Bongiorno, Frank: Sex

Bongiorno, Frank

The Sex Lives of Australians, Black Inc., Melbourne, 2012

‘Cross-dressing colonists, effeminate bushrangers and women-shortage woes – here is the first ever history of sex in Australia, from Botany Bay to the present-day. ‘ The book

shows how an overwhelmingly male penal colony gave rise to a rough and ready culture: the scarcity of women made for strange bedfellows, and the female minority was both powerful and vulnerable.

Then came the Victorian era, in which fears of sodomy helped bring an end to the transportation of convicts. The twentieth century saw the rise of the sex expert. Tracing the story up to the present, Bongiorno shows how the quest for respectability always has another side to it, and how the contraceptive pill changed so much. Along the way he raises some intriguing questions – What did it mean to be a “mate”? How did modern warfare affect soldiers’ attitudes to sex? Why did the law ignore lesbianism for so long? – and introduces some remarkable characters, both reformers and radicals. (blurb)

The author talks about his book here, under the headline ‘How sex shaped a nation’. The book is reviewed here, here and here. The author deals here with issues of sexuality and how it is dealt with in Australia. The book won the ACT Book of the Year Award 2013.

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