Good Sex Illustrated
Translated by Bruce Benderson
Why is pleasure “doubled” when it’s “shared”? … Do you really have to cut pleasure in two so that it’ll exist? I mean, if it’s doubled when there are two of you, then it must be tripled when there are three, quadrupled when there are four, centupled when there are a hundred, right? Is it O.K. for a hundred to share? And if I get used to trying it all alone, why is it that I’ll never love anyone again? Is it that good alone and that awful with others?
—from Good Sex Illustrated
First published in France in 1973, Good Sex Illustrated gleefully deciphers the subtext of a popular sex education manual for children produced during that period. In so doing, Duvert mounts a scabrous and scathing critique of how deftly the “sex-positive” ethos was harnessed to promote the ideal of the nuclear family. Like Michel Houllebecq, Duvert is highly attuned to all the hypocrisies of late twentieth century western “sexual liberation” mass movements. As Bruce Benderson notes in his introduction, Good Sex Illustrated shows that, “in our sexual order, orgasm follows the patterns of any other kind of capital … ‘good sex’ is a voracious profit machine.” But unlike Houllebecq, Duvert writes from a passionate belief in the integrity of unpoliced sex and of pleasure. Even more controversially now than when the book was first published, Duvert asserts the child’s right to his or her own playful, unproductive sexuality. Bruce Benderson’s translation will belatedly introduce English-speaking audiences to the most infamous gay French writer since Jean Gênet.
Tony Duvert is a French writer born in 1945. Polemicist and champion of the rights of children to their own bodies and their own sexuality, he has published two controversial books of essays on these themes (Le bon sexe illustré and L’Enfant au masculin), which also shape his novels. His Prix Médicis-winning novel Paysage de fantaisie was published in America in 1976 as Strange Landscape. In 1978, he published two works of prose poetry and short texts, District and Les Petits Métiers. Semiotext(e) will be publishing Bruce Benderson’s translation of Tony Duvert’s novel Journal d’un innocent.