BOOK REVIEW: Doing It! Let’s Talk About Sex by Hannah Witton

BOOK REVIEW: Doing It! Let’s Talk About Sex by Hannah Witton

Hachette Children’s Group
May 2017
Paperback, $18.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Children & Teenagers/Sexuality & Relationships for Children & Teenagers

8.5/10

 

 

For the majority of people “sex education” – if they even receive it from parents or schools – is scant at best. It typically involves telling young people to wait for as long as possible and informing them about contraception and how to avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Writer, vlogger, and online sex educator, Hannah Witton is trying to change this with her popular YouTube videos about a range of different topics and her book, Doing It! Let’s Talk About Sex. This is a primer that’s pitched at younger readers (ages 14+) but it also contains some straightforward and practical advice that could also be useful to older audiences.

The world of sex, dating, relationships, love, self-discovery and acceptance isn’t always easy. Doing it is hard and no one is perfect at it. There isn’t a single person or a person in a relationship that I know (myself included) that has completely got it together. Sex and relationships education isn’t just something you learn and experience and then you’re done. It’s a process that takes your whole life and this is the accumulation of my knowledge and experience up until now.

The world we live in is constantly evolving and this is shaping our relationships and our sex lives. This is particularly evident in Witton’s book when she sits down for a fascinating talk with her 53-year-old mum, 74-year-old gran and her 102-year-old great-grandmother. The experiences that these four women had in their respective sex educations is incredibly different. Hannah’s great-grandmother learned from her late husband (who had bedded the family maid when he was 16), her gran learned from a friend, and her mother received an education at school that came too late because she was already sexually active and on the pill at that time. It’s also fascinating to read about how sanitary products and pregnancy tests have evolved. Did you know that in the early 20th century a pregnancy test involved injecting a woman’s urine into a female frog, mouse or rabbit? Neither did we.

This book isn’t just a history lesson. Witton also wants readers to gain some practical advice:

I want this book to educate you, I want this book to feel like your friend gossiping with you, I want this book to make you feel normal, comfortable, empowered and in control of your body. I want this book to cradle and support you and I want it to allow you to just be yourself. Maybe I’m asking a lot from it, so I hope you understand that some of this has to come from you too.

The topics Witton covers are interesting. She busts myths about losing your virginity and how STIs are transmitted. There is also a useful chapter about lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transsexual and queer (LGBTQ+) people and as Witton is a heterosexual cis-gender female she enlists some other writers. Their contributions offer up a very personal look at love and relationships from the LGBTQ+ perspective.

Witton also offers heterosexual cis-gender people some good advice on how they can support their friends and peers who are LGBTQ+. This involves things like: check your privilege, listen, amplify others’ voices, educate yourself, understand that this is not your moment to shine, don’t take breaks/retreat to your safe place of privilege and learn how to say sorry.

This book is very informal and conversational at times and it feels like you are getting advice from a trusted older sister. In some chapters Witton enlists a lawyer to discuss some issues involving sex and the law in a manner that is grounded and easy to understand. Witton herself offers up no judgements in her text and she is often self-deprecating and funny when she needs to be and serious when the topic warrants it. Witton should be commended for being so forthright and honest in her anecdotes and thoughts. She freely admits to learning about different things when she was in relationships and as a single girl and she is also unafraid to dig deep and describe what losing her virginity was like:

Even though it’s not the most typically romantic story: no rose petals, no bubble bath or candles, I have no regrets about the first time I had sex.

We had a great relationship and we truly cared about each other, there was trust, respect and communication and I am so grateful for that because I know not everyone’s experience is remembered so positively and fondly.

Witton’s book is ultimately an extension of her famous YouTube videos and is laid-out in an appealing way with quirky designs and diagrams. It is not comprehensive because some topics, like mental illness, thrush, and stealthing fail to get a look in. But it does offer some contact information for people to seek out additional information should they choose.

Witton should also consider writing a book pitched at older readers. If she did this she could tackle some more mature topics like kink and BDSM and subjects like miscarriage and pregnancy in more detail. But for this particular audience (ages 14+) Doing It! is ultimately a well-balanced and informative look at a range of relevant topics like: masturbation, sex shaming, body image, sexual pleasure, porn, sexting and more.

Don’t It! is a volume that should be required reading for all teenagers because it will help inform them and ensure that conversations about sex are real and sensible, not clinical and staid. Witton’s should be applauded for her personal and practical advice because it does not preach or sugar-coat and is non-judgmental. She is also unafraid to tackle subjects that could be considered by some to be uncomfortable to discuss or outright taboo. Don’t It! proves that education is crucial and that we can all benefit from getting real and having a frank and open dialogue about such important subjects.

BOOK REVIEW: Doing It! Let’s Talk About Sex by Hannah Witton

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