An Interview With Kerry Rogers, South African Author Of Women's Bodies: A User's Manual
A brainwavez.org Literary Expedition


South Africaby Mandy J Watson
Posted: 14 February 2007

To acknowledge Valentine's Day we thought we'd skip all the boring mushy stuff and head straight for the sex, and what better way than with a manual designed to answer all your pressing questions? We recently sat down with Kerry Rogers, author of Women's Bodies: A User's Manual, and asked pressing questions about her new-found career as a sex-manual writer.

Warning: The content in this article is not suitable for minors. If you think you might be one, you probably are, so look away immediately!

Women's Bodies: A User's GuideMen are notorious for their tendency not to ask for advice - this is why cars, computers, and cellular phones all come with manuals, so why shouldn't a woman? Kerry Rogers, a "one-time sex columnist for GQ" and current managing editor of the South African edition of Cosmopolitan has written a book to solve this problem. With logical precision Women's Bodies: A User's Guide discusses the female form, from the scalp to the legs, as well as everything in between (and we do mean everything), giving difficulty and erotic ratings for all areas. You can flip through the book to a section of your choice, should you need to polish a particular skill rather urgently, or start from the beginning and learn everything that they should have taught you in sex-ed classes. Each chapter ends with advice and anecdotes from a panel of eight women. Their first-hand experiences are more insightful than anything you'll learn from the guy next door.

If you're a guy and you're not getting any, you need this book. If you're a girl and you're not satisfied, you need to get this book for your guy. If you're a lesbian and you're not getting any...well...we're not sure that even this book can help you, and if you're a prancing queen and not getting any, we really can't help you as this book will be about as helpful to you as a power drill and a set of drill bits...uh...we should probably rephrase that....

We couldn't review Women's Bodies: A User's Manual, as it would make for too many awkward questions around the office so, instead, we cornered the author, Kerry Rogers, and threatened to print lies unless she answered our questions truthfully, and in graphic detail.

MJW: Let's get the most pressing question out of the way first: what is a one-time sex columnist for GQ? Did you cover everything that needed to be said?

KR: I spent two years writing sex for GQ. Now, it wasn't an advice column, really - I'm not a doctor or a sexologist or anything - it was more 'out of the mouths of babes': lots of anecdotes about my friends' sex lives, some about mine, and so on. And yes, I think I did cover all the mainstream stuff that needed to be said. In fact, I think I wrote about how to have sex on the beach at least twice. Plus food, home videos, threesomes.... But my columns were more the kind that had a punchline than the kind that have a point.

MJW: Ah! That explains it. I interpreted it more literally and assumed that you wrote a sex column one time and were either too good or fired. Either way I had questions....

KR: I wish I could say I was too expensive, but....

MJW: Then you ended up at Cosmo writing more sex-related articles, so did all this experience make you suitably qualified to write the book?

KR: Of course. That and the fact that I'm a woman and have therefore had first-hand experience of men's strengths and weaknesses.

MJW: I'm not sure I want you to elaborate on that so instead I'm going to ask how you ended up being involved in this project, as the Two Dogs imprint has been going for a while now but is traditionally associated with male authors.

KR: Okay, I'll try to keep this answer clean. Daniel Ford, who launched Two Dogs with Struik, was editor of GQ SA when I worked there. He wanted a sex book for boys by a girl, and I had an idea stashed in my brain about a User's Guide to the Breast. It was a column I'd wanted to do for GQ but Dan was always on about sex on the beach.... Anyway, we discussed this idea over a drink, one drink became several (this is in line with Two Dogs policy) and the deal was sealed. Maybe they use lots of male authors there but, really, how's someone such as Darrel Bristow-Bovey going to tell another man what he should do when he finds himself face to face with a clitoris?

MJW: ...if he can recognise it, and thank you: you've now placed images in my head that I really wish I could erase with a selective lobotomy or, if necessary, a flamethrower. Nevertheless, this does speak to the usefulness of the book as both a top-to-bottom (and beyond) guide to female anatomy and arousal, which can be read as a novel (of sorts), by the truly clueless, as well as a "I need to polish my repertoire" (so to speak) reference book for those that just need to brush up on certain skills or areas. Was this the intention from the beginning, and did you approach the project as such, or did it evolve this way as you started writing the book?

KR: Sorry. Nobody should have to picture Darrel Bristow-Bovey coming face to face with anything. 'Top-to-bottom'? Ha! See, now you're making dirty puns too. The intention when I started writing was to cover the basics. Not because I don't think any man knows the basics, but because there are probably quite a few men who know lots of the basics but are missing a couple of crucial ones or who have read or seen all the advanced stuff in their erotic medium of choice but whose fathers never explained to them that an ear could be quite a sexy thing, or that nipples needn't be twisted all the time. Plus, I also think a basic manual can help advanced Don Juans to brush up: even Roger Federer must occasionally set up his tennis-ball-throwing machine and just practise a simple forehand over and over. Okay, I should admit here that I know nothing about tennis.

MJW: Uh...I think I'll avoid responding with layers of subtext, because you gave me a lot to work with there.... To illuminate, and confuse, the issues further, the chapters feature comments from eight women who act as a panel of experts as well as case studies. Was this part of the plan when you mapped out the book or did you find, as you went along, that you needed other voices to compliment (and often contradict) all the advice you offer?

KR: The women were part of the plan from very early on. After a couple of minutes of thinking about how I would write the book, I realised that if I wasn't careful it'd simply become a manual to my body, which would present a target market of exactly one reader...

MJW:...well, one reader and a large group of stalkers...

KR: ...plus, that one reader often reads over my shoulder as I type, so he probably wouldn't even buy the book. Not a clever business proposition. So I decided to get some other girls involved. It was quote cool because everyone was so different that there was lots of disagreement. Which is the point I make somewhere in the text: once you know the basics, sir, it's time to panic, because all girls have different bodies and different tastes, so applying your new knowledge is going to be something of a challenge.

MJW: How did you find and approach the women to be part of the book? Were they interviewed anonymously, individually, or were there group discussions that presumably would have led to mayhem. And pillow fights.

KR: I spammed my friends and family, and asked them to ask their friends and family. It took ages. All were sent a vast questionnaire, which they returned anonymously. Actually, two of them decided not to be anonymous, but I jumbled them around while editing, so as not to find out too many details about people I vaguely knew. And afterwards, there were pillow fights, yes.

MJW: In order to compile a vast questionnaire one presumably has to know what one needs to ask. How did you go about conducting research for the book? And what brand of pillow do you recommend?

KR: Not really - my crib notes were the human body itself. I just worked from the top down. And I found out all sorts of interesting things, such as the fact that nipples do not contain erectile tissue - nipple stands are actually like goose bumps. I did loads of research, though, but almost exclusively online because book royalties don't make you enough money to warrant going out and buying stacks of sex books. I tried very hard to start by reading about the biology and structure of each body part and only then move onto the erotic aspect. But in the end it was mostly the dirty stuff that I used - the rest is lodged in my head somewhere. And, actually, I do have a pillow to recommend. But I can't remember the brand name. It's a latex pillow! How kinky does that sound? Huh? Huh? It's awesome: it's the texture of one of those squeezy stress balls. It's soo comfy. And it costs R500 - worth every cent. It'd be a great weapon in a pillow fight if you're serious about winning, because solid latex is much heavier than feathers.

MJW: It sounds as if you may have another guide in the works. Or a well-researched mail-order catalogue.

KR: Home Combat Devices. Watch this space....

MJW: Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of Products For Personal (And Professional) Pleasure....

KR: Want to go into business with me?

MJW: Well, you're the sex expert. If you think there's money in this I'll happily climb on board...but seriously, how long did the whole process of researching and then writing the book take?

KR: Three months - those Two Dogs guys are slave drivers - and then about another month of fighting with my editor, Tim Richman.

MJW: The book was published in the second half of last year but I heard that it made a brief appearance at the inaugural Cape Town Book Fair in June, and was particularly popular.

KR: Yes, right. It was the most stolen book at the fair. I was so proud....

Women's Bodies: A User's Guide ads that were placed in a Cape Town newspaperMJW: How else have you promoted the book?

KR: I haven't done an awful lot, but Daniel at Two Dogs came up with an ingenious marketing stunt. He put ads in the classifieds that related to the pseudonyms of the women on my panel, something to the effect of: "XXX blonde, I like it hard. Jackie - buy Women's Bodies: A User's Manual at Exclusive Books." It even got a mention in The Media. Oh, and the Daily Voice [a Cape Town tabloid] interviewed me - that was hysterical. They had a big picture of me next to an even bigger picture of the porn star Jenna Jameson. I also went to a lovely event in Johannesburg hosted by Showgirl Entertainment, which organises women's evenings. I was presented with a room full of Jo'burg 20-somethings (in other words, thinner, hotter and better dressed than me) and I had to give a 20-minute talk to all 300 of them. They were loads of fun, though, and they not only had lots of booze but a chocolate fountain, too. They were also nice enough to invite my sister, so I had someone to drink chocolate with afterwards.

MJW: How does talking to a group of women encourage sales of a book for men? Is it a case of them going home and saying: "Honey, I love you, but you really don't know what you're doing so I have a manual I recommend you buy immediately."? And what does one say to a group of sophisticated 20-somethings for 20 minutes?

KR: We always suspected that women would be a fair chunk of the market - you know, the ones who are desperate for the nipple-twiddling to end. The difficult part comes in when you actually present it to the guy. I suppose you could say, 'There are some kinky new things in here that we could try, honey.' Or something. Or, in more serious situations, 'Honey, remember the other night when you said you wished I had orgasms more often? Well, there are some ideas in here....' The 20 minutes were nerve wracking but I was sneaky. I'd say things like, 'Don't we hate it when men kiss like washing machines?' then they'd very gamely go, 'Yeah!' and then I'd offer a free copy of the book to the first person who'd come up and read from the book about things a man should do when he kisses. See? See how sneaky? Making other people do my speech for me? Yes.

MJW: So between having your books stolen and giving away free copies, have you sold any (besides the one I bought to prepare for this interview)? And do you get a kick out of being able to search for yourself on Kalahari.net [a South African e-tailer]?

KR: You may be the only one.... Well, my mother bought one too. Actually, Tim - the book's editor and now publishing manager at Two Dogs - says it has sold fairly well, although more through mail order than in shops. I think it's for the same reason people steal it: they're too shy to walk up to a cashier with it, despite its subtle cover art. At least, that's what I'm telling myself. I don't like to think people are stealing it because they don't think it's worth the money. It's very cool to be a Kalahari.net author, I must say. It makes you feel all famous-like.

MJW: Speaking of the "subtle" cover art...I noticed that it is a syndicated photograph. Isn't that cheating?

KR: It couldn't very well have been a photo of me, could it now?

MJW: Who would know? But seriously, you talked about your new-found female fans, but have you ever met a male reader and, if so, what did he have to say about the book? Have you found that men and women respond differently to it?

KR: One man said if he'd found it when he was a teenager he would've failed school (there's one diagram in particular that he was fascinated with [page 117]). A couple of others have asked to meet the women from the panel. One friend of mine said he wasn't sure he could look me in the eye again. I considered that a compliment. Women are more serious about it than men - I've had middle-aged women say things to the effect of: 'This is the kind of information that could save a marriage,' which is awesome because, although it's a light, male-directed read, the fact that it's actually useful to women is very cool for me. Oh, and there was one palooka, a gentleman by the name of Mr Short (I am not making this up), who seemed to think he could presume to second-guess me on punctuation, and e-mailed to say so. The nerve! He was convinced it should have been 'Womens' Bodies'. Seriously. Ania, the copy editor of the book, actually scanned in some respected style guides and sent them to him, and he still questioned it. He wanted to know whether the style guides were American(!)

MJW: Sounds like an inept attempt at intellectual courtship. You should write a manual for that - in fact, do you have any other books in the works?

KR: Actually, my sister and I have started talking about a children's book. There's a monkey in it, but not much else has been established.

MJW: I think that's my cue to end this interview. Two final questions: what does your family think of your burgeoning status as a South African sex expert, and where do you see your career going from here?

KR: I think some of my family members are prouder than others, but they do all find it amusing. Next I'd like to do something that's not about sex - I'm kind of typecast as a sex and silliness writer. Maybe I should do something serious. Nah. But something different. What I would like ultimately is to become a new-product designer for Cadbury's so if you can hook me up with any chocolate executives, that'd be great. I'll even give them a signed copy of a sex book.

MJW: Kerry Rogers, author of Women's Bodies: A User's Manual, thank you very much for taking some time out of your busy schedule to allow me to subject you to this interview.

Kerry Roger's literary debut, Women's Bodies: A User's Manual, can be purchased online at Kalahari.net, a South African e-tailer that ships worldwide. It is also available in South Africa at all good bookstores.


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Key Facts
Author: Kerry Rogers
ISBN: 1-920-1370-68
Publisher: Two Dogs
Edition: First
Year: 2006
Format: Softcover; black and white
Pages: 176
Size: 128x198x13mm (WxHxD)
On The Internet
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