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Staff Picks: KellyMarie reviews "Sex is a Funny Word" by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth

A photo of KellyMarie Meek and her book, "Sex is a Funny Word."

As someone who has spent pretty much every day of the last decade thinking and talking about preventing sexual violence, I get a lot of questions from parents and caregivers about how to keep their children safe. There are so many things that we can do to protect our children, including providing them with comprehensive sexual health education, teaching them about consent and setting and respecting boundaries, and setting expectations that every person and every body matters. Sex is A Funny Word: A Book About Bodies, Feelings, and You, by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth is the perfect tool for young people and the grown folks in their lives to guide many of these crucial protective conversations.

This book is designed for kids aged 8-10, though we just read it in a book club full of sexual violence prevention educators, and we all learned new ways to have conversations some of us have been having for years. When we’re talking about how to talk about sex and bodies and feelings with kids, we can’t get around the fact that most of us were not taught about these things in healthy, inclusive, and supportive ways, so we need this information as much as our kids do. Sex is a Funny Word is so transformative because it shows bodies and families in all shapes and colors and sizes and configurations, and it is very intentionally and specifically inclusive of the whole spectrum of sex and gender and orientation. It is honest, and relatable, and real.

Topics covered range from bodies and body parts, privacy, masturbation, crushes and consent, to respect, joy, trust, justice, and love. There are discussion/reflection questions at the end of each section. Certainly many young people would find this book a good read on their own, but because we know that relationships with supportive adults are another important protective factor (and because even grown folks have a lot to learn in how we talk about this), I highly recommend reading it together with a young person in your life. This book will become another resource that you wish you had for yourself when you were younger, and you have the opportunity to share it with a young person or a parent of a young person in your life now.

Here are some images from the book:

Two youth talking to one another. Youth 1 says "Are there people in your life you don't feel comfortable hugging, kissing, or touching? What could you do instead?" Youth 2 says "Do you remember a time when you were expected to touch someone but didn't want to?"

4 youth standing in a line. Youth with "Respect" T-shirt says "Pay close attention to the words people use when they talk about themselves." Youth in a "trust" T-shirt says "Trust yourself to know what words feel right and fit for you." Youth is a "joy" T-shirt says "Try to enjoy your body, no matter what it's called." Youth in a "justice" T-shirt says "The one who knows most about who you are is you."

To find out more about this book, click here.


KellyMarie started in the anti-violence movement as a volunteer in 1996. Since then, she has worked with a local rape crisis and domestic violence program, the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Integrative Services Project, and the Iowa Victim Assistance Academy. She joined IowaCASA in 2008, where she focuses on prevention and training. Her many passions include sex workers' rights, LGBTQIA advocacy, and working with youth and families involved in the foster care system.

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