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The Better Sex Video Series

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It’s hard not to notice them: the young, windblown couple locked in an ecstatic, yet tasteful, embrace, peeking out from the pages of such varied publications as USA Today, Redbook, and The New York Times. What do they know that you don’t? A lot, hints the blurb over their heads: ”After years of making love the same old way, here’s an exciting new beginning.” A richer sex life, the ads suggest, is as close as your mailbox and your VCR, courtesy of the Better Sex Video Series.

Produced by the Learning Corp. in Pompano Beach, Fla., the videos are ”the country’s biggest-selling sex-aid tapes,” according to the company’s president, Stephen Kap-elow. He won’t divulge just how many eager couples have responded to the ads, but judging by the orgy of media attention the series has unleashed, Better Sex is easily the country’s most talked-about sexual aid. Kapelow and his videotapes — so far there are 10, at $29.95 each — have been featured on nearly every major TV talk show and even made Jay Leno’s opening monologue: ”This week a young couple right here in California were viewing the tape, accidentally hit the fast-forward button, and nearly killed themselves trying to keep up. So be careful.”

The series features such titles as Making Sex Fun (With Games & Toys) and You Can Last Longer. Besides the privacy of ordering by mail, the tapes appeal largely because they present sex as nonthreatening and not overly idealized. ”You know, the man having an erection on demand, the multiorgasmic woman,” says Kapelow, 51, who launched the company in 1988 after a career in real estate. Such mythic stereotypes, he says, ”destroy sex for the average person.” So Better Sex is relentlessly ordinary. People who aren’t model-perfect go at it indoors, outdoors, in hot tubs, and solo — but in an excruciatingly ordinary way. ”We show people under stress,” says Kapelow. ”People who aren’t in the mood, people who don’t have erections.”

If Madonna’s Sex is a Ferrari, the Better Sex series is a slightly battered Ford Explorer. Better Sexual Techniques, for example, focuses on such common problems as guys who fall asleep or women who don’t make enough noise. The reassuring, decidedly unsexy advice from host sexologists Judith Seifer (a Masters & Johnson Institute fellow) and Michael Kollar (a former director of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists): (1) don’t rush, (2) no sex is bad if you both want it, and (3) it needn’t happen only in the bedroom. Most of the scenes are performed by slightly frumpy nonactors, accompanied by well-meaning voice-overs.

The videos seem a logical evolution of sex-ed marketing for a generation that grew up with The Joy of Sex, The Sensuous Woman, Dr. Ruth, and, most significantly, MTV. Improved sexuality, Kapelow insists, is better taught through video than books. ”It’s like learning how to play baseball,” he says. ”You have to have somebody show you.”

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