Sadomasochism CoverAn Historical Perspective

by Edward Shorter

This short book by award-winning historian Edward Shorter explains the popular appeal of E.L. James erotic novel ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ with its theme of sadomasochism. Shorter, a professor at the University of Toronto, is the author of ‘Written in the Flesh: A History of Desire’ which was short-listed for Canada’s major literary prize, the Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction. Here, he focuses solely on fetish and sadomasochism, a side-bar in the history of desire. It was unknown in the ancient world and for some has been part of tool kit for sexual pleasure for only 100 to 200 years. Shorter traces the history and literature of fetish/sm and illuminates the sources of its appeal.

Reviews for Written in the Flesh: A History of Desire

“It all seems daunting to make a case that we were less sexed in past centuries… But Shorter, through a comprehensive survey of Western literature, pornography, and personal diaries, combined with some poignant observations about the history of medicine and the body (one of the professor’s other specialties), makes a compelling case. – Christine Sismondo, The Toronto Star

Written in the Flesh offers a fascinating and refreshing take on the evolution of our relationship with sex and desire. An excellent antidote to the rising panic about our increasingly sexualized culture. Turns out it’s not all MTV’s fault.” – Josey Vogels, sex columnist and author of Beside Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy

“A good argument is one of the joys of life, especially if it includes wine or dessert. Edward Shorter is the sort of intelligent, entertaining writer with whom it is pleasure to argue.” – Wendy EcElroy, The Globe and Mail

“Shorter examines documents throughout Western history, including the incredible diary of Englishwoman (and lesbian) Anne Lister, to show how desire is expressed and experienced as a physical function. Written in an accessible and engaging style, Written in the Flesh is a fascinating account of sexual desire.” – Malinda Lo, Curve Magazine

Edward Shorter discusses the evolution of sexual tastes and the phenomenon behind E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin:

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