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O: The Intimate History of the Orgasm Paperback – September 29, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
According to the World Health Organization, more than a hundred million acts of sexual intercourse take place every day. In this immensely entertaining and informative book, Margolis lays out in glorious and rich detail the widely varied human experience of sex beyond the simple and necessary act of reproduction. From straightforward biology of the human body to the mind-bendingly various cultural norms and practices within human civilizations past and present, Margolis presents a beautifully written, deep-focus view of human sexual pursuit, gratification and frustration. According to Margolis, the orgasm has been cherished, misunderstood, feared and pandered to throughout the ages. He cites anthropological research indicating that while the innate human tendency toward "pair bonding" holds true, sex and pleasure were once free and synonymous. Orgasm, with its white-hot physical pleasure and consciousness-altering effects, was worshiped in many developing cultures. As civilizations became more sophisticated about reproduction and, sadly, property rights, orgasms and who gives, receives and enjoys them, became increasingly regulated. In the West particularly, the female orgasm—always a mystery to the mostly patriarchal power structure—was increasingly seen as a threat to the advancement of social development. In the modern age, science has taken a front seat in the understanding and exploration of this most basic of human experience, with mixed results. While women have made strides toward orgasmic equality, in Margolis's view there is still some way to go. Neither leering nor squeamish, Margolis has created a fresh, compelling work guaranteed to ignite much late-night conversation.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Passing briefly over the scientific facts-- how long orgasms last in various species, what makes them happen, what keeps them from happening--Margolis devotes himself to the social history of the ways and means of orgasm. Some of this is purely speculation; for example, about the likelihood of oral sex in prehistory he opines, "It is beyond contention, surely, that at some stage man realized that the mouth on a face bears a distinct similarity to the mouth of a vagina, and then had a hunch that it might be interesting for the woman to apply her mouth to his penis, and vice versa." Is it beyond contention that it was inevitably men who made such a discovery? Sociobiology is invoked in Margolis' discussion of what masturbation aids tell us about human sexuality, and medieval literature is mined for what it has to say about Celtic homosexuality. Indeed, there is no discipline that Margolis doesn't employ to explore his fascinating subject. And his breezy, sophisticated writing doesn't hurt, either. Patricia Monaghan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Should be curriculum at every school a must for the greater good of men and women a better society
Knowledge is key to growth, happiness and ignorance is destruction and hardship.
"Sex at Dawn" is also an excellent book that deals with the same subject and also should be in the curriculum at every school.
That said, the information contained in the book was fascinating. It literally foes back as far as records allow and provides information on the sex practices of peoples, from the Greeks to the Romans and up until today. I had no idea of how open societies were ack then, which puts it into perspective just how repressed we are today, despite our belief we have become liberated.
If you are interested in the history of sex, I would recommend this book. It is long and detailed, but every page had a new tidbit of information that made sex over the generations a very interesting read.
But even more disturbing is the author's ignorance of very basic information concerning human sexuality. On page 1, he claims that, "the first sexual act by which two like creatures sought intimate contact expressly to give one another physical and emotional pleasure... may well not have taken place until some time in the twentieth century AD, most likely at a location in Western Europe or North America." This is simply astoundingly wrong, not to mention racist as all get-out. For this to be true, nobody in hundreds of centuries ever had sex to give each other pleasure -- no hunter gatherers (most of whom do not equate sex with reproduction), nobody in India (where the Kama Sutra was written thousands of years ago, detailing how to give and receive sexual pleasure), nobody in China (where the first known sex manuals were written even before the Kama Sutra), etc. Just silly.
Elsewhere, he claims bonobos are monogamous (absurd: the first thing anyone learns about bonobos is precisely that they are NOT monogamous), women are the only females who have orgasm (no serious biologist has argued that for decades), that the Ferrari Testarossa refers to [...] (it actually means "red head" in Italian, referring to the engine head that was red).... All these examples are just from the first chapter!
It's a dangerous book, because it's so full of "amazing facts" that you're tempted to believe them (and repeat them to others). The problem is, this author (and editor) is not to be trusted. The book is slapped together without care for editing or factual accuracy. It's a shame, because the quality of the writing is far above the quality of the scholarship.
Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality
So, substantively it's a good book. However, it's a bit hard to imagine that the editor at Random House is still in a job. There are misplaced commas and awkward sentences. More significantly, the book ends poorly: a passage that appears several pages before the end is repeated at the very end, leaving a poor impression. While this may seem trivial, the fact is that reading the book was more of a chore than it should have been.
Most recent customer reviews
this is a great book, relatively easy to read and absolutely asks the questions that got me thinking, and talking about how we as a...Read more