Kate Lister: A Curious History Of Sex


This review is written with thanks to Pigeonhole for the opportunity to read and review A Curious History Of Sex.


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.

Based on the popular research project Whores of Yore, and written with her distinctive humour and wit, A Curious History of Sex draws upon Dr Kate Lister s extensive knowledge of sex history. From medieval impotence tests to twentieth-century testicle thefts, from the erotic frescoes of Pompeii, to modern-day sex doll brothels, Kate unashamedly roots around in the pants of history, debunking myths, challenging stereotypes and generally getting her hands dirty.

This fascinating book is peppered with surprising and informative historical slang, and illustrated with eye-opening, toe-curling and meticulously sourced images from the past.

You will laugh, you will wince and you will wonder just how much has actually changed.


A Curious History Of Sex is very different to the types of book I would usually read, but I found it incredibly informative and some of the research Lister has unearthed for this book is absolutely fascinating. Lister’s writing is greatly accessible and whilst her use of language is fine by me, it may not suit everyone. It definitely shines a light on what, for some, is a taboo subject.

Lister herself admits that she cannot possibly write a comprehensive history of sex, but she does cover a wide range of issues from language to masturbation to prostitution to race to virginity. She does so with wonderful humour and I often found myself laughing out loud whilst reading!

I am in awe of the level of research Lister has undertaken to complete this book. Every assertion she makes is backed up by a reference and we are also appraised of the origin of all new terms or unfamiliar language. This really piqued my curiosity at several points in the book.

A Curious History Of Sex is available from Amazon.


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