FFrom the history of sex and modern erotica to self-help books and the art of penis origami, sex is a subject that spans all generations and cultures around the world, so any “best” list can only offer the books that have meant the most to me. , personally and professionally, as a sex historian.
Vénus Noire: Black Women and Colonial Fantasies in 19th Century France by Robin Mitchell is an impeccably researched story of how 19th century white French culture appropriated ideas about blackness and black women as hypersexual, predatory, and “exotic.” It opens with the story of Sarah Baartman, the so-called “Hottentot Venus” who was showcased on tour to paying white tourists, and Mitchell’s passionate rejection of the idea that historians should be objective and unemotional about their subject. The book is a triumph not only because it shows how narratives around the body of black women have evolved, but because Mitchell unashamedly makes personal politics.
We might think of ourselves as a sexually progressive group, but our idea of sex, and who should have it, is actually quite limited. Although our society is saturated with sexualized images, they tend to be young, healthy, and typically beautiful. This is where senior sex activist and coach Joan Price comes in. Naked at our age: Talking out loud about sex between older people grabs stigma and stereotypes by the nape and gives them the disdain they deserve. Drawing inspiration from the voices of health care professionals and sex therapists, the book not only tackles prejudice, but offers good practical advice. Great sex doesn’t have to end when you retire; in fact, as Price shows, the best is yet to come.
One of the most important books on sex work has to be Disgusting prostitutes: The fight for the rights of sex workers by Juno Mac and Molly Smith. By challenging the polarizing view of sex workers as “happy prostitutes” or tragic victims, Mac and Smith force the reader to see how the fight for sex worker rights is a fight for human rights. Beautifully written and meticulously researched, this book will change what you think you know about sex work.
The Ethical Whore: A Guide to Infinite Sex Possibilities by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy is a classic and helped launch the modern non-monogamy movement. Easton and Hardy define a “whore” as “a person of any gender who has the courage to lead life on the radical proposition that sex is enjoyable and pleasure is good for you.” The book directly challenges ideas about monogamy and sexual shame and offers an ethical guide for readers who wish to explore multiple relationships. He dismantled the word “shameful whore” before the term even entered our vocabulary.
In fiction, Wetlands Charlotte Roche is haunting but amazing. We have such a refined view of sex. The bodies are rubbed, waxed and perfumed. It’s no wonder then that Roche’s story of 18-year-old Helen Memel reveling in the sexual putrefaction of her own body has shocked readers and critics around the world alike. The novel is vivid and deliberately grotesque and will powerfully challenge how you view the body. Just make sure you have a strong stomach.
Fanny and Stella: The Young People Who Shocked Victorian England by Neil McKenna tells the true story of transvestite sex workers Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park, who were arrested and charged with conspiring to commit sodomy, outraging public decency and corrupting public morals. This book is an evocative and masterfully crafted image of the gay subculture of Victorian London with an unforgettable and inspiring story.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism