From the Librarian – Bad Books

I am the Librarian for the CenterSEE library, and these are some of the interesting discoveries I am making as I catalog the collection.

We just added a fascinating book to our collection titled Let’s Really Make Love, published by Prometheus Books in 1995. The author was Robert H. Rimmer, and we have many books written by him in the collection, and in general, he is a fairly revolutionary pro-sex writer. However, this book is genuinely frightening, and a reminder that even those who generally agree with us on pro-sex issues can also be extremist, dogmatic, and out of touch. Such is the case here with Rimmer (we’ll explain why in a bit), and it comes as quite a surprise considering his other works. It makes our list of truly terrible sex books.

There are many terrible books in our collection. There is the great anti-sex classic work of crackpottery, Plain Facts for Young and Old by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, published in 1877. He was one of the founders of Kellogg’s, originally named Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company. Corn Flakes were invented because Dr. John Harvey Kellogg believed that they would reduce the sex drive. Sex, under any circumstances, was a dangerous thing in his mind. He never even consummated his own marriage. The main takeway from the book is that he believed that masturbation caused virtually every disease known to man. His book was extremely popular and very influential- part of the sweeping anti-masturbation craze.

Of course, we have many really awful anti-gay books. There is a very long history of these. We have more modern works, such as uber gay hater Mathew D. Staver’s Same-Sex Marriage, published in 2004 and subtitled Putting Every Household at Risk. Ours was purchased second hand so that no money went into his pocket. Staver founded the Liberty Counsel law firm, and the sheer volume of his anti-gay extremist rhetoric is astonishing. He is every bit as much of a crackpot as Kellogg was, but sadly he also has a law degree which he uses to attempt to wreck havoc on those he so despises. Fortunately, he does not win very often.

One of my favorite examples of anti-sex books is Melvin Anchell M.D.’s Sex and Sanity. It was published in 1972, although it reads like it was written a century earlier. There is actually very little sanity in it. He was strongly opposed to sex education and wrote several books devoted to the topic, including Killers of Children; a Psychoanalytical look at Sex Education . He believes that sex education leads to a horde culture characterized by sexual indulgence and devoid of love, where the indoctrinated show no guilt, nor do they display concern for morality. He calls sex education the final plague, causing children to become uneducatable, emotionally retarded, and leads to drug use and sadism. He and Harvey Kellogg would have been close pals.

Here are a few classic Anchell quotes: “If movie producers portrayed sex realistically, they would show lovers on the screen becoming impotent when performing sex before an audience.” Of course, he also opposed pornography, despite apparently believing it was impossible to make because any male in front of others would go flaccid. He wrote a lot about the dangers of sexually liberated women: “Many of today’ sexually aggressive females have foregone the ultimate feminine needs of marriage and family life, motherhood and of loving and being loved. Some attempt to satisfy love needs entirely through acts of copulation. However, these impoverished women derive no real pleasure from the sex act. Many such females are products of premature sexual activity brought about by sex education and the demands made upon them by a sexually pseudo-liberated society. “

He died in 2010, and spent most of his life as a crackpot, including writing a diet book focused on eating steak while diligently avoiding vegetables. He has long been a hero to the extreme religious right.

We have a lot of works like this, including a first edition of Marden’s 1915 The Crime of Silence, which are primarily of interest to historians, researchers, and masochists. We have so many books like this it is difficult to choose which ones to write about, so we will stop here. If this subject is interesting to you, though, you might want to check out Ronald G. Walters’ Primers for Prudery. We have the 1974 first edition, but there is also a 2000 updated edition available on Amazon. It includes samplings of some of the worst sex advice given to Victorian era Americans.

Getting back to Robert Rimmer, he is perhaps best known for his The Harrad Experiment first published in 1966 and available in a 2010 25th Anniversary Kindle edition. It was made into a film in 1973 starring James Whitmore, Tippi Hedron, and Don Johnson. It is a story about a college program that encourages students to co-habit and have sex with each other. He wrote a whole series of similar or related books, including Proposition 31, Premar Experiements, as well as several erotic novels.

He wrote several of the X-Rated Videotape Guides, writing hundreds of adult video reviews. In addition, he wrote autobiographies of porn star Jerry Butler (Raw Talent) and dominatrix Mistress Jacqueline (Whips and Kisses).

Let’s Really Make Love was a title forced on him that did not include the word sex. For someone who spent most of their life writing about sex, he is astonishingly naive with a lack of self-awareness that makes you almost woozy. He presents what he feels are utopian solutions to sex education, but I found them actually quite dystopian. He has very specific ideas of the way he thinks sex should be, and believes that his ideas should be applied to one and all. Unlike those opposed to sex education, he promotes universal progressive sex education, but in a very radical and totally unrealistic way that could never ever ever be adopted in the United States.

He has a designation that defines whether something is sexually devaluing or not, and would strictly control those things defined that way. This would be reflected not only in sex education but also in his system of censorship. Things he dislikes sexually seem to be the primary way of defining what is sexually devaluing. In his proposal, a number of things would never be allowed to be shown in a movie theater or on television. These include group sex, BDSM, no ejaculation into a woman’s mouth (he probably was not aware of female ejaculation so he did not proscribe that), no tattoos, breast enlargement, or shaved pubis (he felt that was only done to make women look like little girls). He would also ban magazines that focused on a woman’s genitalia. He would ban television shows like NYPD Blue, one of the best police dramas of all time. He also was no fan of sex toys. Hey, Bud, no one is taking away my vibrators.

Despite being pro-sex, and advocating a sexually explicit educational system that would give most parents a heart attack, he makes the same fundamental mistake that the writers of the anti-sex books make. He believes that the way he experiences sex is the way that everyone should experience sex.

One of the foundational principles that Jeff and Kris Booth incorporated into the Center for Sexual Expression and Education is the belief that sex is profoundly diverse, and we do not all experience it in the same way. They promote the celebration of diversity, and learning to appreciate our differences as well as our similarities, whether it is about where we came from or who we are as sexual beings.