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A Curious History of Sex

By Kate Lister

A cornucopia of giggles, gaffs, titillation, temptations, and exceptional expertise in all things historically sexual from Dr Kate Lister aka @Whores of Yore.

History | Humour
195% funded
1919 supporters

Publication date: February 2020

book cover
You made A Curious History of Sex a reality. It's available in all good book stores now.
494 pledges


This level gets you the ebook version
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$30  + shipping
872 pledges


A copy of the hardback. You will also receive the ebook.
Buy now

Sold out!

$55  + shipping
297 pledges

Signed Hardback

Signed copy of the hardback, plus the ebook and your name in the back.
$60  + shipping
50 pledges

Tart Card

Basis Sex Work Project developed their own take on the familiar tart cards that once adorned in London’s phone boxes. These posters bring together the iconic tart card imagery, with quotes from the women Basis Sex Work Project works with. This level also includes a signed hardback, ebook, your name in the list of supporters, and all funds from the Tart Card goes directly to support the work Basis do.
$65  + shipping
130 pledges

Red Umbrella

Kate is sharing proceeds of the book with Basis Sex Work Project and you can show your support with this exclusive red umbrella enamel pin, the symbol for sex worker rights. Plus a signed hardback copy of the book, and the ebook with your name in the back.
$75  + shipping
27 pledges

Better Together

Two copies of the hardback to share with a friend, plus ebook and your name in the back.
$115  + shipping
33 pledges

Historical Hotties

An exclusive Historical Hotties 2019 calendar made especially for this project. Each hottie has been handpicked by Kate from the Whores of Yore archives so you know you're getting the cream of the crop, so to speak. This pledge level gets you the calendar and red umbrella pin, along with a signed hardback, ebook and your name in the list of supporters.
$135  + shipping
29 pledges

Slattern! Nickumpoop! Lick-spigot!

A copy of the hardback with a personal, dedicated historical insult signed by Kate, chosen from the best (and worst!) of the Whores of Yore Word of the Day index. Plus the Historical Hotties calendar, red umbrella pin, the ebook and your name in the list of supporters.
$225  + shipping
3 pledges

Dirty Graffiti

Dirty graffiti has graced our walls for hundreds, if not thousands of years, it's a grand tradition we're proud to continue. Send us in a sketch of your best dirty drawing and we'll print them all on the endpapers of the book. Plus a signed hardback, red umbrella pin, Historical Hotties calendar, ebook and your name in the list of supporters.
$265  + shipping
3 pledges

Sex Talk

Attend an hours talk given by Kate on the history of sex (location TBD, travel not included) to celebrate the publication of the book. Also includes signed copies of the hardback, Hotties calendar, red umbrella pin, ebook and your name in the list of supporters.
$1,495  + shipping

Boudoir Photoshoot

Put on your best bloomers for this elegant boudoir photoshoot with Kate. You and Kate will spend the day at a specialist boudoir photography studio, you'll get a makeover, hair done, a professional photoshoot and a high quality print to take home. As if that wasn't enough, you'll also get the signed hardback, Hotties calendar, red umbrella pin, ebook and your name in the list of supporters. *Location TBD, travel not included. Limited to one, women only (sorry fellas!)*
$2,250  + shipping
1 pledge


In the age-old traditional of literary patronage, your name will be printed at the beginning of the book as a Patron, you'll receive 5 copies of the signed hardback, Hotties calendar, red umbrella pin, and ebook.
$4,500  + shipping

Super Patron

Even bigger thanks to you for supporting this project and a great cause. Your name will be printed at the beginning of the book as a Super Patron and you will receive 10 copies of everything at Patron level, plus a personal dedication from Kate.

Frequently Asked Questions

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For books in stock we usually dispatch orders within a few working days. You will receive a dispatch email when your order is on the way.

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Ebook files are sent via email after checkout, or you can download them from your Unbound account.

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Still have a question? Visit our Help Centre to find out more.

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

Your support won’t just make this book happen, it will have a much wider reach. After the project is funded, Kate will be splitting her proceeds 50/50 with Basis Sex Work Project. Basis are kindly donating their Tart Cards to this project, which you can pledge for at the Tart Card level.


Quick select rewards

$30  + shipping
872 pledges


A copy of the hardback. You will also receive the ebook.
Buy now
494 pledges


This level gets you the ebook version
Buy now
  • Kate Lister avatar

    Kate Lister

    Kate Lister is intellectually slutty. She spends most of her time peeping up the skirts of history and reporting what she finds to over 100,000 follows on Twitter as @WhoresofYore. Kate has been fascinated by sex ever since she found a stash of porn mags in a hedge, on the way to school and Stewart Riley gave her two sherbet dib-dabs and a glitter pen to be allowed to look at them. Had she not been able to channel this interest into an academic discipline, she may very well have wound up a porn baron. Thankfully, she is now a lecturer at Leeds Trinity University, where she researches the history of sexuality and curates the online research project Whores of Yore.

    Whores of Yore is a digital public engagement project that works to make research on sexuality and the history of sex work accessible to the public. The project creates space for the voices of academics, sex workers, activists, artists, therapists and historians to stand alongside one another and work towards joining up conversations around sexuality. The website includes Kate’s research, as well as articles, as well as archived images, extracts from medical texts, antique erotica, and an independent blogs from groups supporting sex worker rights.

    Kate is also a columnist for inews where she writes about the history of sex, covering such diverse subjects as medieval impotence tests and the forgotten custom of baking bread with your genitals. She is a historical consultant for Channel Five’s ‘My Sexual Fantasy’ series and can be heard happily chatting about the history of sex at the Edinburgh Fringe festival and Cheltenham Literature Festival.

    Not only does Kate research the history of sex work, but she is a staunch ally in the fight for sex worker rights. She is a board member of the International Sex Work Research Hub and an advocate for Basis Sex Work Project in Yorkshire, a charity who support sex workers working across all sectors.

  • 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; the n-word and other racial slurs are obvious heavyweights. The n-word 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 the n-word; 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?

  • Kate Lister has written 1 private update. You can pledge to get access to them all.

    28th June 2019 Last few days!

    Last few days of being able to pledge and pre order the book. I’m splitting my preorder profits with Basis Sex Work Project - spread the word and help me raise valuable funds for a great charity. 

    20th June 2019 Latest news on the book

    Where we’re at, how you can get involved and what I’m doing with your money. 

    The deadline to pre-order and get your name in the book is actually midnight on Sunday 30th June - so there's a little bit longer yet. 

    Kate x

    29th May 2018 Book Update Video from Kate

    Hello wonderful supporters!


    i have made a short video update to let you know how things are getting on. Thank you again for your continued support.


    Kate x

    21st December 2017 Whores of Yore Festive Tarts!! You want it?!

    Hello my lovely little spankables!

    if you’ve already pledged to publish “A Curious History of Sex” then a thank you present will be landing on your PC tomorrow.

    And if you want a tart cookery book - get pledging!!

    Whores of Yore Festive Tarts is a completely free E-Cookery Book written by myself and my mum. My mum (who is an amazing baker) has written 10 tart recipes and I have paired each…

    17th December 2017 Whores of Yore Festive Tarts Cookery Book

    Dear All,

    Hello and Merry Christmas fun to all! “A Curious History of Sex” is now funded and will definitely be published! Hurrah!! 


    All pledges over 100% are the profit and I am splitting mine with Basis Sex Work Project in Leeds - a charity who do some amazing work supporting sex Workers across the industry, and delivering street outreach to the most vulnerable.

    11th December 2017 How your pledges will support women in the sex industry

    Hello everyone!

    The book has hit 100% funded and that means it will now be published and everyone who has pledged will get all the treats on offer for the various pledge levels.


    Every pledge over the 100% mark is the profit and I am splitting mine equally with Basis Sex Work Project in Leeds. So, this is the time to keep giving and your money will not only get…

    23rd November 2017 Sex History Quiz!

    Hello you fabulous people!!


    to celebrate the book hitting 96% funded, I have put together a sex history quiz for you all to enjoy.


    Have fun and do let me know how you get on!


    Love and kisses,


    Kate xx

    10th November 2017 Contents Page

    Dear All,

    The book hit 80% funded today and I can't thank you enough. As promised, here is the draft of the contents page. If you see something missing, or have a topic you would like me to write about, do let me know!


    Thank you so much and lets keep pledging!


    31st October 2017 We’re at 69% funded!!

    A quick video from Slutty Teddy and I to say thank you so much for all your support.

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  • Justin Slootsky
    Justin Slootsky asked:

    This looks great. Given that you have 2019 calendar, I assume that you are expecting to be delivering by Christmas 2018, correct?

    Kate Lister
    Kate Lister replied:

    Haha! No - sadly, not. I hadn't noticed that! It will be in your hands long before Christmas 2018, but not here for this one (sorry!). Although, if you email me, I'll send you a picture of a nude Victorian man each month by way of compensation. Xxx

    Irene Hunter
    Irene Hunter asked:

    Just curious, do you know what the red umbrella pins will look like yet?

    Kate Lister
    Kate Lister replied:

    Not yet! But as soon as we have a prototype, we'll let you know. x

    James Clarke
    James Clarke asked:

    I missed the chance to pledge for a physical copy of the book like the fool that I am. Are there plans to publish it for general sale after the initial run? I did pledge for the ebook, but it would be nice to have something for the bookshelf.

    Unbound replied:

    Hi James, We've made this available through the Unbound site again, so you should be able to pre-order now. Unbound Support