The imagination is a wonderful thing and I’m a big believer in the less is more school of fiction, but this can border on the comedic when carried over to non-fiction. I recently found a book from the latter category while out scouting. It’s a manual of sexual positions called The Forty Eight Ways by Fuji Yamamoto that grabs your attention for all of the wrong reasons.

Published at the height of the Sexual Revolution in 1968, The Forty Eight Ways, with its cover featuring Auguste Rodin’s statue The Kiss, romantically lit no less and with soft foreground elements suggesting a voyeur’s point of view, has all the hallmarks of a hot time in the bedroom. Would that it were so. Instead what you get is a scholarly adaptation of a popular Japanese sex-ed manual without any “smutty jokes and dirty pictures.” And boy, they weren’t kidding.

Not only is there no sex in this sex manual, there’s not even nudity, or a real couple for that matter. Instead what you get is a solitary woman in leotards (apparently just returned from her Jazzercise class) lying or sitting in various positions. In most pictures she looks bored, though in others she just seems annoyed, like she’s talking to her mother on the phone.

But all is not lost! There actually IS another player in this pantomime, found on the facing page and accompanying each position name and description. This love interest is a cute illustrated cupid with a bow but lacking significant “arrows” of any kind. On each page he appears in various positions representing the male role in each coupling. Or, to spell it out in just as obtuse terms, whenever she is pictured as the horse’s head he’s the hindquarters.

Apparently The Forty Eight Ways was considered a respectable way to address sex for those mature and discerning couples curious about new positions but who didn’t actually want to see or experience them first hand. The entire package makes for a delightfully dysfunctional sex manual that might not enlighten you but will certainly entertain. Sort of. For a minute.

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