Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution Hardcover – May 1, 2012
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
"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...[P]ersuasively argue[d]...[R]ich in anecdotes, funny, touching."--The Economist
"Wonderful...[written] with great care and and unselfconscious aplomb...[A]n informative, wide-ranging book that is also compellingly readable."--John Barrell, The Guardian
"Ambitious...brave...[A] fascinating subject and also an important one...[I]t 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...[B]aby 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
"[A]necdote-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
About the Author
Faramerz Dabhoiwala is a professor of history at Oxford University, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and the father of two children. This is his first book.
Top customer reviews
Dabhoiwala has done a lot of research from laws, court cases, novels, pornography, history, paintings and diaries and letters, that illustrate the changing opinions on sexuality.
The most basic modern novelty was a perennial indeterminacy about the limits of sexual freedom. In place of a relatively coherent, authoritative world view that had endured for centuries, the Enlightenment left a much greater confusion and plurality of moral perspectives, with irresolvable tensions between them. At a basic level, attitudes after 1800 evolved in two contrasting ways. On the one hand we can trace continued, or even tightened, social control over various forms of sexual behaviour. Though the machinery of public punishment had been largely abandoned, its ideals were not. Against this backdrop of apparent national decline and social upheaval, the importance of religious faith and of social conservatism came to be widely reaffirmed: only by going back to basics would the nation find its way again. For women of all classes, sexual ignorance and passivity came increasingly to be valued as essential components of respectable femininity and heterosexual love. This was not just a male ideal: most women themselves deeply internalized it, and policed it in others. Just as important, especially in the English context, was the further development of social double standards. Regulating, controlling, and forcibly improving the sexual mores of the working classes became in the nineteenth century, and into the twentieth, an immense fixation for many middle- and upper-class politicians, commentators, and social reformers.
The ultimate legacy of the Enlightenment has thus been far from straightforward, and its consequences are still unfolding. Yet in retrospect it is easy to see that it marked the point at which the sexual culture of the west diverged onto a completely new trajectory. If anything, the characteristics of that culture - its individualism, its explicitness, its permissiveness, the equal status claimed by women and by homosexuals - have become more distinctive in recent decades, even as the world has grown smaller. They have also been widely influential: just as western feminism has had an impact across the globe, so too have western concepts of sexual freedom.
"The Origins of Sex" is not an easy read. At the same time, it is not difficult either. One has to shed all inhibitions while reading, more so because of the anecdotes. The reason I say this is I remember last month when attending the Jaipur Literature Festival, one of the sessions was by Faramerz Dabhoiwala who spoke for an hour about sex and how it was treated in the Western culture till sexual revolution came to being. At one point he spoke of something highly relevant to men those times - a kind of club where they would meet and ejaculate together after being aroused by either maids or prostitutes. By the end of this anecdote, some of the people sitting in the crowd were gob smacked and almost uttered, "Gross" and booed a little as well. This from a crowd where one would assume that everyone was sexually liberated (or so we think).
The book delves deep in the times that led to the revolution and post the revolution as well. It ends briefly at the Victorian Era and though he tries to speak about it a little in the twenty-first century, however I think Faramerz needs to come out with another book of this nature, because it is much needed. The book is divided into six parts and each part is unique and wonderfully researched. My favourite parts are the ones where he talks of sexual celebrities in those times (one of whom is on the cover of the book), the explosion of print, of how men and women were coexisting then and but of course the parts of homosexuality and its importance in a world where sex was condemned, and meant only for procreation, if the parties were married and never for pleasure.
The writing is precise and funny in most parts and as you read along you realize that sexual suppression and its punishment was so severe and totally not needed, so in the sense, some funny parts become ironical and maybe intended to be this way. Faramerz is a brilliant writer and I could not believe that this was his first book, because the writing is experienced and as I said very-well researched which is most needed for a non-fiction work. This book made me see how it all began when it came to sex and how regressive we get day by day in this time and age, despite calling ourselves modern and with forward-thought. My best moments with the book have been reading it either on the train or the bus and getting curious glances from men and women. This just goes to show how we treat sex in our country - no matter what the medium. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone this month. A refreshing read for sure.
Oxford historian Dabhoiwala has produced a well-researched, finely written book about sexual behavior and misbehavior, both of which are full of memorable characters and anecdotes. It was a period of time that produced the idea of the distinction between public and private, the lines of which are still hotly contested to this day.
Although The Origins of Sex focuses on the English, there are many parallels that can be seen on the subject on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. For example, it was in Boston, Massachusetts, where a man admitted he tried to have sex with an eighteen year old girl, admittedly while drunk; she was arrested and both were publicly hung - and that was in 1644.