Updating The Joy of Sex

by on September 9, 2008  •  In Culture

The Guardian

How has The Joy of Sex changed since 1972?
Stuart Jeffries

The first edition of the Joy of Sex considered sex on moving motorbikes. "If you have access to a private road, the hazards are yours," counselled the book's ironically surnamed author Dr Alex Comfort. Thirty-six years and 8m copies in 22 languages later, that passage has been excised from the New Joy of Sex. Funless if sensible safety legislation has since made sex on moving motorbikes illegal. Doing it on horseback (as mentioned in the 1972 edition) is also outlawed. So stop that too.

More importantly, The New Joy of Sex offers a woman's perspective for the first time. Psychologist Susan Quilliam has updated the original manual with 43 new sections. While acknowledging that Comfort was "fully committed to women's pleasure", Quilliam argues that we have since learned more about how to achieve it. So, for instance, there's much more on the clitoris (the old edition had only four sentences). Hurrah! But the book's still only targeted at straight couples. Boo!

Quilliam's updated version aims to reflect four decades of socio-sexual change. Out goes the prostitution section ("We didn't think it had anything to do with loving relationships"). In come hormones, sex shops, striptease, sex during pregnancy, and a harrowing section on penis injuries caused by vacuum cleaners ("very hard to repair satisfactorily"). …


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