I have never approved of How-To guides. I rarely read the owner’s manual or instruction pamphlet that accompany the myriad small and large appliances I acquire year after year as an American Consumer — I just tinker until they work. I do not attend classes associated with my hobbies. I take photographs and I shoot pool, and, slowly but surely, I get better and better. Practice, in my book, may not make perfect, but it is the one sure way to improve.
If there is one arena in which no manual is necessary, it is the realm of sex. If we really needed help with this physical phenomenon, would I have to pay 14 percent of one year’s rent to a broker to get an apartment in New York City? Would there even be a population, much less a burgeoning one? Clearly, people have been getting it on with a measured level of success for some time now.
So, why has some sexpert taken intimacy to task and offered us 700 pages of his findings and opinions? Simply because we won’t do it for ourselves. Call it the millennium if you like, but there is still no taboo topic even approaching sex. We may be able to walk down the street or look through a magazine and exercise our new found “gay-dar,” but introducing butt plugs into conversation is likely frowned upon in most social circles. As sexually and socially liberated as we might fancy ourselves, sex talk is still an affront to “polite company.”
I find my friends are desperate to hear whether or not I “did the deed” the night before, but let me ask them if any lover of theirs has ever shot a finger where the sun don’t shine at just the right moment and suddenly I am in the principal’s office, again. Mere mention of the new Toys In Babeland catalogue evokes tittering from every stool at the bar. And no, they do not want to come over and see the fantastic new vibrator that just arrived in the mail. Trust me, I have offered. And this tends to be the case with all of my friends, from the dancing girls to the bookworms, be they gay or straight.
Perhaps what we do need is a little prodding toward practice, a bit of honest and articulate commentary to peruse in private and pique our oh-so-obvious curiosity on the subject. This is exactly what research psychoanalyst Paul Joannides provides in The Guide to Getting It On! With chapters like “Playing With Yourself,” “The Zen of Finger Fucking,” and “On The Penis” all the way up through “Techno Breasts & Weenie Angst,” “When the Tide Turns Red,” and “Sex When You Are Horny & Disabled,” there is plenty of food here for thought and exploration.
I am well aware that Dr. Ruth and her ilk have covered most of these topics before, but what makes this book a cut above is Joannides’ candor and cleverness – not to mention Daerick Gross, Sr.’s incredible illustrations. Male partners are referred to as “your cowboy,” and female partners are “your sweetheart.” Information is conveyed in a matter-of-fact and humorous tone. For instance, in the beginning of Chapter 14, “Balls, Balls, Balls,” he writes, “Testicles are far more rugged than you might think and can usually be handled with impugnity… .[They] should feel a little like hard boiled eggs without the shell, but they won’t be quite that big unless your lover is related to the racehorse Secretariat.” Isn’t that reassuring to know? Aren’t you just a tad more confident about checking out the next pair you meet? If not, the following comment might be more geared toward your proclivities: “When you are shooting a free throw, you don’t want to hit the rim. When you are landing a plane, you don’t want to brush the treetops. When you are going down on a woman, it’s an entirely different story. The best approach to a woman’s genitals is anything but direct.”
He walks the line between tact and information, thank heaven, and he is often damn funny doing it. The best example is his “Definition of Words Pertaining to Sex, Local Culture & Sport.” An alphabetic sampling from this glossary is reprinted here to wet your whistle. However, no matter how much talk there is of lubing, caressing, fisting, or licking, the ultimate goals for the reader are pleasure, safety, and broader horizons.
The aforementioned illustrations throughout the book are vivid and varied and bring alive both the excitement and practical application of the subject matter. Gross employs the same humor in his artwork as Joannides does in his commentary. My favorite example is a recurring and unsuspecting party to the depicted rompings: the curious housecat. Comfortably lolling under the bed or frozen stiff tailed in amazement on the back of the sofa, the presence of this all-too-animated creature reminds us that we’re the only animals silly enough to be ashamed of how we mate.
Believe it or not, I see this book as Harold Bloom regarded his own tome, Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. At his publication party he was asked how any of us were supposed to read such a dense and literally weighty book straight through. His answer was that we were not, rather that it was a companion in our experience of Shakespeare’s work, to be consulted here and there as we read or went to the theatre. What The Guide to Getting It On! does well, and all that any book like it can be expected to do, is to accompany you in your endeavors – not as a map, chart, or any other standard, but as a close, honest, and very wise friend.And for those of you sex gods and goddesses out there who have no unanswered questions or concerns, take a look just to prove that there is no undiscovered country. I dare you. [Originally published by The Simon.]