"Gotta peel the banana before you can eat it!"
October 27, 2011 10:42 AM   Subscribe

How the Joy of Sex was illustrated. [BBC] Forty years ago, a London publisher was working on a groundbreaking sex manual - a "gourmet guide" to sexual pleasure, with copious and detailed illustrations. But how could this be done tastefully and legally?
posted by Fizz (25 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Illustrator Chris Foss: "With the benefit of hindsight, it was a seminal work"

Clearly he'd been saving that pun for decades.
posted by exogenous at 10:48 AM on October 27, 2011 [30 favorites]

What I really need to know is whether or not this is available for my Kindle?
posted by Fizz at 10:52 AM on October 27, 2011

In the U.S. version that I saw while babysitting at a more liberal family's house (after the kids were in bed,) there was was not one depiction of a penis. It was always artistically avoided. I was so dissapointed.
posted by longsleeves at 10:57 AM on October 27, 2011

Chris Foss? Is that the same guy whose vast and looming spaceships adorned the cover of every second book I bought as a teen? I had no idea he could actually draw.
posted by flabdablet at 10:59 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had no idea he could actually draw.

I remember flicking through a 'best of Foss' book in a remainder shop in teens and knowing only the spaceships at the time being rather surprised by the drawings at the back - not from the Joy Of Sex but from some sf project that seemed to involve a lot of topless women for some reason. Made his work seem even more awesome, obviously
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 11:05 AM on October 27, 2011

Chris Foss, who was responsible for the book's black-and-white illustrations, took the photos. The book's author, Dr Alex Comfort, had given them dozens of positions to get though, and all were done for real over two hectic days in early 1972.

The miners were on strike and they had only limited light to work with before the power cuts would plunge them into darkness.
An unfortunate juxtaposition of paragraphs.
posted by DU at 11:05 AM on October 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Looking at this pictures now, the main thing I'm struck by is: where did the stash the kids for this 3-hour-long cuddle/sex/wrestling session?
posted by DU at 11:08 AM on October 27, 2011

There's another story about the images: Alex Comfort gave the illustrator a bunch of snapshot as a starting point. Of himself. And his wife's best friend. With whom he was having an affair.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:25 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

...originally titled “Doing Sex Properly.”

Oh man, I can already see the monocles, top hats and extended....pinky fingers.
posted by DU at 11:37 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I swear I was just friends with that chicken
posted by Spatch at 11:54 AM on October 27, 2011 [27 favorites]

I have a copy of one of the early printings (not first edition, but close) with the bearded man (and hilariously, a throw-away line about how the rhythm method can fail by fertilizing an "old" egg,and this is why Catholics are so abnormal, and also a reference to homosexuality as "inversion").

I also have a newer copy, and the couple illustrated are TOTAL HIPSTERS. This edition is from 2002, though, before I even knew the word "hipster."
posted by Ideal Impulse at 12:03 PM on October 27, 2011

My mother was apparently an early purchaser of _Joy of Sex_. My sex ed consisted of her leaving it on top of a stack of her books in my room when she was painting hers when I was about 11.

I knew it was a dirty book, so I fought through it, cover to cover, twice to try to find the dirt. I'm afraid that with the exception of a few of the sketches in the bisexuality section, it put me to sleep.

But, that sketch of two women touching each other...that was probably the first non-judgmental mention of lesbian sex I'd seen. Too bad it was surrounded by homophobic text.
posted by QIbHom at 12:13 PM on October 27, 2011

The illustrations to TJOS were far and away the best part of the book; although the woman's hairy armpits and the man's totally looking like Tom Skerritt in Alien may seem out-of-date, it was the first time I had any idea of how bodies fit together during lovemaking, something that even a lot of modern visual porn (with its contrived and extremely-uncomfortable-looking positions) fails to adequately convey. Yeah, the text is almost all weird personal hangups and prejudices masquerading as expert sex opinion (see also this guy), but who paid attention to that?
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:39 PM on October 27, 2011

I like the idea of a Foss version where the figures are tiny and indistinct against vast starscapes and views of gigantic spaceships docking.
posted by Artw at 12:58 PM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

But, that sketch of two women touching each other...that was probably the first non-judgmental mention of lesbian sex I'd seen. Too bad it was surrounded by homophobic text.

That sketch made quite an impression on me, too. I never quite got around to reading the text.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:48 PM on October 27, 2011

So this book, it vibrates?
posted by dhartung at 4:12 PM on October 27, 2011

Ahh, The Joy Of Sex.

I was a curious youngster at home in Townsville. The brother above me had just moved out, into a shitty house with a couple of his mates, starting his refrigeration apprenticeship. He took most of his gear but left behind an old army trunk (he was never in the army, he just had the trunk) tucked away in the back of his wardrobe. Naturally I went in there one day because I had decided I wanted to go through his private things to see if there was anything cool in there.

Well, there was. Beneath a bunch of webbing (I stress again he was never in the army, but he and I used to play "armies", and we had all the gear bought from the surplus store) I found three amazing things. The first was a replica revolver (I don't recall the make or model...it was a cowboy sort of revolver). The second was a replica automatic, a 1911. The third was a genuine copy of The Joy Of Sex, a hardcover with a creepy bearded man on the front getting intimate with some lady. I took the book out and set it to one side, ready to delve into it at a later juncture.

But the guns. I'd seen Commando a million times, of course, and figured I knew how the world worked. So I pulled out the revolver and the automatic (note that I didn't know these were replica pistols at the time, I figured they were the real deal) and played around with them for a bit. All I could really do with the revolver was cock it and pull the trigger. I did make a very satisfying clunk and the chamber would spin but that was all it had going for it. So I hefted the 1911 and fiddled with that. I knew the top bit went back somehow, so I pulled and pulled on it until it locked back. This was easily the coolest thing ever, I decided. My brother didn't want these guns, obviously (how could he not? They were the best things in the world), so I could take them to school and wave them around and make friends with them.

Except there was a problem. With the slide locked back on the .45, I didn't know how to get it back into place. I tried pushing it, tried pulling it back more, tried pulling the trigger, I fiddled with it for at least fifteen minutes, trying to get the slide back. Oh shit, I thought, I've broken it. I've broken it forever and my brother is going to find out I've been through his stuff and then he's going to use it on me and dad is going to be pissed.

So I started smacking it on the floor. The part of the slide at the end that was locked back, I figured I just needed to bash it hard enough and then it would dislodge and click back into place and everything would be amazing again. So I bashed it on the floor for a while, harder and harder, more desperate, snot and tears running down my fat terrified face, smack smack smack, until...CA-CHUNK!

The slide broke away. Parts flew out from the internals of the gun, the spring hitting the ceiling fan. The loudest noise that had ever been heard in the world at that time. Right there in my brother's room, with my mum and dad...wherever they were. Maybe the lounge. Maybe the kitchen. I leapt up and stared at the chaos in sheer terror. The revolver. The bits of the automatic. The big book of filth. It was all sat there in a semicircle where I had been gradually working my way through it. I had been raised a strict Catholic and if anything was going to be sending me directly to hell with no chance to explain, it was this unholy trinity of violence and debauchery. That night, I figured, dad would be going through at least three wooden spoons, breaking them over the backs of my legs, until Satan himself crawled from the darkness and pulled me down into the abyss.

Sure enough, with the noise, mum came in. It took her a picosecond to determine what had been going on and she swiftly told me to get out. A few minutes later, from my room where I awaited by horrible fate, I heard some discussion between my mother and father, the clinking of metal as the guns were gathered up (to be sent, I later found out, to the next-eldest brother, out in Charters Towers). Then, a few seconds after that, the slow tearing of pages, as my father went through The Joy Of Sex and meticulously ripped every page in half before burning it in the back yard.

I heard nothing further about the incident. Everything, it turned out, was fine. I didn't get a beating and still got to watch Doctor Who that night. But I lost those two awesome toys, those incredibly real-looking guns, that were the best things I ever saw. And The Joy Of Sex?

posted by tumid dahlia at 4:24 PM on October 27, 2011 [13 favorites]

Yeah, but you'd be surprised how many dudes seem reluctant to spatchcock a chicken, even with me graphically describing how rewarding a skill it is to have.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:47 PM on October 27

I swear I was just friends with that chicken
posted by Spatch at 1:54 PM on October 27

This joke is even funnier if you click on Spatch's name to see his profile pic.
posted by marsha56 at 5:44 PM on October 27, 2011 [5 favorites]

masquerading as expert sex opinion (see also this guy)

You....realize that's, um, a comedy....right?
posted by DU at 6:48 PM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Original title: Dirty Hippies Fornicating.
posted by TSOL at 7:49 PM on October 27, 2011

My daughter had a public school sex ed program and came home asking: how does the daddy's sperm meet the mommy's egg? Pretty squeamish educators, right?

She was lucky enough to attend the OWL program sponsored by the local Unitarian/Universalist church, where they also used B&W sketches rather than photos, like the book under discussion...but it was a fantastic introduction to relationships, love and sex. Sure, the kids were put off by sketches of fat women having sex...but c'est la vie.
posted by kozad at 10:12 PM on October 27, 2011

They got less hairier as the years progressed. Methinks that was a mistake.
posted by tarbet at 10:48 PM on October 27, 2011

Comfort's Authority and Delinquency - A Study in the Psychology of Power could be quite good with giant dystopian space ship illustrations...
posted by titus-g at 5:00 AM on October 28, 2011

As a survivor of the 70's I can report that this is pretty much how people looked, having sex back then.
posted by Danf at 11:30 AM on October 28, 2011

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