Stories of Gender and Sexuality from Early Modern Wonder Books

The category of ‘persons who have changed their sex’ in the wonder books cannot be exactly matched onto any modern term. By Lee RayeHistorian of Science In early modern England, the wonder book provided a vernacular genre that collected stories of monsters, marvels and prodigies. Although the books had a veneer of scholarly respectability, their[…]

The Female World of Love and Larceny in the Eighteenth Century

Men were transient figures (and often dupes) of light-fingered sex workers, but women’s relationships with each other were often more enduring. I was recently delighted to learn of the return of the period drama Harlots for a third season. The television series set in rival eighteenth-century London brothels is good viewing, even if its portrait[…]

The Genderless Eighteenth-Century Prophet

In 1776, a 24-year-old Quaker woman named Jemima Wilkinson died of fever, and came back to life as a prophet known as the Publick Universal Friend. By Livia Gershon Understanding gender as a spectrum is a part of life in twenty-first century America. But gender-nonconforming people have always existed. Historian Scott Larson takes a look[…]

Dardanella and Peter: What Does Microhistory Offer to the History of Sexuality?

During the past two decades, historians of twentieth-century Britain have delineated the landscape of a “modern sexual and gender regime.” What does a microhistorical approach, based upon the subjective experiences and writings of individuals, offer the history of sex and love in early twentieth-century Britain? This was the central question guiding research following the discovery,[…]

Some Like It Hot: Sex and the Sauna in Early Modern Sweden

In early modern Sweden bathing was a part of everyday life. There were public and private hot-steam baths, or saunas. Modern iterations of the sauna – and especially the gay sauna – have been highlighted as spaces where societal norms might be transcended and at the same time moral anxiety heightened. What is less recognized today is that the[…]

Sexual Curiosities? Aphrodisiacs in Early Modern England

The word aphrodisiac only began to be used to describe such foods in the late seventeenth century. The word aphrodisiac conjures images of oysters and chocolate, or perhaps peppers to ‘spice things up’. Nearly everyone knows that these foods have a long history of being considered aphrodisiacs. Yet it is worth devoting a little more[…]

Three Wise Men in a Bed: Bedsharing and Sexuality in Medieval Europe

One of the biggest challenges facing medieval historians is interpreting the actions of individuals at a remove of several centuries. One of the biggest challenges facing medieval historians, and perhaps especially historians of medieval sexuality, is interpreting the actions of individuals at a remove of several centuries. Take, for example, the case of King Richard[…]

Tempests and Teapots: Sexual Politics and Tea-Drinking in the Early Modern World

The Boston Tea Party, a foundational moment of political rebellion, was a protest against tea, and tea itself was freighted with sexual meanings. The American Revolution is impossible to understand without food and sex at its center. The Boston Tea Party, a foundational moment of political rebellion, was a protest against tea, and tea itself was[…]

Johanna Elberskirchen: Sexual Radical and Woman of Her Time

In 1896, a woman university student living in Zurich published in pamphlet form an extraordinary tirade against the sexual culture of men in her society. In 1896, a woman university student living in Zurich published in pamphlet form an extraordinary tirade against the sexual culture of men in her society. The author was Johanna Elberskirchen, and[…]

The History and Psychology of Human Sexuality

As important as sexuality is to being human, it is often viewed as a taboo topic for personal or scientific inquiry. By Dr. Don Lucas and Dr. Jennifer FoxLucas: Professor of PsychologyFox: Assistant Professor of PsychologyNorthwest Vista College Abstract Sexuality is one of the fundamental drives behind everyone’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. It defines the[…]