A guided tour through the science of sexually transmitted infections.
Park, a physician who specializes in STIs, begins with an explanation of terminology. “The subtitle…uses STD, as I felt that term would be most recognizable….But I use STI as much as I can throughout the book, because that is where I think we are headed eventually.” Within this alternatingly fascinating, perplexing, and stomach-turning report, the author nonjudgmentally illustrates how STIs are one of the unfortunate forms of “interplay between sex and society as far back as the 1500s.” She begins with genital herpes, a “sneaky” virus that hides in nerve cells and reemerges as a recurrent “unwelcome guest.” A research conference in Brazil is the perfect setting for Park’s meditation on the pros and cons of “pubic landscaping” while a scientific glance at vaginal microbiomes reveals the vulnerability of women to undesirable bacterial compositions. The author never glosses over a topic; each chapter is a thoughtful combination of scientific study and informative anecdote. Park’s exuberance is obvious throughout, whether she is discussing how orgasmic meditation can mitigate the risks of STI contraction from sexual activity with multiple partners or the University of Washington’s “two-week-long boot camp on STIs and HIV.” Via lively, creative efforts to diffuse the lingering stigma surrounding genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, and other maladies, Park generously shares her knowledge and clinical experience, some of which is quite sobering—e.g., the possible connection between HPV and anal cancer and the more recent proliferation of terrifying antibiotic-resistant “superbug” STIs. The author also demystifies a variety of relevant issues, including HIV prevention and “female condoms,” weaving in knowledgeable input from public health experts, vaccine researchers, focus groups, and even a network of contact-tracing “sex detectives.” Fans of witty, meticulously researched chronicles of intriguing popular science topics—think Mary Roach—will devour this fluid mixture of scholarship and levity.
A fresh, funny, sex-positive book that effectively destigmatizes sexual disease.