Nicole Cliffe over at The Awl just threw us for a nostalgic loop this morning by reviewing the 1972 book, “The Joy Of Sex.”

Even if you weren’t sexually active (or alive) when the book was first published, children who grew up in the 70s and 80s might remember this book, especially, as Nicole puts it, “bored teenage baby-sitters going through their employers’ bookshelves.” (YEP.)

I remember this book from college, where my roommate’s copy was in its rightful place in the Western Canon, next to The Republic and Canterbury Tales. Many a bored night would we spend shrieking and flipping through the book, not because we’d never seen sex before (ahem.) but because the sex in The Joy Of Sex seemed like a whole different type of ballgame.

This was hairy, sweaty, and, what seemed to us to be not-so-hygienic. This was hailing the big toe as a “magnificent erotic organ.” This was clearly from another time. This was caveman sex.

Sure, my roommate and I mainly loved The Joy Of Sex for its shock value. But the sex in the book was different for another reason, too. Before flipping through its pages, my roommate and I had been exposed to passionate sex, lustful sex, loving sex…but not joyful sex. Here was a couple who didn’t care about what they looked like or smelled like or what kind of undignified positions they twisted into — very different from the sex we’d grown up seeing in movies like Titanic or even American Pie. (Fact: the couple illustrated in the book is in fact the illustrator and his wife.)

The Joy Of Sex was recently revised for a more modern audience, and the old-fashioned (caveman) drawings have been replaced with a more subdued, modern couple. But there’s something to be said about the free-lovin’, no-inhibitions sex portrayed in the original. We can do without the big toe sex positions… but finding joy and fun in sex? Let’s hope that’s not just a relic of the past.

[The Awl]

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