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Are You Ready? The Gay Man's Guide to Thriving at Midlife.

Are You Ready? The Gay Man's Guide to Thriving at Midlife * Rik Isensee * Alyson * $13.95

If I ruled the universe, I would clone thousands of Stephen E. Goldstones, plant them worldwide in clinics, sex clubs, and shopping malls, and require every gay man to drop in for a consultation. His terrific new book, The Ins and Outs of Gay Sex, is one of several recent titles designed to give gay men easy access to health information that used to be shrouded in secrecy. Goldstone not only provides answers to a slew of questions about the sexual risks, practices, and behaviors that typically torture and befuddle gay men, but he also demonstrates a bedside (sometimes slingside) manner full of compassion and wit.

Goldstone's strictly sex manual makes an invaluable addition to the still too-short list of trustworthy texts on gay men's health. The book's 12 chapters and four appendices cover everything from nonvirally transmitted diseases, HIV (the book provides a superb cram course on the basics of AIDS), anal sex, and sexual dysfunction to the latest word on recreational drugs and choosing a doctor.

The medical information here is comprehensive and in other hands might have been bone-dry. But Goldstone's tone keeps even Latinate labels from being numbing. Expecting to glaze over at his discussions of, say, Molluscum contagiosum or Condyloma acuminatum, we encounter Goldstone's quick assertion that the first is "not a shellfish" but rather a poxlike sexually transmitted virus (accompanied by a line drawing of bumps on a thigh); we find the second is the fancy name for venereal warts (illustrated by little bumps on the penis shaft). We are also quickly reassured that neither constitutes a "grave prognosis" and are given a full complement of treatment options ranging from topical ointments to surgery. We're also, at nearly every turn, given real-life case histories--stories that don't feel slapped on but instead rise organically out of Goldstone's self-evidently wide-ranging experience.

Goldstone gives us frequent reassurances about such must-read topics as penis size (six inches really is the average, "not," as Goldstone says, "a lie propagated by a bunch of underequipped men") and about such largely manageable afflictions as herpes, scabies, and crabs. These passages balance out his discussion of physical risks and dangers, such as those most of us know we face when we indulge in fisting and "water sports." (You'll gain new respect for how complicated your external and internal sexual machinery is.) The basic deal is that Goldstone is as much a warm and funny guy as he is a clear and cogent medical expert. Buy this book.

Rik Isensee's Are You Ready? The Gay Man's Guide to Thriving at Midlife approaches sex (among many other issues) from a refreshing and long-overdue angle. Perhaps the best thing about his evenhanded overview of the gay male at midlife is that "thriving" has a central place in the title. It's not news to any of us that the gay media is intoxicated by youth, but it's also not news that baby boomers (who still constitute the greatest bulk of the population) aren't 21 anymore. As to sex, Isensee pretty much applies what we already know about getting older (we're balding and wrinkling, we don't usually stay up all night anymore, we have fewer spontaneous erections, etc.) to the plight of the average gay man--always at least ruefully optimistic about the ways we can learn to let up on ourselves and retain a sense of humor about the wanings and waxings of our dicks and libidos. Midlife sex is depicted here as the kinder, gentler sort--not the thrilling, frightening adventure it remains (at 47) for me. Still, the reassurances of Are You Ready? will be appreciated by all of us, whether we're more priapic or less so. Isensee's general Jungian stance--most interestingly embodied in a chapter titled "Gay Men as Shaman/Tricksters"--is also welcome. We may be getting older, but we're still pretty hot.

As a coda to all this, it's a pleasure to report on "Alternative Nation," the final chapter of the glossy new (and otherwise mostly for hets) musing on the male libido Total Sex: Men's Fitness Magazine's Complete Guide to Everything Men Need to Know and Want to Know About Sex. It's great, first of all, that the book ends with thoughts on gay issues: One hopes the straight male reader won't simply slam the book shut at the sight.

There's a lot of good stuff crammed in here (including The Advocate's John Gallagher's terse rundown of essential gay issues--marriage, insurance, drugs, etc.). But since our topic is sex, let me leave you with a quote from one of the chapter's sidebars about 64 "straight" men who were "first questioned to determine their anxieties regarding homosexuality" in a recent study done at the University of Georgia. "The researchers then attached monitors to the participants' penises and showed them clips of straight and gay XXX movies. It turns out, the men who expressed the greatest homophobia showed the most arousal while watching men having sex with other men." I intend to photocopy this page and mail it to Jerry Falwell and Jesse Helms today.

Kettelhack is the author of many books, including Dancing Around the Volcano, Easing the Ache, and Vastly More Than That.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Liberation Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Kettelhack, Guy
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 25, 1999
Next Article:Total Sex: Men's Fitness Magazine's Complete Guide to Everything Men Need to Know and Want to Know About Sex.

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