Dec. 30, 2008 — -- It's a little late for the holidays, but some might say the gift of good sex is always worth giving, no matter what the time of year.
The updated "Joy of Sex," a modern take on Alex Comfort's 1972 tome, will finally be available in the United States in January after hitting bookshelves in Britain in September.
To understand what's in store for American audiences, flashback a few decades to when the book first came out:
The "make love, not war" youth culture of the 1960s left mores in flux by 1972, when the titillating book, filled with a smorgasbord of illustrations of sexual positions, made a sensational splash in bookstores across the country.
"The Joy of Sex" -- its name evoking the best-selling cookbook with gastronomical subtitles like "appetizers" and "main courses" and "sauces and pickles" -- moved sex out of the porn shop and onto the bedside table. The book sold 8 million copies, according to the publishers, helping to fuel America's "sexual revolution."
The iconic cover featured a naked, bearded man pressing against his flower-child lover. And in the tone of the times, Comfort -- a British gerontologist with anarchist leanings -- offered tips on the art of lovemaking to a mostly male, heterosexual audience.
Thirty-six years later, the bearded lothario cover boy is gone, and a female writer has completely rewritten the book in the style of Comfort, who died in 2000, an update intended to keep pace with scientific advances and new cultural attitudes.
"Readers don't want just fluffy and romantic or just downgraded sex," Susan Quilliam, the writer and relationship psychologist who was selected by Comfort's son Nicholas to "reinvent" the book, told ABCNews.com. "They realize it is joyful but also know it is powerful. People kill and die for sex, and it should be taken seriously because it's a powerful thing."
So far, its market is the same as the original -- a single person older than 25 who wants a "more advanced technique or deeper view," according to Quilliam.
The new 288-page book -- dubbed "The Timeless Guide to Lovemaking" -- targets the couple, rather than just men, and includes new topics on Internet and phone sex, pornography and intercourse during pregnancy.
Some of the older tips, such as sex on horseback or on a moving motorcycle, were removed, though the new version includes guidelines for sex on a stationary bike.
It also has a resources section with research on the female orgasm, use of sex toys and practices that were, according to Crown Publishing Group, "considered too outrageous to admit to."
More modern topics include the pressure to have sex, regret at not having it, problems with self-esteem and sexually transmitted diseases.
'Joy of Sex' Update More Politically Correct
Though some of Comfort's book has sustained the test of time, much has not. Modern critics charged that the original 1972 version was offensive, heterosexist, misogynistic. They say it gave a nod to some violence in sex, and lesbians were dismissed as "simply women who have given up on men after a lifetime spent kissing frogs who failed to turn into princes."
Quilliam did away with those politically incorrect transgressions but kept the theme, at least for now, heterosexual. "It was a deliberate decision to mention and honor gay sex, but not to cover it in the main book," said Quilliam.
She looks forward to writing more books in the series that would specifically address homosexuality, diversity and topics for a younger age group. Still, she admits Comfort needed a rewrite.
"It was written by a man for a man, completely in keeping with the times," said Quilliam, 58. "He wasn't a misogynist for his day. He was actually forward thinking and mentioned the clitoris and was in favor of women taking the lead. He was very much for equality."
"But yes," she said. "I absolutely had to tone him down."
In fact, the original a 2002 edition, which sold nearly 100,000 more copies, went mostly to women, according to the publishers.
The latest overhaul, written with the help of a team of researchers, "updates the importance of the clitoris, hormones, pheromones and scientific development in understanding aging and sexual problems," said Quilliam. "There was no real therapy in those days."
"Attitudes have changed completely," said Quilliam. "But we are more inhibited with a new puritanism, compared to the '70s where Alex Comfort was living the California lifestyle and was very open to sex."
But at the same time, that generation had its own inhibitions. "A lot of people had never heard of sadomasochism," she said. "Nowadays even the most vanilla magazine recommends use of a sex toy."
Graphic Sex Illustrations Key to Success
"The Joy of Sex" was a sensation when it was first published in 1972, according to Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington and a relationship expert for perfectmatch.com. The book spawned other racier titles and "fermented" the sexual revolution.
"The influence of the original was to make it beautiful enough to be acceptable to look at," Schwartz told ABCNews.com. "Up until then, there wasn't an intermediate form of explicit pictures that wasn't pornographic."
Comfort's book was noteworthy for its detailed drawings, many of which are retained in the new version.
"They looked like nice people who, with their clothes on, would be nice to have coffee with," said Schwartz. "I don't even remember any of the writing. The pictures were unusual, letting you get a good close-up look to get new ideas and permission to try something you didn't know about."
Today's sex books would have been "over the top" by 1972 standards, added Schwartz, author of "Sex Weekend: A 48-Hour Program for Bored, Busy or Bold Lovers." Her book, too, relies on the premise of Comfort's best-seller that without variation, sex is tiresome.
"If you eat steak every day, you would be bored with it," she said. "I think they took a good approach: Strawberries are no better or worse than steak. But you want variety."
Then, as well as now, the illustrations show the reader exactly how. "What would it look like if you were making love with a woman on your lap?" she said. "A picture is worth a thousand words."
According to writer Quilliam, readers are still looking for answers. As an advice columnist -- or "agony aunt" as they're known in England, the British equivalent of Dear Abby -- she fields 25,000 letters a year.
"I get a whole age range, and a lot of letters from men," she said. "They are relationship questions like the loss of desire, or, 'I still want my partner, but they don't want me.'"
When the book launched in Britain, took two hours of calls from readers on her radio show. "Some were so basic, just so basic -- 'I've been with my girlfriend for three months and I know this thing called the clitoris, but I don't know where it is.'"
"The point is, there is an awful lot of information in society, but the problem is a lot of it is inaccurate, useless or positively harmful," she said. "On the Internet a man can see a photo image of women, but it would not help his sex life."
In rewriting the original "Joy of Sex," Quilliam's feminine perspective reflects much of what has changed in the world of sex in 36 years.
"The thing that was completely missing because we didn't know about it was the importance of the clitoris and the way men and women have come together," she said. "Their views of sex have crossed over. Women really love sex, and men can be very emotional. And that is the most hopeful message of all."