A new, revised version of The Joy of Sex has been published for the 21st Century. Besides some graphical revisions, the new The Joy of Sex covers some topics unknown in 1972, when the first version was published.
Those topics include, of course, the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, and the proper use of a condom. Since these concerns first arose in the 1980s, one can only wonder what took so long for the new The Joy of Sex to have a version addressing them.
Aside from that and a new couple of illustrate the various ways one can achieve coitus, the new version of The Joy of Sex covers a lot of the same ground as the old, using the French language in a way that Mme. Legrande never imagined using in the classroom. After all, the mechanics of sex have not really changed since 1972, even the kinkier varieties.
The culture, of course, has changed since 1972, which makes the new version of The Joy of Sex more of a footnote than a phenomenon. In 1972, people were just discovering that sex was not only fun to do, but fun to talk about and watch.
The Joy of Sex was not the first book of its type. The Kama Sutra, the Perfumed Garden, and various other guides of the act of love (or at least pleasure masking as love) had been around for centuries. The Joy of Sex was one of the first of its kind to be published and widely available in English, with easily understood instructions, tastefully (at least by some tastes) illustrated.
One never knows how many of the eight million people who bought the original The Joy of Sex flipped through the pages, actually found something that intrigued them, and proceeded to try it out. No doubt The Joy of Sex was the first revelation to many an adolescent of how the thing that they had started to obsess over was done.
The Joy of Sex was soon joined by its lesser known companion books, The Joy of Gay Sex and The Joy of Lesbian Sex, written and illustrated in much the same vein as its heterosexual counterpart. The Joy of Sex was very much a product of its time, the 1970s, when sex was a newly discovered sport for a lot of people, unfettered by feelings of guilt or danger, thanks to the availability of birth control and the collapse of the influence of the Church and of previous social convention.
All that came crashing down, to some extent, in the early 1980s when it was surmised that sex, incautiously indulged in, could lead to a slow, horrible death due to AIDS. By the 1980s, also, the novelty of guilt free sex, what Erica Jong called the “zipless f—“, had somewhat worn off. It was still fun, especially after safe sex techniques and a treatment (though no cure yet) for AIDS was developed. But the time of innocence had passed. Those loveless and sometimes anonymous hook ups are just not the same. The new version of The Joy of Sex is very much a product of our times, as removed from 1972 as that year was from the Great Depression.
Source: ‘Joy of Sex,’ Revised From Top to Bottom, Monica Hesse, Washington Post, January 10th, 2009
The Joy of Sex (2009), Alex Comfort, Crown, 2009