The fifth edition of Guide To Getting It On by Paul Joannides recently came out. Now, I haven’t seen previous versions of the Guide, so I can’t speak to them, but this one is almost perfect. It is incredibly comprehensive and non-judgmental, with good information and advice for almost every situation. All of this, plus it is easy to read and understand. I think it is an ideal book for all young adults to have on their shelves, as well as sexually active teenagers.

The two chapters on having sex for the first time (Losing Your Virginity and The First Time – Not What You’d Think) are spot-on. The Guide encourages a thoughtful, planned approach to the event and relatively low expectations – focusing on enjoying the first time while recognizing that it gets better with time. This chapter also encourages young people to wait, and directs them to a whole range of activities in other parts of the book that can offer intimacy without penile-vaginal intercourse.

The only chapter where I really disagree or have issues with the book is the one on how to talk to kids about sex (Explaining Sex to Kids). I like that the chapter encourages parents to be open, honest, and non-judgmental with their kids. Particularly good is that it directs parents to ask questions about their children’s sexuality and sexual experiences rather than talk to them (i.e., lecture them). However, it also directs parents to give far too much information to young children. When children under age 9 or so ask questions about bodies and sexuality, they are not asking for an adult discussion of pleasure or relationships. They need a different kind of answer directed at their understanding of bodies and sexuality. The Guide does not seem to recognize that pedagogical difference, which I find disappointing.

So, if what you’re looking for is a book on sexuality, not on parenting, Guide To Getting It On is a fabulous choice. This is a great graduation present for your favorite 18-year-old getting ready to leave for college.

Even better yet, give it to your teenager who has started to have sex or is about to have start having sex. You may feel that the gift implies your approval of their being sexual, which you don’t necessarily feel. However, that is a small price to pay for the information the Guide will provide about good sex – safety-wise, relationship-wise, and pleasure-wise. And while you may disagree with your teenager having sex, you must come to grips with the bigger issue that they need real information, and they need it immediately. The Guide will provide real, useful information for them much more effectively than their sexual partner or their friends.