Drawn to Sex: The Basics (Erika Moen)

I received an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Link | Author Website

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Ragdoll Rating: 5/5 Buttons

Recommended For: Everybody and anybody, whether you’ve never had sex or you do it all the time.

About the Book…

Drawn to Sex: The Basics is a brief (but extensive) look into the world of Sex Education. Wise and clever advise on a whole host of important topics is presented with a wonderful array of cute illustrations.

The book is broken up into four sections; Sex the Concept, Doin’ it Safely, Doin’ it With Yourself, and, Doin’ It with Other People. The first section starts with what sex is, consent and so on, and the following sections build from that starting point.

This would be an ideal starting point for getting a deeper understanding of the world of sex.

What I thought…

My first impression of this book came from the introduction, and it caused me to do something I haven’t actually bothered doing so far in the reviewing career. I made a list of positives and negatives! The trigger for this was literally the first line of the book, which read:

“Hello my Dearest Perverts!”

Now, this phrase appears several times in the book, and is only ever used as a term of endearment. Perhaps it is also intended as a way of reclaiming the word, to help put some distance between the ideas that sex is perverted, and that perverts are bad, therefore sex is bad. Whatever the reason, it unsettled me a little…actually quite a lot.

Fortunately, on reading the rest of the book, I completely abandoned the list because there was nothing to properly dislike.

There are so many things to like about this book. I’ll briefly break down the book, then talk about some extras I loved. Obviously am not an expert on sex education (or sex generally) in any sense of the word, so I can’t I just have to assume that the information in this book is factually correct. Having said that, I learned just a ridiculous amount by reading it.

Section 1, Sex the Concept, starts by taking a look at what sex actually is, the various forms of sexual acts, consent and sex positivity. It also tries to advise the reader on how to answer the question Am I ready to have sex? It’s a really interesting chapter, and I was really pleased to see how reassuring the whole thing was. It is made absolutely clear that sex is good, if that’s something you want, and that it’s totally valid and normal if you don’t want sex now, or ever! It also talks about how being sex-positive doesn’t mean you have to be crazy in to kinks fetishes, and the finer points of what constitutes consent.

Section 2, Doin’ it Safely, is all about protection, barriers and contraception. We get a little bit of information about STI’s and the importance of getting tested regularly, including some details about what sort of things testing actually involves. Then it moves on to contraception, starting with condoms. This is probably the best condom related information I’ve read, especially considered the nightmare we were given in school (and if you’ve never heard of the Johnny Condom song, then think yourself lucky…). We also get taught about internal condoms – note, internal, not female, this book is super good at not using gendered terms for things, it’s really trans inclusive which I love. We also get told about things like dental dams and finger cots. Then we get loads of information about forms of birth control, all of which have a list of positives, negatives and some side effects, which I thought was a really good idea. To round off this section there is a chapter on sexting, which I assume is put in the Safely section because it points out that there is always a chance that a sexy pic will be seen by someone other than its intended recipient (and it gives ways to lessen the chance it gets linked back to you), a warning about the legal implications of sexting while under age, and a bit about not how consent extends to pictures as well. Actually the way consent and not sharing other peoples nudes was brought up was really nice to see and well put.

Section 3, Doin’ it with Yourself, is all about healthy exploration of your body, your likes and dislikes and masturbation. This chapter talks about fantasies and how they are normal and healthy, and examining them can help you understand your needs better. But it also talks about how not everything in your head is an actual desire you need to act on, and it says in a non-judgemental way that you can and should find help if you find yourself worried about fantasies. It was a good chapter. Then it talks a bit about the Sexual Response cycle, which I had never heard of but which is basically about how there is more to sex than the orgasm. This section concludes with some advice on masturbation for people with vulvas and people with penises (note that again, there was careful use of inclusive language. This section involves tips on exploring your body, diagrams – both external and internal – of the sexual organs, and a brief look at how sex toys can help with self pleasure.

Section 4, Doin’ it with Others, is all about how sex works with other people. This section takes a look what I suppose are the main forms of sexual contact with others. It breaks down what is involved, how to do it safely,  what to do if things go wrong and all sorts of other good stuff. It includes more diagrams and cartoons, tips and advice and even covers things such as safe and sensible threesomes!

So that’s the content covered, now on to the extra bits I liked.

First off,  is the cartoons throughout. The visual representation of content makes it so easy to absorb and remember. It doesn’t feel cold or clinical or judgemental, it is warm and friendly and  reassuring. The characters featured are really diverse, different races, genders and sexualities. It also includes characters in wheelchairs and with other disabilities, which is something I have not seen in…well in anything if I’m honest. The language in the book is also really carefully selected. I’ve already mentioned how it is trans inclusive, but the book also reminds you from time to time that it’s OK to not want sex, or have a low sex drive.

Ideas such as safe sex, consent and ‘sex should feel good for all involved’ are brought in throughout the book. Each section builds on what came before, providing what I feel is a really well-rounded and detailed look at the subject. Sources are provided whenever statistics are used and wherever the author feels there is more to be said, but not enough space, the reader is provided with websites to look at for further information.

One word of warning, the language in this book is not clinical or…professional seems like the wrong word…it uses a lot of slang words as well as technical terms. As such, this book contains a lot of instances of ‘swear words’, and also cartoons of people engaged in various sexual positions. So this is probably more of a teen+ book…

Final Thoughts…

This book is excellent. I learned a huge amount from this book – I’m not likely to need it, but it’s good to be informed. The comic style of presentation means that this is a book you can easily read in a day and would find it easy to come back to if you needed a reminder. It’s excellent. Read it, give it to your teens and your buddies and your partners. Get informed, bub!

Please Note: I received a copy of this book via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

Book Review: Notes on a Nervous Planet (Matt Haig)

Goodreads Link | Author Website

Insightful, thought provoking, and very, very real.

TL;DR – This book takes a good, hard look at anxiety, grabs it by the collar and yells “Not today!”

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Why I read it…

My mum used to read my chapters of “Reasons to Stay Alive” at night, during one of my worst periods of mental ill-health, I’m not sure how much of it I took in, but it just seemed that reading Haig’s latest offering would be a good idea during my most recent mental health crisis.

The Book…

I suppose you could call this book a self help book, but that doesn’t cover it. More accurately, I supposed it is a collection of ‘anxiety things’, bunched together into a really helpful little manual.

The purpose of the book is to take a good hard look at anxiety, it’s effects on society, and societies effects on it. Through personal stories, quotations, lists and data, Haig takes us through the world of anxiety and offers us things we can do to combat it.

I suppose the big take-away from this book is that modern society is a breeding ground for stress and anxiety, and human beings have not had time to adapt to it. BUT, there are ways to make things feel that little bit better.

This book isn’t going to be a one-stop cure for anxiety disorders, and it isn’t supposed to be. It’s just a collection of useful information and tips, to make something really bad, a little easier.

What I liked…

I suppose the thing I like most about this book (and “Reasons to Stay Alive”) is the fact that Matt Haig doesn’t hold back on his personal experience. He’s not afraid to stand up and talk about his mental health, and to talk about it in detail. One of the parts that stuck out most for me, was when Matt talks about having a panic attack in a shopping center – being surrounded by crowds, being in tears and feeling like the worst has happened. It stuck out for me because I’ve been there, but also because outside of a group therapy session I’ve never heard anyone talk about that before. It’s one of those things that are really hard for people to understand, because they don’t necessarily make sense. These stories of his personal struggles – and the distinct lack of pointless psycho-babble and other rubbish – make the book really relatable, and help to make the rest of the book easier to engage with.

The problem with a lot of books on anything mental health related, is the tendency for them to be written by people who have never personally experienced the things they are talking about, written using a whole bunch of technical sounding terms that tend to just come off as annoying. THIS BOOK DOES NOT DO THIS. The whole book is written in really simple language – as if Haig was sitting in the room telling you his story, instead of you reading it. It’s comforting, and much more approachable. But he also only gives you advice he has tried, and more importantly, he admits the bits of advice he finds hard to follow himself, or that he isn’t very good at doing. It is infinitely easier to follow the advice of someone you  just know understands how overwhelming the advice seems. Someone who freely admits they should be doing something, but they aren’t good at it. Stuff they are trying to get better at.

I also love the way that the book puts focus on the way modern society affects us and can cause us considerable stress and anxiety. Haig explains how elements of society, for example shops or social media or news rely completely on people not feeling content. Feeling they need more, or that something isn’t ‘quite right’. How social media is designed to reward extremes of opinion. Or how the constant stream of camera-phone footage of horrible things happening, can make us feel more involved but also more scared of current events than we ever have been before. He also talks about how many of the things we do day-to-day, are like an addiction. Compulsively checking social media, or taking quick email breaks instead of focusing on one thing at a time. It’s hard to take in frankly. But it is true – I didn’t realise how many random marketing emails I saw every single day until I started unsubscribing from them as a result of reading this book.

Obviously Haig isn’t the only person ever to have spoken about this kind of thing, but he is the only person I’ve come across who managed to put it so clearly, and so obviously that I felt compelled to do something about it.

One final thing I loved about this book was the format. This book has no consistent structure. It is, as Haig puts it, ‘intentionally disorganised’. Each chapter starts with a quote or two, and then the chapter is broken up into seemingly random segments. There are lists, personal stories, data from psychological studies, advice, analysis of society, anxiety and stress…and so on. The reason I love this formatless format so much, is because it makes the whole thing so much easier to take in. You don’t get pages and pages and pages of advice from someone who doesn’t care if you follow it or not. You don’t get long explanations of complex quotations from someone who cares more about coming across intellectual than a ‘real’ person. You get little bits and pieces. Here a story about panic attacks, there a list of things that have gotten faster in recent years, here a bit about addiction and social media, there a little happy thought or bright idea. Mental health is hard to read about, especially when every story can trigger memories of your own – but this quirky little format experiment breaks it all up, and makes for a peculiar, but brilliant read.

What I disliked…

I didn’t dislike anything about the book. I disliked how I felt reading it at times, but that is obviously not Matt Haig’s fault.

One thing you should note, is that Matt does talk about suicide at times so if that’s a trigger for you, be aware.

Final thoughts…

This book made me feel a little less alone. I think everyone should read it, just to get a real, pure look into mental health problems.

Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!