Edward Shorter, American-born, who earned his PhD at Harvard is a renowned scholar and author. His plethora of books include the classic work A History of Women’s Bodies (Basic), A History of Psychiatry from the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac (Wiley) a new works, The Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry (Oxford University Press) and Shock Therapy with David Healy (Rutgers University Press). Shorter is a professor of history at the University of Toronto.
“It’s not news that humans are driven by the search for pleasure. What is intriguing in Written in the Flesh is Shorter’s claim that past restraints suppressed not just the quantitative aspects of our sex lives–how early, how often–but also their very richness and variety.”
Governor-General’s Non-Fiction Short-list
University of Toronto Press 2005
Written In The Flesh
A History of Desire
This elegant and erudite book tracing sexual desire in the western world was on the short-list for the Governor-General’s Award for Non-Fiction, a major literary prize in Canada.
Shorter, a renowned medical historian, demonstrates that the desire for sexual pleasure and what Shorter calls “total body sex” (that is, the expansion of sexuality from a limited focus on the face and genitals to include the entire body) is certainly not a new phenomenon: the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese, among others, were quite familiar with an eroticism that went beyond the strictly heterosexual and procreational. In the long centuries of Christian Europe, when the miserable conditions of life and religious repression conspired to minimize the expression of sexual longing, desire was driven underground. Yet in the late 19th Century, increasing privacy, prosperity, and good health again permitted the underlying biological urge for total body sex to express itself, and encouraged a shift of erotic pleasure toward unexplored body zones.
This classic work by renowned medical historian Edward Shorter demonstrates that desire is hardwired into the brain, expressing itself in remarkably similar ways in men and women, adolescent and adult, and in gays, lesbians, and straights alike. Drawing from a wide array of sources, including memoirs, novels, collections of letters, diaries, and indeed a large pornographic corpus, Shorter explores the widening of Western society’s sexual repertoire.
Written in the flesh is a history of what people like to do in bed and how that has changed.