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Sex Manuals: Who writes them and why

by Beth Divine 25 Jun 2019

There are a number of sex manuals in existence today, and some of them are extremely ancient, while others are more modern. But who was writing these books and what was their purpose in doing so?

A blog post or two on this site has already tackled the Kama Sutra, a seventeen hundred year old text which was written in order to help young wealthy and high caste people to understand how to go about finding lovers and spouses and how to please them once you have done so. The text is primarily aimed at young men, but it does reference the innate acceptability of its use by women too, both before and after marriage (although, of course, only with the permission of the man in her life).

There was also The Perfumed Garden, a fifteenth century Arabic text, on similar topics. It too was translated by Englishman Richard Francis Burton, the translator of the Kama Sutra, who removed the chapters on homosexual relations, just as he did with the older, Indian text. The Perfumed Garden offered advice on sexual technique as well as methods of curing various sexual maladies, interpretations of naughty dreams and lists of different names for various body parts. It also contains a number of stories, presumably designed to back up the advice given as well as to entertain the readers.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid To Ask: This 1969 book, by David Reuben, was primarily aimed at heterosexual couples, squeamishly avoiding anything that might typically be designated as ‘alternative’ lifestyle. Despite its many shortcomings, the book was sympathetic and witty, offering answers to questions that many young couples would have had, with no real recourse as to finding out the answers: no internet in those days! It was a bestseller in 51 countries and was read by over 100  million people.

So you can see, in every generation there are questions about sex – how to get a partner, what to do when you have one, and how to live the best life that you can. And that includes enjoying plenty of satisfactory and consensual sex. And in almost every generation there are those who are empathetic and understanding enough to write down how to solve these (seemingly ageless) issues!