A Curious History of Sex

A Curious History of Sex

by Kate Lister


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This is not a comprehensive study of every sexual quirk, kink and ritual across all cultures throughout time, as that would entail writing an encyclopaedia. Rather, this is a drop in the ocean, a paddle in the shallow end of sex history, but I hope you will get pleasantly wet nonetheless.

The act of sex has not changed since people first worked out what went where, but the ways in which society dictates how sex is culturally understood and performed have varied significantly through the ages. Humans are the only creatures that stigmatise particular sexual practices, and sex remains a deeply divisive issue around the world. Attitudes will change and grow – hopefully for the better – but sex will never be free of stigma or shame unless we acknowledge where it has come from.

Drawing upon extensive research from Dr Kate Lister’s Whores of Yore website and written with her distinctive humour and wit, A Curious History of Sex covers topics ranging from twentieth- century testicle thefts to Victorian doctors massaging the pelvises of their female patients, from smutty bread innuendos dating back to AD 79, to the new and controversial sex doll brothels. It is peppered with surprising and informative historical slang and illustrated by eye-opening, toe- curling and hilarious images.

In this fascinating book, Lister deftly debunks myths and stereotypes and gives unusual sexual practices an historical framework, as she provides valuable context for issues facing people today, including gender, sexual shame, beauty and language.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781783528059
Publisher: Unbound
Publication date: 04/14/2020
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 130,835
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

Dr. Kate Lister is a university lecturer. She researches the history of sexuality and curates the online research project Whores of Yore. She is also a columnist for iNews and the Wellcome Trust where she writes about the history of sex. Kate won the Sexual Freedom Award for Publicist of the Year in 2017.

thewhoresofyore.com / @WhoresofYore

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Sex and words

'Tis Pity She's a Whore: The 'Whore' in Whores of Yore 7

'A Nasty Name for a Nasty Thing': A History of Cunt 16

Sex and vulvas

Looking for the Boy in the Boat: A History of the Clitoris 39

Colonising the Cunt: A History of Racial Fetishization 68

'As Easily Made as a Pudding': A History of Virginity Tests 78

Sex and penises

Spilling the Beans: Orgasm and Onanism 99

Gland Larceny: Testicular Transplants in the Twentieth Century 114

Tough Love: Medieval Impotence Tests 127

Sex and food

Staff of Life: Sex and Bread 139

The Food of Love: A History of Oysters 148

Turning Down the Heat: A History of the Anaphrodisiac 159

Sex and Machines

Buzzkill: Vibrators and the Victorians 173

On Your Bike: Sex and Cycling 191

Boys' Toys: A History of the Sex Doll 209

Sex and Hygiene

Don't Hold Your Breath: Sex and Smells in the Middle Ages 225

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: A History of Pubic Hair 238

Filthy Fannies: A History of Douching 254

Sex and reproduction

French Letters, English Raincoats and Mrs Phillips's Wares: A History of the Condom 265

Bringing down the Flowers: Abortion in Eighteenth-Century Britain 277

Period Drama: A History of Menstruation 290

Sex and Money

The Oldest Profession: Sex Work in the Ancient World 307

Public Relations: A History of the Tart Card 319

Feasting with the Panthers: A History of Male Sex Work 332

Conclusion 347

Notes 355

Bibliography 393

Index 439

Supporters 447

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