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Sex In History

Reay Tannahill

3 Reviews

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Prose: non-fiction, History

Drawing on art, architecture, literature, theology and numerous scientific disciplines, the author intends to provide a long entertaining look at sexual attitudes, customs and practices in all the world's major civilizations past and present.

SEX IN HISTORY chronicles the pleasures- and perils- of the flesh from the time of mankind's distant ancestors to the modern day; from a sexual act which was bried, crude and purposeful, to the myriad varieties of contemporary sexual mores.
Reay Tannahill's scholarly, yet accessible study ranges from the earliest form of contraception (one Egyptian concoction included crocodile dung) to some latter- day misconceptions about it- like the men who joined their lovers in taking the pill 'just to be on the safe side.' It surveys all manner of sexual practice, preference and position (the acrobatic 'wheelbarrow' position, the strenuous 'hovering butterflies' position...) and draws on souces as diverse as THE ADMIRABLE DISCOURSES OF THE PLAIN GIRL, the EXHIBTION OF FEMALE FLAGELLANTS, IMPORTANT MATTERS OF THE JADE CHAMBER and THE ROMANCE OF CHASTISEMENT.
Whether writing on androgyny, courtly love, flagellation or zoophilia, Turkish eunuch's Greek dildoes, Taoist sex manuals or Japanses geisha girls, Reay Tannahill is consistently enlightening and entertaining.

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Praise for Sex In History

  • Level-headed...diligent, provocative and fascinating. The book is the most complete of its kind ever written. - TIME

  • Sanity on the subject of sex is all too rare; wit is in even shorter supply; and an engaging style is about as commonplace as eyebrows on an egg. Three cheers therefore, for Reay Tannahill. - WASHINGTON POST

  • A shatteringly wide-ranging survey. - SUNDAY TIMES

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Reay Tannahill

Born and brought up in Scotland, Reay Tannahill would have liked to have gone either to art or drama school but fell victim to the traditional Scottish passion for formal education and found herself instead at the University of Glasgow, from where she emerged with an MA in history and a postgraduate certificate in social sciences. Until her death in 2007 she lived in London.

After a varied career - as a probation officer, advertising copy-writer, newspaper reporter, historical researcher and graphic designer - she was asked by the Folio Society to write a short illustrated study of Regency England. This allowed her to combine her interests in art and history and was followed by PARIS IN THE REVOLUTION, THE FINE ART OF FOOD, FOOD IN HISTORY and SEX IN HISTORY. Having spent twelve years researching and writing these last two books (translated into eleven languages), Reay Tannahill felt that a change was called for and embarked on her first historical novel, A DARK AND DISTANT SHORE, which was an instant bestseller. Her following historical novels were all critically acclaimed and included PASSING GLORY, winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

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