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A History Of Celibacy

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Celibacy is a worldwide practice that is often adopted, rarely discussed. Now, in Elizabeth Abbott's fascinating and wide-ranging history, it is examined in all its various forms: shaping religious lives, conditioning athletes and shamans, surfacing in classical poetry and camp literature, resonating in the voices of castrati, and permeating ancient mythology. Found in man Celibacy is a worldwide practice that is often adopted, rarely discussed. Now, in Elizabeth Abbott's fascinating and wide-ranging history, it is examined in all its various forms: shaping religious lives, conditioning athletes and shamans, surfacing in classical poetry and camp literature, resonating in the voices of castrati, and permeating ancient mythology. Found in many societies of the past, practiced by both the anonymous and the legendary (St. Catherine, Joan of Arc, Leonardo da Vinci, Elizabeth I, Gandhi), celibacy has as many stories as adherents, and Abbott weaves them into a provocative, seamless tapestry that brings history alive.


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Celibacy is a worldwide practice that is often adopted, rarely discussed. Now, in Elizabeth Abbott's fascinating and wide-ranging history, it is examined in all its various forms: shaping religious lives, conditioning athletes and shamans, surfacing in classical poetry and camp literature, resonating in the voices of castrati, and permeating ancient mythology. Found in man Celibacy is a worldwide practice that is often adopted, rarely discussed. Now, in Elizabeth Abbott's fascinating and wide-ranging history, it is examined in all its various forms: shaping religious lives, conditioning athletes and shamans, surfacing in classical poetry and camp literature, resonating in the voices of castrati, and permeating ancient mythology. Found in many societies of the past, practiced by both the anonymous and the legendary (St. Catherine, Joan of Arc, Leonardo da Vinci, Elizabeth I, Gandhi), celibacy has as many stories as adherents, and Abbott weaves them into a provocative, seamless tapestry that brings history alive.

30 review for A History Of Celibacy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Highly disappointing. Before having read this book I might have thought calling a book “deeply shallow” was silly, but that’s the only way to describe this book. The author has a lot to say about celibacy, and yet, she also has *nothing* to say about celibacy. This book has no thesis, it is about 400 odd pages of anecdotes and generalities about celibacy in different times and places, heavy emphasis on the Christian varieties, but just observation without argument. The most the author is willing Highly disappointing. Before having read this book I might have thought calling a book “deeply shallow” was silly, but that’s the only way to describe this book. The author has a lot to say about celibacy, and yet, she also has *nothing* to say about celibacy. This book has no thesis, it is about 400 odd pages of anecdotes and generalities about celibacy in different times and places, heavy emphasis on the Christian varieties, but just observation without argument. The most the author is willing to commit herself to about celibacy is that it exists. She alternates between clearly holding her nose while writing about some instances of celibacy, and treating the rest with a salacious Cracked.com “History’s 10 Weirdest Asexuals” angle. Also, it’s less cited than Cracked.com. The endnotes are is a mess. The eunuch/castrato section is so unbelievably botched I can’t take her on good faith for any of the other historical areas. The non-Christian examples I am particularly concerned with, because I don’t feel she has done the depth of research required to have a fair cultural understanding, other than her own culture perhaps, but that I’m even leery about. As a bonus: while claiming the forward and the endword to be completely neutral on celibacy, in the end chapter she did not bother to disguise her contempt for celibacy decisions made at Vatican II.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Korri

    This book has an interesting topic but the chronological, superficial treatment makes me think of it more as an encyclopedia of celibacy. It's a useful starting point but lacks a driving argument or deep analysis.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Reilly

    I bounced around quite a bit and definitely left large chunks unread, but what the hell... I need a win. After reading the first section (wherein Daphne's transformation into the laurel is rendered as captivating as my last check-up at the dentist), I jumped around from Mary Ward to Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth to Virginia Woolf, but never found what I was looking for. Maybe it's user error, but the writing was as dry as a digestive biscuit and managed to make people and topics that were already I bounced around quite a bit and definitely left large chunks unread, but what the hell... I need a win. After reading the first section (wherein Daphne's transformation into the laurel is rendered as captivating as my last check-up at the dentist), I jumped around from Mary Ward to Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth to Virginia Woolf, but never found what I was looking for. Maybe it's user error, but the writing was as dry as a digestive biscuit and managed to make people and topics that were already engaging to me absolutely boring. Even read strictly as a near-linear plotting of celibacy through the ages, there seemed to be a lack of context or thorough analysis of how previous movements inspired later adopters of celibacy... but again, maybe I missed it because I was mid-yawn. Too stinking bad.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Laurie

    There was another book by this author that I wanted to read instead of this one, but my library system only had A History of Celibacy, so I thought I'd check it out. I wish that I could give this book 3.5 stars instead of 3. I liked it, but not enough to give it 4 stars. However, 3 stars really doesn't do it justice. It's definitely a 3.5. At times, the book, which is heavily researched, can be a little "textbooky". I liked the chapters that dealt with real people from history (Joan of Arc, Flor There was another book by this author that I wanted to read instead of this one, but my library system only had A History of Celibacy, so I thought I'd check it out. I wish that I could give this book 3.5 stars instead of 3. I liked it, but not enough to give it 4 stars. However, 3 stars really doesn't do it justice. It's definitely a 3.5. At times, the book, which is heavily researched, can be a little "textbooky". I liked the chapters that dealt with real people from history (Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, etc.) as opposed to the chapters that talked about general time periods and how people lived then. The book talks about celibacy and why some people are celibate. The reasons vary: religion, disease, exaltation of virginity, sexual orientation. I bookmarked a lot of pages in this book because there were some very interesting quotes and tidbits of information. A lot of the research in this book seems to say that men have such a hard time abstaining from sex. Women, by being women, are such temptresses. Oh, those poor men. I think much of the book can be summed up in this one passage from page 118: "In the tradition of the early Fathers, who wrote that 'sin came from a woman, but salvation through a virgin,' these men revered virgins but hated women."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tony Gualtieri

    A brilliant and poignant story of human deprivation. This is a surprisingly deep study that shows celibacy to be debilitating, neurotic, and at times empowering.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    Original review from July 2001, basically cut and pasted from my Everything2 writeup from back in the day: This is a really interesting book. The author, a journalist, historian, and Dean of Women at Trinity College, University of Toronto, presents a historical survey of celibacy, chastity, and sexual abstinence which suggests that these practices have been and continue to be part of every human culture. She provides examples from mythology and literature as well as discussion of beliefs and atti Original review from July 2001, basically cut and pasted from my Everything2 writeup from back in the day: This is a really interesting book. The author, a journalist, historian, and Dean of Women at Trinity College, University of Toronto, presents a historical survey of celibacy, chastity, and sexual abstinence which suggests that these practices have been and continue to be part of every human culture. She provides examples from mythology and literature as well as discussion of beliefs and attitudes about these facets of sexuality --- for, as her book makes clear, celibacy (technically the state of being unmarried, but today used interchangeably with chastity, the state of abstaining from sexual intercourse) is as much a part of human sexual variation as heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, monogamy, polyamory, transgender sexuality, and their less well-known or acknowledged cousins. I was particularly intrigued by Abbott's presentation of celibacy as a lifestyle choice, especially for women. Historically, celibacy was often a woman's only alternative to marriage and motherhood, and some women pursued it as an avenue to education and other privileges that transcended those traditionally available to their sex. Although many women were forced into celibacy for lack of a better alternative, those who chose it often found their decision an empowering one --- one need only think of Rome's Vestal Virgins, Joan of Arc, and England's Elizabeth I for examples of powerful celibate women (although, in the case of Elizabeth, the strict definition of celibacy should probably be applied). It is important to note that celibacy did not provide perfect protection for its adherents: this is clearly illustrated by the case of Joan of Arc, who was eventually burned at the stake as a witch for, among other things, her refusal to wear women's clothes. Celibate or no, women could only transcend their gender so far. Still, for many, celibacy seems to have been the best approximation of liberation around. Abbott's discussion is a bit heavy on the relationship between Christianity and celibacy compared to her analysis of other faiths, but that is to be expected, given her personal background as a Christian. Likewise, her examination of non-Western celibacy leaves something to be desired, but again, that's pretty typical given the resources readily available to Western academics. Her facts seemed pretty solid, except for one instance of spurious statistics, and her bibliography is extensive and intriguing. I came away from A History of Celibacy having learned a great deal about sex and early Christianity, as well as the aforementioned empowering aspect of celibacy as a choice. Abbott's later chapters, which discuss modern celibacy- and chastity-related social phenomena such as what she terms the "Power Virgin" movement, made me think back to discussions of erotophobia and erotophilia in my psychology of gender and sexuality class, and in particular their implications for sex ed, virginity pledges, the True Love Waits/Born Again Virgin movement, and so on. Most of all, however, I found myself wishing for a world in which all sexual choices, celibate or otherwise, were as well thought-out and empowering to their adherents as the author's depiction of her own celibacy and that of others.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    This book was totally fascinating and I recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about human sexuality from a very different approach, that of abstinence. The author researched the stories of people from all over the world and in different cultures and eras, who, for whatever reason, have chosen or been forced into a life of celibacy. In many instances the choice of celibacy makes perfect sense - for example the women who chose convent life over the drudgery of being a wife and mother This book was totally fascinating and I recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about human sexuality from a very different approach, that of abstinence. The author researched the stories of people from all over the world and in different cultures and eras, who, for whatever reason, have chosen or been forced into a life of celibacy. In many instances the choice of celibacy makes perfect sense - for example the women who chose convent life over the drudgery of being a wife and mother (and potentially being in an abusive relationship) and the dangers of childbirth, and then there are those that chose abstinence to avoid the dangers of disease (particularly in the AIDS era) as well as those that choose it to avoid a broken heart. But what was most fascinating was how the control of sexuality through celibacy and abstinence has been used to control people (and property - one of the reasons Catholic priests were not allowed to marry was that the Church did not want their heirs to claim Church property), often against their will and particularly in regards to religion. Certainly celibacy in no way has meant, for the majority of practitioners, an asexual attitude! For much of history, attitudes towards sex have seemed to stem from misogyny and much of Abbott's research showed me how the double standard which we still struggle with today has been entrenched for thousands of years. Much of historical anti-sex sentiment (particularly when not for purposes of procreation within a marriage) has been based on the premise of women as evil temptresses and men with no control. Society still struggles with this unhealthy attitude towards sexuality, hence the high school dress code stories that come up from time to time and the blame put on the victim in rape cases. Once again, totally fascinating reading and it certainly provides the reader with some missing in puzzle pieces in learning about human sexuality.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Becca

    this pop read sucks my dick and just offers some dumb funfacts about celibacy, no deeper analysis.

  9. 4 out of 5

    rené lauren

    In the Acknowledgements section, the author writes it took her nearly eight years to research and write this book, which is exactly how many years it felt like it took for me to finish it. My co-worker has asked me no less than three times, "Are you STILL reading that book?!" It was incredibly dense, like some pricey artisan bread at Whole Foods that requires ten-minutes of chewing per bite. Although it might seem like I hated this book, I actually found it fascinating. It was intriguing to read In the Acknowledgements section, the author writes it took her nearly eight years to research and write this book, which is exactly how many years it felt like it took for me to finish it. My co-worker has asked me no less than three times, "Are you STILL reading that book?!" It was incredibly dense, like some pricey artisan bread at Whole Foods that requires ten-minutes of chewing per bite. Although it might seem like I hated this book, I actually found it fascinating. It was intriguing to read the ways celibacy was wielded as a weapon, a punishment, or a way to freedom by people throughout history. I especially liked the emphasis there was on separating the reasons behind celibacy in various religious ideologies. It's not a light read, although there are some bawdy portions as a book on an aspect of sexuality is expected to have. I recommend it to those that like history, especially on odd topics.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin John

    A overview of the history of Celibacy throughout the world with a focus on Western Christendom. I would have liked to see more depth though this would have required an excessively long book. It's a good overview of the topic but the grouping and subgrouping of topics might prevent a larger thesis from developing. The last chapter is problematic however; it lacks interrogation of modern evangelical-style teen celibacy which within two decades has already proven incredibly problematic and Abbott's A overview of the history of Celibacy throughout the world with a focus on Western Christendom. I would have liked to see more depth though this would have required an excessively long book. It's a good overview of the topic but the grouping and subgrouping of topics might prevent a larger thesis from developing. The last chapter is problematic however; it lacks interrogation of modern evangelical-style teen celibacy which within two decades has already proven incredibly problematic and Abbott's newly adopted celibacy facilitates a very propagandist approach to the new celibacy. While this positive slant to female celibacy previously serves as a lense to examine communal female liberation from patriarchy, it becomes uncritical of an unsystematic and highly individualistic lifestyle choice.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ana

    Neither for nor against celibacy, this book is a fairly comprehensive Western history of the phenomenon and the famous people who adopted the practice. The cultural impact of celibacy is still felt today and even though the non-Western aspects of the book are not well developed, I enjoyed the book nonetheless.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jenine Young

    This was a pretty dense book that took me a while to get through. It was interesting enough that I continued to pick it back up. My biggest criticism is the fact that chapters repeated information from others as though they were meant to be read independently.

  13. 4 out of 5

    YoSafBridg

    In her book, A History of Celibacy: from Athena to Elizabeth I, Leonardo da Vinci, Florence Nightingale, Gandhi, & Cher, Canadian, Elizabeth Abbott purports to trace the groups and individuals who are part of a timeless phenomenon that transcends culture and religion; but it seemed from her introduction that she had a tendency to accept common wisdom as fact which i found just a bit tedious, and it seemed to throw much of the otherwise highly interesting subject matter into debate. I learned man In her book, A History of Celibacy: from Athena to Elizabeth I, Leonardo da Vinci, Florence Nightingale, Gandhi, & Cher, Canadian, Elizabeth Abbott purports to trace the groups and individuals who are part of a timeless phenomenon that transcends culture and religion; but it seemed from her introduction that she had a tendency to accept common wisdom as fact which i found just a bit tedious, and it seemed to throw much of the otherwise highly interesting subject matter into debate. I learned many things, and came up with many items that i wanted to research further~but even though i love her voice and tone, and she does have many, many anecdotes to tell, i'm not sure how much authority to give her (then again~can i quote all the sources for the "facts" i have swimming around in my mind~the ones i read, more than one place, but somewhere, i can quote some of them, but not all~and what authority do i give them?). The history starts off with classical antiquity (what Abbot calls Divine Pagan Celibacy), moves on through early and later Christianity (which rather predictably~or not? seems to deify celibacy and defile sexuality), with a quick overview of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and the ritual celibacy of shamans and the virgin Priestesses of the South Americans (apparently Judaism and Islam have no such celibate traditions~except pre-marital). Beyond religion Abbott covers other interesting territory with various abstenance campaigns and "scientific" theories. She also discusses enforced celibacy both external forces and those that may be more internal. I'm not sure i'm willing to buy into the legend that Elizabeth I remained a virgin throughout her lifetime as Abbott seems to (though, as she points out, assignations would be particularly difficult to hide in the royal court of the day). Celibacy, of course, has always meant different things to different people~for some it is avoiding the very thought of anything to do with the human body~including avoiding touching oneself~even to wash, to others only the act of carnal penetration (any Clintonites out there?) really counts. I lie somewhere in between... I learned a few things, vestal virgins only committed to thirty years not a lifetime (as if that were a HUGE difference), lost some respect for Gandhi (he was definitely a "player"~using women emotionally if not physically~and is one sin so very much worse than the other???), and overall found the book quite interesting. One of the more interesting aspects of some celibacy campaigns (and very few at that), at least to my mind, is the oppurtunity afforded by celibacy for self-discovery: the idea that when one lets go of sex, and the drive for sex a whole new world opens up and you realize how much more there is to life. It seems to me in reading this book, though, that many celibacy advocates are still limited by sex, still seeing the world through the sex-drive. I find it slightly ironic in fact, that the very subject of celibacy itself is all about sexuality~but then again~how to get away from that? This was one of those gems that i discovered whilst weeding~it came up on my list because it hadn't circulated in over two years, and it looked interesting to me~at least now that i've checked it out i've saved it for another cycle or so... http://talesofarampaginglibrarian.blo...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Avril

    A History of Celibacy is well worth reading by anyone interested not only in celibacy, but also in the way that women, in particular, have dealt with a world that has various unhealthy attitudes to sexuality. As Abbot writes in her conclusion, a lot of the Christian understandings of celibacy have been based on misogyny - and yet many women have found chosen celibacy freeing and empowering. Abbot covers continents and centuries in her history, everything from Rome's vestal virgins to Kellogg's co A History of Celibacy is well worth reading by anyone interested not only in celibacy, but also in the way that women, in particular, have dealt with a world that has various unhealthy attitudes to sexuality. As Abbot writes in her conclusion, a lot of the Christian understandings of celibacy have been based on misogyny - and yet many women have found chosen celibacy freeing and empowering. Abbot covers continents and centuries in her history, everything from Rome's vestal virgins to Kellogg's cornflakes (created as a non-sexually stimulating food) to the unwilling celibates of the AIDS era. Obviously, the breadth of this history means it often lacks depth, and Abbot draws strongly on the work of other historians, but the notes enable readers interested in particular eras and issues to go further. As a survey based on secondary sources A History of Celibacy is excellent. The conclusion of this survey is that voluntary celibacy is empowering and liberating; imposed celibacy is frustrating and oppressive. This would be equally challenging to products of the sexual revolution who believe that sexual expression is compulsory for healthy adulthood, the Catholic Church that forces celibacy on its religious, and political conservatives who believe that sex can only take place within marriage. On a personal note, my own choice of celibacy has been supported by this history. I am one of the many, many women throughout history who have found joy, liberation and empowerment in celibacy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lea

    Disappointing. Instead of weaving a narrative out of the interesting and rich subject, the author wrote a sort of encyclopedia of celibacy, with more or less dry anecdotes about different ways people have been celibate throughout history. Gets kind of old after a while, especially when I knew so many of the stories before. I did like a few of the anecdotes (like the one about Catarina de Siena) but it wasn't quite enough to make this 500-page book worthwhile. I rather liked the introduction and t Disappointing. Instead of weaving a narrative out of the interesting and rich subject, the author wrote a sort of encyclopedia of celibacy, with more or less dry anecdotes about different ways people have been celibate throughout history. Gets kind of old after a while, especially when I knew so many of the stories before. I did like a few of the anecdotes (like the one about Catarina de Siena) but it wasn't quite enough to make this 500-page book worthwhile. I rather liked the introduction and the epilogue, which are the two parts where the author has really used her voice (instead of trying to be objective) and talked about her personal experience of celibacy and her thoughts as a Christian on all the Church stuff she had to research for the book. I would have liked the book so much more if it was all like that.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    Abbott's blog is written in a much more engaging style than this book. As other reviewers have noted, the shallowness makes this more of an encyclopedia of celibacy, and I would have liked references throughout. Out of the whole thing, though, you know what utterly captivated me? Re virginity testing: "a virgin's cervix might have been dilated if, for example, she had inserted her finger into it to soothe an internal itch" (p. 356) O_O Um, do not want. I've never heard of inserting one's finger int Abbott's blog is written in a much more engaging style than this book. As other reviewers have noted, the shallowness makes this more of an encyclopedia of celibacy, and I would have liked references throughout. Out of the whole thing, though, you know what utterly captivated me? Re virginity testing: "a virgin's cervix might have been dilated if, for example, she had inserted her finger into it to soothe an internal itch" (p. 356) O_O Um, do not want. I've never heard of inserting one's finger into one's cervix. Through it. To itch. Gah! I'm all kinds of freaked out right now. And possibly very, very ignorant.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marsha

    Celibacy is not a theme much touched on in modern times. While some scholastic institutions advocate teaching teenagers abstinence, it is not necessarily synonymous as virginity. Celibacy can be for someone who has had tons of sex or none at all and the reasons are as varied as the people who make them. Celibacy—not merely a matter for the people in the clergy—is explored in this book throughout history and between the sexes. As a matter of sexual, moral, political interest, the author of this b Celibacy is not a theme much touched on in modern times. While some scholastic institutions advocate teaching teenagers abstinence, it is not necessarily synonymous as virginity. Celibacy can be for someone who has had tons of sex or none at all and the reasons are as varied as the people who make them. Celibacy—not merely a matter for the people in the clergy—is explored in this book throughout history and between the sexes. As a matter of sexual, moral, political interest, the author of this book left no stone unturned inher exploration of this peculiar subject. A most beguiling subject.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Utterly FASCINATING! I purchased this, completely by accident, the day before Valentine's Day a couple years ago, and didn't even realize the charming irony until I found myself completely lost in it on the day itself. It looks at a subject that's frequently dismissed as dry, dull, and non-erotic and shows how complex, interesting, and actually quite sexy it really is! There are disappointingly few books on the subject, even though the conscientious decision not to cultivate a typically sexual i Utterly FASCINATING! I purchased this, completely by accident, the day before Valentine's Day a couple years ago, and didn't even realize the charming irony until I found myself completely lost in it on the day itself. It looks at a subject that's frequently dismissed as dry, dull, and non-erotic and shows how complex, interesting, and actually quite sexy it really is! There are disappointingly few books on the subject, even though the conscientious decision not to cultivate a typically sexual identity has been REALLY important in history. I definitely recommend, it's immediately engrossing.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katie Wilson

    In today’s world where we spend a majority of our time being exposed to sex whether through popular culture, advertising, or online dating apps, it’s easy to think of celibacy as something restricted to the past or the very religious. In her book however, Abbott traces the fascinating history of celibacy from biblical times through to the present day looking at the way that abstaining from sex has been used to both control and empower people. Read Full Review: https://mybookbagblog.wordpress.com/ In today’s world where we spend a majority of our time being exposed to sex whether through popular culture, advertising, or online dating apps, it’s easy to think of celibacy as something restricted to the past or the very religious. In her book however, Abbott traces the fascinating history of celibacy from biblical times through to the present day looking at the way that abstaining from sex has been used to both control and empower people. Read Full Review: https://mybookbagblog.wordpress.com/2...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    Thoughtful, exhaustive but never exhausing hisory of celibacy both forced and chosen. "Sainthood was that era's ( 1350-1500) great challenge, akin to aspiring to the Olympics or a Nobel Prize today. For women severly limed in vocations other than drudging laboror motherhood, the stretch to being the very best practicioner of religion was appealing, expecialy to highly intelligent perfectionists..."

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kat

    this is an interesting book. it is not a work of genius scholarship. abbott aims to catalogue the various motivations for celibacy throughout time and space, and to make it accessible. as far as i can tell, she does all right in this. i'd have preferred to read a book with more research citations and analytical arguments.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I bought this book *years* ago and skimmed it but never READ it. Now I am reading it! November 2009: Finished! This might not have been a good choice to read cover to cover, as it did get a bit repetitive, but it was very interesting! Parts I found the most interesting: -Vestal Virgins -unconsummated marriages (especially that of John Ruskin and Effie Gray)

  23. 5 out of 5

    Aimee

    Because this is such a broad survey, ranging across many cultures and many centuries, it is understandably shallow in places. Still, I doubt there are many detailed studies on this seldom-discussed subject, and this is a good place to start. I was particularly interested in learning more about Boston marriages--adds a whole new layer of significance to Henry James' The Bostonians.

  24. 4 out of 5

    6655321

    Parts of this book are amazingly well researched and put together (specifically, Abbott seems much more comfortable talking about the history of celibacy in the Catholic Church than in any other religion [the brief synoptic pages on Islam, Jainism, Hinduism, Judaism, etc. are sort of a disappointment). However, at least there is an attempt to provide a comprehensive history of celibacy.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I read this book more than a decade ago, and I still think it’s one of the best cultural histories I’ve ever read. The factoids are relevant and the anecdotes are short and to the point. An expansive book, Abbott covers a huge amount of time (two millennia) but the writing is swift and engaging. Highly recommended!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tiko

    Only got to read a little before gifting away. It was fascinating! It covers abstenence and celebacy from many different cultures, the why and the how of it. I hope I can borrow it when my friend is done with it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Abandoned in the first chapter because I simply couldn't stand her simplistic storytelling style. For a book that took her "eight years to research," it's depressingly short on details and full of worrying assumptions.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Fascinating book, and doesn't just stick to the religious aspect of celibacy either (i.e. abstinence-only wingnuts and Catholic priests).

  29. 4 out of 5

    Orin

    I liked it best when she got a little out of control, usually with the nutsy religious types, and the tone got impassioned. A long ramble on an intricate subject.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carie

    Entertaining. Abbott is witty, but the book did get somewhat tedious at times.

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