Megan Harlan
August 11, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

A History of Celibacy

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Elizabeth Abbott
publisher
Scribner
genre
History, Nonfiction

We gave it a B+

Elizabeth Abbott’s look at celibacy, A History of Celibacy, is a fresh take on the history of sex — which is perhaps why this juicy tome was a surprise best-seller in Canada, where its author is a dean at the University of Toronto. From the chaste Greek goddesses Athena and Artemis to today’s teenage True Love Waits groups, Abbott covers social, psychological, and spiritual reasons for abstinence. Along with oppressive legacies of forced celibacy — like eunuchs and opera castrati — she explores the ways in which celibacy has symbolized strength, from semen-conserving athletes (Muhammad Ali abstained for weeks before every fight) to the ”Virgin Queen” Elizabeth I. B+

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