It Really is Perfectly Normal


It’s Perfectly Normal by Robbie Harris. Illus. Michael Emberley. . 1994.

Clear, accessible, and always a tone of normalcy, this book strives to be a thorough and objective introduction to all things sex from anatomy and baby-making, to sexual abuse, homosexuality, puberty and STDs. Several things stood out and merit comment.

  • The illustrations are both engaging and rather shocking in their level of detail. And yet they lack any feeling of being scientific or explicit. They mirror the text, making sex, our bodies and intercourse seem perfectly normal.
  • While the author strove for objectivity, he ended up with relativism (because, of course, objectivity is impossible). Harris states that masturbation, for example, is considered sin in some religions, but goes on to say it’s perfectly normal. Which would mean it can’t be a sin and therefore (although he doesn’t go this far) those religions that call it a sin must be wrong. (Sorry, Logic was my fave course in undergrad.)
  • The “perfectly normal” theme can be taken too far. I felt calling a Caesarian section “normal” was a bit of a stretch. And some of his information is downright flawed. Care of the uncircumcised penis, for instance. The foreskin should never, ever, ever be forcibly retracted, particularly not in infancy. This can lead to breaking of normal adhesions between foreskin and glands, which can lead to a build-up of scar tissue, infection, and many other complications. He also missed a major method of birth control, apparently mistaking the outdated “rhythm method” with the reliable but natural method used by many across the globe (called the Sympto-Thermal method, in case anyone wonders, which I doubt. Still, it is very much not the old rhythm method).