Review: Strange Bedfellows by Ina Park


Title: Strange Bedfellows: Adventures in the Science, History, and Surprising Secrets of STDs

Author: Ina Park

Published: 16th February 2021, Flat Iron Books

Read: November 2021


My Thoughts:

I picked up Strange Bedfellows by sex-positive STD/STI researcher Dr Ina Park purely out of curiosity after reading several enthusiastic reviews, and I’m happy to report that it is an informative, interesting, and often witty examination of the history, science and stigma related to sexually transmitted Infections and sexual health.

Though the subject of STIs is not of personal relevance to me, given I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for 31 years, I am the mother of four teens/young adults and thought I could be better informed on the topic to discuss it with them. Park presents her information in a clear and accessible manner, and I definitely feel I now have a more comprehensive understanding of STIs. I was interested to learn about the many issues related to the testing and treatment of herpes, the hazels of pubic hair removal, the complexities of public health tracing in relation to STIs, the dangers of douching, the effectiveness of PrEP in preventing HIV, and more besides. Peppered with personal anecdotes and commentary, Park’s sense of humour ensures the material isn’t dry, but she also writes with sensitivity and respect.

However, I can’t wholeheartedly embrace the author’s rallying cry to #StoptheSTIgma. When I was a teenager unprotected sex was a dangerous gamble – HIV/AIDS was a death sentence, HPV led to cancer, as did Hepatitis B. Even though today people receiving treatment for HIV/AIDS can expect to live a normal life span, HPV immunisation has reduced the risk of cervical cancer by 90%, and Hep B vaccinations in childhood have reduced the risk of developing liver cancer to around 5%, unprotected sex is still a serious health risk. While I’m all for promoting the awareness of, and destigmatising treatment for, STI’s, prevention is still better than a cure. Given the reported decline in condom use, and the rise in STIs, over the last 20 years or so, I’m concerned that what teens and young adults are ‘hearing’ is that STDs are treatable and as such ‘harmless’, and therefore condoms are superfluous (if the risk of unwanted pregnancy has been addressed in heterosexual sexual encounter, or by the use of PrEP to prevent HIV in a homosexual encounter).

Nevertheless, Strange Bedfellows is an educative and engaging read that I think would appeal to a range of audiences, from the idly curious to those working with, or raising, teens or young adults.


Available from Flat Iron Books

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Amazon

2021 Nonfiction Reader Challenge #DISEASE

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out
  2. Helen Murdoch
    Nov 29, 2021 @ 04:38:42

    Super interesting! Thank goodness for vaccines (HPV and Hep B, etc) and possible cures for STIs, but I agree that throwing out precautions and safe sex seem like a big mistake. Though not an STI, how about everyone use condoms for unwanted pregnancies 🙂

    Liked by 1 person


  3. WendyW
    Nov 29, 2021 @ 05:40:08

    What an interesting book, I’ll have to check it out for my adult children.

    Liked by 1 person


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