The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution

The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution

by Faramerz Dabhoiwala
     
 

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For most of western history, all sex outside marriage was illegal, with the church and state punishing any dissent. Between 1600 and 1800, this entire world-view was shattered by revolutionary new ideas - that consenting adults have the freedom to do what they like with their own bodies, and morality cannot be imposed by force. This groundbreaking book shows that

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Overview

For most of western history, all sex outside marriage was illegal, with the church and state punishing any dissent. Between 1600 and 1800, this entire world-view was shattered by revolutionary new ideas - that consenting adults have the freedom to do what they like with their own bodies, and morality cannot be imposed by force. This groundbreaking book shows that the creation of this modern culture of sex - broadcasted and debated in a rapidly expanding universe of public media - was a central part of the Enlightenment, and helped create a new model of western civilization whose principles of equality, privacy and individual freedom last to this day.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Dirda
During the 17th and 18th centuries in England, people's attitudes toward sexual behavior…changed dramatically. To a large degree, this revolution pivoted on the dynamic between private actions and public, civic and religious ideals. How much, or in what way, should society police the erotic life of individuals? Was adultery a crime? Were prostitutes the devil's snare, or were they the pathetic victims of male callousness and exploitation? Should both sexes be held to the same moral standards? And exactly what standards should those be? In his anecdote-rich, crisply written and impressively well-researched The Origins of Sex, Oxford historian Faramerz Dabhoiwala tracks the answers to questions like these.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"Faramerz Dabhoiwala makes the case for a revolutionary change around the erotic that took place in the eighteenth century in Britain. Dabhoiwala offers a readable tour of sexual highlights and debates from the period: novels of seduction; the date over polygamy; Bernard Mandeville's call for legal, government regulated brothels; the controversial Magdalene House for reformed prostitutes; pornography; sex clubs for men; celebrity prostitutes; and royal mistresses." —Journal of British Studies

"In this lively and massively researched book, historian Dabhoiwala makes a convincing case that modern attitudes to sex in Britain derive from the changes in thought and sensibility that constituted the European Enlightenment...What distinguishes this book is its grand sweep...Recommended." —CHOICE

"Dabhoiwala works meticulously through the historical records of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries to show how English culture evolved intellectually, politically, and socially to arrive at modern ideas of sexual liberty, gender equality, and the privatization of sex-ideas that continued to evolve and transform culture during the 20th century this book is highly recommended to readers interested in English history and the history of sexuality." — Library Journal

"In this brilliantly argued, lucid and enthralling book, Faramerz Dabhoiwala describes the first sexual revolution — a sea change in attitudes towards sexual morality, the public and the private. The Origins of Sex shows how far men enjoyed, and women endured, the new sexual world. It is a majestic and provocative history of ideas and attitudes." —Amanda Vickery, author of The Gentleman's Daughter

"A splendidly informative and entertaining book ... persuasively argue[d] ... rich in anecdotes, funny, touching." — The Economist

"Wonderful ... [written] with great care and and unselfconscious aplomb ... an informative, wide-ranging book that is also compellingly readable." -John Barrell, The Guardian

"Ambitious ... brave ... a fascinating subject and also an important one ... it reveals as transient and relative so many of the values that seem non-negotiable today." — Lucy Worsley, The Financial Times

"The Origins of Sex overturns the conventional wisdom that the sexual revolution began in the Sixties ... baby boomers ... will be shocked and, I suspect, a little upset." -Cosmo Landesman, The Sunday Times

"Splendid ... audacious ... impressive ... [a] masterly debut ... [a] big book [with] many big successes ... an argument of such elegantly delivered lucidity ... the depth of detailed historical research is as eye-catching as the breadth and topicality of Dabhoiwala's argument ... [reveals] the core of the Western idea of what it is to be human and to be free ... this is more than just exemplary history; it is timely and important work. — Ian Kelly, The Times

"In this significant historical debut, Faramerz Dabhoiwala presents his readers with a revelation: how early, and how suddenly, the permissive society arrived in Christian Western Europe. Over three centuries ago a revolution took place in Western attitudes to sex; it began in England, but all modern Westerners are its heirs, and now it is challenging and remolding patterns of sexual behavior throughout the world. The book is not simply a finely-crafted work of history, but a study that will reshape the way its readers understand the most intimate level of their lives. It may even bring some sanity to modern debates about sexuality." —Diarmaid Macculloch, University of Oxford

"This is a work of serious scholarship, to be sure, but it is also a good read, entertaining, chockablock with fascinating - and often explicit - accounts....Dabhoiwala is particularly insightful in his examination of how the newfound questioning of sexual morality was expressed in the works of key writers, artists, and thinking of the period....Dabhoiwala writes deftly and with authority and the result is a work of scholarly heft that is also a pleasure to read." -Commentary Magazine

"anecdote-rich, crisply written and impressively well-researched..." -Michael Dirda, Washington Post

"Dabhoiwala's writing is lively, his reasoning rigorous and his respect for facts exemplary. And his story is irresistible, a portrait not only of a revolution in sex, but a revolution in the way we view ourselves and our place in the world." -Laura Miller, Salon

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781846144929
Publisher:
Allen Lane
Publication date:
02/28/2012

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