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Doing It

Review

Doing It

Sexual education is not mandatory in the United States. Less than half of the states require any type of sexual education be taught. The states that do teach sex and relationship education are varied in what they cover as there really isn’t any set curriculum. A majority of states stress the importance of abstinence and little else. While there are no states that outright ban teaching/talking about sex ed, most people can agree that the state of sexual education in America is a messy, complicated joke --- one with very real consequences.

I live in a state where sexual education is not mandatory, it can be taught varying from schools and content, but it is not required. I am 17-years-old, I have finished my high school education (albeit it wasn’t exactly traditional), and I never received any type of formal sexual education --- wait, that’s not entirely true. I was taught how important it is to use a condom and that abstinence is the only true way to remain STD and pregnancy-free. That is not enough.

"Reading DOING IT was as easy as speaking to a friend. It’s not a textbook, nor does it resort to scare tactics to keep readers unnecessarily nervous about sex. Witton writes both facts and her own personal anecdotes, never confusing the two."

I believe in educating myself where the education system has failed, so I, like many other young (or not-so) people took to the internet to inform myself. While I learned a little, there is also a lot of misinformation out there; it can at times be difficult to know what is true when you’ve been formally taught literally nothing. Constantly I would read things that contradicted one another; see or learn something that I wasn’t looking for. Because of this, I pretty much stopped trying to learn anything on the topic. But one day a few years ago, I stumbled upon Hannah Witton’s YouTube channel in where she talks about sex and all things relating to it in a positive and unthreatening manner. I remember thinking how great this was, how great it would be if even a little bit of what she was talking about was taught in schools, how great it would be if she wrote a book.

Well, last year she wrote DOING IT which was published in the United Kingdom and has now made its way to the United States. In DOING IT, Witton and other contributors discuss topics like sexual education, virginity, contraception and consent; as well as sexual pleasure, being LGBTQ+, body image, healthy relationships, porn, sexting and the laws pertaining to these topics. Witton has written an easily approachable book with introductions to topics that should be talked about, but aren’t. In writing this, Hannah Witton offers a safe and reliable way for us to get informed on these “taboo” topics.

While I am someone who is all for sex positivity, I still get extremely awkward at the mention of it. I’ve worked hard to educate myself and know a fair amount, but there is still a stigma around sex. That it is dirty and wrong, that one should not talk about it in a public setting --- or most private ones for that matter. I hear anyone mention sex and I blush. I could never bring myself to ask any questions regarding sex or relationships in real life because of this stigma and the fear of what people would think; that I would know too much or far too little. But then I started reading DOING IT. Now, if you had told me just a few months ago that I would be sitting right next to my mom and sister, reading about sexual pleasure, I would’ve called you crazy. But there I was, just reading this book with a cover that clearly states what it’s about, no room to hide. What’s more is that I didn’t feel ashamed --- at all. I, a girl who cocoons herself in a blanket when a kissing scene in a movie comes on, was comfortably reading about the awkward things that come along with having sex. How did this happen?

In DOING IT Hannah Witton discusses sex in a very open and positive manner. There is no judgment, there is no lecturing. Reading DOING IT was as easy as speaking to a friend. It’s not a textbook, nor does it resort to scare tactics to keep readers unnecessarily nervous about sex. Witton writes both facts and her own personal anecdotes, never confusing the two. She adds a very human element to a topic that a lot of people seem to distance themselves when talking about or teaching it. Hannah’s charisma on-screen translates with ease to paper, which made for a humorous, bubbly and educational read.

Besides Hannah’s entertaining and enlightening writing, readers will also get to read letters from contributors including: members of the LGBTQ+ community on their sexuality, a female adult cinema director on pornography, a lawyer who discusses laws around consent and sexting and more. This was one of my favorite features of the book. Instead of writing on a topic she couldn’t personally relate to or just writing a friend’s story, Witton handed the book off to someone to write in their own voice. We get to hear from someone who is asexual about their asexuality, someone who is gender-fluid talk about their fluidity, someone who is trans talk about their experiences and so on. Even better is that all these guest writers have an online presence, with most of them being YouTubers. So, if a reader feels a personal connection with the writer of a piece, or if someone wants to educate themselves further on any specific topic, their information is right there for the reader to look up and delve further into.

Now, this is not a particularly in-depth book and shouldn’t be your sole reliance on sexual education. DOING IT presents a ton of information, but I think ultimately serves more as an introduction to the broad range of subjects surrounding sex and relationships. But that does not subtract from how wonderful and important of a read this is. After all, it’s hard to know what you should be trying to inform yourself on when there is really just so many things pertaining to sex and our bodies. Witton introduces us to some of the things we should be aware of and gives us a good jumping off point for us to then (comfortably!) do our own research. When I was reading, I actually felt comfortable enough to ask people in my life about their own sex education --- something I never would’ve been able to do prior! Turns out: my mom never had sex education, my older sister learned just slightly more about sex than I did but the focus was still mainly on abstinence and condoms, friends of mine are in those same boats. These people, 17 and older, who are or have been in some way sexually/romantically active learned essentially nothing. Isn’t that absolutely absurd?

There are an endless number of positive things about this book that I cannot overstate. However, I did find myself wishing that there were some things changed or added. DOING IT features pages with very bold prints. I can see why they were there, they make the reading experience feel a little less uniform, less serious and more casual. However, I often found myself getting distracted by the patterns because they are just so in your face. So, I wish that would’ve been toned down quite a bit. As far as things I wish had been included in the book, I wish there had been more racial diversity. The majority of contributors are white. There are many topics in this book, but none of them are about race. I think it definitely could’ve had a place in here. Even if it wasn’t as its own topic, then there should’ve been a few non-white voices telling their experiences with relationships, dating, body image…there was a lot of room to include non-white voices, but they were just unfortunately left out. The last big thing that I didn’t enjoy is that you could tell when it was being held back. This is a book aimed at 14+, so obviously, it must be appropriate for a reader who is 14 (or even younger!). But it sometimes felt glaringly obvious when Witton wanted to go more in-depth on something but couldn’t due to restrictions beyond her control. There really is no way to fix that, so maybe it’s silly to even mention. But that does make me hope to see another book by Witton in the future, one that is aimed for a more adult crowd and as such can get into the things that had to be skimmed over in here.

 Teenagers get curious about sex. If one is curious enough to ask, they should be given a proper answer. Saying things along the lines of “You’re too young, you’ll figure it out later” aren’t in any way helpful. Sex is something the majority of the population takes part in. Teenagers participate in sexual activities while having no proper education on it. That’s dumb and dangerous. We should be getting educated about sex, about relationships, about our bodies --- most of us aren’t. It’s okay if you aren’t ready to learn about this stuff, but if you are, DOING IT offers a safe and comfortable learning experience. If you are a parent or authoritative figure in a minor’s life and they start asking questions you don’t quite know how to answer, reading DOING IT gives you a good place to start the conversation. DOING IT doesn’t have to be read cover to cover, topics can just be consulted upon when needed, so finding the time isn’t an issue.

There is no harm in this book or in talking about sex. Sure, it can be awkward and maybe even a bit scary to talk about at first, but it doesn’t have to be, and that’s what Witton truly accomplishes in writing DOING IT. In just 5 days, I can already see the genuine impact this book is having on my life. Sex was a thing that when talking about it in a real-world setting quite frankly terrified me because of how little I knew and how many negative things I’d heard about it. Hannah Witton has taken that fear away. Life is confusing and scary, sex doesn’t have to be an added source to that. I feel comfortable and confident in talking about the things she mentioned because of how natural she made them sound. Because after all, sex is pretty natural!

DOING IT should absolutely be in schools and libraries. I think not letting young people have access to a book like this is doing your community a great disservice. Yes, it talks about sex, but it does not promote it. DOING IT does not tell the reader to go out right this instant and have sex. DOING IT tells readers how to be safe when and if that time arrives. It promotes being healthy, and not just sexually, mind you! But maybe even more than that, Witton promotes compassion and general understanding --- something we could all use a little more of.

Reviewed by Olivia W., Teen Board Member on July 10, 2018

Doing It
by Hannah Witton