April 13, 2012

"If you are a child of the seventies and were raised on 'The Joy of Sex,' you are not likely to have forgotten the illustrations."

"The woman depicted in these drawings is lovely, and, even nearly forty years later, quite chic," writes Ariel Levy in The New Yorker. "Her gentleman friend, however, looks like a werewolf with a hangover. He is heavily bearded; his hair is long, and, it always seemed, a little greasy. His eyelids are usually at half-mast, adding to his feral appearance."
It isn’t easy watching beauty get pawed by the beast, and our narrator does not help matters. “At a certain level and for all men,” Comfort informs us, “girls, and parts of girls, are at this stimulus level unpeople.” In “The Joy of Sex,” a male is a man, a female is a girl, and a vagina is, to “males generally, slightly scarey: it looks like a castrating wound and bleeds regularly, it swallows the penis and regurgitates it limp, it can probably bite and so on.”... Under the heading “Women (by her for him),” Comfort writes of male genitalia, “It’s less the size than the personality, unpredictable movements, and moods which make up the turn-on (which is why rubber dummies are so sickening).”

44 comments:

Palladian said...

Why the hell write about specific illustrations without including any examples of them?

Here's a BBC article that at least gives some samples.

I like my men a bit "feral", but the guy in the Foss "Joy Of Sex" illustrations looks like seven miles of bad quaaludes and cannabis seeds & stems.

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palladian said...

Actually the guy in those illustrations always reminded me a bit of Dan Hill...

Sometimes when we touch, your vagina bleeds too much, and then swallows my penis and regurgitates it limp...

edutcher said...

I think I saw it someplace.

The Blonde always said I went straight to Chapter 33.

(is there a chapter 33?)

PS Good point about the lack of pix, Palladian

Ann Althouse said...

"Why the hell write about specific illustrations without including any examples of them?"

1. Levy is addressing readers who were there in the 70s, getting those iconic pictures seared into their brains. As for everyone else, you're better off not seeing what, once seen, cannot be unseen.

2. In the New Yorker, the writers draw pictures with words. It's like the way they used to never had photographs.

3. The New Yorker has its own artists and is an exclusive place.

4. They would have had to pay.

Ann Althouse said...

In life drawing classes, I always hated when the male models had beards. It makes their head not relate to the rest of their bodies... just cuts it off at the neck.

And when the guys were skinny with long, curly hair and a big curly beard... it was like drawing a dandelion.

Palladian said...

3. The New Yorker has its own artists and is an exclusive place.

I'd love to see "The Joy of Sex" as rendered by New Yorker cartoonists.

Palladian said...

Those "Joy of Sex" illustrations would have been different and better if they had been life-drawings instead of renderings of awkward photographs (taken by the author of the book).

In my drawing classes I make even the female models wear beards.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'd love to see "The Joy of Sex" as rendered by New Yorker cartoonists."

Unlike the cartoons, that would be funny.

Ann Althouse said...

"Those "Joy of Sex" illustrations would have been different and better if they had been life-drawings instead of renderings of awkward photographs (taken by the author of the book)."

Yes, that is what is so bad about them as drawings. The relationship to photographs is bizarrely destructive.

Palladian said...

My students foolishly think they can trick me by using photographs as reference sources for their drawings, but it always shows.

There's nothing wrong with the practice, per se, but usually the outcome is dire, especially if you think no one will notice.

Palladian said...

New Yorker cartoons : humorous : : "The Joy of Sex" illustrations : arousing

Meade said...

There were illustrations? Who knew?
I thought everyone was reading it for the e.e. cummings "poem".

EDH said...

Palladian said...
"I'd love to see "The Joy of Sex" as rendered by New Yorker cartoonists."

Sexual Evolution

This week in The [New Yorker] magazine, Ariel Levy writes about “The Joy of Sex.” Here is a comparison of the original 1972 edition, by the British scientist and physician Alex Comfort, and the new “ultimate revised edition.”

An illustration from the “rear-entry” section. The original edition of “Joy of Sex” referred to another variation of rear-entry intercourse as sex “à la Négresse.” Other “outrageous Comfortisms” include “Don’t get yourself raped” and “Vibrators are no substitute for a penis.”

yashu said...

I'd love to see "The Joy of Sex" as rendered by New Yorker cartoonists.

Ha. Well, if I may suggest a sex manual that sees something other than joy in it, how about this book?

Better excerpts here.

rcocean said...

"Unlike the cartoons, that would be funny."

New Yorker cartoons *ARE* funny - or used to be funny. (I haven't read it in 15 years). They're just not written for the little old lady in Dubuque Iowa.

Bender said...

The sexual revolution was supposed to make sex so hip, so cool, so . . . sexy. And all too often, like with all those sex manuals, they just made it tedious and dated and laughable.

Ever see those shows like HBOs "Real Sex"? Talk about your greasy, hairy, unsavory guys.

All they have done with the Revolution is reduce it to the Unjoy of Sex, the Banality of Sex.

Bender said...

There was, however, a feminist alternative: the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective’s “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” The book announced on its original, 1971 jacket that it was “By and for Women”

And the 2012 version is retitled, "Our Bodies, Your Wallet."

edutcher said...

Bender said...

Ever see those shows like HBOs "Real Sex"? Talk about your greasy, hairy, unsavory guys.

I note the horror of it blocked the sight of the women from your memory.

Jeff said...

Chris Foss, the artist in The Joy of Sex is as well known or more so for his iconic sci fi art from the 70's.

rhhardin said...

Being a guy, I got National Lampoon's parody The Job of Sex, but I remember only the Wichita Walkoff.

Bruce Hayden said...

Part of the natural result of the sexual revolution was this: Isn't It Romantic? Feminism's latest triumph: Boys are afraid of girls.

"The 2002 National Survey of Family Growth found that more than one-third of teenage boys, but only one-quarter of teenage girls, cited wanting to avoid pregnancy or disease as the main reason they had not yet had sex."

It is akin to what they used to say about drugs - that there aren't any good ones left, because our generation did them all. Well, it seems even more true that there isn't a lot of sex left because so much of the good stuff was used up by our baby boom generation.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

My wife likes the idea of having horseradish and beef with sex. Gives the experience an earthy angle, and provides an excuse to have extra napkins handy.

Because towels at the dinner table would be gross..

sydney said...

I was a child in in the seventies, and I used to take sneak peeks into The Joy of Sex to try to figure out what this sex thing was all about. That book turned me off any thought of sex. It wasn't until I was a freshman in college and saw this painting that I realized there could be joy associated with sex.

Peter said...

Not to mention the fact that the woman in The Joy of Sex actually looked like an adult woman. She was bursting with a limitless cornucopia of magnificent enhanced aromas and flavors.

LarryK said...

These illustrations remind me of Alan Bates and Jill Clayburgh from "An Unmarried Woman," another dubious relic of sex in the 70s.

SGT Ted said...

Hippies were chic back then. Little Ariel obviously likes the hairless boy look.

The dude in the Joy of Sex was a hippy dude because the Joy of Sex was a celebration of the Hippy "free love" attitude. Sympathetic hipsers bought the book back when it came out. I remember it being somewhat subversive to have that publicly displayed in the home.

Quayle said...

raised on 'The Joy of Sex'

In the Mormon home of my childhood we were raised on Winnie the Pooh, Dr. Seuss, and other children's classics like Black Beauty and Robinson Crusoe.

I never imagined there were homes out there where the kids were raised on 'The Joy of Sex'.

No wonder some kids were always putting their heads down on their desk - they never slept.

Michael Haz said...

I was a student at UW when Joy of Sex was published. My (then) girlfriend and I bought a copy just to be sure that we hadn't overlooked any stuff. We hadn't.

The illustrations were hilarious, but remember, this was a mainstream book in the early 70s.

Many bookstores wouldn't carry it. Publishing the book with photos (rather than the hokey drawings) of actual humans engaging in the sexual positions described would have been pornographic by the standards of the day, and Joy of Sex wound never had made it to the few book sellers that carried it.

It was fun, though, to put check marks on each page.

Mark O said...

Damn. I bought "The Greening of America" instead. No wonder.

pst314 said...

Side-note: Alex Comfort had a very heated argument with George Orwell on the eve of WWII. Comfort was an "aggressive" pacifist who wanted England to disarm in the face of German aggression, and who condemned those who would fight as morally depraved. He said that he would not fight Hitler under any circumstances, and if England fell he would simply retreat to America where would be protected by 3,000 miles of ocean--and many millions of men and women who were infinitely his superiors.

I don't remember with certainty the names of the publications in which the letters and essays appeared (Partisan Review was probably one of them) but one of them begins with Orwell's famous "pacifism is objectively pro-fascist". The entire exchange is collected in My Country Right or Left 1940-1943: The Collected Essays Journalism & Letters of George Orwell.

madAsHell said...

I never found any of the pictures in "The Joy of Sex" erotic. I always thought the author(s) had some kind of sexual hang-up.

Later in life I found Penthouse, and...well...hey!

Name and address
withheld by request

pst314 said...

Correction: It was NOT "on the even of World War II." It was in 1942.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"I'd love to see "The Joy of Sex" as rendered by New Yorker cartoonists."

Unlike the cartoons, that would be funny...

....Peter Arno would have pulled it off with panache. And he WAS funny.

wyo sis said...

I'm 61 and this is the first time I've ever seen those illustrations. I had to google them. Very strange. I wonder what people did for check-off lists before this came out. My husband and I had to create our own.

YoungHegelian said...

Imagine the Joy of Sex illustrations by Edward Gorey!

Morticia was hot, in her own proto-Goth girl way.....

Bender said...

Bender: Ever see those shows like HBOs "Real Sex"? Talk about your greasy, hairy, unsavory guys.

edutcher: I note the horror of it blocked the sight of the women from your memory.


I was trying to be polite and genteel in not also mentioning the lumpy, wrinkled, unsavory type of women that were portrayed, often just as hairy, with big glasses, as their dinosaur hippie "lovers." The kind of folk who go to nudist colonies and swinger parties, as shown in these shows, are not the "beautiful people."

SGT Ted said...

The Kama Sutra was a hit back then too amongst the groupies and gropies.

madAsHell said...

So....I'm thinking back, and I don't recall how homosexuality was covered in "The Joy of Sex". Is the book homophobic?....or can we conclude that there is no joy homosexuality?

Just trolling!!

Bender said...
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Bender said...

can we conclude that there is no joy homosexuality?

Well, to tell from the constantly joyless and angry and bitter attacks and rants that routinely come from our gay friends who comment here -- it is reasonable to conclude that there is no joy in homosexuality (or in most leftist sexuality -- Miss Fluke certainly has been no bundle of joy).

wyo sis said...

Joy seems an exalted word to use in describing sex. I think it takes away from the meaning of joy as I understand it.
Pleasure or ecstasy or delight or gratifications sound better to me for describing sex. Maybe just me?

rcommal said...

That was one of the books my dad kept in his underwear drawer when I was a teen. Yikes! ; )

Saint Croix said...

I don't recall how homosexuality was covered in "The Joy of Sex".

Who can forget lesbians and the big toe?