cover image Been There, Done That: A Rousing History of Sex

Been There, Done That: A Rousing History of Sex

Rachel Feltman. Bold Type, $27 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64503-716-3

Popular Science editor Feltman debuts with a playful, myth-busting survey of human sexuality and the history of reproductive science. Tackling the subject from a queer, feminist perspective, she explains the mechanics of conception, traces the evolution of birth control methods, and documents the many techniques, such as “poach[ing] goat testes in milk and consum[ing] them with sesame seeds and porpoise fat,” that have been used to treat erectile dysfunction since the eighth century BCE. Elsewhere, Feltman delves into the science of AIDS transmissibility, debunks historical legends (Cleopatra did not have a vibrator made of bees; Catherine the Great did not have sex with a horse), and discusses recent research into the sexual behaviors of transgender and nonbinary people. Turning to fetishism and the “concept of deviance,” Feltman discusses how the Bible story of Sodom and Gomorrah came to be interpreted as a prohibition against homosexuality and notes that Richard von Krafft-Ebing added more technical jargon and Latin passages to later editions of Psychopathia Sexualis (first published in 1886) in order to keep people from “devouring his academic treatise like porn.” Enlivened by Feltman’s keen sense of humor and affirmational tone, this is an entertaining and informative catalog of “sexual expression and queer existence and horny exuberance through history.” (May)