Exeter History Fellow Dr. Faramerz Dabhoiwala has written a book which he “hope[s] will improve people’s sex lives.’
The book in question, titled ‘The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution’, focuses on how western attitudes towards sex have changed throughout history, asking “when did our culture change so strikingly? Where does our current outlook come from?”.
“It should make people realise”, Dr. Dabhoiwala told Cherwell, “that the ways we think and feel and behave nowadays are not natural, or hard-wired, or unchanging, but the product of a major historical revolution that began in the eighteenth century”.
Dr. Dabhoiwala sees this subject as particularly relevant to the 21st century. He believes that “the sexual freedoms we enjoy today, our conceptions of the private and the public, our presumptions about male and female sexuality, even our peculiar fascinations with sexual celebrity and the mass media — all these were created by the great social and intellectual changes of the Enlightenment”.
The book discusses how views have changed since 1700, when sex outside marriage was still illegal in every western society and how surges in pre- and extra-marital sex, as well as an increased privacy around sexual activity led to more sexual freedom.
Dabhoiwala said that “I can only claim that it will entertain, enlighten, and make its readers more self-aware about a central facet of their lives.”
However, if Germaine Greer’s tough critique is anything to go by, ‘The Origins of Sex’ tends to focus on how sex is presented in 17th and 18th century libertine literature, and that “[Dabhoiwala] nowhere tests his assumptions against actual human behaviour” – how the masses were reacting to sex.
“It is not enough to show that somebody somewhere was thinking thoughts that we might think of as amazingly progressive” Greer says, “without investigating whether those ideas were leavening public discourse or changing the attitudes of the multitude.”
The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution (2012), which will be published in the UK by Penguin Press on 2nd February.