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A Curious History of Sex

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  1,568 ratings  ·  276 reviews
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
Audiobook, Unabridged, 8 hours and 18 minutes, 9 pages
Published November 24th 2020 by Tantor Audio (first published February 6th 2020)
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 ·  1,568 ratings  ·  276 reviews

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Jun 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
I am always interested in books that force me to think and teach me something while I enjoy them. I have read many a biography or memoir, alongside books that expound on world history, all in hopes of coming away with more knowledge (or any) on a subject. However, when it came to Kate Lister’s piece, it was a few people who recommended it simply to see what I would write in my review that had me reaching for this piece. Lister tackles the wide world of sex, reproduction, and how humans have hand ...more
K.J. Charles
Not so much a history of sex as a delve into various parts. As you might say. There's chapters on eg abortion, attitudes to the vulva, contraception, male sex workers, public hair styling, and much more. Lots of slang. Leans fairly heavily to Western and Victorian attitudes, and to cis male attitudes to cis female bodies though there is a determined effort to widen the scope with lots on the medieval period and some on non-Western cultures including some fabulous Indian art. I have the print edi ...more
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Not so much a history of sex as a collection of historical curiosities of sexual nature. A fun read, though. Lister's take on the word c*nt is *chef's kiss*. It's probably my favourite chapter in the book.
Trigger warnings: mentions of rape, mentions of sexual assault, mentions of witch burning and torture, mentions of homophobia, graphic descriptions of female genital mutilation.

This book was genuinely fantastic from start to finish. And utterly hilarious. I was sold on this book within, like, a page of the preview on Amazon. Lister's writing is phenomenal and she's very matter-of-fact about her subject matter.

I think the thing that I loved most about this is that it's effectively like a series
Rachel Bridgeman
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: february-20
Right now, I am going to admit that it's a hard act to follow this book , it's very likely to be my non-fiction book of the year. There, I said it, the challenge is out there. There aren't enough stars for me to award this book, I am absolutely certain that a copy belongs in every library, the curious reader should be directed at it in much the same way that so many MANY men need to be directed to the clitoris.

Which, by the way, seems to be according to Kate's research, pretty much the route of
Peter Tillman
Here's the NYT review, by the inimitable Dwight Garner:
"Lister has a chapter subtitled “Sex and Bread.” I have a hard time imagining the baking deity Dorie Greenspan recommending this, but Lister relates accounts of women in the 17th century, up on the counter, kneading dough with their buttocks.

The women delivered the resulting loaves to their sweet-pea partners to inflame lust. Lister comments: “Should a lover ever approach you carrying an oddly
Cardiff Feminist Book Club
What a sex positive, honest and fun discussion! Most of us really enjoyed the book and found it engaging, interesting and bloody laugh out loud funny. Our only negative is that we wanted it to bring the discussion into the modern context and discuss the implications for sex and sexuality more.

We discussed themes that emerged from the book for us and spent a lot of time talking about shame; around sex and bodies, about women's sexuality in particular and the absolute fear men have had of women's
wanted more analysis/discussion of the topics rather than just a laundry list of facts and examples...
Apr 11, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh wow, I was so disappointed by this book! Going by all the positive reviews and a quick skim read before receiving the physical copy, I was really excited to read this. The book is well researched, has some brilliant photographic/illustration reproductions, but I found Lister's writing style really grating. Constantly peppering the text with slang terms, with their date of coinage comes across as a nice idea, but I found it utterly tedious after a while. I think there's something about this bo ...more
Zsa Zsa
Jun 06, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a history of sex. This is a feminist look at how sex, women and their bodies have been treated through the history. It is mixed with personal insights and witty remarks which makes it a delight to read and you will have a lot of ammo in your next feminist discussion.
The premise of the book is the more we talk about sex, the more we are breaking the stigma, reclaiming our bodies and changing the narrative. And I agree.
May 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting, funny and witty. The author describes very "curious" (as the title says) histories about sex, sexuality, sex work and, most importantly, the freedom of speaking of such things so that we can one day talk about it freely and without tabu or stigma.
I really enjoyed the reading because, even if what was described was horrendous (for example: the part about genital mutilation), Kate Lister maintained an ironic/humorous point of view, making the reading lighter and much more pleasan
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Funny, surprising, ilustrative, sad, because of all the misery women have faced along history and cultures, and above everything amazingly well documented. It has one of the most awesome bibliography I have ever come across with.

It deserves your money and your time. Enjoy it.
Jan 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic tome, with fascinating information on the hilarious and often very disturbing history of sex, and how we humans continue to make it complicated for ourselves.

Highly recommended, even if I had to read through my fingers at a few descriptions of FGM and other sexual mutilations, in the name of, old fashioned 'science' or morality! I wish that more of the world had moved on from this barbarism. But there's still a wonderful message of hope here too.

Quick note. The book seems enormous, an
Rose Caraway
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Curious History of Sex by Whores of Yore owner, Dr. Kate Lister is a book I'd recommend to anyone interested in learning more about people and sex.

A few years ago, I followed @WhoresofYore on Twitter. If you aren't following that account, you should be. I also follow her: @k8_lister.

💋#HistoricalHotties is not to be missed.💋

The images inside of A Curious History of Sex are beautiful! My favorite of all is on pg. 249 (in the chapter about pubic hair). It's plucky and glorious to behold and if yo
Geneviève (thefreckledbookworm)
"We will never arrive at a place where sex is free of stigma and shame unless we first know where we have come from." (P. 4)

"But attacking the clit is about more than just curbing female desire, its about protecting the primacy of the penis." (P. 71)

I've been slowly making my way through this beauty of a brick, because it's not the kind of book that you can binge (what educational book is, really?) It's the kind of book that you need to take the time to savor and digest, and gently dip in and ou
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of historical essays, each on an aspect of sexuality in the context of history. These essays are about the concept of 'whore', male sex work, douching, pubic hair, and so on. What unites these essays is Lister's framing of each concept in terms of power:

Monticelso doesn’t admit it, but what is driving this rant is a fear of women, fear that they can wield power over men; they can ‘teach man wherein he is imperfect’. Here, a whore is not a sex worker, she is a woman who has authority
Rachael Eyre
An interesting read - but where were the lesbians?
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i have A LOT of thoughts about this book!

1) I went into this book thinking it would be a straight-forward history book. it's not-- rather it's a fusion of history, etymology, biology, psychology, etc. Dr Lister wasn't trained as a historian, which was noticeable to me as someone who regularly reads historian written history books. This is evident in two key ways: the tone and sources. I really didn't vibe with the tone of the book (i found it TOO jokey at times). A lot of the primary sources we
Krystelle Zuanic
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really interesting book in a lot of ways- I learnt a lot, and picked up some very interesting facts as to the way that these things functioned throughout history. I do feel like it could have been a little bit substantial in some ways, such as with a discussion on pornography and a deeper dive into sex work. The Victorian focus was really interesting, and I found that to be one of the most illuminating parts of this book as well. There’s some fascinating facets to the Ancient Greek hi ...more
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favs-nonfic
An incredible overview of the history of sex, going into how attitudes towards sex and how sexual practices have changed in the past centuries. It's a great introduction that covers a lot of different topics (e.g. etymology of sex-related words, history of sex toys, the relation between food and sex, etc.). Although the book does not go too in-depth into each topic, a large number of references are provided at the end of each chapter for additional reading.

Informative, engaging, and funny (and v
Kara Jorgensen
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wildly interesting book. I always appreciate when books come with extensive bibliographies, and from here, I certainly have plenty of further reading to do.
Keep in mind, this is a primer for further reading, not a comprehensive history of sex. That would be quite the doorstop.
Jan 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this was such a humorous and educational read! I’m blown away by the history of the mentor.
Carol Tilley
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, science, health
A rollicking good time.
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I love reading about sex education & sex in general, so this book was really appealing to me. It was well structured & very informative.
Jan 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really informative and funny, while also scholarly but understandable!
Niamh Sheridan
Feb 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and hilarious
Jamie Lee
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I've been following Kate and Whores of Yore on Twitter for a while and this quickly became one of my most anticipated reads of the year and it did not disappoint! I read this so quickly even though usually it takes me twice as long to read a non-fiction book but oh man I could not stop. Kate makes the information super easy to understand and she is hilarious. I found this book so fascinating and became one of those people being like "oh my god did you know..." to my friends an
Bookshire Cat
Everyone go and read this book! Seriously. This was the most entertaining non-fiction book I have read in ages. Well written, witty, accessible, yet crammed with knowledge and research. I laughed out loud at some bits and wanted to cry with desperate rage at others. Definitely worth my time. And yours.
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