In 2015, some friends asked me: “What are you writing today? » I answered them, not without malice: « A history of sexuality… » In front of the lack of enthusiasm of my interlocutor, I continued: « I did not finish my sentence: a history of sexuality … in comic strip! And I invariably noticed a smile and a twinkle in the eyes that said a lot about the interest of this form of narration. It is true that an essay on the evolution of sexuality – necessary, however, for the specialist that I am – may seem quite off-putting and certainly difficult to read because it is too intellectual. The form of the graphic book and the comic strip today allows the very relevant alliance of knowledge, drawing and humor.
The first volume of the incredible story of sex (under the title Sex Story then A History of Sex), published in May 2016, which is the history of human sexuality from our primate origin to Egyptian, Greek and Roman Antiquity, then over the centuries, in the Judeo-Christian movement, from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. , was a tremendous success in France and abroad (15 foreign translations).
With Laetitia Coryn, my brilliant accomplice with such a delicate brush, we have just written the sequel, through the other great human cultures: India, the Middle East, Africa, China, Japan… where treasures of eroticism and sensuality await us on every page.
It should all the same be specified that most of the ancient texts, precursors of a refined eroticism, were for a long time confidential, reserved for scholars and intellectuals, for men of course, concealed from women and the people, and rediscovered recently with the liberation of mores. In Occident. This is the case of Thousand and one Night whose erotic tales, dating for the oldest from the 10th century, but only accessible to literate men, were not known to the Arabic-speaking public until the middle of the 19th century and are still purified today by the fundamentalists of the Islam. The same fate for the Kâma-Sûtra, composed by Vâtsyâyana in the 4th century, reserved for Brahmans and a scholarly public, which was only revealed to initiates in the 19th century by the Englishman Richard Francis Burton, but essentially known at the end of the 20th century during the sexual awakening of the West.
Great people of riders, traditional China also cultivates the acrobatic positions of love, which you can try – if you are a good rider – however in moderation!
Traditional Chinese eroticism constitutes the base of the immense erotic culture of a Japan which will invent all modern images of sexuality… from the 11th century the Emaki (painted scrolls) then the Shungas, erotic prints, describe meticulously – and without prohibition – sexual intimacy in true manuals of love. They are the ancestors of today’s erotic manga.
Finally, many surprises dot this Amazing sex story, most often due to misconceptions, two among others: the images of the Kama-Sutra never existed, because in the 4th century of India where it was written, this work was only an erudite text; in the 16th century of Japan, the first geishas were men, then they were women but never prostitutes. Idealized image of the woman, the Geisha is an artist, poet, musician…
Many questions arise that we have tried to answer with this album: are sexual behaviors universal? Can we distinguish invariants in this diversity? What are the multiple expressions of desire and eroticism according to cultures and times? Prohibitions ? Are some societies freer than others? Are we observing an evolution towards the repression of impulses or, on the contrary, towards their liberation? What place for women? And what recognition of sexual orientation? This inventory has never been done. We have tried to answer it.
Emerging from a puritanical Western 19th century, many artists and writers, such as Byron in Constantinople, Flaubert in Carthage, Delacroix in Morocco, Gauguin in Tahiti, Lawrence in Lebanon… who extolled the free eroticism of the Orient and “exotic” lands. The idealized image of geishas, vahines and oriental dances is still present in our minds. But what do we observe in this “tour of the world of sex” through the extreme diversity of amorous behavior? A first matrilineal order (the only certain origin is that of the mother) and, unfortunately very quickly, the generalization of male domination, expressed for example through the refined erotic education of courtesans subjected to the desire of men, in harems, tea or pleasure houses which until recently were called “brothels”. A culture of eroticism reserved for cultivated men from which the people and women were obviously excluded. We can only notice, in certain societies that are unfortunately too small a minority, a more important place reserved for desire, pleasure, love and often respect for women.
It was only in the second half of the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st that the social and sexual liberation of women was achieved – far too slowly in traditional cultures – by lifting taboos, still linked to male domination. It is also the story of this progressive liberation told by The Incredible History of Sex. In Africa, the East and the Middle East, women today acquire more freedom but the prohibitions – and the constraints imposed on them – are still too strong and too numerous.
This second Book of The Incredible Story of Sex allows us to relativize the recent evolution of intimate mores in the West to better understand this obscure object of desire and pleasure that we call “sexuality”.
*The Incredible History of Sex, Book 1 (West), by Philippe Brenot and Laetitia Coryn, Les Arènes BD, 2016; **The Incredible History of Sex, Book 2 (from Africa to Asia) by Philippe Brenot and Laetitia Coryn, Les Arènes BD, 2020. To be obtained from your local bookseller who, like most, practices “Click and Collect”.
We would like to give thanks to the author of this short article for this amazing material
HOW DO WE MAKE LOVE ELSEWHERE?
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