Book Review: Good Sexual Citizenship
I reviewed this book which was provided for free by the publisher. However, I do not receive any compensation for reviews. All book reviews are My personal and subjective opinion.
Going against the advice of never judging a book by it's cover, I chose to read Good Sexual Citizenship by Ellen Friedrichs because of it's title. I'm not sure what I expected to find within, but I was delighted by the contents. Friedrichs covers from toddlerhood to adult: how to be a good sexual citizen, raise good sexual citizens, confront your biases, and advocate for others. Weighing in at 287 pages making up 6 chapters, Good Sexual Citizenship is an intimidating volume, but worth the investment. While reading, I was frequently reminded of textbooks from college; study was enjoyable and this was definitely a book to keep, yet needed to be consumed slowly to absorb the material. Good Sexual Citizenship is not a book you can skim through, and you would be doing a disservice to even attempt it.
Starting from the very beginning, Friedrichs tries to be as inclusive as possible; Friedrichs introduced me to the acronym LGBTQQIP2SAA, meaning: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit (2S), androgynous, and asexual. LGBTQQIP2SAA and the use of language regarding queer are mentioned early in a footnote. In the spirit of inclusivity, Friedrichs also explains terms that some readers may not be familiar with so that they don't get lost in the evolving landscape of sexuality.
Throughout Good Sexual Citizenship, Friedrichs literally breaks the discussion down for the reader. Short sections are often boxed off to cover something relevant to the topic such as history, laws, or anecdotes. Sectioning helps break up the reading so it's more digestible and easy to reference sections later rather than searching through a sea of text. Occasionally one of these break out boxes are to cover "What you may have heard and why that's BS", a very amusing and eye opening section. At the end of each chapter there are questions relating to the previously covered material, but not as a test of your reading comprehension, as a test of your morals. These questions are valuable in gauging your conditioned response and give you an opportunity to address your thinking and change it before you're up into situations that can be challenging to handle.
Good Sexual Citizenship begins by confronting our biases: where they come from, how to spot them, how to confront them in ourselves, and how to call them out in others. Following biases is discussed in "standing up for sex", which is almost a misleading title. One might think standing up for sex is about joining a campaign or march, but it's more about standing up for you! Friedrich helps the reader separate from learned shame to reclaim their own sexuality. Personal sexual-emotional health flows into discussions about consent, empathy, and dismantling sexual violence.
Having learned the basics of good sexual citizenship, Friedrich moves on to raising good sexual citizens and being supportive of young ones around you. The current wave of parents are trying to do better for the next generation than we were raised: not pushing stereotypes, holding space for children who are questioning their identity, and confronting our feelings on situations that may be new to us (such as boys wearing dresses). Questions at the end of the chapter are poignant, addressing scenarios that are sensitive, pivotal for developing minds, and not encountered on a regular basis by the average adult.
Natural progression is to then address the teen sex situation, which is more important than one would initially think. Teens are often brushed off as "still children", yet they are old enough to vote, becoming parents themselves, and are frequently impacted by laws they're supposedly too ignorant to understand (ie abortion & women's health). This chapter reveals the truth about teen sex statistics, porn, dress codes, sending nudes, supporting teens and their sexuality, and how good sex education is beneficial for everyone.
Book namesake, the last chapter (six) "Good Sexual Citizenship" really does wrap everything up nicely in a bow. The explanation on how hostility turns to violence and using our words really can make a difference in the safety of others, combines lessons learns from previous chapters and puts them into action. Though it was the chapter I'd been looking forward to the most, and irritated that I'd have to wait till the end for, by the time I read Chapter 6 I wasn't as excited by it anymore. Initially I thought all of Good Sexual Citizenship was going to be a a primer on manners, political correctness, pronouns, and how to be an ally to LGBTQ+ people. It turns out, being a good sexual citizen is much more than protocol, it's not grand gestures that make change. What makes change is subtle actions stemming from self-awareness which ripple out to cause large scale reform, and it starts with you.
As stated before, Good Sexual Citizenship is a dense book, however, it is not dry, boring, or irrelevant. I would recommend Good Sexual Citizenship to parents, educators, social & sexual justice warriors, and LGBTQ+ allies.
You can purchase Good Sexual Citizenship: How to Create a (Sexually) Safer World by Ellen Friedrichs here.
About the Author
Ellen Friedrichs is a health educator, writer, and mom of three. She now lives in New York where she runs a middle and high school health education program and teaches at Brooklyn College. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the HuffPost, and Rewire News. She was a contributing writer for everydayfeminism.com, edited About.com's (now dotdash.com) LGBT teens site, and penned a teen sex education column for gURL.com. She has answered thousands of anonymous sex questions; first for Planned Parenthood’s teen website and currently for the Okayso app. Follow her on twitter and Instagram @ellenkatef.