“The Incredible History of Sex”: a world tour of eroticism in comics

After “Sex Story” published in 2016, the psychiatrist Philippe Brenot and the designer Laetitia Coryn deliver “The Incredible history of sex”.

On January 3, 2021 at 15h13

They put the cover back. With “Sex Story”, in 2016 , Philippe Brenot – psychiatrist, anthropologist, couple therapist – and cartoonist Laetitia Corbyn signed the first history of sexuality in comics, from prehistory to the present day. A real success: the book has sold 80,000 copies and is the subject of 14 foreign translations, even entitled to the honors of the Wall Street Journal. They are back today with Volume II, “The Incredible History of Sex, from Africa to Asia”. A work that completes the previous one, devoted solely to the Western world.

“For me, it’s the same book actually. Initially, we wanted to do just one. But a 500-page comic, that’s a lot… The subject is so vast. What is certain is that the form of the graphic novel is perfect: an essay on the history of sexuality, that would be a bit annoying to read, ”said the sexologist. But make no mistake about it. If the images are explicit, although often enhanced with a touch of humor, the background is very serious, based on months and months of research and a dense bibliography.

It must be said that the purpose is ambitious: to offer a panorama of sexual practices and traditions, from the Middle Ages to today, in India, the Middle East, Africa, China and Japan. As you will have understood, this world tour necessarily evokes the Kama-sutra, the tales of the Thousand and One Nights, love potions, geishas and erotic prints. You will undoubtedly discover many things … For example that the famous Indian guide with 64 positions was written in verse in the 4th century and did not include any images … And that it circulates, at least until the 19th century, only in a small circle of scholars.

/ The Comic Strip Arenas
/ The Comic Strip Arenas  

Other traditions are less well known and, undoubtedly, less objects of fantasy for Westerners. “In certain African ethnic groups, there is a practice of lengthening the lips of the vulva which begins in childhood. It is considered a sign of beauty. But it is also intended to increase the pleasure of the man during the sexual intercourse ”, comments Philippe Brenot.

“All traditions establish male domination”

This predominance granted to the masculine, which is declined over the pages of the comic strip, the psychiatrist can only note and deplore it. “Unfortunately, this is one of the lessons that can be drawn from this book and which I myself was surprised: all traditions immediately establish male domination. Man is the superior being, the one who can penetrate. The woman is kept apart, both literally and figuratively. The only ones to have access to eroticism, they are the courtesans, subjected to the desires of the men, locked up in harems or houses of joy. And when we evoke their pleasure, it is because their enjoyment is likely to give satisfaction to man. “

It will be understood, if this “incredible story” is intended to be playful and amusing, it draws up a less encouraging observation: it is not until the second half of the twentieth century that women have access to more sexual freedom, at least in the West. “There has been great progress in 50 years, summarizes the psychiatrist. But look: incest, rape, we’ve only started talking about it for 10 years… Today, sex is shown everywhere, accessible to everyone through porn. We talk about it all the time. But unfortunately it continues not to be explained. More sex education is needed. “And to start with the right end, we can very well indulge in reading this comic.

Source: “The Incredible History of Sex”: a world tour of eroticism in comics – Le Parisien

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