Sex Without Fear by John Gilmore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My rating takes the publication date of 1951 into consideration. It is woefully inadequate for today, and I would rate it only two stars. I would caution readers to read this as a historical artifact of the times rather than an informative manual. The book is brief, 121 pages, but actually fairly informative for the time, something of a very basic instruction manual for the (then) newly married. Naturally in 1951 it is heteronormative and is heavy on the intention that this information is for married couples or those about to get married. Homosexuality is not mentioned at all, ergo there are none of the negative judgements that were often found in other sex manuals of that era.
The book is well illustrated for a description of the plumbing, and a rudimentary discussion of pregnancy. It has some illustrations of which I question the value, dissection slices of testicle tissue, for instance, that seems to give the book a patina of scientific validity but otherwise seems extraneous. Somewhat surprising, it also had an accurate hairless illustration of the external vulva, I believe to emphasize the location of the clitoris. Lacking, however, was the same for the male genitalia, the book relies on the old hacksaw method of cross sections and the penis being flaccid. With the tales of brides fleeing the bridal chamber shrieking at first sight of an erect male member (Love without Fear, pg 166), perhaps a similar external illustration of an erect penis would have been useful. Remember in 1951, one could not do a Google Image search of "erect penis" and get 2.7 bazillion photos in a tenth of a second.
It provides a simple description of coitus, warns the husband of the need for extended foreplay for arousal of the woman, and surprisingly informs the husband that stimulation of the clitoris is required for the wife to have an orgasm, and thus states that the couple should attain a position that allows clitoral stimulation by the thrusting penis or manually stimulate it with his fingers during coitus. It also provides some rudimentary sexual positions...but alas no illustrations of such.
There is a surprisingly good section on the then available contraceptive methods, again with some illustrations, and a frank discussion of the methods that don't work very well.
There is also a discussion on abortion, not the morality, but the need to avoid it because at that time it was illegal, very dangerous, and performed under terrible conditions (with the exception of abortion for health of life of the mother done in hospitals). The conditions described plus the dreadful descriptions of drugs sold to restore "delayed menstruation" should have been an argument for legalization of abortion at that time. This is something that society may want to think about before rushing to overturn Roe vs Wade.
There was a short brief and by today's standards very incomplete discussion on Veneral Disease. V. D. the letters seemed to scream off the page like a WWII poster for the troops. Actually it was very nonjudgmental...."They [the public] have learned that V. D. is not a disgrace but one of the most wide-spread of human ailments." Pg. 115.
There was even a brief discussion on how to tell your children about sexuality which seemed very enlightened for the time. Disappointingly it had little to say about teen sexuality other than some severe warnings about juvenile delinquency...that seemed to be a huge worry back in the early 50s. I think it odd that nothing was mentioned about masturbation.
As I mentioned before, the book was surprising nonjudgmental, it didn't excessively warn of perversions or lose its mind over the proper maintenance of virginity until marriage. Yet it did have an odd (for today) atmosphere of "this is for married people." There were weird little line drawings of wedding rings scattered through the description of intercourse and a bride and groom dancing at a wedding. Also sprinkled here and there were quotes from the Bible which seemed to be thrown in to sanctify a sex manual. This sort of thing I just write off as an artifact of the times and think it wise for modern readers not to get their knickers in a knot. It wasn't long before that sex manuals were considered pornographic and that people disseminating sexual information were jailed. So one can understand a publisher putting in a little window dressing to give the book a patina of wholesomeness required for good strong marriages that would promote truth, justice, the American way, and discourage juvenile delinquency.
All in all, I think this was a pretty good book for the time that it was published.
For my review of a similar title, Love without Fear see:
View all my reviews