Sol Gordon Essay - Critical Essays

Gordon, Sol


Sol Gordon 1923–

American nonfiction writer, psychologist, editor, and teacher.

Gordon is a clinical psychologist who writes books for young adults and younger children in which he candidly discusses the physical aspects of sex and the sexual roles of young people. Gordon often defines and explains four-letter words in his books, reasoning that young people who understand the words will be less likely to include them in their everyday speech. Gordon's frankness has alienated some critics, who contend that he is trying to conceal a basic lack of direction in his books. Others, however, find Gordon's approach fresh and attractive to young adults.

Facts about Sex: A Basic Guide (retitled Facts about Sex for Today's Youth) is probably Gordon's most widely read book. In it he tries to clear up the confusion that many young people have toward their sexuality by discussing sympathetically and without condescension premarital sex, homosexuality, contraception, and venereal disease. You!, which has been revised as The Teenage Survival Book, continues along the same lines. Written with Roger Conant, it includes drawings and cartoons to lighten the mood, yet still offers helpful information. You Would If You Loved Me comprises a list of seductive phrases used by boys and advice to help girls cope with such sexual advances.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 53-56; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 4; and Something about the Author, Vol. 11.)

Eda J. Leshan

[A] book for teen-agers—older ones—"Facts about Sex" … by Sol Gordon, has me somewhat stumped. Dr. Gordon … felt it would be helpful to have a book that openly and frankly acknowledged language of the streets, what he calls "the vulgar or so-called dirty words." I cannot imagine that there are many school systems experimental or adventurous enough to try such an approach, and so the book will have limited usefulness. I also question whether it is the better part of wisdom to confuse our roles with young people, who really want us to act like grownups and serve as models…. There is, however, a sensible and honest candor about the book that might be especially useful with young people who feel quite alienated from adults and have had little or no opportunity to communicate with them about sexual matters.

Eda J. LeShan, in her review of "Facts about Sex," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1970 by The New York Times Company: reprinted by permission), August 2, 1970. p. 18.

Science Books

Many books have been written for children of all ages on the subject of sex education, but [Facts about Sex: A Basic Guide] is the first one for adolescents that faces the fact squarely that most of them get their sex information and misinformation through conversations with their peers. But many of them don't get their facts straight and have consequent feelings of guilt and uncertainty. Dr. Gordon … believes that it is important for young people to know and understand sex and the language associated with it, including the so-called dirty words. His book is brief, to the point, has listed and explained the vulgar or taboo terms either in the text or in footnotes. He hopes that parents will accept his book and be willing to talk with their young people about it. If not, he suggests that they leave the book where they can find it, when and if they are interested, and can have opportunities to read it in private…. The book does well what it sets out to do—to deal with the physical processes and realities of sex and sex relations. The moral and ethical aspects of sex are obtainable from other books or sources.

A review of "Facts about Sex: A Basic Guide," in Science Books (copyright © 1970 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science), Vol. 6, No. 2, September, 1970, p. 156.

Diane Farrell

[Facts About Sex: A Basic Guide is a] slim volume that should do much to dispel adolescent confusion about sex and the language associated with sex, specifically the obscenities, dirty jokes, and graffiti that are part of the media of the teen subculture…. What distinguishes this presentation is that all the vulgar or "dirty" words are defined together with the acceptable colloquial expressions and the correct medical terms. The author's premise is that once young people understand the correct meaning of the vulgar words, they cease to be anxious about them and seldom use them to anger, shock, or annoy adults…. An enormously useful book, it imparts both physical information and emotional reassurance, putting the whole subject into a wholesome, sane, psychologically sound perspective. (pp. 65-6)

Diane Farrell, in her review of "Facts about Sex: A Basic Guide," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1971 by The Horn Book, Inc., Boston), Vol. XLVII, No. 1, February, 1971, pp. 65-6.

Kirkus Reviews

[Facts about Sex for Today's Youth, a revised edition of Facts about Sex: A Basic Guide, is] hardly substantial enough to merit reprinting. The insufficiency of detail is indicated by the suggestion that "Girls who want to know more about menstruation should write for free literature …" and the limits of Gordon's frankness are reached when he says that "ball, jump, go down and screw are also used as impolite ways of referring to sexual intercourse" without ever alluding to that most popular impolite word of all.

A review of "Facts about Sex for Today's Youth," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1973 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLI, No. 8, April 15, 1973, p. 467.

Kirkus Reviews

[Facts about Venereal Disease for Today's Youth] has the merits of brevity and simplicity and will be a [good choice] … for anyone who wants to obtain the facts necessary for self-protection without reading a full-length book. In addition to a description of symptoms Gordon lists some do's and don'ts for those undergoing treatment which a doctor might neglect to mention … and includes illustrated instructions for the use of condoms. Inessential information on prevalent "myths" about VD and the diseases' histories are relegated to later chapters where they can be skipped over, and though Gordon's recommendation that condoms always be used (even by women on the Pill) seems somewhat impractical, his attitude is generally commonsensical….

A review of "Facts about Venereal Disease for Today's Youth," in Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1973 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), Vol. XLI, No. 16, August 15, 1973, p. 890.

Kirkus Reviews

[Girls are Girls and Boys are Boys: So What's the Difference? involves some] random poking around at various levels of sex and sex-role education, beginning with the interchangeable play and career preferences that were more effectively celebrated in [Eve] Merriam's Boys & Girls, Girls & Boys. Then there's a perfunctory investigation of where babies come from, and finally a swift glance at wet dreams, masturbation, and menstruation, the sort of topics [Wardell B.] Pomeroy covers at length…. [The] grab bag explanations cover questions asked at different developmental levels—and better answered in many other places.

A review of "Girls are Girls and Boys...

(The entire section is 122 words.)

Zena Sutherland

[In Girls are Girls and Boys are Boys; So What's the Difference?] Gordon moves from a debunking of sexist ideas about the characters and roles of boys and girls to the area of sex education, describing sexual intercourse, menstruation, nocturnal emission, and masturbation. The writing is direct, informal, and candid; the author makes no judgments, pulls no punches, and he concludes with the fact that all human beings are of equal value and should have equal opportunities—pointing out that both boys and girls can have many interests. This doesn't explore either physical differences or social attitudes very deeply but it serves well as an introduction.

Zena Sutherland, in...

(The entire section is 149 words.)

Leah Deland Stenson

Teens who have the good fortune to read Gordon's self-help and how-to guide will learn ways to mitigate adolescent angst [in You!: the Psychology of Surviving and Enhancing Your Social Life, Love Life, Sex Life, School Life, Home Life, Work Life, Emotional Life, Creative Life, Spiritual Life, Style of Life, Life]. Covering numerous aspects of interpersonal relations and behavior—sex and love (hetero- and homosexual), drugs, depression, marriage, death, etc.—Gordon offers nonconde-scending advice and insightful analyses of common problem situations…. Appealing to browsers, the book has an eclectic, free-form format: bold chapter headings, photographs and drawings (including some nudity), poems, lists, text...

(The entire section is 235 words.)

Gary Bogart

One doesn't read a book [like You] so much as experience it. And believe me, there are experiences here too numerous to count. Basically the book is a potpourri of comments on the various subjects mentioned in the title, all surrounding a core of six comic books…. If my antennae are any good at all, I can safely predict that YAs will flip over this book. I can also predict that many adults will squirm at its frankness in dealing with certain subjects often deemed taboo for teenagers. To be sure, some of the material is in questionable taste; I sometimes felt that [Sol Gordon and Roger Conant] were trying very hard to shock. But much of the material is excellent—the comic book on V.D., for example, is both...

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West Coast Review Of Books

The attempt is greater than the overall effect [in You]…. The book supposedly is aimed at our "young people" but somebody ought to tell Gordon and Roger Conant, who assisted, that one has to be able to read a book comfortably in order for one to use it, eh? Here we have the most garish layouts these eyes have ever seen. The cartoons, the art work, knock you down before the text gives you the message. And when you get the message, you find the trip wasn't worth it.

A review of "You," in West Coast Review of Books (copyright 1977 by Rapport Publishing Co., Inc.), Vol. 3, No. 2, March, 1977, p. 43.

(The entire section is 109 words.)

Joan Scherer Brewer

[The readings in Sexuality Today—and Tomorrow: contemporary issues in human sexuality] are intended to supplement a basic text in college and university human sexuality courses. [Coeditors Gordon and Roger W. Libby] believe that information about alternative lifestyles provides a basis necessary for intelligent decision making, and emphasize a morality based on responsible relationships rather than dogma. In five sections, each introduced by an essay, they cover changing sex roles and sexual behaviors, the politics of sociosexual issues, variations in sexual expression, social ethics and personal morals, and future sexuality…. Most of the articles are competent and thought provoking; however, few of the...

(The entire section is 173 words.)

Publishers Weekly

[In You Would if You Loved Me Gordon] has collected a pride of lines, used more or less successfully by hot-blooded youths trying to warm up cool young women. For the most part, the "invitations" are crude and markedly offensive, many followed by no more edifying examples of riposte that only quick-thinking maidens would fire back. An introduction cites woeful statistics on betrayed and pregnant young women who certainly need all the help they can get against the importunities of love-them-and-leave-them types. Perhaps this book, clumsy and slapdash though it is, will give ignorant teenaged females some life-saving ammunition.

A review of "You Would If You Loved Me,"...

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Patty Campbell

In his latest effort, You Would if You Loved Me, [Sol Gordon] has collected a noxious nosegay of one-liners ostensibly used by boys bent on seduction. Oldies but not goodies, they range from the oily … to the crude…. In some cases Gordon has supplied snappy comebacks for girls ("He: I've been admiring your rear end for weeks. She: Admiring will get you nowhere!").

Far from discouraging the male, this approach is provocative and makes the female a player in the game. An honest "Sorry, I'm not interested" is far kinder. But most of these remarks don't deserve kindness; many are so insulting … that a self-respecting girl could only respond by immediately walking away. (pp. 83, 93)


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[In You Would if You Loved Me] Gordon has assembled dozens of [seduction lines] in a clever, yet serious attempt to "wise up the naive and vulnerable" teenage girl and help her recognize some of the verbal advances that may lead to physical sex. The lines (many with appropriate replies) have been collected by Gordon over the past 10 years and are grouped roughly into categories (lines to cry by, inside lines, lines to make you drowsy, etc.) that parody the emotion or situation the line reflects. Although the author occasionally breaks the continuity by intruding with advice, he speaks frankly to teens with appealing informality. Despite the fact that some teenage boys may use this as a treasury of new hustle...

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Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide

In his introduction [to You Would if You Loved Me], Gordon deplores the double standard which has in fact encouraged the male in our culture in his role as seducer. He states once again the appalling number of teenage pregnancies in the U.S. and his aim is to protect young women from being pressured to have sex before they are ready. He says frankly that some critics might feel that this book will provide males with more ideas for seduction techniques; however, as one reads the lines with their suggested rebuttals and as one giggles at the cartoons, the message is clear that females should be alert to recognize a "line" for what it is, and learn to counter with an assertive negative, or at least with a witty...

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Patty Campbell

Facts About Sex for Today's Youth by Sol Gordon has been the best simple book on the subject since 1969, when it was first published. Its straightforward, primer-easy text makes it useful with unskilled or unwilling readers, but its honesty and lack of condescension and the joyful, handsome illustrations give it appeal to all sexual beginners. In this revision (the third) there are a number of minor changes…. Herpes is now included in the section on venereal disease, and Gordon claims that all states now permit VD treatment without parental consent. Girls are warned against seductive "lines" (an echo of the author's You Would If You Loved Me)….

The major change, which makes it...

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Patty Campbell

Sol Gordon's Facts about VD, like his Facts about Sex, is designed for older teens who may be experienced but not knowledgeable, and who are not readers by inclination or ability. Without wasting a single word, he lays out the basics about understanding and preventing the transmission of the love diseases. In this edition there is an expanded description of herpes, a new emphasis on oral and anal VD, some new pictures, a few updated statistics …, and new resource lists. Gordon has also added a page strongly advising teens to seek medical help every time they have sex without a condom. (p. 327)

Patty Campbell, in her review of "Facts about VD," in Wilson...

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Patty Campbell

[The Teenage Survival Book] is a new edition of You, the self-consciously super-hang-loose sex and life manual that came out of the author's belated sixties consciousness (in 1975). Little is changed here, although at first glance it might seem that the inside is as new as the title because the author has scrambled the contents around. Gordon has also dropped much of the most valuable part of the original: those raunchy straight-ahead comics…. The leftover space is filled in with a lot of Gordon's own embarrassingly bad poetry, a long piece on Margaret Sanger by Toby Clinch, an inappropriate article titled "Toward a Successful Marriage," and some updated book lists. What seemed like so much fun six...

(The entire section is 156 words.)

Jorja Perkins Davis

I must begin by saying I am not Gordon's staunchest fan and supporter. I find his style too smug. In comparing [Teenage Survival Book with You!], however, I find that his changes are generally positive, his additions so-so, his deletions disappointing and some things he left as they stood, I wished he'd revised. He has made some steps toward making this edition less objectionable by leaving out the picture of nude teens and many of his off-color jokes and cartoons. Gordon has updated some of his essential reading bibliographies, but his lists of recommended fiction and nonfiction for general reading reflect his adult interests and not the young teen to whom the book itself is directed. His statistics on...

(The entire section is 269 words.)