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Birds & Bees... Not STIDs

February is the month for exploit—I mean—celebrating love!
Romance fiction does that 24/7/365, which is awesome.

What’s NOT awesome?

Far too many contemporary hetero romance novels still include scenes similar to the following:
Things are getting hot and heavy. Clothes are coming off, then they realize no one has any condoms.

He says,” I’m clean.”

She says, “Me, too. And I’m on birth control. I’m safe.” (Or “I’m protected.”)

My thoughts as a reader: No you’re not!

[This author’s confession: I’m a reformed offender in the general category of scientific fact versus fiction regarding medical accuracy in sex scenes. Ex. as in physical evidence of virginity.]

Even acknowledging that it’s fiction with expectations of creative license and a reader’s suspension of disbelief doesn’t make any variation on the core message of this factually untrue exchange acceptable this far into the 21st(!) century. Sexual activity involves risks. Safer sex practices* mitigate them. Rates of sexually transmitted infections and diseases have generally been increasing, not declining, in recent years in the U.S. with a trend toward steeper rates of infection among young adults and senior citizens. [CDC]
(Surprise! AARP membership and sexy times are not mutually exclusive.) 

Here are two books** that can help people make informed decisions about their sexual activities and their overall medical health as proactive collaborators with their healthcare professionals. (And yes, unfortunately, easy, equitable access to affordable, high-quality healthcare is not—yet—a universal truth.)

*Thanks to for the free samples, and their site’s suggestion for users to test the compatibility the lube with toys, etc.

**No matter how accurate, books are not substitutes for consultation with and treatment by scientifically informed, accredited, licensed and board certified medical professionals.

Sex for Dummies, 4th Edition
By Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer with Pierre A. Lehu
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.  October 2019

On page 39 Dr. Ruth states that “good sexual functioning is the primary purpose of this book.” It delivers. A brief overview of the scientific studies conducted by Masters, Johnson, and the author’s mentor, Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan segues into explanations of basic anatomy, terminology, and instructive anecdotes. All of the information is presented in manageable blocks of related details that flow on the page as if spoken by Dr. Ruth directly into the reader’s ear. Although early on Sex for Dummies acknowledges its heterosexual focus, throwback heteronormative assumptions are noticeable. This observation on page 122 is one of them: “…finding out about an unintended pregnancy can be one of the loneliest and scariest moments of an unmarried woman’s life.” Marital status alone doesn’t dictate a person’s attitude toward an unintended pregnancy. Commentary about date rape and abortions, porn, and prostitution may also generate robust debate. Icons, illustrations, side bars, subheadings, and an appendix full of suggested resources, combined with Dr. Ruth’s pragmatic approach to healthy sex as an essential element of life presents medical information in an accessible way.

Our Bodies, Ourselves, 40th Anniversary Edition
The Boston Women’s Health Collective and Judy Norsigian
Atria Books  October 2011

Originally conceived at a time when the bikini approach (Dr. Tara Narula’s phrase) to treating women’s medical health was the norm, Our Bodies, Ourselves supported a holistic philosophy upon which this fortieth anniversary edition continues and expands. It’s a comprehensive user’s manual for female human bodies. Based in scientific fact, this text does not judge; it provides essential information to encourage people to make thoughtful choices based on their specific circumstances. There’s a hierarchical ranking of sexual activities from most to least risk that may generate some debate among medical professionals.

Although it addresses an exhaustive range of medical considerations and phases of life, Our Bodies, Ourselves does not eliminate the need for regular in-person consultation with legitimate medical professionals. This text does offer readers information that helps facilitate a deeper understanding of one’s body or partner’s/partners’ bodies, and effectiveness in conversations between patients and medical practitioners. It encourages people to become informed consumers of and advocates for their overall healthcare.


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