Evan's Reviews > The Guide to Getting It On: A New & Mostly Wonderful Book About Sex

The Guide to Getting It On by Paul Joannides
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's review
Jul 15, 2011

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bookshelves: epic, deliciously-nasty, sexuality, __in-my-collection, science-and-nature, 2011-reads
Read from June 15 to July 15, 2011

A sex guide as big as a telephone book; a page turner, yet somehow oddly disappointing in many respects.

My greatest frustrations with this book--achievement though this tome may be (and it is quite a feat)--are that it repeats a number of facts and motifs over and over, and seems to do so because there is no apparent logical order to the overall presentation. It gets to be quite fatiguing after a few hundred pages.

The book is meant to be digested in small compartmentalized bits. The voice is bemused and humorous, but quite often I found author Joannides' urges to make jokes about the topics under discussion strained and possibly undermined the facts he was writing about. The book tries to find a balance between facts, conjecture, philosophy and humor to keep itself from becoming academically boring (though many sources are aptly cited), but sometimes I think the conjectures and the quips go too far. The definition of trophy wife in the book's "Goofy Glossary", for instance, is mainly editorialized satire that seems to cynically dismiss a man's second marriage outright without making any concession to genuine feelings and motives, and is sexist to boot. Most intelligent readers should be able to discern between Joannides' flip opinions and actual facts, but sometimes the line is blurred to the point of annoyance.

Is it necessary to have an entire two pages devoted to showing a first-timer how to insert a tampon, and then have a section that jokes about Viagra and dismisses its users rather than talking more about the facts of what Viagra does? Is it necessary on page 566 to give the exact same advice about using condoms as was already detailed earlier in the book? Why does the book insist throughout that the best thing to do when contemplating or having sex is to talk to your partner about what each of you wants, but then have an entire chapter way back on page 429 about "Talking to Your Partner About Sex"? Shouldn't this chapter be on page 1? In the chapter on anal play on page 290, why does Joannides mention gerbiling as one kind of kink without then elaborating on it or condemning it, since, as he notes elsewhere, there are sexual rights and wrongs? In one section he rather courageously and gingerly raises the question of interfamial desire, but then seems at sea in explaining it. Why include letters from average people asking about sex topics that in many cases have already been addressed in the book?

Overall, I found this pop guide to be like taking a balloon ride over the landscape of sex with an eccentric balloonist tour guide, getting caught in crosswinds and drifting again over previously flown-over territory. I did learn some things, including a few practices I was not aware of, and would recommend it to people who think they know it all (and who usually botch their lovemaking as a result).

There are some gems throughout. It was interesting to learn about an exercise in which women are observed taking the man's on-top thrusting role and being barely able to handle it for 3 minutes, resulting in many exclamations of "How do men do it?"

There is also this, from page 247, which I like:
"A mediocre lover always knows what a partner wants without having to ask. An accomplished lover is a wise grasshopper who implores a partner to give him copious amounts of advice."

Most people will find this book fun and helpful, but I think it could have remained fun and informative in a version that cut out the approximately 40 percent of the material that seemed repetitive to me.
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06/15/2011 page 50
07/13/2011 page 450
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Evan Review tomorrow...

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