You Are Not Broken: Stop “Should-ing” All Over your Sex Life by KJ Casperson
Nestled between articles on China’s approach to COVID-19, Ukraine’s cyber-defense program and needle exchanges in New York City, the Dec. 3, 2022, edition of The Economist included a piece titled, “The wounds of silence.”
The author compared modern discomfort about talking about sexual problems to the similar way society avoided talking about mental health issues in the past: “A generation ago being depressed or anxious — let alone having serious mental-health problems — meant suffering in silence … These days the stigma has faded, if not entirely disappeared … A similar transformation is due for sexual problems, which lie beneath the same blanket of taboo and embarrassment as mental health once did.”
Bellingham urologist Dr. Kelly Casperson couldn’t agree more. After more than a decade as a pelvic surgeon, Casperson realized that patients were coming to her clinic with questions that many people — even doctors — weren’t prepared to talk about. They were asking about lack of desire, not enjoying sex and physical issues during sex.
Casperson began reviewing everything she could find related to sexual function — especially female sexual function — in medical and popular literature. She found a lot of dubious scholarship of the “woo-woo” variety, and a number of dry, highly academic papers that made even sex sound boring, but only a few she considered worthy of sharing. Suddenly, she realized her life calling — learning “all the best wisdom available to empower women to have the best sex lives possible.” She started a podcast, which she titled “You Are Not Broken,” to let women know their sexual problems are not anyone’s fault, and the problems are fixable. Each episode is informative, upbeat and empowering. As of this January, 192 episodes have been downloaded a combined one million times — and Dr. Casperson anticipates another 500,000 listens before the year is out.
Casperson has what it takes to be an excellent podcaster — a cheery conversational tone, endless curiosity and enthusiasm for her subject. She can be self-deprecating, witty, salty and real. She invites interesting guests to join her and share their sex-pertise. She speaks in plain, non-clinical English and sounds like someone you’d confide in at a book club gathering — indeed, it’s through book clubs and other women’s social networks that word of her work is spreading. Not all book club discussions are focused on capital L Literature, obviously.
One drawback to the podcasts is that Casperson speaks quickly, citing medical journals and research studies rapid-fire, encouraging listeners to rewind and re-listen as necessary. For those who need more time to reflect and dig deeper, her book, “You Are Not Broken: Stop ‘Should-ing’ All Over Your Sex Life” is the perfect solution. Written in the same breezy style, it nonetheless packs in a lot of information and the citations to back them up.
Casperson acknowledges her book may come across as heteronormative, with a focus on cis-gendered women in heterosexual relationships. She takes care to recognize all who identify as female and accept all who have intimate relationships with these women. With chapters titled “Bad Sex Sucks” and “Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Body” there’s something here for everyone, and she encourages all readers not to miss “Maybe It’s Menopause” — even if it’s years away.
For those who are still uncomfortable with this subject, or feel that all the sex education they need can be found on the silver screen, The Economist has a pithy rejoinder: “Trying to learn about sex from Hollywood is like watching James Bond for tips on a career as a British civil servant.” Why not listen to our own local expert instead?
Note: there are other books out there with similar titles (“I’m Not Broken”, “We Are Not Broken,” “We’re Not Broken,” “You’re Not Broken”) so if you’re looking for this one, make sure you’ve selected author KJ Casperson.
Christine Perkins is the executive director of Whatcom County Library System. Don’t miss the chance to see Casperson in person. She will be talking about “You Are Not Broken” at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19 in Bellingham at Village Books, 1200 11th St. The event is free, but advance reservation is recommended. Get more details at villagebooks.com.
(Originally published in Cascadia Daily News, Monday, January 16, 2023.)