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August 17, 1994

History Laid Bare: Love, Sex, and Perversity From the Ancient Etruscans to Warren G. Harding

JAMA. 1994;272(7):568-569. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520070088052

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The only apparent organization to History Laid Bare is that, in accordance with the subtitle, the chronology proceeds from 1450 BC to 1921 AD. Physicians' misconceptions and observations through the ages about human sexuality weave in and out of the 400-plus pages.

The author's introduction warns the reader, "Don't expect a methodical history of sex here [but rather] fragments, vignettes [and] lewd snapshots"—which is, indeed, the case. The offering is a tongue-in-cheek collection of frothy sexual gossip. Acknowledgments to translators, five pages of copyright attributions, and 16 pages of sources do not add up to either a serious scientific work or a literary one. The author was honest. He has woven together bits and pieces of the amusing sexual thoughts, words, and acts of countless men and women. With total irreverence, popes, priests, and presidents are "laid bare." Crude customs are described, for example, means to prove impotence so that

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