The Joy of Sex illustrated

Cordelia Hebblethwaite

Forty years ago, a London publisher was working on a groundbreaking sex manual – a "gourmet guide" to sexual pleasure, with copious and detailed illustrations. But how could this be done tastefully and legally?

Think of The Joy of Sex and chances are your mind will drift to an image of a man with a bushy beard and a woman with hairy armpits.

It’s not a photograph, but the nearest thing to it in pen and ink.

In early 1970s Britain, photographs would have been too risque. But hand-drawn illustrations based on photographs? Maybe society was ready for that.

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Some ancient sex manuals

The private pleasure of Prince Muhammad Shah, late 17th Century India © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

  • China: Emperor Huang-Ti is credited with writing the first sex manual, about 4,500 years ago
  • Ancient Rome: The poet Ovid wrote The Art of Love about 2,000 years ago – though it is more of a guide on how to find lovers and keep them than a sex manual
  • India: The Kama Sutra, believed to be written by the philosopher Vatsyayana in about the 3rd Century, includes a detailed section on sex
  • Arab world: The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Desire by Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Nafzawi was written in Tunisia in the 15th Century, and is sometimes referred to as the "Arab Kama Sutra"

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