You've never read a manual as warm, friendly, liberating, thorough (846 pages), and potentially sex-life-changing as the Guide to Getting It On! O's Liz Brody has a frank conversation with author Paul Joannides.

O: What do you say when you're at a cocktail party and someone asks, "So what do you do?"

Paul: I usually say I'm a publisher or an author—"psychoanalyst" tends to make people just as uncomfortable as telling them you're a sex book writer. If anyone pries, I'm very adept at changing the subject.

O: And your wife—how does she take being married to Mr. Sex Guide?

Paul: Toni is a criminal defense attorney, and she helps me with the editing. We've been married—oh, God, don't you dare say I don't know—I think nine years. When people ask her about the guide, she'll say, "It's just what Paul wishes sex could be."

O: Best home-tested technique in the book?

Paul: I would be a dead man if I went there.

O: What's new in sex research?

Paul: I read enough scholarly sex articles to euthanize an elephant. [Joannides is on the editorial board of the American Journal of Sexuality Education.] It's frightening how boring researchers can make an exciting subject. Like much of medicine today, sex research is highly dominated by the pharmaceutical industry. One of the great tragedies of our time is that now they're trying to find a Viagra for women, and the latest effort is testosterone—the same hormone they used to give the Olympic athletes from the Soviet bloc. But you wouldn't believe how many women who report low sexual desire are suddenly cured—without pills or patches—when they find a new partner who wants to talk to them about sex.

O: How do you start talking

Paul: I don't have a magic answer for opening up in the bedroom. But couples should give themselves permission to admit that they don't have a clue what they're doing. It really takes time to learn what makes another person feel good, no matter how experienced anyone is.

O: Cellulite, thighs, butt—panic!

Paul: In all the sex surveys we've done on our website, and tons of others I've seen, I don't remember any guys complaining about the size of their partner's rear end—or cellulite. By the time a man wants to sleep with you, he finds you attractive. Period. If there's any way to free your energy from that anxiety and put it into having fun with him, believe me, you'll enjoy many more good times ahead.

O: What about, "He's not aroused. He's just not that into me."

Paul: Get rid of that idea! Women do all sorts of numbers on themselves—and on him—if his penis doesn't rise to the occasion. It probably has a lot more to do with what happened at work. Understand that sometimes the penis does what a man wants it to, and sometimes it just doesn't. There are a lot of other ways to please each other, and the two of you can have a fabulous sex life perfecting those.

O: What drives one to get into this line of work?

Paul: Revenge. Revenge for eight years of strict religious schooling in California's San Joaquin Valley. Also, one doesn't become a psychoanalyst from the happiest of upbringings. My parents were both from San Francisco, and my father moved them to this farm town. To say that my mother was angry at him for the next 50 years is to put it mildly.

O: Credentials, credentials...

Paul: When I got to Berkeley in the 1970s, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. But I vowed that hell would freeze over before I ever went to graduate school. I ended up going for ten years.


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