The Comfort of Sex – Culling the Library, Part II

I’ve always thought it strange that someone whose surname was Comfort would put his name to pictures that look less comfortable and comforting than riding naked on a hedgehog.

Alex Comfort’s The Joy of Sex was definitely one that initially went to the slush pile as library cull continued.  It was, according to reports, the book we all secretly read in our parents’ house. That made me feel very old, as I had The Joy of Sex (A Gourmet Guide to Lovemaking), More Joy of Sex (A Lovemaker’s Companion) and The New Joy of Sex (Newly Illustrated and Fully Revised Edition), all of which were bought with my pocket money and not pilfered from my parents.

I was not sexually active when the book was first published in 1972 (heck, I was 14 and still playing secret agents with corned beef tin keys in my local castle), but was, like any teenager, curious. Resuming the great library cull, I rescued the daring stash to remind myself of what “joys” I must have felt upon first opening their pages.

The first volume sprang open at ‘Semen’ and explained: “There is no lovemaking without spilling this, on occasions at least.” I can only imagine with what horror my OCD first met this information. The fact that the book opened at this page makes me think it must have been the most worrying part of the whole sexual operation. ‘Mons Pubis’ must have been a walk in the park after this.

However, Mr Comfort had some comforting advice: when the stain had dried – and, get this – it’s removable from “clothing or furnishings” with “a stiff brush.” Trust me, oh blessed Comforter, it ain’t as easy as it sounds. I recall a politician I was involved with in the late Eighties, and he ruined my red sectional sofa. Mr C’s cleaning tip is a lie. Keep men away from furnishings, I say; or don’t buy foam-filled sofas.

By the way, should you find semen spilling onto your partner, he says you can “massage it gently in.” Apparently, “the pollen-odor of fresh semen is itself an aphrodisiac.” Forget 1972; that’s news to me in 2021, I can tell you.

The first volume illustrations featured a man who was way too much like the Jesus in my Children’s Bible (something I was reminded of during the culling of my religious section). I just couldn’t get to grips mentally or emotionally with a man who was one day raising people from the dead and turning water into wine, and the next engaged in ‘Feuille de Rose.’ This was Jesus we were talking about; I just couldn’t see him using that stiff brush to dispense with any ungainly bodily fluids stuck to his robe.

The problem with all three volumes is that they make sex sound so… well, nice. Of course, it can be (Netflix’s Bridgerton makes that all too apparent), but where are the sections titled ‘What to do when he’s shagging your best friend,’ or ‘What to do when he’s so tiny, you need sat nav to find it?’

I binned my whole sex section (two shelves) along with George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway, figuring that I no longer had a need for any of them. It’s not that I knew everything there was to know about politics, fishing/shooting yourself, or sex, but if there’s any of the latter to be had, I’d rather be out there doing it than reading about it. And if I hadn’t learned enough from the many books on my shelves, then I deserved to be punished and not get any.

They were all yellow and falling apart at the seams, anyway (the books, not just the men I know): Love and Orgasm, The Hite Report, Men and Sex, Transcendental Sex (who could be assed with that, quite frankly – apart from Sting), and, my favorite, Nice Girls Do. I’m pretty sure I liked that title because my Baptist background assured me that nice girls really don’t until they get married. 

I must have been thrilled to read the section headed ‘Janet takes a chance’. Janet was 31 and owned a candy store and, when her husband was playing with her thighs one night, she remembered her childhood pediatrician, Dr Rosenbloom. She loved him because he was “so gentle and he gave me suckers every time I went in for an examination.” 

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Janet started talking about the joys of the good doctor when she’s having sex, a conversation that set off “an explosion of orgasms.” And it got better: “Not only didn’t my husband criticize me, he got the hardest erection I’ve ever felt… This talking stuff really works!” Good old Dr Rosenbloom and his suckers. 

Anyone else a tad worried about all this?

I wonder what I also learned from The Opposite Sex (Telling the Teenagers), first published in 1957, a year before I was born. The focus was on home making and included a whole section on furniture, which “must be easy to take care of and clean.”

You’re telling me. Especially if the likes of Mr Comfort and his mates are popping by of an evening with their pollen odors.

Do we ever learn anything about sex from books, or is it an ever elusive thing that, once you think you’ve nailed it, surprises you in whole new ways? It has to, because people are different, and what works with one might not work with another. Not being a fan of masked balls, for example, Mr Comfort’s picture of a man and woman facing each other wearing eye-masks would have me running screaming from the bedroom (and certainly the sofa).

So, having briefly returned to the sex section of my bookcase, I decided that the whole thing needed to be culled. It’s been as much as I can do to remember a guy’s name since 1999,  let alone what I have to do to keep him entertained. My demands would never again be as high as anything in those tomes.

Decades on from The Joy of Sex, if a man has a penis, that’s fine by me.

I am so easily pleased.

It’s a comfort – of sorts.