An eye-opening exploration of the weird and wonderful things human beings have done in pursuit (and denial) of the mighty orgasm. Lister 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.
Buckle your trousers, fasten your seatbelts, here comes Kate Lister. Her curious history of sex is a wild ride, made all the more enjoyable by a wonderfully irreverent approach. If she ever tires of being an academic historian she might try stand-up comedy. I’ve never had so much fun learning stuff ... When discussing sex Lister steadfastly refuses to beat around the bush. She provides a trigger warning at the beginning: 'As far as offensive language goes, you are now entering a hard hat area.' This is not a book for prudes ... [Lister] is first and foremost a historian with a gargantuan knowledge of sexual practices from classical times to the present ... What makes her so special is her ability to communicate, a talent in short supply in academia ... So many of the hang-ups and phobias about sex have a common origin, namely male fear of female passion. And that explains why this book needed to be written by a woman. Had a man attempted what Lister has achieved so perfectly, it would have been at best mansplaining and at worst rather creepy. It would probably also have been deadly dull — some of the most boring books I’ve read were histories of sex written by men. Bravo to Lister for her honesty, authority, candour and especially her humour.
This book contains, as the title promises, many delightful curiosities ... Lister’s vivid and playful language observes no rules of academic turgidity – sorry, thoroughness, But you can hear the lecturer in her nonetheless: she drops facts in a dainty way, as if they are trivia, yet each triggers a deeper rumination on how sex interlaces with all other human fortunes ... Dildos, the clitoris, depilatory creams are all explored in her rambunctious style. A fascinating chapter, 'Colonising the Cunt', uncovers layer on layer of oppression almost too horrific to see collected in one place ... Moral relativism often exculpates those living in the early 19th century; the idea that, high on their own adventures, blissfully naive, they simply didn’t recognise the common humanity in any but a small number of similar-looking foreigners. This, the book delicately shows rather than tells, is bullshit ... Although there are plenty of men in this book – and not just oppressors but young lads who become 'withered and aged because of … constant masturbating' – it is unavoidably an account of injustice against women, and a compelling one.
...Kate Lister’s first book...is not about libido in times of plague and anxiety. But it’s impossible not to read it now through that lens ... Lister, an Englishwoman, is a strong writer, and her book comes with a story attached ... This might be a good time to get a bicycle. Among the best chapters is one subtitled 'Sex and Cycling', Lister explores the history of bicycles as agents in the emancipation of women ... Lister writes about aphrodisiacs such as oystes. I did not know, until reading her, that oysters have eyes. I would like to unlearn this fact ... Lister is aware that her book, dark passages aside, is a romp rather than an especially serious or comprehensive work of history or criticism. She has the double entendres to prove it ... This is a book of varying merit. At moments, when Lister is piling one fact atop another, A Curious History of Sex has a Wikipedia-page vibe. But she manages to pull out of these midair stalls. She’s mostly quite good company on the page ... Wherever we are heading, whatever your proclivities, Lister has this comment: 'I promise, it’s all been done before.'