Title: The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution
Author: Faramerz Dabhoiwala
Publisher: Penguin Books
Source: Personal Copy
Sex should not be spoken about in our country or that’s what it seems. In a country like India, where most things are taboo, the one that tops the list is sex and its talk. Sex I think on a very generic level has been taboo in most countries and most places before they woke up and were so-called “liberated” by the idea of talking about it and not being ashamed or shy. At the same time, it is all about the action and ironically so as I was reading “The Origins of Sex” by Faramerz Dabhoiwala I was amazed at what happened in the fifteenth century to those who had sex outside the marriage and also without being married. The revelation at times was so much to handle and yet the book is so relevant for our times (in some parts).
“The Origins of Sex” is not an easy read. At the same time, it is not difficult either. One has to shed all inhibitions while reading, more so because of the anecdotes. The reason I say this is I remember last month when attending the Jaipur Literature Festival, one of the sessions was by Faramerz Dabhoiwala who spoke for an hour about sex and how it was treated in the Western culture till sexual revolution came to being. At one point he spoke of something highly relevant to men those times – a kind of club where they would meet and ejaculate together after being aroused by either maids or prostitutes. By the end of this anecdote, some of the people sitting in the crowd were gob smacked and almost uttered, “Gross” and booed a little as well. This from a crowd where one would assume that everyone was sexually liberated (or so we think).
The book delves deep in the times that led to the revolution and post the revolution as well. It ends briefly at the Victorian Era and though he tries to speak about it a little in the twenty-first century, however I think Faramerz needs to come out with another book of this nature, because it is much needed. The book is divided into six parts and each part is unique and wonderfully researched. My favourite parts are the ones where he talks of sexual celebrities in those times (one of whom is on the cover of the book), the explosion of print, of how men and women were coexisting then and but of course the parts of homosexuality and its importance in a world where sex was condemned, and meant only for procreation, if the parties were married and never for pleasure.
The writing is precise and funny in most parts and as you read along you realize that sexual suppression and its punishment was so severe and totally not needed, so in the sense, some funny parts become ironical and maybe intended to be this way. Faramerz is a brilliant writer and I could not believe that this was his first book, because the writing is experienced and as I said very-well researched which is most needed for a non-fiction work. This book made me see how it all began when it came to sex and how regressive we get day by day in this time and age, despite calling ourselves modern and with forward-thought. My best moments with the book have been reading it either on the train or the bus and getting curious glances from men and women. This just goes to show how we treat sex in our country – no matter what the medium. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone this month. A refreshing read for sure.