Pandemic Pondering #236

This is the first of another ‘ themed’ Pandemic Ponderings. In the world of proper journalism it might be known as a ‘slow’ news day. ‘Slow’ news, however, pretty much sums up Ponderings. This is a blog that could happen any day. One that that I can whip out when daily life is not giving me a theme. A recent flurry of domestic admin has unearthed a lot of miscellaneous printed matter. My mother’s collection of 1960″s and 70’s sexual health books is one of the more interesting finds.

My mum ran Family Planning Clinics in Essex. These books were part of an informal library that were provided, in her clinic waiting rooms, alongside the more normal aged magazines. The books were boxed up and transported between the three locations of her clinics. In between clinics they lived under the stairs at home.

Always a precocious reader it was inevitable that I would have discovered the books , and dipped into them long before they would have made any sense to me. Reading them again 50 or more years later made for a very giggly weekend . I’ve done a bit of googling to share other snippets that can be discovered about these old books . This first blog on the subject is about the easiest book to write about.

Easy to write about because the title was parodied around the world, its unusual tagline ” * BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK” was easily tagged onto any subject and made a laughter provoking punchline with relatively little effort. More people were aware of the title than ever read the book. The simple question and answer format suited me as a fledgling reader.

I realise the subject matter may make many of you think that reading this stuff was in appropriate for a child. You may well be right but I was a voracious reader, I was just flexing my newly acquired skill of being able to glean information from books rather than just reading stories. In all honesty the sexual nature of these books didn’t interest me . If my mum had been an expert on arable crops I would have read her text books about yields and weeds. This book also had no pictures. Another first for me into the adult world of books, even if the ‘adult’ content pretty much passed me by in my quest to improve my reading skills.

Reading it now , it is impossible not to laugh. The author David Reuben does not hold back in his answers. His prejudices and personal opinions dressed up alongside his genuine intellectual knowledge as factual answers. This seems harsh but as a child I completely missed that the book was meant to be witty. Read as an adult in 2020 it is hilarious, if you can find a copy on a second hand book website I can recommend it as lockdown reading. Go for the original 1969 version though, it was rewritten in 1999. The link below is a good source of information about the book, the author and the societal and historical context in which it was first published.