Review of Sexy Origins and Intimate Things: The Rites and Rituals of Straights, Gays, Bi’s, Drags, Trans, Virgins, and Others by Charles Panati
I’ll say straight up that not only is this book a fun read, at just $3.00 for the Kindle edition, it is an incredible deal. The history of sexuality is fascinating, and this entertaining and wide-ranging book will introduce you to a lot of information that will be new to you. It includes the origination of just about every popular term for sex acts and genitalia, along with all sorts of related terminology. It also covers a lot of historical information, including a chapter on the history of our discoveries about sex, and a chapter on the history of many courting rituals.
The chapters on homosexuality and gender identity are very eye opening, and make you realize that our modern rigid definitions of gender and identity are relatively new ideas, and that in much of history they had no term for homosexuality. Who you had sex with did not define you.
There is a wonderful chapter on breasts, from slang terms to slings- including clearing up the myth about Otto Titzling, supposed inventor of the bra. The following chapter on clothing and lingerie is equally fascinating, from the first use of underwear to the explosive origination of the word Bikini to describe a swimsuit.
There are chapters covering the battle of the sexes, the development of pornography, prostitution, shoes, fetishes, and even a chapter on castration. Each chapter contains several short pieces, each on a different subject, rather than a linear historical narrative. That approach makes this great reading when you just want to read a few bits and pieces.
If you are looking for dinner party conversation, you’ll find tons of interesting tidbits here. Did you know that the word testify comes for the practice of holding another man’s penis when swearing an oath, something quite common in Biblical days? Or that breast implants were first introduced in Japan in the 1940’s so that Japanese prostitutes could have American sized breasts? Or that lobotomies were used to “cure” homosexuality?
The author covers a tremendous amount of ground in a breezy and readable style, and there is an excellent index so you can find subjects of interest. If you like sex, history, and trivia, this book is a very fun read.
By the way, if this is a subject that interests you, you will also want to visit our free Museum of Sexual History, which features fascinating virtual exhibits on a variety of subjects. Current exhibits include the censoring of erotic art in wine labels, the poster art of Meticlovitz, Victorian erotic canes, and a great exhibit on the small town that became the vibrator capital of the world- right here in the U.S., including one of the very first vibrators manufactured for personal use in the U.S. from the CenterSEE collection.