Sex is more than just birds and bees. Or bugs and babies. And definitely more than condoms and STDs. Sophia Smith Galer, reporter, author, and TikTok journalism pioneer, explores all the other things that make up sex and sex education in her debut book ‘Losing It: Sex Education For The 21st Century'.

While Galer, who is based in London, uses sex ed in the UK as an important point of reference, the unpacking of sex myths in ‘Losing It’ is for everyone, regardless of background. In the book, Galer shows how sexual confusion and insecurity are universal. She deep-dives into Reddit forms to find questions on virginity from Brazil, Facebook DMs about hymens from Morocco, and Amazon shops selling “vaginal tightening products” with global shipping options.

The goal of the book is similarly universal: equitable sex and sex education that moves beyond the surface to teach pleasure, bodily autonomy, and sexual confidence.

“Sexual competence [social scientist jargon for ‘ready’] is the gold standard we should all be trying to meet,” Galer writes in her introduction. This readiness isn’t related, despite what the sexually inexperienced might deduce from internet searches, to penis length, pubic hair, or (in)ability to squirt.

Rather, Smith Galer says, referring to the British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles’ definition, it’s “a sexual debut past the age of sixteen, using contraception, which has a sense of the right timing where both partners are equally willing.”

Divided into eight chapters, of which seven are dedicated to specific myths, the book is a quick but not always easy read. “With a mind to thinking about ourselves as sexually competent, and our sex as equitable, ‘Losing It’ will, on occasion, make you lose it.” While reading, I had to put down the book a few times, especially in the chapters on virginity, tightness, and penetration.

Throughout the book, Smith Galer doesn’t sugarcoat or fill the pages with euphemisms. Considering it’s sugarcoating, euphemisms, and metaphors that have allowed some of these myths to persevere in the first place, her no-nonsense voice is necessary.

While Smith Galer leans on interviews and anecdotal evidence and intimate personal experiences, what is missing are the opinions of sex educators that are teaching in schools right now - the very people tasked with updating and implementing the new curriculums around sexual health.

Additionally, I was surprised that porn literacy and the courses on porn literacy weren't included in the discussion. In the final chapter, which serves as a prediction of what the future of sex ed could look like, mentioning porn literacy courses would have added more nuance and hope to the conversation and possibilities.

The book’s subtitle presents it as a resource for new, updated sex education but that’s not quite what it ends up being. ‘Losing It’ serves more to point out the gaps and misinformation in current sex education. The book can’t fill the role of a comprehensive sex-ed guide itself but instead provides a framework for future sex education resources.

Ultimately, it’s the questions Galer asks that stand out the most. While nuance might be missing at times (tricky, as each chapter could be expanded to a full book) the implicit and explicit questions Galer asks herself and the reader are the most important takeaways from the book. It’s only through curiosity and empathy that’ll we be able to fully reflect, recontextualize, and redefine sex and sex education.

Order the book here!