This is not a medical book and makes no claim to be one. It simply provides quite a lot of information about contraceptive practices, methods, and means, from centuries ago to the present day, from Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, and other civilizations, with a running commentary, presented in a tone carefully modulated to come across as accessible, ethical, and good-natured.
This historical context of contraceptives is interestingly provided, with some nice illustrations. The social context and struggle for effective contraceptives also received a significant amount of space and attention. The book is wide-ranging in its coverage of contraceptives, taking the reader through discussions on the pros and cons of amulets, potions, medicines, plugs, shields, caps, coils, condoms, IUD, contraceptive pills, morning-after pills, sterilization, and abortion.
The language of the book is unscientific, mostly avoids jargon, and is clearly aimed at as wide an audience as possible. For example, the reader comes across sentences such as "Spermicide is just a horrible scientific word that means 'potion with sperm-killing properties'." This is a fair example of the tone set by Perera, a chatty, discursive tone, and while I have no quarrel with this, the author occasionally slips from her stance of being balanced and unjudgemental; for example, she uses unnecessary euphemisms for the word 'penis', calling it instead 'willy', 'tool', 'procreative tool'. As the rest of the anatomical parts mentioned in this book are correctly referred to by their clinical terminology, this coyness at using the correct terminology for male sexual organs seems rather misplaced.
Perera's writing voice from start to finish is light and conversational, intimate and even humorous, inviting a reader to be sympathetic and to identify with her inherent norms and assumptions. It is an easy read, an informational and pleasant one, and succeeds in being highly accessible. The lack of substantiation of factual accuracy may cause a reader to question the reliability of the information presented, but it is clearly a book in which a fair amount of background reading and research has been invested.
Book Description: A fascinating account of the often imaginative ways in which humans throughout history have tried to prevent themselves from propagating the race. These range from crocodile dung pessaries, diaphragms made from lemon halves and the linen condoms pioneered by the Italian anatomist Falloppio in the 16th century, through to the breakthrough of the Pill - and the women's liberation it represented - in the 1960s and beyond to the 21st century. Although the methods of today are relatively sophisticated, a foolproof form of contraception has yet to be found if the number of unplanned pregnancies each year is anything to go by. With fascinating illustrations, Taking Precautions is an engrossing, thorough, down-to-earth and amusing history of an often taboo subject.
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