In a park
Flatiron books
2021 | 358pp | £ 23.99
ISBN 9781250206626

A picture showing the book cover of strange bedfellows

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I had my first sex class when I was 12 years old and to be clear, it was anti-climactic. Aside from the idea that sex is bad, not much has been taught shortly followed by video clips of body parts. This, of course, led to a lot of confusion growing up. And this is exactly where the problem lies for many people around the world.

The misconceptions about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) stem from the stories of promiscuity and negligence that children experience at a young age. While this can deter young people from such activities, it also leads to a lack of real education and preparation when things get a little bumpy (or fishy) down there. Even in adulthood, pronouncing the acronym brings out a certain awkward silence, a few murmurs and jokes in the room. Indeed, Strange bedfellows Author Ina Park specifically mentions this in the first chapter, citing that herpes, the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, has been the joke on television and stand-up comedy for decades. However, when you show the statistics that almost every second sexually active person gets a sexually transmitted disease at least once in their life, one wonders why such a common occurrence carries so much weight.

Park has set itself the task of breaking down the taboo on these infections and promoting healthy discussion and education. Strange bedfellows presents itself as a comedic yet informative commentary on the hidden world of sexually transmitted diseases.

Each chapter deals with a different disease, from genital herpes to supergonorrhea to HIV. The history of each infection is presented along with anecdotes and patient reports. Park’s writing style is informative yet light-hearted. She warns you of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, but does not berate you for leading your free and sexual life. In fact, she encourages it – along with regular testing. Park also shares her own experiences – from what inspired her to write the book to her first encounter with a Brazilian wax. It is evident that Park wants one thing to be heard loud and clear: STDs, pubic hair, and body functions are natural and shouldn’t be embarrassed.

Strange bedfellows is not your average encyclopedia of infectious diseases. Instead, you’ll be laughing out loud one minute and furiously booking a gynecology appointment the next. The narration of the book is friendly, informative, but not instructive or condescending. There is a perfect balance between science and humor that not only educates but also comforts you – like a big sister or a friend.

Park closes the book with some important messages. One of them is, “I want everyone who reads this book to have as much satisfying, consensual sex as their heart desires.” These words are especially relevant in this day and age when casual sex is normalized, but regular checkups still aren’t. Strange bedfellows is a relevant and encouraging book that everyone, regardless of age or gender, should read at some point during their sexual journey.

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