Why in the hell were medieval priests worried about strap-ons made of bread?
Did the Romans style their pubic hair?
Why is the C-word so offensive?
This book looks at the curious history of sex, drawing from the best of the Whores of Yore archive with tons of exclusive, new material. Dr Kate Lister explores all the strange and baffling things human beings have done in the pursuit (and denial) of the almighty orgasm. Why do we feel so damn guilty about it? Has selling sexual services always been illegal? Were the Victorians really as prudish as we think (short answer: Hell no)? This book will feature the popular Historical Hotties and Whores of Yore's Word of the Day, fascinating stories from the secret side of historical sex alongside modern day voices of sex workers, the marginalised and the outcast.
This book will be a beautifully designed hardback, with full-colour illustrations clocking in at over 300 pages. This edition includes a dustjacket, printed endpapers, head and tail bands and a ribbon bookmark.
Sex is one of the great universal levellers; we eat, we sleep, we shit, we fuck and we die. All living beings on this planet share the desire to reproduce, but what makes humans unique is that we are the only creatures who experience guilt around our own sexual nature. Whilst all beings have courtship rituals, who ever heard of two wildebeest attending couple’s therapy because he’s been eyeing up the young bulls at the waterhole and she is struggling to express a latex fetish. Of course, humans do far more than eating, shitting, and fucking – our intellect is what really sets us apart from the beasts. And herein lies the problem. To say that humans have overthought sex is something of an understatement.
Exclusive "Historical Hotties" 2019 Calendar in the "Historical Hotties" Pledge Level!
Kate Lister started the Whores of Yore project in 2015. The project aims to give voice to the voiceless, to start a much-needed conversation on the history of sexuality, the plight of modern sex workers, and, ultimately, to extract the prudish stick from the arse of society. The archive provides a platform for academics, activists, sex workers, and archivists to share their experience, research and stories around sexuality and sex work. Because nobody, no matter their profession, should ever be outcast again.
Basis Sex Work Project
Please be warned; as far as offensive words go, you are entering a hardhat area. (All slang euphemisms for cunt are followed by the date that word is first recorded.)
‘A Nasty Name for a Nasty Thing’: A History of Cunt
L'Origine du monde (‘The Origin of the World’) is an oil-on-canvas painted by French artist Gustave Courbet in 1866.
I love the word cunt. I love everything about it. Not just the signified vulva, vagina and pudendum (which are all kinds of cunty goodness and will be returned to shortly), but the actual oral and visual signalled sign of cunt. I love its simple monosyllabic form. I adore that the first three letters (c u n) are basically all the same chalice shape rolling though the word until they are stopped in their ramble by the plosive T at the end. I love the forceful grunt of the C and the T sandwiching the softer UN sounds, enabling one to spit the word out like a bullet, or extend the un and roll it around your mouth for dramatic effect; cuuuuuuuuuuuunt! I love it because its deliciously dirty, endlessly funny and, like an auditory exclamation mark, is capable of stopping a conversation in its tracks. Walter Kirn called cunt ‘the A-bomb of the English language’, and he’s absolutely right (Kirn, 2005). I love its versatility. In America, it is spectacularly offensive, whilst in Glasgow it can be a term of endearment; ‘I love ya, ya wee cunt’ is an expression heard throughout Glaswegian nurseries. That’s not true, but Scottish folk do possess a dazzling linguistic dexterity with cunt. Irvine Welsh's 1993 novel, Trainspotting, contains 731 cunts, (though only 19 made it into the film.)
Thomas Rowlandson - The Assembly (18th Century)
But, more than anything else, I love the sheer power of the word. I am fascinated by cunt’s hallowed status as, to quote Hugh Rawson, ‘The most heavily tabooed of all English words’ (Rawson, 1989). There have been significant shifts in social attitudes since 1989 and there are now other contenders for the most offensive word in the English language; nigger and other racial slurs are obvious heavyweights. Nigger is a deeply offensive word because of its historical context. It is not just a descriptive word, it is a word that was used to dehumanise black people and justify some of the worst atrocities in human history. It is a word that requires its own study and you can read the deeply troubling and complex history of the N-Word here. We can understand why racial slurs are hideously offensive, but cunt? Does it not strike anyone else as odd that the most offensive word in English is a word for vulva? Or that this word could even be considered in the same league of offence as ‘nigger’ – a word spawned from the darkest and most rank of human atrocities? As far as I am aware, cunt is comparatively free of racial genocide, so then we have to ask, how did cunt get to be so offensive? What did cunt do wrong?
These people are helping to fund A Curious History of Sex.