Sex manual

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Sex manuals are books which explain how to perform sexual practices; they also commonly feature advice on birth control, and sometimes on safe sex and sexual relationships.

Early sex manuals[edit]

Artistic depiction of a sex position

In the Graeco-Roman area, a sex manual was written by Philaenis of Samos, possibly a hetaira (courtesan) of the Hellenistic period (3rd–1st century BC).[1] Preserved by a series of fragmentary papyruses which attest its popularity, it served as a source of inspiration for Ovid's Ars Amatoria, written around 3 BC, which is partially a sex manual, and partially a burlesque on the art of love.

The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, believed to have been written in the 1st to 6th centuries, has a notorious reputation as a sex manual, although only a small part of its text is devoted to sex. It was compiled by the Indian sage Vatsyayana sometime between the second and fourth centuries CE. His work was based on earlier Kamashastras or Rules of Love going back to at least the seventh century BCE, and is a compendium of the social norms and love-customs of patriarchal Northern India around the time he lived. Vatsyayana's Kama Sutra is valuable today for his psychological insights into the interactions and scenarios of love, and for his structured approach to the many diverse situations he describes. He defines different types of men and women, matching what he terms "equal" unions, and gives detailed descriptions of many love-postures.

The Kama Sutra was written for the wealthy male city-dweller. It is not, and was never intended to be, a lover's guide for the masses, nor is it a "Tantric love-manual". About three hundred years after the Kama Sutra became popular, some of the love-making positions described in it were reinterpreted in a Tantric way. Since Tantra is an all-encompassing sensual science, love-making positions are relevant to spiritual practice.

Medieval sex manuals include the lost works of Elephantis, by Constantine the African; Ananga Ranga, a 12th-century collection of Hindu erotic works; and The Perfumed Garden for the Soul's Recreation, a 16th-century Arabic work by Sheikh Nefzaoui. The fifteenth-century Speculum al foderi (The Mirror of Coitus) is the first medieval European work to discuss sexual positions. Constantine the African also penned a medical treatise on sexuality, known as Liber de coitu.

Modern sex manuals[edit]

Despite the existence of ancient sex manuals in other cultures, sex manuals were banned in Western culture for many years. What sexual information was available was generally only available in the form of illicit pornography or medical books, which generally discussed either sexual physiology or sexual disorders. The authors of medical works went so far as to write the most sexually explicit parts of their texts in Latin, so as to make them inaccessible to the general public (see Krafft-Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis as an example).

A few translations of the ancient works were circulated privately, such as The Perfumed Garden….

In the late 19th Century, Ida Craddock wrote many serious instructional tracts on human sexuality and appropriate, respectful sexual relations between married couples. Among her works were The Wedding Night and Right Marital Living. In 1918 Marie Stopes published Married Love, considered groundbreaking despite its limitations in details used to discuss sex acts.

Theodoor Hendrik van de Velde's book Het volkomen huwelijk (The Perfect Marriage), published in 1926, was well known in Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Estonia. In Germany, Die vollkommene Ehe reached its 42nd printing in 1932 despite its being placed on the list of forbidden books, the [[Index Librorum Prohibitorum]], by the Roman Catholic Church. In Sweden, Det fulländade äktenskapet was widely known although regarded as pornographic and unsuitable for young readers long into the 1960s. In English, Ideal Marriage: Its Physiology and Technique has 42 printings in its original 1930 edition, and was republished in new editions in 1965 and 2000.

David Reuben, M. D.'s book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask), published in 1969, was one of the first sex manuals that entered mainstream culture in the 1960s. Although it did not feature explicit images of sex acts, its descriptions of sex acts were unprecedentedly detailed, addressing common questions and misunderstandings Reuben had heard from his own patients. Most notably, Reuben dismissed popular medical-psychiatric notions of "vaginal" vs. "clitoral" orgasm, explaining exactly how female physiology works.

The Joy of Sex by Dr. Alex Comfort was the first visually explicit sex manual to be published by a mainstream publisher. Its appearance in public bookstores in the 1970s opened the way to the widespread publication of sex manuals in the West. As a result, hundreds of sex manuals are now available in print.

One of the currently most well known in America is The Guide to Getting it On! by Paul Joannides. Now in its seventh edition, it has won several prestigious awards and been translated into 12 foreign languages since appearing in 1996.[2]

Notes and references[edit]

List of sex manuals[edit]

Angeles, Library of Congress #75-36170 , 101 pp. — design criteria for assistive furniture, with sections on accommodation of disabled persons.

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See also[edit]