There are all sorts of reasons to be wary of a new, fully revised edition of The Joy of Sex. For those of us who grew up in the Seventies taking clandestine peeks at our parents' copies - guffawing at the graphic line-drawings and puzzling over such positions as "the Viennese oyster" - the resistance is primarily sentimental. No one likes to see the iconic texts of their childhood tampered with. And the fact that the person presiding over this revision is the son of the late author adds a worrisome Freudian component to the project. Comfort Junior, a year-old civil servant, has testified rather sourly in the past to the embarrassment and unhappiness that his father's sexual adventurism caused him as a boy. There is anyway a natural scepticism about what the modernising spirit can achieve for such a book as The Joy of Sex. Attempts in recent years to produce groovier, up-to-date alternatives to this classic have tended to a brash, demotic style - "Yeah, sex is grrrreat!
But things didn't really get going until , when Dr. Alex Comfort published his groundbreaking and, indeed, earth-moving ''Joy of Sex. If you were born after , you may indeed owe your very existence to Comfort.
For Philip Larkin, sexual intercourse began in ; for the rest of us, sex only got seriously under way 30 years ago, in the summer of That was when a strange book appeared on the coffee tables of the affluent British middle classes. The cover showed a long-haired, Cro-Magnon roughneck with a black beard, tilting his face towards the face of an alarmed-looking brunette from a Modesty Blaise comic strip. They were clearly just about to kiss — but a feral, hungry quality about the man implied that something more fundamental was about to happen. And in the book's ensuing pages, something did.