A rollicking, myth-busting history of sex that moves from historical attempts at birth control to Hildegard von Bingen’s treatise on the female orgasm, demystifying plenty of urban legends along the way.
Roman physicians told female patients they should sneeze out as much semen as possible after intercourse to avoid pregnancy. Historical treatments for erectile dysfunction included goat testicle transplants. In this kaleidoscopic compendium of centuries-old erotica, science writer Rachel Feltman shows how much sex has changed—and how much it hasn’t. With unstoppable curiosity, she debunks myths, breaks down stigma, and uses the long, outlandish history of sex to dissect present-day practices and taboos.
Feltman’s mischievous humor dismantles fear and brings scientific literacy to a subject surrounded by misinformation, and indeed, as it gravitates toward the strange, Been There, Done That delivers some sorely needed sex ed. Explorations into age-old questions and bizarre trivia around birth control, aphrodisiacs, STIs, courtship rituals, and more establish that, when it comes to carnal pleasures and procreation, there’s never been a normal, and sex isn’t something to be scared of.
Rachel Feltman’s first paying gig was organizing a bookshelf full of textbooks on vulvar disease at the age of seven, and she never looked back. She’s the Executive Editor of Popular Science and hosts PopSci’s podcast The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week. In 2014, Feltman founded the Washington Post’s Speaking of Science blog, known for headlines like “You probably have herpes, but that’s really okay,” and “Uranus might be full of surprises.” Feltman studied environmental science at Simon’s Rock and has a master’s in science reporting from NYU. She’s a musician, an actress, and the stepmom of a very spry 14-year-old cat.
“Rachel Feltman’s writing is wry, clever, and precise. These pages feature creatures, humans included, with all manner of sexual proclivities, mysteries, and biases who have been everywhere and done it in every way one can imagine. Feltman’s perspective is priceless. Along with her insight, she is funny, especially when she’s writing about sex, which she does a lot in Been There, Done That.”
—Bill Nye, science educator
“I don't want to spoil all the fun, but Been There, Done That is more than a boisterous, naked romp through the rainforest of human sexuality. Feltman has also added generous dollops of fascinating science that will expand the way you think about you-know-what.”
—Dan Fagin, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation
“Feltman has unequivocally demonstrated that it’s possible to make jokes about sex that are both deeply researched AND deeply compassionate and inclusive. Been There, Done That is an eye-opening journey through human (and even non-human animal) sexuality, and everyone should read it.”
—Arielle Duhaime-Ross, Vice News correspondent and podcast host
“Been There, Done That is a lovably bonkers book that asks: Did medieval chastity belts even exist? Are bison actually gay icons? What is with James Joyce’s thing for his wife’s farts? Feltman’s writing is curious, clever, and kind as she explores the weird science of human and animal friskiness. An empathetic and relentlessly entertaining read.”
—Ella Dawson, sex and culture critic
“It shines, instead, as an irreverent invitation to be enchanted by one's body, rather than ashamed; to be present in desire, rather than dislocated from it; to cast off the veil of insecurity and embrace one's whole self.”—Shelf Awareness
“Enlivened by Feltman’s keen sense of humor and affirmational tone, this is an entertaining and informative catalog of ‘sexual expression and queer existence and horny exuberance through history.’”—Publishers Weekly
“Raucous... confident... there are numerous moments of laugh-out-loud amazement and eyebrow-raising surprise... A deep dive for sex nerds and informative fun for everyone else."—Kirkus Reviews
“[A] wide-ranging and entertaining book… Feltman is sassy and opinionated…despite much of her subject matter being deeply serious, she writes about it with humour.”—Daily Mail