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The Joy of Sexus: Lust, Love, and Longing in the Ancient World

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  149 ratings  ·  43 reviews
In her previous books, Vicki León put readers in the sandals of now obsolete laborers, ranging from funeral clowns to armpit pluckers, and untangled the twisted threads of superstition and science in antiquity. Now, in this book of astonishing true tales of love and sex in long-ago Greece, Rome, and other cultures around the Mediterranean, she opens the doors to shadowy ro ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Walker Books (first published January 22nd 2013)
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Lolly's Library
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
As others have pointed out, the latest in Vicki Leon's guides to the ancient world could've used a bit more fact-checking and editing as there are some timeline as well as grammatical errors. However, like Leon's other works, if you're looking for a fast, entertaining, and flippant peek behind (actually up) the togas, chitons, and tunics of the classical world, than look no further. An amusing mix of apocryphal, mythological, and historical (occasionally without clear distinction from the author ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people wanting a good nonfiction break
Recommended to Eavan by: goodreads
Easy nonfiction read when I was feeling a little overwhelmed and down. Lot's of fun. Actually learned a good deal of random sex and fertility gods, goddesses, cults, and rituals. Refreshing LGBT accepting, though very obviously written from an overeager ally (you know the type). I found this book unfortunately pretty repetitive by about halfway through and the short nature of all the texts made me a little annoyed. Definitely a highbrow bathroom book.

I have over 250 highlights in this thing tho
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Here are my thoughts on THE JOY OF SEXUS: (If you'd like to watch my MINI Review on Youtube go here:

I love Vicki Leon’s books! These are filled with utmost originality in content, presentation, details, facts and entertainment- and that’s in Nonfiction- History books!! It’s true. If you’ve ever read any of her books you know exactly what I mean.

So, when I was offered THE JOY OF SEXUS for review- I lunged for it! I know, I know, some of you may be reluctant because of
Tad Crawford
May 25, 2015 rated it liked it
There are many interesting stories drawn together here. It's not just about the joy of sex, because some of the ancients (Nero, Caligula, Elagabulus, Tiberius, etc.) were horrifying and violent. But if you love reading about the Greeks and Romans, as I do, it does offer pleasures. I did have some animadversions, such as poor fact checking. For example, Emperor Elagabulus insists on marrying a vestal virgin despite the virgin's vow of chastity. The text goes on to say, "About two centuries later, ...more
May 04, 2015 rated it liked it
This was a fun little book on the sex lives of the Ancient Greeks and Romans (occasionally there is some info on the Egyptians but mostly it's just Greco-Roman). Like many books in this style it tries to be quippy and fun and above all brief. You're not going to get any long, in-depth look at any one thing here but rather a shallow view of things.

It isn't particularly well footnoted and the bibliography is a bit sketchy in places if that matters to you. What I really wished she hadn't done was i
Apr 10, 2021 rated it it was ok
It was ok. The premise is very interesting, but the way the book is written is distracting. The organization is a little nonsensical and the topics themselves are very short so it feels like the book is jumping around a lot. After a while, the books seems to get repetitive and could have benefited from editing. The images sometimes barely related to the topic being discussed and when they were historic images or sculptures, they had no information about the provenance in the caption. For example ...more
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Vicki León has been out collecting ancient trivia again and this time her subject is sex. In her latest collection of the obscure, she has assembled anecdotes about ancient aphrodisiacs, wandering wombs, practitioners of erotic mysteries and victims of doomed love.

By reading her book I learned about Callipygia worship - a fixation on a person's derriere and divine gender-bending that affected such ancient prophets as Teiresias the Seer. I think my favorite passage from the book, though, was a r
Andy Oram
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This little, lively book is an amusing and detailed introduction to daily life among the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. Although the book talks plenty about sex--fascinating, rare insights--it also provides windows into other topics such as childbirth, fascination with pets, and notable great women. There is far more to know about ancient life than one sees in the usual tomes about Alexander's conquests or the speeches of Cato (both of whom turn up in this book). And sometimes Leon offer ...more
Nov 13, 2012 rated it liked it
I previously read León’s 4000 Years of Uppity Women and was disappointed with the layout and how brief the biographies actually were, so when The Joy of Sexus started with actual chapters, detailed descriptions, and a cohesive narrative, I was very excited. If Sexus was 200 pages instead of 320, I’d be writing a very different review.

Unfortunately, there just didn’t seem to be enough material to cover an entire book. 45 pages in, loved it. 150 pages and it started to feel repetitive. 280 pages a
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book for free from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. Also posted on my book blog, Rinn Reads.

Sex sells. Simple. The media is full of it: scandals, the porn industry, sex tips – but rarely is an actual discussion of sex positive. Often it is shown in a negative light, something that, despite being the most natural of human acts, is ruining and corrupting lives and generations. So it’s nice to finally see a discussion that is positive.

What’s interesting is that
Alex Telander
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-for-review
Vicki León certainly seems to have an ability for discovering and unearthing the bizarre and unusual, no matter what moment in history it seems to be from. She has written and published books for children, as well as adults, known for her popular anecdotal volumes, Uppity Women and Working IX to V, she now turns to a hotter and more illicit subject in The Joy of Sexus. Many people have heard certain “things” and “rumors” about what certain Romans, or Greeks, or Egyptians or people of the ancient ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
When I first caught sight of a copy of this book for fairly cheap at a used book store, I was excited. The study of sexuality in the ancient world is something dear to my heart, and reading through the story headers in the index had me laughing hard. I was prepared for a humorous read about some truly bizarre ancient ideas. Unfortunately, I put this book down feeling disappointed. It's well-written enough, and León's humor is charming. But not far into the book, I encountered an error that made ...more
Jo Butler
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Anyone who reads or writes about the ancient world has to wonder how human sexuality was expressed in those days. Was it overt, or kept behind closed doors – or whatever passed for closed doors before the doorknob was invented? Vicki León answers these questions in her 2013 nonfiction The Joy of Sexus.

Exploring sexuality from the beginning of humankind to Nero’s infamous appetites, and from contraceptives to castration, is a broad field. Fortunately the Greeks and Romans weren’t shy about their
Stacie Wyatt
Mar 13, 2001 rated it it was amazing
I reviewed the Joy of Sexus by Vicki Leon, in exchange for review from Netgalley. The book was published by Walker and Company. The book discussed the history of sex throughout the ages. I enjoyed reading about the different aphrodisiacs and anti-potency remedies. Some of the aphrodisiacs included mandrake roots, satyrion, red coral, and wormwood. People also used herbal potions and plants; amulets and rubs; and also inserted hair, excretions, and nail clippings to improve potency.
On the other
Sep 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I love this book, and I want to be Vicki León when I grow up. She takes a sex positive view of life and translates it to the ancient world while not glossing over any of the ugly parts of history. The book is funny, witty, and sexy even though it also gives weight to very serious subject matter like genital mutilation and slavery.

I wished that she had been able to include images of the art that she mentioned (statues in the Louvre, paintings by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, etc.) but I'm so glad that s
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I found this a mostly humorous collection of stories about, yes, lust, love, longing, with largely ancient Rome as a focus.

Mainly my annoyance was in the sorting of these stories and how there is very little distinction made between "true" historical accounts or sources and that of the mythical accounts of sexuality, nor a "timeline" within it.

There is dabbling here of the cultures of Egypt, Greece (Athens, Thebes and Sparta most predominately), and early Christian biblical pieces and a 'marty
Jun 05, 2013 rated it liked it
The ancient world is confined to the Greeks and Romans, with a smattering of mentions of the Egyptians in this book that covers attitudes and practices of the ancients with regards to contraception, cross-dressing, marriage, divorce, ancient female pornographers and more. We learn that obscenities were protection from the evil eye; much as modern people might throw salt over their shoulder to ward off bad luck, ancient people would use obscene words while making a "protective gesture." Dirty jok ...more
Nov 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, ancient
Note: I received this book via Netgalley.

An interestingly taboo topic. This book was very informative and attention-grabbing to read. This book makes history fun and enjoyable to read (and not just because of the topic), the narratives and descriptions were well done and the research was obviously extensive. Overall, it was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it and not just to history majors!

Also on
Aug 19, 2016 rated it liked it
The book starts out good but it goes off topic in the last third part. This book was supposed to be about sexual lives and beliefs of the ancient people but the last third of the book just talks about random tales about ancient people and includes stories like how Greeks loved dogs while Egyptians loved cats as pets. I guess the author felt like she didn't have enough material to fill the book if she stayed on topic, so she found some "filler" information about off-topic stuff in order to comple ...more
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Joy of Sexus is a book that is full interesting and informative guide to sex in the ancient times. It is something that will take a lot of research to unearth the information that is the book has, not anything you would read in a typical history book. This book is dives right into almost anything that you may wish to be curious about the subject.
Illustrations and the way the book was put together were revealing and made the book an intriguing read.
Meg - A Bookish Affair
"Joy of Sexus" is a non-fiction book filled with the funnier and definitely more interesting side of sex in the Ancient World. An This is the fun kind of non-fiction book that will keep you interested through the entire book. I love books where I get to learn a little bit of something while I'm reading. The book definitely fits that bill.

I learned so much from this book. The book covers some of the famous people of the Ancient World and some other intriguing topics along the way.
Paul Ogren
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is a helluva lot of fun! Excellent history drawn from primary sources, Vicki Leon's "Joy of Sexus: Lust, Love & Longing in the Ancient World" gives us the juice and joy of sex and love in the days before Christianity added guilt and shame to the game. Highly entertaining, and without the sludge that made History Class such a bore back in the day. Who knew history could be this fun?! ...more
Feb 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History majors in need of bathroom reading

A broad range of short biographies on some very... earthy people of the ancient world. A nice change of pace to see a more human look at the history of ancient civilizations. To be picked up and and put down with ease, with no need to read straight through, given the jumping around of the subjects.

Another interesting book from Vicki Leon, who covers broad topics in a shallow (but fun) way. The only complaint is a large number of mistakes in Latin, some of which are probably automatic spelling corrections by a word processing program (e.g. "generic" for the Latin word "generis"). Still - `fun book! ...more
Freyja Vanadis
Oct 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was a really fun, at times irreverent, look at sex, love and relationships of the ancient Greeks and Romans, with a little bit of other peoples like the Egyptians, Etruscans and Amazons thrown in.

Edit: I just finished reading it for the second time, and I enjoyed it every bit as much as the first time.
Aug 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
Pleasant enough but not very satisfying (rimshot). The topics are very scattershot. I liked her list of sources which include the Courtesans and Fishcakes author. It would have been improved by more smut or a focus on one era. *All* of ancient Greek and Roman history is a smidge too wide of a canvas to fill.
Nov 15, 2012 marked it as abandoned
I have long enjoyed Leon's work. However, the formatting of the digital ARC I received is absolutely atrocious. It is very difficult to read. I do plan on reading the title when it is published in book-format. ...more
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Its' really good. Reads a little like a textbook, but lots of interesting information. If you like to learn, then this is a great book about a interesting topic from long ago. Awesome views on how sexuality was and has evolved. ...more
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
More fluff than fascinating, I still learned a little, namely:

Ovid loved women and knew how they liked to be aroused. He published Art of Love and its erotic companion Remedies for Love. Also, The Metamorphoses.
Pamela Morris
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Completely readable history book on the sexual habits of Ancient Romans and Greeks. Pretty interesting stuff actually. Wish there was more on Egyptians. Barely discussed, and they're my favorite. ...more
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The Joy of Sexus, by Vicki Leon 1 4 Jan 30, 2013 06:18AM  

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A prolific author of non-fiction, author of numerous books for young and old, Vicki León delights in unearthing unusual facts, fresh anecdotes, and uncommon statistics to create her books on the natural world and the flip side of history. Her book have won rave reviews from a long list of media that includes People magazine. Publishers Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, Voice of America, and numerous ...more

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