Book Review: The Sex Ed You Never Had by Chantelle Otten

One of the reasons that I began including sex positive content on this blog was to satisfy my passion for sex education. Growing up, I didn’t receive a lot of instruction regarding sex and my body. At school, I was given the most basic information about sex and puberty. My understanding of sexuality was cobbled together from these few bits of formal instruction, facts gleaned from the sealed section of Girlfriend Magazine, and a few questionable conversations with my mates at slumber parties. When I reached adulthood, I was astonished by how much I didn’t know about sex, and how much of what I thought I knew was actually dead wrong.

I became fascinated with learning as much as I could about sex. And I was eager to share what I had learned with my readers, because I wanted them to have that knowledge too. I know that most of us didn’t grow up with comprehensive sex education, and I want to do my bit to create a sex-positive world where we can be curious about sex. I like being able to fill in the gaps in my own sexual knowledge, and help others do the same. And I’m always eager to share a good resource that helps you to do just that. Which is why I want to talk about this book, The Sex Ed You Never Had by Chantelle Otten.

When I saw the title of this book, I knew that it would be right up my alley. The pop-art colours on the cover drew me in and I couldn’t resist taking a copy home. As I read the introduction, my excitement grew. Chantelle Otten is a psycho-sexologist who grew up in Australia around the same time I did. She had experienced the dearth of sex education in Australia in the 80’s and 90’s, and had written this book as a way to give people the sex education she wishes she’d had growing up. The book is aimed at adults who have realised that they don’t know as much about sex as they’d like, but it’s also a great resource for younger people who are beginning to get curious about sex.

The book is written in a light-hearted, conversational tone. It uses accurate terminology, but it never comes across as clinical or judgmental. It’s an easy read, and explains the concepts clearly and accurately. A lot of the sex education I received growing up was very fear-based, and made sex seem scary and dangerous. This book highlights the importance of safer sex and the potential consequences of sex, but it balances this by looking at all the great things about sexuality and getting to know your body. The chatty language and cute illustrations make it less intimidating than some of the other educational books available.

One thing that drew me to this book is the sheer range of topics that it covers. It discusses the topics that you’d expect in a book on sex education: anatomy, STI’s, puberty, contraception and conception. But it goes on to explore a lot of topics that get missed when we talk about sex education, such as pleasure, communication, healthy relationships, gender and queer sexuality. Most of the sex education that’s taught at school focuses only on heterosexual relationships, and is centered around how to avoid unplanned pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections. I never learned anything about how to decide if you’re ready to have sex, how to have good sex or how to have sex with someone who doesn’t have a penis. This book talks about all of these topics and more. There’s even an entire chapter about kink!

This book provides a really good overview of a wide range of sexuality topics. It goes into a lot more detail on some topics than others. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I think if the author had tried to cover every topic in detail, the book would have been about a thousand pages long! The Sex Ed You Never Had gives you lots of information about the most important topics, such as consent, anatomy and safer sex. It provides a broader overview of some topics, enough to give you a basic understanding. It’s a good resource for developing a better understanding of sexuality, and provides a jumping-off point if you want to do more detailed research on certain topics that are relevant to you.

The Sex Ed You Never Had is very inclusive, using gender-neutral language and taking a sex-positive approach to discussing sex education. It uses both clinical and colloquial terms for genitalia and it has a fairly relaxed vibe. It reminded me a lot of the magazines I used to read as a teenager, except less cringy and a lot more factual. It also includes discussion about sex and disability, which is often left out of sex ed resources. It talks a lot more about the social aspects of sex than most resources tend to do. The book has sections on how to talk about consent, how to plan for your first time and how to tell your partner what you want (or don’t want) in bed. It even has some simple scripts that you can adapt to make those awkward conversations a little less so.

I loved The Sex Ed You Never Had. It was a genuinely enjoyable and informative read. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on sexuality and anatomy, and even I learned a thing or two. I would recommend this book for any adult who feels like their sex education was lacking. I also think it would make a great resource for any parents to share with their teen or tween kids. You could easily pick and choose relevant chapters to discuss at different stages, or you could gift a copy to your kids to read at their own pace. I feel like this book is the sex education we should ALL have!

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