________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 10. . . .January 9, 2009


The Little Black Book for Guys: Guys Talk About Sex: By Youth, for Youth.

St. Stephen's Community House.
Toronto, ON: Annick, 2008.
244 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55037-962-4.

Subject Headings:
Sex instruction for boys-Juvenile literature.
Teenage boys-Sexual behavior-Juvenile literature.
Teenage boys-Health and hygiene-Juvenile literature.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up, plus Parents, Teachers and Sexuality Educators.

Review by Joanne Peters.

**** /4


More than year ago, I had the opportunity to co-review The Little Black Book for Girlz: A Book on Healthy Sexuality, also produced by St. Stephen's Community House. The Little Black Book for Girlz was certainly different from anything currently available for a teen readership, in terms of its frank language, emotion, and content. I wondered if something similar would be produced by a group of young men. Well, here it is:

What you got here is a book that was put together mostly by young men who've spent time at St. Stephen's Youth Arcade. Hanging out with each other, and with our main man Marlon Merraro and our number one guy Gordon McLean who helped run the drop-in program, we realized that guys have their own issues and questions about sex. Problem is we don't spend a lot of time talking about it with each other. Well, that's b%$^@#+! It's the 21st century. We figured: here we were living in Toronto末one of the most diverse cities in the world末with every kind of person you could talk to, but we weren't talking. If we weren't, chances are, a lot of guys out there weren't either.

So we started talking. We made lists of stuff we wanted to know or discuss. We talked about stuff we'd been through personally末relationships, sex, even getting girls pregnant. And you know what? Hearing about this stuff is a lot more interesting coming from a real guy your own age than from some public health pamphlet. That's why we started to write this stuff down... next thing we knew... we had ourselves a book. And now you have yourself a book.

     And, like Sex for Guys (CM, Vol. XIV, No. 10), this is not a "public health pamphlet" either (not that there is anything inherently wrong with public health material.) The Little Black Book for Girlz began with relationships, perhaps because that is where most women situate sexuality issues. Well, the opening chapter of The Little Black Book for Guys is all about "The Love Machine" (a.k.a. the penis), and provides a thorough and complete discussion of that organ's inputs, output, and general functioning. Then, the book gets to "Making the Connection: Relationships," and the second chapter offers good advice, sensitivity, and genuine caring about and for partners of either gender. One of the strengths of this book is its inclusivity. I have looked at a number of resources for gay teens, and this one is noteworthy for its treatment of the many tough issues they face: dealing with the gender norms of high school culture, the challenge of finding partner, and, of course, the anxieties of "coming out," both to friends and to parents. The advice provided is practical, supportive, and non-judgmental. This book acknowledges that casual, recreational sex happens, but the writers of this book stress the value of relationships, as well as providing advice on making relationships work and on how to end them, when they don't. Birth control and STD prevention each have their own complete chapters, and in those pages, the reminder to "wear a condom" is a constant refrain. Really tough situations 末 pregnancy, hurtful break-ups, and a myriad of consequences stemming from irresponsible sexual behaviour 末 are addressed as well. As the guys who put this book together would say, "@#$% happens." There are no pretenses that there are any easy solutions, but plenty of insights are offered, and a Resource List (containing both validated web sites and toll-free help lines), cross-referenced with each chapter, and a Glossary provide additional materials for those needing it.

      Like its counterpart for "Girlz," this Little Black Book uses an edgy zine-style format to grab and hold its teen audience. Poems, street language, black line drawings (in the style of today's graphic novels), and plenty of short personal reminiscences add authenticity and humour. At $9.95, this little paperback is a bargain; affordability is important because teacher-librarians, guidance counselors, and sexuality/family life teachers will need to buy more than one copy of this book. Like Sex for Guys and The Little Black Book for Girlz, The Little Black Book for Guys will be "borrowed" or somehow, mysteriously disappear, never to return.

      So go ahead and buy two copies, so that you will have one waiting for the time when the first has gone MIA.

Highly Recommended.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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