Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women


Elizabeth Wurtzel - 1998
    Bitch is a brilliant tract on the history of manipulative female behavior. By looking at woman who derive their power from their sexuality, Wurtzel offers a trenchant cultural critique of contemporary gender relations. Beginning with Delilah, the first woman to supposedly bring a great man down (latter day Delilahs include Yoko Ono, Pam Smart, Bess Myerson), Wurtzel finds many biblical counterparts to the men and woman in today's headlines. In five brilliant extended essays, she links the lives of women as demanding and disparate as Amy Fisher, Hillary Clinton, Margaux Hemingway, and Nicole Brown Simpson. Wurtzel gives voice to these women whose lives have been misunderstood, who have been dismissed for their beauty, their madness, their youth. She finds in the story of Amy Fisher the tragic plight of all Lolitas, our thirst for their brief and intense flame. She connects Hemingway's tragic suicide to those of Sylvia Plath, Edie Sedgwick, and Marilyn Monroe, women whose beauty was an end, ultimately, in itself. Wurtzel, writing about the wife/mistress dichotomy, explains how some women are anointed as wife material, while others are relegated to the role of mistress. She takes to task the double standard imposed on women, the cultural insistence on goodness and society's complete obsession with badness: what's a girl to do? Let's face it, if women were any real threat to male power, "Gennifer Flowers would be sitting behind the desk of the Oval Office," writes Wurtzel, "and Bill Clinton would be a lounge singer in the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock."Bitch tells a tale both celebratory and cautionary as Wurtzel catalogs some of the most infamous women in history, defending their outsize desires, describing their exquisite loneliness, championing their take-no-prisoners approach to live and love. Whether writing about Courtney Love, Sally Hemmings, Bathsheba, Kimba Wood, Sharon Stone, Princess Di-- or waxing eloquent on the hideous success of The Rules, the evil that is The Bridges of Madison County, the twisted logic of You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again-- Wurtzel is back with a bitchography that cuts to the core. In prose both blistering and brilliant, Bitch is a treatise on the nature of desperate sexual manipulation and a triumph of pussy power.

Whore Stories: A Revealing History of the World's Oldest Profession


Tyler Stoddard Smith - 2012
    Tyler Smith's fascinating and sometimes truly astonishing tales of streetwalkers, call girls, madams, pimps and rent boys are fundamentally true (a few, as he recognizes, fall into the category of cultural myths), and are not only interesting but also funny--often hilarious.Have you ever wondered how Heidi Fleiss came to be the face of upscale prostitution or if Casanova really was the world's greatest lover? How about why Latin playboy Rubi Rubirosa got the nickname "The Ding Dong Daddy"?While you may think that you know everything about this occupation, Whore Stories includes plenty of details and even celebrities, such as Maya Angelou and Bob Dylan, that will leave you in awe.From private sex schools and Snoop Dogg, to child preachers, mime fantasies and unfortunate amputations, Whore Stories offers a fascinating, hilarious and often times shocking look at the world's oldest profession.

The Sexual Life of Savages


Bronisław Malinowski - 1925
    After getting himself ashore, he dropped himself into their culture and begun having to learn their language and understand their customs. The result were a series of groundbreaking books in the field of anthropology, much of which is still entertaining to read today.

The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin's Priestess of Decadence


Mel Gordon - 2006
    She often haunted Weimar Berlin’s hotel lobbies, nightclubs and casinos, radiantly naked except for an elegant sable wrap, a pet monkey hanging from her neck, and a silver brooch packed with cocaine. Multi-talented Anita saw no boundaries between her personal life and her taboo-shattering performances. As such, she was Europe’s first postmodern woman.Among those Anita Berber claimed as members of her vast sexual harem were Marlene Dietrich, Magnus Hirschfeld (the founder of modern sexology and gay liberation), Klaus Mann, Conrad Veidt, Lawrence Durrell, and the King of Yugoslavia. Berber acted in Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler and starred in the silent epic, Lucifer. Even Leni Riefenstahl credits Berber for inspiring her controversial career. After sated Berliners finally tired of Anita Berber’s libidinous antics, she became a “carrion soul that even the hyenas ignored,” dying in 1928 at the age of 29.The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber chronicles a remarkable career, including over 150 photographs and drawings that recreate Anita’s enduring “Repertoire of the Damned.”

Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire


Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick - 1985
    Hailed by the New York Times as "one of the most influential texts in gender studies, men's studies and gay studies," this book uncovers the homosocial desire between men, from Restoration comedies to Tennyson's Princess.

Thy Neighbor's Wife


Gay Talese - 1980
    Now considered a classic, this fascinating personal odyssey and revealing public reflection on American sexuality changed the way Americans looked at themselves and one another.From the Paperback edition.

Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture


Bram Dijkstra - 1986
    Throughout Europe and America, artists and intellectuals banded together to portray women as static and unindividuated beings who functioned solely in a sexual and reproductive capacity, thus formulating many of the anti-feminine platitudes that today still constrain women's potential. Bram Dijkstra's Idols of Perversity explores the nature and development of turn-of-the-century misogyny in the works of hundreds of writers, artists, and scientists, including Zola, Strindberg, Wedekind, Henry James, Rossetti, Renoir, Moreau, Klimt, Darwin, and Spencer. Dijkstra demonstrates that the most prejudicial aspects of Evolutionary Theory helped to justify this wave of anti-feminine sentiment. The theory claimed that the female of the species could not participate in the great evolutionary process that would guide the intellectual male to his ultimate, predestined role as a disembodied spiritual essence. Darwinists argued that women hindered this process by their willingness to lure men back to a sham paradise of erotic materialism. To protect the male's continued evolution, artists and intellectuals produced a flood of pseudo-scientific tracts, novels, and paintings which warned the world's males of the evils lying beneath the surface elegance of woman's tempting skin. Reproducing hundreds of pictures from the period and including in-depth discussions of such key works as Dracula and Venus in Furs, this fascinating book not only exposes the crucial links between misogyny then and now, but also connects it to the racism and anti-semitism that led to catastrophic genocidal delusions in the first half of the twentieth century. Crossing the conventional boundaries of art history, sociology, the history of scientific theory, and literary analysis, Dijkstra unveils a startling view of a grim and largely one-sided war on women still being fought today.

Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute


Ivy Anderson - 2016
    “A Voice from the Underworld” detailed Alice’s humble Midwestern upbringing and her struggle to find aboveboard work, and candidly related the harrowing events she endured after entering “the life.” While prostitute narratives had been published before, never had they been as frank in their discussion of the underworld, including topics such as abortion, police corruption, and the unwritten laws of the brothel. Throughout the series, Alice strongly criticized the society that failed her and so many other women, but, just as acutely, she longed to be welcomed back from the margins. The response to Alice’s story was unprecedented: four thousand letters poured into the Bulletin, many of which were written by other prostitutes ready to share their own stories; and it inspired what may have been the first sex worker rights protest in modern history.For the first time in print since 1913, Alice: Memoirs of a Barbary Coast Prostitute presents the memoirs of Alice Smith and a selection of letters responding to her story. An introduction contextualizes “A Voice from the Underworld” amid Progressive Era sensationalistic journalism and shifting ideas of gender roles, and reveals themes in Alice’s story that extend to issues facing sex workers today.

Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siecle


Elaine Showalter - 1990
    This book ranges over the trial of Oscar Wilde, the public furore over prostitution and syphilis, moral outrage over the breakdown of the family, abortion rights and AIDS. High and low culture, from male quest romances to contemporary male bonding movies, Freud to Fatal Attraction, are all included in his study.

Sexual Politics


Kate Millett - 1969
    Her work rocked the foundations of the literary canon by castigating time-honored classics for their use of sex to degrade women.

Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex


Alice Domurat Dreger - 1998
    Alice Dreger focuses on events in France and Britain in the late nineteenth century, a moment of great tension for questions of sex roles. While feminists, homosexuals, and anthropological explorers openly questioned the natures and purposes of the two sexes, anatomical hermaphrodites suggested a deeper question: just how many human sexes are there? Ultimately hermaphrodites led doctors and scientists to another surprisingly difficult question: what is sex, really?Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex takes us inside the doctors' chambers to see how and why medical and scientific men constructed sex, gender, and sexuality as they did, and especially how the material conformation of hermaphroditic bodies--when combined with social exigencies--forced peculiar constructions. Throughout the book Dreger indicates how this history can help us to understand present-day conceptualizations of sex, gender, and sexuality. This leads to an epilogue, where the author discusses and questions the protocols employed today in the treatment of intersexuals (people born hermaphroditic). Given the history she has recounted, should these protocols be reconsidered and revised?A meticulously researched account of a fascinating problem in the history of medicine, this book will compel the attention of historians, physicians, medical ethicists, intersexuals themselves, and anyone interested in the meanings and foundations of sexual identity.

Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy


Hallie Lieberman - 2017
    But how did these once-taboo toys become so socially acceptable? The journey of the devices to the cultural mainstream is a surprisingly stimulating one.In Buzz, Hallie Lieberman—who holds the world’s first PhD in the history of sex toys—starts at the beginning, tracing the tale from lubricant in Ancient Greece to the very first condom in 1560 to advertisements touting devices as medical equipment in 19th-century magazines. She looks in particular from the period of major change from the 1950s through the present, when sex toys evolved from symbols of female emancipation to tools in the fight against HIV/AIDS to consumerist marital aids to today's mainstays of pop culture. The story is populated with a cast of vivid and fascinating characters including Dell Williams, founder of the first feminist sex toy store, Eve’s Garden; Betty Dodson, who pioneered “Bodysex” workshops in the 1960s to help women discover vibrators and ran Good Vibrations, a sex toy store and vibrator museum; and Gosnell Duncan, a paraplegic engineer who invented the silicone dildo and lobbied Dodson and Williams to sell them in their stores. And these personal dramas are all set against a backdrop of changing American attitudes toward sexuality, feminism, LGBTQ issues, and more.Both educational and titillating, Buzz will make readers think quite differently about those secret items hiding in bedside drawers across the nation.

Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man


Susan Faludi - 1999
    With Backlash in 1991, Susan Faludi broke new ground when she put her finger directly on the problem bedeviling women, and the light of recognition dawned on millions of her readers: what's making women miserable isn't something they're doing to themselves in the name of independence. It's something our society is doing to women. The book was nothing less than a landmark.Now in Stiffed, the author turns her attention to the masculinity crisis plaguing our culture at the end of the '90s, an era of massive layoffs, "Angry White Male" politics, and Million Man marches. As much as the culture wants to proclaim that men are made miserable—or brutal or violent or irresponsible—by their inner nature and their hormones, Faludi finds that even in the world they supposedly own and run, men are at the mercy of cultural forces that disfigure their lives and destroy their chance at happiness. As traditional masculinity continues to collapse, the once-valued male attributes of craft, loyalty, and social utility are no longer honored, much less rewarded.Faludi's journey through the modern masculine landscape takes her into the lives of individual men whose accounts reveal the heart of the male dilemma. Stiffed brings us into the world of industrial workers, sports fans, combat veterans, evangelical husbands, militiamen, astronauts, and troubled "bad" boys—whose sense that they've lost their skills, jobs, civic roles, wives, teams, and a secure future is only one symptom of a larger and historic betrayal.

Good Porn: A Woman's Guide


Erika Lust - 2008
    Do you think of it as a dirty word, a taboo topic, something you associate with cheesy films with bad plots? Filmmaker and author Erika Lust is here to change all that. With the goal of making porn more accessible to women, Good Porn examines the films, the industry, and the phenomenon. It breaks away from any assumptions you may have about porn, opening the door for a wholly new conversation about a medium that has too long been considered the domain of men. Come on in, ladies . . . the water’s just fine.

Life as a Victorian Lady


Pamela Horn - 2011
    Presented in a small gift book format, this series offers books that intend to take the reader back in time and show them what it was really like to be a Victorian Lady, what sights and smells would be around them, and what day-to-day life would involve in terms of food, clothing, living quarters, kitchens, and more.