Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Sex Book That Hit the Spot

Sept 30, 2011 The Daily Beast

'Our Bodies, Ourselves' was the first book to teach women about sex, birth control and—yes—the clitoris. With the release of a ninth edition, Jessica Bennett on why the 40-year-old text still matters.

“It felt biblical,” remembers Joanne Williams, who discovered the health text in a Denver bookstore in the 1970s.“[It] changed my life,” says Rebekah Raleigh, a Chicago multimedia editor.Patti Provance, a Baltimore women's advocate, says she took one look at the book and was hooked: “I literally stayed in my room for hours glued to it.”

Our Bodies, Ourselves was the kind of book that libraries banned and women stashed under their beds like pornography—a fixture of college dorm rooms that shocked conservatives with its candid discussion (and close-up drawings) of masturbation, contraception and the clitoris (spelled out as klit-o-ris). Pre-teen girls poured over it at slumber parties. Boys ran off with it, determined to learn its womanly secrets. The first season of The Wonder Years even had Kevin Arnold committing the ultimate sin when he swiped a copy from his mother’s bedroom.

Forty years after the text was first released, Our Bodies, Ourselves has gone through various revamps: nine editions, 25 translations, e-books, education campaigns—even a pink book cover that caused more than a bit of feminist eye-rolling. The latest edition, a whopping 825 pages, will be released next week, with new chapters on date rape, body image and plastic surgery—“a new edition for a new era,” the authors gush. In its honor, Boston University is hosting a public-health symposium; at Harvard, undergraduates can peruse the changing artistry of body hair in a library exhibit of the early editions. With four million copies sold already, the authors hope to reach a new cohort of young women

Bettmann-Corbis (birth control); Corbis (vibrator); Mel Evans / AP Photos (g-spot book)

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