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ABC of Sexual Health.
  1. Church Lane Practice, Merton Park, London, UK

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    ABC of Sexual Health. Edited by John Tomlinson. (Pp 61; £13.95.) BMJ Books, 1999. ISBN 0-7279-1373-5.

    The ABC series is well known for being clear, concise, and comprehensive but this volume on sexual health scores most highly for candour, especially its illustrations. Doubtless they prompted the incongruous red warning triangle on the cover.

    While the illustrations, though indeed explicit are generally apposite, some are quite baffling such as the photograph of two middle class white people supposedly illustrating cultural differences in ethnic minorities. While there is minor duplication in both pictures and text, sloppy copy editing is a major flaw. I detected four typos on p 42 alone.

    There is much useful, up to date information on topics ranging from pregnancy to sex toys. The chapter on sexual history taking will be particularly helpful to a wide range of clinicians. Overall, however, the book fails to live up to even its own expectations. Michael Adler claims it is “bad medicine” to force one's personal sexual attitudes and beliefs on others yet the book's authors frequently attempt to do this—for example, “Defining normality is extremely difficult (and arbitrary), because the definition involves making a value judgment”.

    The editor hopes the book will help readers “feel comfortable about male and female emotions and relationships”, yet anatomy, physiology, sexual problems, dysfunctions, and “variations” constitute most of the content. In vain did I search for any mention of love, intimacy, fidelity, and commitment, or indeed anything at all to do with the context and meaning of sex. Surely a glaring omission in any book about sexual health?

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