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Joy of Sex gets updated from its first female author Add to ...

The hairy man has been canned, as has coitus on a moving motorcycle, never mind atop a galloping horse. Taking their places in The Joy of Sex, The Ultimate Revised Edition: teledildonics and the tricky task of finding the A, G and U spots - topics author Alex Comfort could not have imagined when he wrote his 1972 classic.

Dr. Comfort, a British general practitioner, originally penned the pillow book because he was alarmed at how little his patients knew about sex, even a decade after the introduction of the Pill. (Dr. Comfort died in 2000.)

In the modernized edition, released this week in Canada by Random House, British psychologist Susan Quilliam addresses perils such as Web infidelity, proliferating sexually transmitted diseases, and the pick-up-artist community. As far as sex books go, this Joy of Sex is refreshingly conservative. Ms. Quilliam - the book's first female author - spoke with The Globe and Mail.

What have you gotten rid of in this version?

We've found that now, in Britain, sex on a moving motorcycle is illegal, so we had to take that out. Ditto sex on a moving horse.

Liability?

Absolutely. There were a couple things where [Dr. Comfort's]values had been superseded. He had a positive section on prostitution - more positive, shall we say, than nowadays. The suggestion he was making was that prostitutes were by definition very skilled and to be admired, if you like, for their skill in sex. I'm not suggesting that prostitutes aren't good at sex, but I am suggesting that what Alex Comfort was saying - that we should learn from them - completely ignores the horror of most prostitutes' lives.

You're also cataloguing previously unknown body parts.

Ahead of his time, Comfort mentioned the clitoris, but he only mentioned it half a dozen times.

He acknowledged its importance, but not as we do nowadays. The current figure is that 70 to 80 per cent of women need some sort of clitoral stimulation in order to climax. The G spot, that was around at the time. But we've since discovered the A spot further into the vagina and the U spot, the entrance to the urethra.

What about the Internet's effects on sex?

There are two things to be said about the Internet: The first is how wonderful it is and the second is how terrible it is. I stress both. There's Internet pornography, there's infidelity, but at the same time, the freedom it gives to form relationships is wonderful.

You devote a section to teledildonics.

I mention teledildonics in a section called Remote Control. Teledildonics is the long-distance use of a sex toy controlled from afar. The update is that it is possible to not only plug a sex toy into your computer and have your lover operate it from afar, but also there are MP3 players that double as vibrators.

What else did you revise?

[Dr. Comfort]was writing in an age where they didn't understand the dangers of sex, both emotional and physical. It's been a question of balancing out the new hedonism and the new puritanism against what he originally wrote.

What do you mean by emotional dangers?

I think one of the things Alex Comfort didn't realize was that when you sleep with somebody, almost always some sort of bond is formed, and that not only applies to women but to men as well. He was quite happy to acknowledge open relationships and [the ideas of]"We mustn't be possessive and we mustn't be jealous." Today's climate recognizes it's natural to want to be with the person you are sleeping with, and for them not to be with anybody else.

But the practice of polyamory is picking up speed, and many couples are questioning jealousy as a social construction - not nature. What do you make of that phenomenon?

One of the things about seduction is that it's got somewhat of a bad name. There are a number of seduction manuals and websites that are completely harmful. Some of these are camouflaged training courses on social competence and this is wonderful, but there are also some truly appalling websites that talk of victim and prey, and are abuse.

Are you referring to the growing community of pick-up artists in North America?

Yes, absolutely. I think it's dangerous because of the values it incorporates. The particular genre talks about making her insecure [and in relationship manuals for women]making him sweat, making him wait, withholding. I think the values are completely wrong here. I also warn against sleeping too easily with people. I think that's equally dangerous. I think there's an awful lot of pressure nowadays. This is something Comfort didn't take into account. He sort of assumes that it's all incredibly consensual.

This is not the first re-edition, is it?

There have been a number of re-editions.

There was a re-edition to take into account the AIDS crisis. There was a purple edition in the nineties - the cover was purple and the pages were violet. Then there was a 2002, 30-year edition, which [Dr. Comfort's son]Nick Comfort revised.

What they wanted when I revised it was a woman's tone to be added, and they wanted a sexologist's input.

Follow on Twitter: @ZosiaBielski

 

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