A rollicking, myth-busting history of sex that moves from historical attempts at birth control to Hildegard von Bingen’s treatise on the female orgasm, demystifying plenty of urban legends along the way.
Roman physicians told female patients they should sneeze out as much semen as possible after intercourse to avoid pregnancy. Historical treatments for erectile dysfunction included goat testicle transplants. In this kaleidoscopic compendium of centuries-old erotica, science writer Rachel Feltman shows how much sex has changed—and how much it hasn’t. With unstoppable curiosity, she debunks myths, breaks down stigma, and uses the long, outlandish history of sex to dissect present-day practices and taboos.
Feltman’s mischievous humor dismantles fear and brings scientific literacy to a subject surrounded by misinformation, and indeed, as it gravitates toward the strange, Been There, Done That delivers some sorely needed sex ed. Explorations into age-old questions and bizarre trivia around birth control, aphrodisiacs, STIs, courtship rituals, and more establish that, when it comes to carnal pleasures and procreation, there’s never been a normal, and sex isn’t something to be scared of.
Rachel Feltman’s first paying gig was organizing a bookshelf full of textbooks on vulvar disease at the age of seven, and she never looked back. She’s the Executive Editor of Popular Science and hosts PopSci’s podcast The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week. In 2014, Feltman founded the Washington Post’s Speaking of Science blog, known for headlines like “You probably have herpes, but that’s really okay,” and “Uranus might be full of surprises.” Feltman studied environmental science at Simon’s Rock and has a master’s in science reporting from NYU. She’s a musician, an actress, and the stepmom of a very spry 14-year-old cat.