This piece was originally published on the Blowfish Blog.
Now. I have a whole passel of problems with these books. For starters, I hate how obsessed they are with penile-vaginal intercourse. The authors of these books seem to think that introducing variety into a sex life means finding 101 different ways to position male and female bodies together to make their genitals interlock. You’ll get a couple/few oral positions thrown in there; maybe a little anal if it’s one of the freakier books. But there’s little recognition of the wide world of sexual possibility that lives outside Man-Part Goes Inside Woman-Part. And there’s virtually no recognition of the fact that, for most women, intercourse by itself isn’t enough to get them off.
But sexual variety can mean so much more than rotating your bodies in different configurations before inserting Prong A into Slot B. And these books seem blind to these possibilities. They hardly ever talk about erogenous zones outside the obvious ones. They hardly ever talk about dirty talk, dirty outfits, foreplay (or, as we dykes like to call it, “sex”), sex toys, slowing things down, speeding things up, role-playing… all that good stuff.
Even when they do talk about this stuff, it’s no more than a cursory, “get it out of the way” mention before getting on to the important business of describing and demonstrating the Double Reverse Astronaut Position. These books might as well be titled, “101 Ways to Have the Exact Same Sex You’ve Been Having, But With Your Bodies Arranged Somewhat Differently.”
And that — especially the part about communication — leads me to my final and most important critique of these “101 Ways to Have Penile-Vaginal Intercourse” books:
I was inspired to write this piece (or reminded that I wanted to write it) by a piece in Dr. Marty Klein’s excellent blog, Sexual Intelligence. In this piece, Dr. Klein was talking about a couple who had been seeing him for sex therapy. They had an unhappy life together — mistrustful, resentful, insecure, unforgiving, uncommunicative, hostile — and their sex life was a predictable misery as a result. But they didn’t want to talk about their basic relationship problems. To quote Dr. Klein’s description of the sessions, “I didn’t seem that interested in talking about sex — I seemed overly focused on feelings, power dynamics, letting go of the past, and communication.” And they didn’t want to deal with any of that. They just wanted their sex life fixed. That’s what you go to a sex therapist for — right?
Okay. That’s a pretty obvious problem. As Dr. Klein said, “I have no idea what kind of sex they imagine they would have if they somehow desired each other — while disliking, mistrusting, and resenting each other. Whatever kind of sex that is, I don’t want to help people have it.” But what does it have to do with the “101 Positions To Spice Up Your Boring Sex Life” books?
Just this, yet again:
If you don’t already have a happy sex life, new sex positions by themselves are unlikely to make things better.
But if what you have on your hands is an okay/ mediocre sex life that’s getting into a rut, I think these books can be actually harmful. They give a completely misleading idea of what it takes to introduce variety into a long-term sex life. They make it seem as if the heart of sexual variety lies, not in imagination and experimentation and honest loving communication, but in arranging your bodies at different intersecting angles. If couples try this, and it doesn’t make their sex lives feel invigorated — as it very likely wouldn’t — it seems to me that it’d be more discouraging than anything else.
And if what you have is a sexual relationship like that of Dr. Klein’s couple — a toxic waste dump loaded with mistrust, insecurity, and resentment, inside the bedroom and out — then trying the Sideways Triple Bypass isn’t going to help.
No matter how tastefully erotic the photos in the book are.