Sexual Chemistry A History of the Contraceptive Pill Lara V. Marks

Publication date:
28 Sep 2010
Yale University Press
416 pages: 235 x 156 x 29mm
17 b-w in unfolio'd gallery

Heralded as the catalyst of the sexual revolution and the solution to global overpopulation, the contraceptive pill was one of the twentieth century’s most important inventions. It has not only transformed the lives of millions of women but has also pushed the limits of drug monitoring and regulation across the world. This deeply-researched new history of the oral contraceptive shows how its development and use have raised crucial questions about the relationship between science, medicine, technology, and society.

Lara Marks traces the scientific origins of the pill to Europe and Mexico in the early years of the twentieth century, challenging previous accounts that championed it as a North American product. She explores the reasons why the pill took so long to be developed and explains why it did not prove to be the social panacea envisioned by its inventors. Unacceptable to the Catholic Church, rejected by countries such as India and Japan, too expensive for women in poor countries, it has, more recently, been linked to cardiovascular problems. Reviewing the positive effects of the pill, Marks shows how it has been transformed from a tool for the prevention of conception to a major weapon in the fight against cancer.

Lara V. Marks is an associate lecturer at the Open University and Visiting Senior Scholar at Cambridge University.

Sexual Chemistry [will] attract attention, if only because of its title. . .Marks. . ..has produced a history worthy of that attention.

. . . [A] beautifully written, definitive history of the oral contraceptive pill. . . [A] masterpiece. . . The book is an invaluable reference source.

“Extensively researched and clearly written, this book will be essential reading in the fields of women’s studies and in the history of science.”—Publishers Weekly

“Lara Marks . . . places the history of the pill in a rich context that considers sexual customs, religious attitudes, and government support for family planning.”—Londa Schiebinger, Science