Strange bedfellows Adventures in the science, history, and surprising secrets of STDs

Ina Park

Book - 2021

"Sexually transmitted diseases have been hidden players in our lives for the whole of human history, with roles in everything from World War II to the growth of the Internet to The Bachelor. But despite their prominence, STDs have been shrouded in mystery and taboo for centuries, which begs the question: why do we know so little about them? Enter Ina Park, MD, who has been pushing boundaries to empower and inform others about sexual health for decades. With Strange Bedfellows, she ventures ...far beyond the bedroom to examine the hidden role and influence of these widely misunderstood infections and share their untold stories. Covering everything from AIDS to Zika, Park explores STDs on the cellular, individual, and population-level. She blends science and storytelling with historical tales, real life sexual escapades, and interviews with leading scientists--weaving in a healthy dose of hilarity along the way." --

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 616.951/Park Checked In
New York Flatiron Books 2021
First edition
Physical Description
viii, 353 pages illustrations 22 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 311-339) and index
Main Author
Ina Park (author)
  • Introduction : beginning with a bang
  • Killing the scarlet H : stigma and scandal in the world of genital herpes
  • Bushwhacked : untangling pubic hair and STIs
  • The garden of good and evil : exploring the wonders of the vaginal microbiome
  • Warts and all : the omnipresence of the human papillomavirus
  • Affectionate and popular : oh, the complex sexual webs we weave
  • Knock, knock, it's the sex detectives : tales of public health's heroic contact tracers
  • A pox on both your houses : on the mysteries and maladies of syphilis
  • The path of least resistance : sailors, sex parties, and gonorrhea superbugs
  • PrEPared : the little blue pill revolutionizing HIV prevention
  • When the rubber meets the road : the lovely condom and the siren's song of STI prophylaxis
  • Epilogue : advice to the omnivores
Review by Library Journal Review

MD Park creates an engrossing, fun, and frank discussion of the science and history behind sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and calls for us to have sex safely. Through Park's engaging writing, readers are brought into a scientific arena filled with safe-sex proponents, women's reproductive rights advocates, and LBGTQ+ and anti-racist allies, all seeking to overturn centuries of systemic discrimination inherent in sexual and reproductive health sciences. The strength of this book lies in Park's presentation of personal stories and the removal of the morality often tied to the topic of STDs, or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as they are sometimes known. She shares insight from her years of working at an STI clinic, and how the stigma of sex and disease impacts people of differing races, ages, and backgrounds. With sensitivity, she also addresses the history of diseases among people who are currently in jail or prison. Park further offers details on the history of the condom and the current research being done on vaccines for STDs. VERDICT A thoughtful, informative account for readers interested in public health and sexual health as well as those with an interest in the history of medicine. Park brings the right amount of care to an often-stigmatized subject.--Rachel M. Minkin, Michigan State Univ. Libs., East Lansing

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A guided tour through the science of sexually transmitted infections. Park, a physician who specializes in STIs, begins with an explanation of terminology. "The subtitle…uses STD, as I felt that term would be most recognizable….But I use STI as much as I can throughout the book, because that is where I think we are headed eventually." Within this alternatingly fascinating, perplexing, and stomach-turning report, the author nonjudgmentally illustrates how STIs are one of the unfortunate forms of "interplay between sex and society as far back as the 1500s." She begins with genital herpes, a "sneaky" virus that hides in nerve cells and reemerges as a recurrent "unwelcome guest." A research conference in Brazil is the perfect setting for Park's meditation on the pros and cons of "pubic landscaping" while a scientific glance at vaginal microbiomes reveals the vulnerability of women to undesirable bacterial compositions. The author never glosses over a topic; each chapter is a thoughtful combination of scientific study and informative anecdote. Park's exuberance is obvious throughout, whether she is discussing how orgasmic meditation can mitigate the risks of STI contraction from sexual activity with multiple partners or the University of Washington's "two-week-long boot camp on STIs and HIV." Via lively, creative efforts to diffuse the lingering stigma surrounding genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, and other maladies, Park generously shares her knowledge and clinical experience, some of which is quite sobering--e.g., the possible connection between HPV and anal cancer and the more recent proliferation of terrifying antibiotic-resistant "superbug" STIs. The author also demystifies a variety of relevant issues, including HIV prevention and "female condoms," weaving in knowledgeable input from public health experts, vaccine researchers, focus groups, and even a network of contact-tracing "sex detectives." Fans of witty, meticulously researched chronicles of intriguing popular science topics--think Mary Roach--will devour this fluid mixture of scholarship and levity. A fresh, funny, sex-positive book that effectively destigmatizes sexual disease. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.