The Origins of Sex:

A History of the First Sexual Revolution

The Origins of Sex examines one of the great turning points in western history: the origin of our modern attitudes to sex.


Nowadays we believe that consenting adults have the freedom to do what they like with their own bodies. We think it wrong that in other cultures people suffer for their sexual orientation, that women are treated as second-class citizens, or that adulterers are put to death. Yet until quite recently our own society was like this too. For most of western history, all sex outside marriage was illegal, and the church, the state, and ordinary people all devoted huge efforts to suppressing and punishing it.

The Origins of Sex describes in dramatic detail how, in the eighteenth century, that world view was shattered by revolutionary new ideas - that sex is a private matter; that morality cannot be imposed by force; that men are more lustful than women. It is a story never before told, woven together from the lives of countless men and women previously hidden from history, as well as from some of the greatest works of literature, art, and philosophy ever produced. Its effects, as the book shows, continue to shape the world we live in today.

A masterly debut - Times

Gloriously enjoyable - Sunday Times

Marvellously rich - Sunday Telegraph

Wonderful ... compellingly readable - Guardian

The perfect bedside read - Times T2

Splendidly informative & entertaining - Economist

Enthralling  ... inspiring - Independent

A huge achievement - Times Higher

Brilliant ... the most entertaining - Sunday Express

Astonishingly wide-ranging and erudite - NRC

Exceptionally good - Sunday Herald

A fascinating book - Daily Telegraph

A revelation - Diarmaid MacCulloch

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