Sex is a funny thing. It’s an odd thing. It’s a curious thing. And that’s what Kate Lister’s new book is about. The quirks and trappings of something that is so fundamental to our life yet still causes embarrassment and squirms when we talk about it.
Based on the popular research project Whores of Yore, and written with her direct wit and playful humour, A Curious History of Sex draws upon Dr Kate Lister’s extensive knowledge of sex history. She knows her stuff, but there’s no dry academia here. Rather solid facts and funny stories are presented with wanton abandon in what is a riot of a book. She covers everything from ancient Greek customs to Victorian porn to modern day doll brothels, rooting around to challenge stereotypes and debunk myths. She digs deep – chapters focus on the clitoris, dildos, and the penis, and graphic images mean that this isn’t a book for the faint hearted. But she also explores sex’s role in society and medicine, as well as its role in feminism, and changing attitudes to religion.
Language plays a big part in our experience of sex. Should we use the word ‘c*nt?’ Lister thinks so, describing it as a glorious word that is evocative and can be empowering. By grabbing hold of the words and unashamedly shouting them from the page, Lister energises the conversation. Why are there so many words for men’s parts, and women’s are forgotten? It’s all about social convention.
The book is a blast. It’s funny and educational and interesting. By the time it has reached its climax you’re left feeling exhausted but emboldened, with your curiosity whetted for more.