A Curious History of Sex written by Kate Listner is an amazingly well researched book with both humor and horror. Listner approaches the topic of sex as not just the act but the social and cultural influences around it. The book also delves into the historical evolution on the perspectives of not just sex but sexuality and pleasure. In fact, “The history of how cultures have interpreted, punished, and rewarded sex, sexuality and pleasure” may have been a more apt title, if not a bit long winded. As Listner rattles off different facts and theories you really realize how strong of a fear of sex, in all its facets, there is. The need to control this perfectly natural human/animal function. She brings across the plains of the need to be young and virile, to those that made it a point of taking away any pleasure a woman might have. the book goes in a direction that does not hide these horrors. At times the book brings the reader to a place of pity. Pity for those that have suffered because of the need to control people. It has always been plain to see that cis-women have suffered and have been regulated due to the fear that they can control cis-men by sex. That they are sirens and if they are not controlled they will have all the power and society will crumble. Here you also see how cis-men and LGBTQI+ have suffered. She also debunks some fairly well established myths.
The fascinum (or phallus or Divine Penis) was a cult like object. It was used to ward off evil (the evil eye) and for protection, versus something sexual as one may think. It was celebrated, worshiped, and its likeness was used in celebrations. It has been found depicted on rings, pendants, wind chimes, and buildings (often thought to be brothels but more likely to protect the residents of the home). Carvings were also found in places of possible danger such as on street corners and bridges. They were also placed on the front of carriages and possibly worn by soldiers for presumably the same reason. Rings and pendants were worn by boys (sometimes even bestowed on them at birth) to protect their health and virility. Overall, the fascinum, when worn especially, was believed to be a powerful form of apotropaic magic. Given its prevalence it was obviously an important part of Roman society. It can be surmised that the reason it has been omitted from modern literature is due to its modern taboo nature. Luckily its importance and meaning can be found in cultural, religious, and archaeological finds. So, if you’re worried about the evil eye…
Here are some resources on the various areas and types of historical sex work. I suggest picking one area that interests you as it can be a bit overwhelming. These resources were collected by the Knowne World Courtesans.