivity the special challenges faced by people with disabilities, including blindness, deafness, loss of limb, spinal cord injuries Spinal Cord Injury Definition
Spinal cord injury is damage to the spinal cord that causes loss of sensation and motor control.
Approximately 10,000 new spinal cord injuries (SCIs) occur each year in the United States. , and mental health concerns. I know of no other general resource on sex and sexuality that addresses these issues as a part of normal human variation.
Sexual feelings sexual feelings A constellation of psychological sentiments that constitute desire for sexual satisfaction or release of sexual tension are considered in Chapter 5. In their discussion of sexual inhibition A sexual inhibition denotes a conservative attitude to or a reservation relating to specific sexual practices.
One might be defined as having high sexual inhibitions in the events of fearing (see erotophobia) or being repelled by any sexual practice or discourse. , the authors not only include the effects of negative body image or low self-esteem; jealousy and internalized homophobia homophobia Psychology An irrationally negative attitude toward those with homosexual orientation, or toward becoming homosexual. See Closet, Gay-bashing, Heterosexism. Cf Gay, Homosexual, Phobia. are also considered as factors that inhibit sexual feelings, desires and performance. I was curious to find a section titled "Have Sex in Safe Places"; what I found was a frank discussion of the challenges faced by non-married or co-residential persons that is an important addition to a family resource that takes seriously the importance of sexuality in individuals' lives, as well as the diversity in the ways in which people live their lives.
Sexual health and family planning family planning
Use of measures designed to regulate the number and spacing of children within a family, largely to curb population growth and ensure each family’s access to limited resources. are the subjects of the sixth and seventh chapters. The discussion of family planning is comprehensive regarding pregnancy prevention; however, I was surprised to find no information on infertility and the many new methods for planning families in light of new reproductive technologies. Certainly this is an issue about which many contemporary families need information and education. While this may have been beyond the scope of Planned Parenthood's goals for All About Sex, an acknowledgment of this limitation would have been appropriate. Finally, laws that affect our sexual lives are considered in the concluding chapter.
All About Sex closes with a history of Planned Parenthood, a list of resources and suggested readings, and a thorough glossary, which may become the most read part of All About Sex. The glossary will be an important resource for parents, teens, educators, and researchers. In addition to the expected topics of sex and sexuality, under "Organizations, Hot Lines, and Web Sites" you will find a wide range of resources, with categories including Academic Programs in Human Sexuality; Child Rights; Disabilities; Eating Disorders eating disorders, in psychology, disorders in eating patterns that comprise four categories: anorexia nervosa, bulimia, rumination disorder, and pica. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by self-starvation to avoid obesity. ; Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual bisexual /bi·sex·u·al/ (-sek´shoo-al)
1. pertaining to or characterized by bisexuality.
2. an individual exhibiting bisexuality.
3. pertaining to or characterized by hermaphroditism.
4. Issues; Sex Workers; and Transgender Issues.
There is no doubt that All About Sex will disturb those who believe that ignorance about sex and sexuality is bliss. However, for families that believe that human sexuality across the lifespan is healthy, natural, normal, and diverse, this book will prove to be a wonderful resource. It fills a void in books that can be read and understood by wide audiences, while providing information on nearly every aspect of human sexuality that many of us encounter during our lives. Written for people of all ages, it will be best used as a guide for interactive family education and discussion about sex and sexuality. It will be important for parents not only to make this book available to their children, but also to use this book to talk actively with children about sex and sexuality. In addition to its usefulness to families, the encyclopedic en·cy·clo·pe·dic
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of an encyclopedia.
2. Embracing many subjects; comprehensive: "an ignorance almost as encyclopedic as his erudition" coverage, resources lists, and glossary make All About Sex an important new guide and resource for professionals in human services and academic fields.
Michael R. Steveson, Ph.D.
Department of Psychological Sciences Ball State University Muncie, IN 47306, USA