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Today I am posting two book reviews done for me by one of my valued colleagues Megan Bergman. Megan is one of the fantastic pelvic health physiotherapists at my practice who has been doing some reading of two new books on sexuality. It is opportune that these books have arrived into the pelvic health scene as we are seeing more and more women coming for help with painful sex. This is wonderful in itself because there is so much silence around sexual dysfunction – and so much shame. The more open we are with our dialogue around sex, the more confident women will feel about having a conversation about their issues with a pelvic health physiotherapist. Our goal is to not only achieve pain free sex but to also enable women to have pleasurable sex and both these book are wonderful adjuncts to our treatment strategies.

Megan’s reviews follow.

The Pleasure Prescription : A Surprising Approach to Healing Sexual Pain by Dee Hartman and Elizabeth Wood

A newly released title by Dee Hartman, a Women’s Health Physiotherapist, and Elizabeth Wood, a sexuality educator, both highly experienced professionals with many years of working with women who suffer pelvic pain.

The back cover of the book states:

“This book is aimed at women readers experiencing unwanted pain with sex who:

  • Suffer with pain that has been difficult to diagnose
  • Are interested in resolving their pain
  • Want to enjoy pain-free sex
  • Desire more pleasure in their bodies, lives and relationships
  • And are searching for ways to help themselves”

The introduction mentions how “the sexual health community has medicalised women’s sexual health to the point of dysfunction……. relatively few address women’s sexual function and education, and there is very little focus on pleasure.” This pain is both physical AND psychological.

Physiotherapists who work with pain know there are many strategies that will help women resolve their pelvic pain issues.  As with all pain experiences, each woman is individual and so are the management strategies that work for them.  The Pleasure Prescription is a great resource that can be a useful adjunct, complementing the skills and strategies learnt in a physiotherapy session, and it is also a great stand-alone tool. 

As a tool of treatment or a stand-alone resource The Pleasure Prescription is a beautifully written, easy to read book which contains real-life relatable examples that help the reader understand the strategies and how they help.  It takes you step by step through the strategies that will bring back the pleasure and enjoyment of sex.  These strategies are clearly explained and achievable. The book allows for plenty of self-reflection, with easily understood goals and explanations to facilitate self-pacing. 

The Pleasure Prescription is useful not just for women currently experiencing pain but also those who have had pain which has resolved but left them with less desire or libido. It is written for women with or without partners. It focuses on cis gender women. Some material can be adapted to transgender bodies, but the book is written for those with a female arousal network.

To Quote the book:

When women know what they like about sex and how to ask for it, we know they enjoy it more.  This leads to sexual empowerment, which is a state we want you to achieve.  But getting to that full empowerment is tricky when we don’t have any framework for understanding or exploring what our individual authentic sexuality is and what might be a way of harnessing it.’

For women seeking a better understanding and a framework to begin their healing journey, this is a fantastic place to start.

(Sue here again) I also gave my copy of the Pleasure Prescription to one of my patients and this is her response back to me after just one week!
“I am eternally grateful to you Sue. The Pleasure Prescription book that you recommended has been like a bible. I’m still practising but I needed to tell you it’s a brilliant book. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough!
The focus on biological, social, psychological and interpersonal aspects- and lowering women’s shame, normalising, awakening sensuality and embodiment and time for arousal – has been critical for my improvement. I loved Dee’s vulnerability and honesty sharing her own stories too.

The book is really well-laid out and the ‘prescriptions’ are perfect! Life changing sounds dramatic but it’s the only book I’d say that about. Many woman need this book.”

My patient has made wonderful progress using this book in conjunction with the other strategies we put into place. Well done Dee for coming out of retirement to write a masterpiece.

A Better Normal by Tess Devese

Tess Deveze is an Occupational Therapist trained in sexuality and sexology, who has spent many years focusing on sexuality for people with cancer, disability, and chronic illness.  They are also a cancer survivor.  As a sexuality and cancer OT who over the years has produced a number of fabulous tools, guides and information for people facing, recovering from or surviving cancer, they have now collated much of their fabulous resources into this book with additional information to provide a comprehensive guide inclusive of LGBTQIA+, partnered and unpartnered persons.

Anybody who has experienced or had a loved one experience cancer knows how life can be affected in so many ways.  Although sexual rights are basic human rights, this can be an area that often gets overlooked. For many, speaking about sex, particularly in light of how our bodies may change over our lifetime and our illnesses, can be an awkward and embarrassing topic that holds us back from vocalising our concerns and leaves us presuming that this part of our life is over. Knowing how to advocate for yourself or loved one, where and how to open the conversation or even seek the information can be the biggest barrier.  This book answers those questions.

A Better Normal is written in easy-to-understand language and divided into sections to facilitate reading in any order and focusing on what particular information you are interested in.  It includes strategies and dialogue examples to introduce conversations with health professionals, partners, lovers, family members and where you can get further help/information. 

The book includes topics such as self-care of the genital region, toys, lubes, moisturisers, and clothing.  It has sex positions for fatigue, pain, nausea, low self-confidence or when there are attachments such as stoma bags and catheters.  There is a chapter on dating with cancer and a chapter on fairy sex-tales which busts many myths about cancer and sex.

Tess writes openly and honestly about their own personal experiences which not only facilitates the normalisation of the topic but shares with the reader that this is not only their theory and feedback from working with and helping many clients but also their insight from personal experience and self-practice.

This is a wonderful book that addresses the gap in sexuality and intimacy information and education for people with cancer.  Tess has provided a comprehensive resource that will continue to expand their beautiful, caring and human work that has already changed so many lives.

Thank you Megan so much for writing these reviews so we can expose our readers to these wonderful new patient-directed resources.

And thank you to Dee, Elizabeth and Tess for sitting down and penning your knowledge – I know the blood, sweat and tears that goes into writing books.

Today was homuncular refreshment day with our grandchild. I thought I’d share some pleasure photos to make your day.

Images from Roma Street Parklands, Brisbane which is 20 years old this year 

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