Naked: Not Your Average Sex Encyclopedia by Myriam Daguzan Bernier

Review by Carolina Leyton

Orca Book Publishers, May 17, 2022

256 pages, paperback, $29.95 CAD, 9781459831018

Ages 12 +, Grade 8+



Noun, verb, from Old French verb consentir, “to allow, grant permission,” from Latin consentire, “to agree”

This is where it all starts! To consent means to actively and freely agree to sexual activities with someone. Consent isn’t a half yes or a hesitant yes. It’s an enthusiastic, authentic and sincere yes. It’s also a yes that can become a no if you change your mind later on.

Translated from the French, this sex encyclopedia is a thorough, inclusive, holistic view of sex and sexuality for teenagers.

In alphabetical order, Bernier goes through all the terminology necessary to understand the gloriously complex world that is the human body. There is no term even remotely connected to sexuality that she leaves untouched. Even as an adult reader, Bernier words that were new to me like “alexithymia” and “psychological androgyny.” There were also words that one might think would not need an entry in an encyclopedia, like “bathroom” and “family.”

But nothing is gratuitous in this encyclopedia. Everything serves the purpose of creating a sex-positive and inclusive mindset in readers. In the “bathroom” entry, for example, the author takes an opportunity to talk about the fight for gender neutral washrooms and how those spaces can make a lot of people feel safer.

The best part about this encyclopedia is perhaps not even the definitions themselves, but that with each entry there is something new to learn. In Canada and all over the world, there are people doing excellent work to de-stigmatize all things sexual. In little blurbs and bubbles, the author highlights artists and activists who have made it their mission to chalk-draw the clitoris in various city streets, or perhaps have taken 300 different pictures of butts of all shapes and sizes. Learning about these projects is so valuable and it is what makes this encyclopedia unique and a much better resource than googling it yourself.

However, getting a teenager to pick this book up might be a tad complicated. Despite its comprehensive format and the amazing, provocative, yet child-like illustrations by Cécile Gariépy, it is still a book filled with definitions. Hopefully, schools will pick it up and center their sex education curriculum around it. It is still the case that LGBTQQIP2SAA+ youth feel at the margins of sex education, and the work this encyclopedia does to breach so many gaps still existing in educational systems and thereby teens’ knowledge is absolutely fantastic. Informative in a creative way, definitely adding something new to the sexuality conversation, this book is really not your average sex encyclopedia.

Carolina Leyton is a current MA student in the Children’s Literature program. She completed her BA Honours in UBC Okanagan. From the age of 9, she has been an avid reader and writer, and now hopes to become an author of critical, important, and unique YA novels. 

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