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Sex manual

Related: sexual education

Titles: Ars Amatoria - Kama Sutra - whore dialogues - The Joy of Sex (1972) - Alex Comfort


Sex manuals such as the Kama Sutra are some of the best known works of erotic literature. The Ananga Ranga is a lesser known one, aimed specifically at preventing the separation of a husband and wife. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erotic_literature [Oct 2004]

Ancient sex manuals

Ovid's Ars Amatoria was written around 3 BC, and is part sex manual, and part burlesque on the art of love.

The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, believed to have been written in the 1st to 6th centuries, has a notorious reputation as a sex manual, although only a small part of its text is devoted to sex.

Other ancient sex manuals include the lost works of Elephantis; Ananga Ranga, a 12th century collection of Hindu erotic works; and The Perfumed Garden for the Soul's Recreation, a 16th century Arabian work by Sheikh Nefzaoui. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_manual [Jan 2005]

Modern sex manuals

In spite of the existence of ancient sex manuals in other cultures, sex manuals were banned in Western culture for many years. What sexual information was available was generally only available in the form of illicit pornography or medical books, which generally discussed either sexual physiology or sexual disorders. The authors of medical works went so far as to write the most sexually explicit parts of their texts in Latin, so as to make them inaccessible to the general public. (See Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis as an example).

A few translations of the ancient works were circulated privately, such as Sir Richard Burton's translations of the Ananga Ranga and The Perfumed Garden.

Married Love by Marie Stopes, published in 1918, was a ground-breaking sex manual, although it was limited in the detail in which it could discuss sex acts.

David Reuben, M. D.'s book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), published in 1969 was one of the first sex manuals that entered mainstream culture in the 1960s. Although it did not feature explicit images of sex acts, its descriptions of sex acts were unprecedentedly detailed.

The Joy of Sex by Dr. Alex Comfort was the first sexually explicit sex manual to be widely published. Its publication in the 1970s opened the way to the widespread publication of sex manuals in the West. As a result, hundreds of sex manuals are now available in print. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_manual, Feb 2004

The nonfiction sex manuals

The court decisions that legalized the publication of Fanny Hill had an even more important effect: freed from fears of legal action, nonfiction works about sex and sexuality started to appear.

In 1962, Helen Gurley Brown published Sex and the Single Girl: The Unmarried Woman's Guide to Men, Careers, the Apartment, Diet, Fashion, Money and Men. The title itself would have been unthinkable a decade earlier. (In 1965 she went on to transform Cosmopolitan magazine into a life manual for young career women).

In 1969, Joan Garrity, identifying herself only as "J.", published The Way to Become the Sensuous Woman, replete with such things as exercises for improving the dexterity of the tongue.

The same year saw the appearance of Dr. David Reuben's book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask). Despite the dignity of Reuben's medical credentials, this book was light-hearted in tone. For many readers, it delivered quite literally on its promise. One middle-aged matron from a small town in Wisconsin was heard to say "Until I read this book, I never actually knew precisely what it was that homosexuals did."

In 1970, the Boston Women's Health Collective published Women and their Bodies (which became far better known a year later under its subsequent title, Our Bodies, Ourselves). Not an erotic treatise or sex manual, the book nevertheless included frank descriptions of sexuality, and contained illustrations that could have caused legal problems just a few years earlier.

1972 brought Alex Comfort's The Joy of Sex: A Gourmet Guide to Love Making.

These books had a number of things in common. They were factual and, in fact, educational. They were available to a mainstream readership. They were stacked high on the tables of discount bookstores, they were book club selections, and their authors were guests on late-night talk shows. People were seen reading them in public. In a respectable middle-class home, Playboy magazine and Fanny Hill might be present but would usually be kept out of sight. But at least some of these books might well be on the coffee table. Most important, all of these books acknowledged and celebrated the conscious cultivation of erotic pleasure.

The contribution of such books to the sexual revolution cannot be overstated. Earlier books such as What Every Girl Should Know (Margaret Sanger, 1920) and A Marriage Manual (Hannah and Abraham Stone, 1939) had broken the utter silence in which many people, women in particular, had grown up. By the 1950s, in the United States, it had finally become rare for women to go their wedding night literally not knowing what to expect. But the open discussion of sex as pleasure, and descriptions of sexual practices and techniques, was truly revolutionary. There were practices which, perhaps, some had heard of. But many adults did not know for sure whether they were realities, or fantasies found only in pornographic books. Were they "normal," or were they examples of psychopathology? (When we use words such as fellatio we are still using the terminology of Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis). Did married ladies do these things, or only prostitutes? The Kinsey report revealed that these practices were, at the very least, surprisingly frequent. These other books asserted, in the words of a 1980 book by Dr. Irene Kassorla, that Nice Girls Do -- And Now You Can Too! --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_revolution [Oct 2004]

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