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September 17, 2018 | by  | in Books | [ssba]

Doing It

There’s something that everyone knows about sex, but few people ever say, and it is this: sex is interesting. Regardless of whether you’re having it or not having it, or how you’re “doing it”, sex is interesting. This fact implicitly fills magazines and shops and bedrooms and, indeed, books. Doing It, by Hannah Witton, is one such book. It’s framed as a sex education book, but it is Witton’s attitude to sex that I learned the most from.
Hannah Witton is a YouTuber. I’ve been wary of YouTubers’ books in the past—a great deal of them look pretty and have pictures of attractive yet average (and white) people on the covers, are filled with mediocre writing, ostensibly themed, but are really about the authors themselves. YouTubers’ books get a great deal of attention in the online world, which has lead to me, several times, thinking that the book itself is important, and being sorely disappointed. Hannah Witton is one of the few YouTubers who I still watch regularly, so I approached her book with a great deal of caution.
For the most part, she did not disappoint. Sure, Doing It was a little too colloquial for my tastes at times. Witton also relies somewhat heavily on clichés, clinching her LGBTQIA+ chapter with the line, “After all, love is love”. Her prose is peppered with phrases like “living under a rock” and “out of the blue”. For the most part though, Witton’s writing is straightforward and undistracting; not especially distinctive, but clear, which is all it needs to be.
The book, as a whole, has a tendency to fill space with design features, perhaps to make up for stationary nature of words, compared to the slick jumps of a video. There are whole pages filled with squiggly lines for no apparent reason, there are quotes that appear to be pulled out strewn across pages, but the words do not appear in the main text. It was unnecessary.

The content of this book did not need margins or fancy typography. For the most part, it stands on its own. If you have ever watched Hannah Witton’s videos (which I highly encourage you to do), particularly her collaborations with other people, you will know this: she is good at asking questions, and she knows when to stay in her lane. The LGBTQIA+ chapter is almost entirely made from the words of other YouTubers with queer identities talking about their experiences. They acknowledge that their experiences are not universal, and yet they are much better at talking about the topic than Hannah, as a cis straight woman could be (there is a whole other discussion to be had about how queer people are often asked for their labour so that straight people don’t get things wrong, but I still thought that the inclusion of queer perspectives was vital). Throughout the book, Hannah repeatedly acknowledges that her experience is not universal, and that she has many kinds of privilege.
One of the most compelling chapters of Doing It is when Witton demonstrates her knack for getting interesting information on people, and talks about four generations of sex education in her family. She did her undergrad dissertation about sex education, which is when, I believe, most of the interviews took place, and Witton’s great-grandmother talked about learning about sex from her husband, who learned it from the chambermaid. The information is fascinating, and very well put together.
Throughout the book, Hannah talks openly about masturbation, consent, STIs, contraception, and, most importantly, the role of personal choice in sex. I didn’t necessarily agree with all of her opinions, but appreciated how sex was presented as something positive, complicated, and important. Most of the information was not new to me, but I felt like I learned from Hannah’s willingness to ask questions and keep learning.
Sex is interesting, whatever your relationship with it is. Doing It is a book about sex, and the role it plays in society, and it lives up to the promise of its back cover: it’s about “doing it safely. Doing it joyfully. Doing it when you’re ready. Not doing it”. And a fun, straightforward YouTuber who shares just enough of her personal life to keep things interesting.


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