Between the sheets: Top 10 most provocative books out this month

Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire (5/8/2012)
by Eric Berkowitz
Publisher's Description: At any given point in time, some forms of sex were condoned while others were punished mercilessly. Jump forward or backward a century or two (and often far less than that), and the harmless fun of one time period becomes the gravest crime in another. This book tells the story of the struggle throughout the millennia to regulate the most powerful engine of human behavior. Eric Berkowitz uses flesh-and-blood cases—much flesh and even more blood—to evoke the entire sweep of Western sex law, from the savage impalement of an Ancient Mesopotamian adulteress to the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde in 1895 for “gross indecency.”

The Origins of Sex: A History of the First Sexual Revolution (5/1/2012)
by Faramerz Dabhoiwala
Publisher's Description: For millennia, sex had been strictly regulated by the Church, the state, and society, who vigorously and brutally attempted to punish any sex outside of marriage. But by 1800, everything had changed. Drawing on vast research—from canon law to court cases, from novels to pornography, not to mention the diaries and letters of people great and ordinary—Dabhoiwala shows how this dramatic change came about, tracing the interplay of intellectual trends, religious and cultural shifts, and politics and demographics. The Enlightenment led to the presumption that sex was a private matter; that morality could not be imposed; that men, not women, were the more lustful gender. Moreover, the rise of cities eroded community-based moral policing, and religious divisions undermined both church authority and fear of divine punishment.

Outlaw Marriages: The Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples (5/15/2012)
by Rodger Streitmatter
Publisher's Description: Years before gay marriage became a hot-button political issue, same-sex unions flourished in America. Streitmatter reveals that gay marriage isn't a twenty-first-century idea. He spans over a hundred years and profiles fifteen couples who made major contributions to this country in an impressive range of fields—from music and education to journalism and modern art. Among the notables whose lives and loves are profiled are poet Walt Whitman, literary icon Gertrude Stein, movie legend Greta Garbo, playwright Tennessee Williams, novelist James Baldwin, and activist Audre Lorde. While no partnership is the same—some were tumultuous, while others were more supportive and long-lasting—all changed the course of American history.

Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm (5/22/2012)
by Nicole Daedone
Publisher's Description: This guide teaches men and women how to use the practice of Orgasmic Meditation-or OM-to slow down, connect emotionally, and achieve authentic female sexual satisfaction. The promise: In just fifteen minutes every woman can become orgasmic. Slow Sex reveals the philosophy and techniques of OM and includes a step-by-step, ten-day OM starter program, as well as OM secrets for achieving ultimate satisfaction.

Going Down: Oral Sex Stories (5/15/2012)
Edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Publisher's Description: Once you have your lover in your mouth, the heat of desire, passion, and lust focus, tying your arousal directly to them. These fictive fellatio stories, sizzling 69ings, and talented tonguing give readers lots of new ideas to try at home. In Going Down, lovers give, receive, and explore the many ways oral sex can be an act of love, tenderness, devotion, or pure sexual joy. Just sit back and enjoy this sexy read of explicit stories to get you hot and bothered with more than a mouthful.

A Time to Embrace: Same-Sex Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics, 2nd edition (5/12/2012)
by William Stacy Johnson
Publisher's Description: An analysis of the religious, legal, and political stakes in the debates over gay marriage, civil unions, and the place of committed gay couples in a democratic society. Johnson weighs the pros and cons from across the moral and religious spectrum. This second edition includes an updated summary of relevant changes in laws pertaining to civil unions / same-sex marriage since the book's first publication in 2006.

Shaping Sexual Knowledge: A Cultural History of Sex Education in Twentieth Century Europe (5/15/2012)
Edited by Lutz Sauerteig
Publisher's Description: The essays collected in this volume treat sex education in the broadest sense, incorporating all aspects of the formal and informal shaping of sexual knowledge and awareness of the young. The volume not only addresses officially-sanctioned and regulated sex education delivered within the school system and regulated by the State and in some cases the Church, but also the content, iconography and experience of sexual enlightenment within the private sphere of the family and as portrayed through the media.

City Women: Money, Sex, and the Social Order in Early Modern London (5/4/2012)
by Eleanor Hubbard
Publisher's Description: This book focuses on the challenges that preoccupied London women as they strove for survival and preferment in the burgeoning metropolis. Balancing new demographic data with vivid case studies, Eleanor Hubbard explores the advantages and dangers that the city had to offer, from women's first arrival to London as migrant maidservants, through the vicissitudes of marriage, widowhood, and old age.

Street Sex Workers' Discourse (5/15/2012)
by Jill McCracken
Publisher's Description: Incorporating the voices and insights of street sex workers through personal interviews, this monograph argues that the material conditions of many street workers — the physical environments they live in and their effects on the workers’ bodies, identities, and spirits — are represented, reproduced, and entrenched in the language surrounding their work. McCracken offers an explanation of how constructions can be made differently in order to achieve representations that are generated by the marginalized populations themselves, while placing responsibility for this marginalization on the society in which these people live.

A Nation of Women: Gender and Colonial Encounters Among the Delaware Indians (5/15/2012)
by Gunlog Fur
Publisher's Description: In indigenous Delaware society, to be a woman meant to engage in the activities performed by women, including diplomacy, rather than to be defined by biological sex. Among the Delaware, being a "woman" was therefore a self-identification, employed by both women and men, that reflected the complementary roles of both sexes within Delaware society. For these reasons, the Delaware were known among Europeans and other Native American groups as "a nation of women." Decades of interaction with these other cultures gradually eroded the positive connotations of being a nation of women as well as the importance of actual women in Delaware society.