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Useful reading

Some time ago, I became curious about connections between various health conditions - things like interstitial cystitis and other aspects of reproductive well-being. I have a good friend who is a nurse practitioner in sexual health, and she (and maybe a couple other people?) recommended The V Book: A Doctor's Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health, by Elizabeth Stewart and Paula Spencer. The long and short of it is, this is a tremendously insightful and in-depth book for women and if you have female reproductive parts you should own a copy even if you don't read it right away.

For example: good luck finding useful information about yeast infections online, if and when you want it. I don't have problems with them, but was curious about causes and prevention for the sake of optimal well-being. Stewart points out that there are a lot of other clinical conditions, particularly bacterial vaginosis, that often get self-misdiagnosed as chronic yeast infections, which is why it's a REALLY good idea to work with a clinician to diagnose and resolve whatever is going on in every individual's case, using the correct diagnostic methods.

Stewart describes, with the key biological details, how a healthy reproductive tract works, and all of the different ways things can go awry, as she's observed over decades of clinical work. Boy does this make me wonder about the state of women's health on a global scale. It was useful to learn about the various types of disturbances that can disrupt one's microbial ecosystems, as well as treatments that are harmful or useless (e.g. most diet changes do nothing). She also provides specifics about what can be done to cope with or correct disruptions due to things like changing estrogen levels across life stages. She discusses in detail how hormonal differences between men and women mean that very low doses of testosterone (relative to men) can have useful benefits for women.

The chapters on skin disorders were fascinating, and provided perspective on how many different things can go wrong with various types of skin cells (hint: more than you can imagine, oy). There can be different kinds of interactions between different layers and kinds of skin cells, and between skin cells and ducts. That section provided a solid argument for working with a dermatologist for general skin concerns, and was part of what motivated me to go get a rosacea diagnosis for my face. I wish my younger self had known more about skin health.

Anyway, The V Book was not exactly light reading, but it was thorough and well-written and I highly recommend it.

The second book, which I've already referred to recently, just came out in 2015: Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life, by Emily Nagoski. To be honest, I wasn't expecting too much when I cracked this one open. I figured it would reiterate a lot of the subjects that Dan Savage writes about. Also, sytharin and I agree that we both wanted to re-write the entire book to edit out the Chatty McChatterson tone and blather. Fantastic approach for a college lecture, but annoying to read. (I'm reminded of my irritations with the editing of Quiet, the book about introverts.) If rewritten, the result would probably be about a quarter as long, but would make for a more timeless book, even as our understanding of the underlying neurobiology shifts.

Anyway, it does an exceptional job of covering sexual well-being in a way that is universally beneficial, regardless of the specific circumstances of any one person's life (single, celibate, asexual, transgender, married, complicated, etc). Women and men would find it to be useful reading, and it was more insightful than I'd expected. It's centered around emotional well-being and how different neural systems develop and interact to put us somewhere along a spectrum between "stressed and shut down" and "ecstatic" in any given situation. Importantly, it starts by pointing out how most of our cultural misconceptions about womens' sexuality stem from a historical, male-centered concept of sexuality, which gets almost everything wrong. Again, this goes back to my wondering about the global state of womens' well-being. Anyway, until RAC and I get around to editing it down, you should probably just read it. The New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction is often correct, in contrast to the list for fiction. [grin]


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