Will this sex makeover hit the spot?
A much-loved manual has been updated for the 21st century. Tamsin Kelly finds out what’s in and what’s out
I’m in pursuit of The Joy of Sex. The book, that is. But it’s not there on the shelves — not under Health and Wellbeing, nor in the Mind, Body, Spirit section — and I am getting increasingly desperate. So much for being beyond embarrassment at my age. I am going to have to ask for a sex book in a full but alarmingly quiet bookshop.
Cue a bizarre and slightly too loud conversation with the rather too jolly bookseller about: 1) how he should have one, but often people take them off for a sneaky read, then pop them back in the wrong section; and 2) the attractiveness, or not, of bearded men.
There’s a reason for my mission, besides chalking up another rite of passage to proper adulthood. The Joy of Sex is being revamped for a 21stcentury readership, but until its publication in September, the publisher, Mitchell Beazley, is being coy about what will stand the test of time and what won’t.
It seems that the beard won’t be making a reappearance (it was dismissed in the Nineties in favour of a chisel-jawed man) but “the Viennese oyster”, “birdsong at morning” and the “flanquette” are set to stay. Modern lovers will be introduced to the delights of the Venus Butterfly, painting erogenous zones and the challenge of finding the A and U spots, as well as the more famous G spot. I’m still bemused by the original “cassolette”, which turns out to be “the natural perfume of a clean woman: her greatest natural asset after her beauty”, and definitely not to be confused with a small hotpot.
The New Joy of Sex is being described as a modern take on the original groundbreaking manual written by Dr Alex Comfort in 1972. The book’s factual, non-judgemental celebration of sexuality in a loving relationship was an instant hit and it has since sold more than eight million copies. The author, an academic, died in 2000, but Susan Quilliam, a relationships psychologist and agony aunt, and Comfort’s son, the political journalist Nicholas Comfort, are overseeing the revision. It is hoped that Quilliam will give the manual a more feminine touch, but that readers won’t see the joins between the “frank and funny” original and the new version.
So the book will retain its “Cordon bleu sex menu” theme under the headings “ingredients, appetisers, main courses, sauces and pickles”. But readers will also be enlightened on Viagra, therapy for sexual problems and how to incorporate phone sex and technology into a loving relationship. There will be sections on sex shops, striptease and fantasy.
“It has been completely updated,’’ says Jane Smith, head of marketing and publicity at Mitchell Beazley. ‘‘It is taking in new material to reflect how sex and sexual relationships have evolved in the last 35 years. But we wanted to ensure the book does not lose its roots. It is, at core, a family reference book. So this new version still includes all the factual information, but many new subjects have been added.’’
This edition aims to replicate the original cover of a woman in the embrace of a hirsute Seventies man, only this time he’ll be beardless. The previous edition, now on my bookshelf, featured a purple-tinted softfocus photo, but the publishers hope that cunning positioning of text on the new and more graphic cover will ensure it retains its place on family shelves, while giving it a more modern feel.
The latest edition will contain 120 new photos and illustrations to inspire a modern generation. ‘‘It is a mixture of photographs and illustrations, because you cannot show a photograph of penetrative sex,’’ Smith says. ‘‘So readers will see the photograph of a sensual moment, but the actual positions will be illustrated.’’ And, in a very 21stcentury move, plans are afoot to capitalise on The Joy of Sex brand with spin-off books, including The Joy of Sex Foreplay. Only take my advice:
order it on Amazon.
Embracing change: the hirsute lover from 1972 has become a 21st-century smoothie