Free Life 19, November 1993, Sean Gabb Reviews “The New Joy of Gay Sex”

From Free Life, Issue 19, November 1993
ISSN: 0260 5112

The New Joy of Gay Sex
Dr Charles Silverstein and Edmund White
The Gay Men’s Press, London, 1993, 220 pp., £16.95
(ISBN 0 85449 214 3)

New Joy of Gay SexI did think of turning this review into a plea for the toleration of sexual differences. But where homosexuals are concerned, I suspect I am about a decade too late. I will not claim that they have today no justified grievances. The criminal and civil law of this country embodies a mass of prejudice which ranges from the petty to the viciously destructive. Even so, the argument for removing that prejudice has been largely won in the minds of those who matter. There are very few middle class people left who regard homosexuality as something abominable—as justifying an exclusion that amounts to social death, or even as justifying the slightest legal disability.

Of course, such people do still exist. But they are the despised minority. They are the ones often excluded from polite society. They are even the ones whom this journal may soon be defending from a legal persecution.

This being said, I will deny my readers an unnecessary effusion, and move directly to consider the merits of this book.

These, I must say, are considerable. I missed the original Joy of Gay Sex, which according to Edmund White’s Preface was thrown quickly together in 1977. But I do know people who read it and whose lives were transformed as it helped them to throw off the shackles of a guilt they had never before questioned. Fifteen years’ later, and the book’s message is necessarily more complex, less immediately joyous. We can no longer believe that sexual pleasure is easily and safely available for anyone who will only dare to reach out and claim it. Yet, though written in the shadow of AIDS—Mr White has been HIV positive for some time—this new edition is, quite simply, the best thing I have ever read about homosexuality and homosexual acts. For anyone who is a homosexual, or is not one but wants to know what homosexuals are and exactly what they do, it is an essential book.

Arranged as an encyclopædia, its subjects include : Anus, Blow Job, Bondage, Coming Out, Domestic Violence, Gyms, Insurance, Nipples, Rape, Scat, Suicide, Water Sports, Wills, and much, much more. The writers know what they are writing about, giving what in some cases I suspect to be their personal experiences. And they do not rant. This is an inestimable quality in such a work. I have taken up much else on the subject that has been made unreadable by a hectoring or even hysteical tone. Here, the tone is throughout cool and informative. Advice is given. Warnings are offered. Praise and blame are awarded where the writers think appropriate. But this is not a book of sermons.

To give a flavour of its contents, I quote from the article on Phone Sex:

There’s no truth in advertising on the phones. Almost everyone entices with exaggerated descriptions of themselves. Any cock that measures from four to seven inches will be described as eight inches long; it’ll be cut or uncut, depending upon what the owner thinks you want to hear. If it’s actually eight inches, the proud possessor will proudly proclaim it a nine- or ten-inch whammer. He may even have given his cock a name in honour of its imposing size, although no one to our knowledge has yet catalogued the nicknames of people’s peckers. Just as additions are made to cock size, subtractions are made from age. The general rule appears to be a five-year discount, so a thirty- year-old claims to be twenty-five, and so on up the line. On the other hand, young guys, from the teens to the young twenties, sometimes increase their age by a few years in order not to frighten away older gentlemen (in their thirties).

Other physical descriptions are equally inaccurate. A man who describes himself as a football player is probably overweight. The caller’s claim to have a swimmer’s body my be interpreted to mean that he’s thin, perhaps very thin—quite unlike swimmers’ bodies these days. (p. 140)

Again, I quote from the article First Time:

One note of caution. Fingers, dildoes and cocks can be pleasurable and are safe. Never put anything else up your ass. No glass bottles, sweet potatoes, or other exotic objects. They may elude your grasp, get lost in your intestines, and may require major surgery (see Sex Toys). You should prepare in a number of ways for getting fucked the first time. Physically, all you need to do is to clean yourself out with an enema. you should also have condoms ready, and always insist your partner use them. We strongly advise you not to drink alcohol heavily or to use mind-altering drugs at this time. They may interfere with good judgment about safe sex (see Booze and Highs). Choose a lubricant that contains nonoxynol-9. Lubricate your asshole and the outside of your partner’s condom liberally. You may also want to have your favourite jerk-off lubricant handy, to work on your own dick while getting fucked (see Condoms; Lubricants; Safe Sex). (p. 68)

Yet again, I quote from the article on Sex with Animals:

The Chinese were constantly accused of having ‘love affairs with geese’. Both Sir Richard Burton (the English explorer) and Paolo Mantegazza (an Italian anthropologist) were accused of fucking geese and wringing the necks of the animals at the moment of ejaculation so as to ‘get the pleasurable benefit of the anal sphincter’s last spasms in the victim’. French farmers were said to do the same; they claimed to have learned the sex practice from the English. And sex with animals is probably the only thing never blamed on the Italians.” (p. 171)

I ought also to mention the illustrations, by F. Ronald Fowler and Deni Ponty. These are very well drawn, and are both instructive and pornographic. Indeed, with their representation of just about every likely age, shape, racial type, and sexual act, there may be something here for every taste.

One of my Books.
Learn More

I say above that I have no wish to discuss the wider issues of toleration. I will make one exception. This is to regret that the book will not reach a wider audience. Hate is often based on fear; and it is difficult to fear what is openly known. Some of my readers may claim to be disgusted by the second quotation above. But if they will only read this book, they will be forced to one important point—that, mutual fellation aside, there is no sexual act performed by homosexuals that cannot be—indeed, is not—performed by heterosexuals. Whatever can be said about particular circumstances, there is nothing exclusive about the acts themselves.

I go further. Many heterosexuals may snigger as they read about enemas and jerk-off lubricant. But I suggest that they will not find anything half so good as this in their own magazines and instruction manuals about male sexuality.

Therefore, buy this book, whatever your sexual preference. Read it. Learn from it. Give copies to your friends this Christmas. If you have adolescent children, make it part of their required reading. Let these above all be not ignorant. Will it turn them into homosexuals? Probably not: matters of exclusive sexual preference probably owe more to a natural disposition than to worldly influence. And if it does encourage them to experiment—and with or without this book, many will experiment—they will do so at least with their eyes open.

In short, buy this book.

Anthony Furlong (Sean Gabb)

© 1993 – 2018, seangabb.

Thanks for reading this. If you liked it, please consider doing one or some or all of the following:

1. Share it on social media – see buttons below;
2. Like my Facebook page;
3. Subscribe to my YouTube channel;
4. Sign up for my newsletter;
5. Click on a few of the discreet and tastefully-chosen advertisements that adorn this article;
6. Check out my books – they are hard to avoid.

Best regards,
Sean

Oh, and for those who may feel inclined to leave some small token of regard, here is the usual begging button:

Additional Related