Biography and Sexual Teachings of Alexander Comfort Part 1

About the author of the Joy of Sex Alexander Comfort, biography and history of his sexual teachings.


ALEXANDER COMFORT (1920- ), Great Britain

Famous for his books advocating freewheeling, playful sex, Alexander Comfort is also a physician and surgeon, a world-renowned authority on aging, a poet, an essayist, a playwright, a novelist (author of 18 novels), a lyricist (for Pete Seeger), a lecturer, and a political activist. He is a man with energy for nearly everything and an immense joie de vivre, who says, "I have only one interest: human biology."

At seven, already a rebel, he ran away from school. At 14, while experimenting with gunpowder, he blew off all the fingers but not the thumb on his left hand. In spite of this, he was able to qualify as a surgeon, after winning his degree from Trinity College, Cambridge, where he first studied classics, then medicine.

During W.W. II, a pacifist in a time when pacifists were not popular figures at all, Comfort was banned from broadcasting after denouncing Allied bombing of nonmilitary targets. In his novel The Powerhouse, written in 1944, he advocated civil disobedience. Throughout his life, he has been labeled an anarchopacifist.

He received a Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1949 and two years later joined the zoology department of University College, London, where he began to study aging in short-lived animals like guppies. In 1971, in a UNESCO report, he predicted that by 1986, using selective starvation and drugs, the medical profession could control heart disease and cancer, and by so doing extend the life expectancy of human beings.

Concurrently, Comfort kept up his political activities. During the Suez crisis, he broadcast "Stop Suez!" from a mobile transmitter, staying one jump ahead of Scotland Yard, which was trying to catch him in the act. In 1962 he was put in jail for helping to organize a "Ban the Bomb" demonstration in London's Trafalgar Square.

A cigar smoker, Comfort has curly gray hair, an expressive face, and an unpretentious manner. A colleague reports that at gerontological meetings, he is prone to sum up stuffy proceedings with a limerick. And in a New York Times interview, he said, "If whores would only call themselves substitution therapists and work through proper channels, they would have a Royal College with professional examinations before you could say Nell Gwyn."

As sexually liberated as his books might suggest, Comfort in 1973 divorced his first wife and married Jane Henderson, a longtime friend and sociologist. Together they belong to Sandstone, a community in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles, whose members believe in and practice sexual freedom.

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