12:15 PM EDT, July 8, 2014
Almost as fun as reading "Don't Put That In There! And 69 Other Sex Myths Debunked" (St. Martin's Griffin) is catching the glances of your fellow commuters as you devour it on the El.
With chapter titles that include "Nobody Has Pubic Hair These Days," "Oysters, Chocolate, Bananas … Viagra?" and "Big Feet, Big Hands, Big …" (those are just the ones I can reference in a family newspaper), you just know people are straining to read over your shoulder.
"If it's boring, no one wants to read it," co-author Aaron E. Carroll told me Monday, a few days after the book's July 1 release.
It's not boring.
"Too often when you're talking about sex or sexuality, it can go too far in one direction; it's so clinical and not humorous at all, or it's all treated as a joke," he said. "We wanted to be able to talk about science and evidence and data, but still make it very accessible."
Carroll and co-author Rachel Vreeman are both practicing pediatricians and associate professors at Indiana University's School of Medicine. They also co-wrote 2009's "Don't Swallow Your Gum: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health" and 2011's "Don't Cross Your Eyes ...They'll Get Stuck That Way! And 75 Other Health Myths Debunked," both published by St. Martin's Griffin.
"Don't Put That In There!" is divided into five parts: men, women, sex, getting pregnant and sexually transmitted infections. Within each part are two- to three-page chapters devoted to popular misconceptions surrounding everything from the average penis size to who masturbates to whether women match men in the sexual appetite department.
(In short: 6.4 inches; the vast majority of people; they do.)
"You'd be surprised how often there is research on these topics," Carroll said. "The great part, and the tragedy, is so much work has been put into good methods and good research and published work in peer-reviewed journals and, yet, a lot of these myths are still so pervasive."
Still, some topics have, thus far, eluded researchers.
From the chapter titled, "Bald Is Best": "We could not find any studies describing how common it is to get 'vajazzled' — a process whereby one has all of one's pubic hair removed, and then crystals, glitter or other decorative items are temporarily applied to the genital area in a design of one's choice."
Mostly, though, the book is bursting with statistics, authoritative research, historical context — and a delightful bit of humor. It's well worth a read.
Carroll and his wife have three children, the oldest of whom is 12. I asked if he's planning to let them read his book. Eventually, he said.
"Some of the myths they're ready for, some require more conversation first," he said. "We try to be very open and let the kids know we're approachable on the subject of sex, and I hope this book encourages that. We should all be able to have open conversations about sex."
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