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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask

Don't be afraid of asking the hard questions, like can you waste sperm? Psychiatrist David Reuben has the answer.

By Frank WhitePublished 8 years ago 5 min read

Everything you always wanted to know about sex but were afraid to askis right at your fingertips. In the classic book of that title by psychiatrist David Reuben, all your questions are answered. Published in 1972, it belongs to a literary genre that reminded me of Dr. Winfield Scott Hall, Ph.D., M.D. Sexual Knowledge: The Knowledge of Self and Sex in Simple Language in 1913.

The title is pretty self explanatory. Over 35 million copies in print have been read in over fifty countries. The #1 bestselling self help classic is believed to be the most popular book written on human sexuality ever. "Dr. David Reuben's frank, compassionate, often humorous language-backed with solid, up-to-the-minute medical and scientific research-puts readers at ease, allowing them to explore and improve their own sexuality in amazing new ways."

Dr. Hall's Manual

The subtitle of Dr. Hall's manual was explicit: The Knowledge of Self and Sex in Simple Language: for the Instruction of Young People, Young Wives, and Young Husbands, Fathers, and Mothers, Teachers, and Nurses, and All Who Feel a Need of Reliable Information on the Best Way and the Best Time to Impart Sexual Knowledge to Boys and Girls.

For boys, here is the best way and the best time: "The wise father leads the boy far afield. If they are in a city, let them ride to the end of the subway line, and then walk away out into the country. It would not be a bad plan for them to take a little lunch with them—a few slices of bacon, a couple of potatoes, some bread and butter, and, far out in the woods, perhaps on the gravelly banks of a brook or pond not in a wood or forest, to build a little campfire, roast their bacon and potatoes, and sit there and eat their frugal meal after the fashion of our primitive forefathers... And there, perhaps under the spreading boughs of a great primeval oak tree, the father reveals to the boy, in a very frank talk, the secret of manhood." The secret Dr. Hall says, is continence, practiced in order to save the vital fluid that makes you manly.

Lacking the Juice

Photo by Kesler Tran

At this point I tried to see what Dr. Reuben says about continence, but the word is not in his very thorough index.

Lacking the juice, Dr. Hall tells us, "the boy would develop, first, into a sissy, and finally at twenty-five he would be a slope-shouldered, narrow-chested, flabby-muscled, beardless, squeaky-voiced mollycoddle, absolutely lacking in every instinct and attribute of manhood." However, there is hope for the boy if he finds Dr. Hall's book in time. This is because the sex glands are sending their exhilarating elixir coursing through the young man, as Dr. Hall spells out, "hour after hour, seven days in the week, 365 days in the year, nights, Sundays, and holidays included." So supposing you open a savings account and start banking virility until you're the juice-richest man around. As Dr. Hall lets you have married sex, you get the preacher to unlock the vault and VROOOOM! all day every day and double time on Sunday, and it was all worth it.

Not so fast, though. "We must note," Dr Hall warns, "that every procreative act is performed at a sacrifice of some of the vital fluid on the part of the male," and “... excessive sexual intercourse, in wedlock or out, would certainly not be recommended..."

Whatever sex Dr. Hall's stalwart does get is strictly for procreation. Dr. Reuben, on the other hand, is bored stiff with procreation, and has felt it necessary to coin a word to distinguish it from the real thing.


Image by Andrew Marchbank

Reprosex is dismissed as "simple, straightforward, easily understood, and, relatively speaking, unpopular". He suggests that it could be "done better by a disinterested third party—as it is occasionally in artificial insemination". He finds reprosex "uniformly unpopular with teen-agers, unmarried lovers, young bachelors, single girls, and ladies with ten children''.

If not for procreation, sex must then be for love. Love-sex, as he calls it, is okay with Dr Reuben, but he doesn't have much interest in it. “Not everyone," he points out, "has the chance to be exposed to it." What is sex for, then? Just what you always knew it was for—fun

Funsex (I guess the word was inevitable) turns Dr. Reuben on.

"Most Western religions are against it," he gloats, "moral educators unanimously condemn it, parents are (apparently) against it, and everyone wants to do it. This is sex for fun, for the sheer physical and emotional exhilaration of feeling all the good feelings that come from a complete sexual experience. This is recreational sex at its best... There is nothing wrong with funsex. Human beings—and for that matter, all mammals—are provided with penis or vagina and an overwhelming compulsion to use them. There is no reason why they shouldn't, and specifically in a way that will bring them the maximum pleasure."

The major obstacle to funsex Dr Reuben finds to be lack of knowledge—and he sets out to remedy that. (He regards the school sex education course as joke, a grim one, and he makes the unanswerable point that the physiology of reproduction is of negligible interest compared to the physiology of orgasm.)

Sex For Fun

Of course, sex for fun is no startling thought, as Dr. Reuben recognizes. "Almost everyone under the age of twenty-five is for it openly, and nearly everyone else seeks it actively if secretly." Because there is no cant, Dr. Reuben's book has a reassuring light-of-day air as he presents a lot of accurate information bluntly, casually, and with nothing of Dr. Hall's urgent polemics or the rational piety of Hall's successors. "Impotence is a penis that won't do what it's told," fairly represents Dr. Reuben's style.

Funsex, however, may have its problems beyond lack of knowledge. As Dr Reuben is preparing his pleasure disciples for their role, he runs quickly over the other two kinds of sex again (repro- and love-) and ends with some kind words for love-sex. (Dr Reuben is married.) Hastening on, however, to the fun Dr Reuben modulates through a key that suggests the ominous chill underlying simple hedonism

“Recreational sex," he mentions, "is more demanding (than love-sex). Here the primary goal is pleasure, and often there is not the depth of emotion available to compensate for any lapses in sexual function. The accent is on performance—and performance begins with the individual."

Surely we can hope that sex will keep some quality beyond performance of perfect pleasure. If love is too much to ask, compassion maybe easier. It has been suggested that passion can feed on compassion. The new generation hasn't changed sex. It invented sex. Each generation does. Physical sex can't change much, but our inventiveness, purpose, and pleasure, beyond sex itself, is always evolving. Millennials are passionate about embracing their quality of life and a good way to get started is David Reuben's Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask.

fact or fictionsexual wellnesserotic

About the Creator

Frank White

New Yorker in his forties. His counsel is sought by many, offered to few. Traveled the world in search of answers, but found more questions.

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