Every Monday, The CSPH takes a look at a book or film focusing on an aspect of sexuality. This week we are featuring Paul Joannides’ The Guide to Getting It On, a straightforward, fun, and easy-to-read manual on sexual behavior, anatomy, and expression, currently published in its sixth edition.
Paul Joannides is an author, researcher, radio host, and sex therapist as well as a member of the Board of Directors of the Journal of Sexual Medicine and former member of the editorial board of the American Journal of Sexuality Education. Needless to say, Joannides knows a little bit about the politics of sex; specifically the kinds of topics the average person wants to learn about but may be too nervous to ask of their doctors, friends, or sexual partners. The Guide offers easy-to-comprehend and relatable lessons on a variety of sexually related topics, and has even been assigned as a course textbook in college sexual-education classes across the country.
Though the book is just shy of 1,000 pages and contains 81 separate chapters, intriguing chapters like “The Importance of Getting Naked,” “The Zen of Finger Fucking,” and “Nipples, Nipples, Nipples,” make it a reasonable task to read the entire manual in just a few sittings. That said, however, each chapter presents a self-contained lesson on a particular sexual topic, organized into section by general focus area. It is a great resource for someone looking to read specifically about the basics of anal sex, sex during pregnancy, or caring for your vulva or foreskin, among other things. One particularly insightful section is entitled “Sex & the Human Condition,” containing chapters on sex related to cancer, diabetes, and disabilities among other topics that are not typically covered in a book about sex.
One area that is not fully covered or at least feels somewhat underrepresented is the sexual behavior of non-heterosexual individuals. While there are four chapters covering orientation and gender, the book itself reads as very hetero-normative. This being said, there is no shaming or criticism of any kind concerning alternative sexualities and it is a well-known fact that gathering information directly from people who identify as anything other than straight can be difficult due to the extreme prejudice and injustice directed at individuals in this category.
Perhaps the most refreshing and entertaining elements of Joannides writing and presentation in The Guide are the straightforward language surrounding topics of sex and the blush-inducing, enjoyable illustrations that accompany each chapter. Most scientific or medical terms are clearly defined, and the illustrations—by Dærick Gröss Sr., an illustrator of fantasy and comic book art—present a refreshingly graphic and fun (yes, sex can be fun!) depiction of the topic at hand. In short, The Guide to Getting It On is definitely a valuable book to own for any type of professional in the field of sexual health and sexuality, but perhaps more importantly, it is a valuable book to own for any type of person in general.