The Sex Lives of Australians
Cross-dressing colonists, effeminate bushrangers and women-shortage woes – here is the first ever history of sex in Australia, from Botany Bay to the present-day
In this highly readable social history, Frank Bongiorno uses striking examples to chart the changing sex lives of Australians. He shows how an overwhelmingly male penal colony gave rise to a rough and ready culture: the scarcity of women made for strange bedfellows, and the female minority was both powerful and vulnerable.
Then came the Victorian era, in which fears of sodomy helped bring an end to the transportation of convicts. The twentieth century saw the rise of the sex expert. Tracing the story up to the present, Bongiorno shows how the quest for respectability always has another side to it, and how the contraceptive pill changed so much. Along the way he raises some intriguing questions – What did it mean to be a ‘mate’? How did modern warfare affect soldiers’ attitudes to sex? Why did the law ignore lesbianism for so long? – and introduces some remarkable characters, both reformers and radicals. This is a thought-provoking story of sex in Australia.
With a foreword by Michael Kirby, AC CMG.
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‘Remarkable and highly readable’ – Michael Kirby
“Bongiorno has written a major synthesis of an aspect too often forgotten in our historical memories.” - Australian Book Review
'A great book, a compound of wit and tragedy, as you'd expect from the subject matter, plus wide learning and common sense.' – Alan Atkinson, author of The Europeans in Australia
'An engaging book...both educational and entertaining' – The Daily Telegraph
'A fascinating tale' – The Sydney Morning Herald
'[A] highly readable, serious history about our most intimate yet most culturally sensitive selves' – The Canberra Times
'Engaging, open-minded and humorous' – Bookseller+Publisher Magazine
‘a case study of how to convey complexity and scholarly debate without sacrificing readability.’ - Australian Journal of Politics and History
“Frank Bongiorno’s The Sex Lives of Australians is one of the most important works of Australian history to be published in the last decade.” - H-Net Review
“a fun historical perspective on our hang-ups”. - MX
Shortlisted for the Australian History Prize in the 2013 Prime Minister's Literary Awards.
Shortlisted for the Australian History Prize in the 2013 NSW Premier's History Awards.