177 Lovers and Counting: My Life as a Sex Researcher offers a transcultural perspective on gender and sexuality through engaging personal accounts of the author’s participant-observation research in multiple countries and cultures across the globe. Dr. Leanna Wolfe draws from anthropology, sexology, evolutionary psychology, and sociology, effortlessly weaving together personal stories along with qualitative and quantitative cross-cultural studies to shed light on relationships, genders, and sexualities. In this autoethnography that is both personal and clinical, Wolfe describes and analyzes personal experiences conducting participant-observation research towards understanding the social context of sex, gender, and relationships. She provides insight through personal, intimate storytelling, revealing the many varieties of love, sex, and relationships across cultures and subcultures, and how these insights might impact her readers’ lives, just as they have impacted her own.
Leanna Wolfe, PhD’s sex research was spirited by coming of age in the thick of the 1970s sexual revolution and feminist movement in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her curiosities and academic appetites led her engage in field research in Mexico, Africa, India and Papua New Guinea. From 1980 to 2018 she worked as a university professor teaching and researching topics ranging from orgasm, multiple partner sexualities and sexual assault. In 2016 she launched Wise Woman Sex and Relationship Consulting, providing counseling through her unique lens of Sexual Anthropology.
A Tale of Two Viruses
What is an Auto-Ethnography?
My Life as an Engaged Anthropologist
177 Lovers—What’s in a Number?
Part I – Beginnings
Chapter 1: Erotic Stirrings
Chapter 2: My Parents’ World/My World
Chapter 3: Saving It/Losing It
Chapter 4: Orgasm Me-Search/Research
Chapter 5: Am I Gay?
Part II - Stepping Out Into the World as a Young Woman
Chapter 6: The Gringa Studies Machismo
Chapter 7: Discoveries and Dalliances in Late 1970s New York City
Part III – Adult Sex Education
Chapter 8: Learning About Sex
Chapter 9: Forays into Alternative Lifestyles
The Swing Scene
Part IV – Rethinking Marriage
Chapter 10: Researching Singles Culture in Los Angeles
Part V – Engaging Polygamy and Polyamory
Chapter 11: Researching Polygamy in East Africa and Papua New Guinea
Briefly a Polyamorous Triad
Polygyny Field Research in Africa
Papua New Guinea Beckons!
Chapter 12: Researching Sex, Drugs and Polyamory at Burning Man
Part VI – Making it Professional
Chapter 13: Becoming a Sexology Professional
Chapter 14: Learning by Teaching: Insights into Ethnic Generation Gaps
Part VII – Exploring Worlds of the USA
Chapter 15: Studying Cheating from a Multitude of Perspectives
Chapter 16: In Search of Baby Batter
Part VIII – Engaging the Cybersex World
Chapter 17: The Viral Nipple
Chapter 18: The Petrified Sex Goddess
Chapter 19: Working as a Cyber Sexpert
Part IX – The Marriage Question Continues
Chapter 20: Engaging India’s Courtship with Love Marriage
Chapter 21: Deconstructing Niger’s Marriage Market
Part X – Exploring Other Worlds
Chapter 22: Scoping Out Sexual Tourism in Thailand, Jamaica and Peru
Chapter 23: Engaging Morocco’s Gender Divide
Chapter 24: Sorting Out Sex, Culture and Business in China and Cuba
Part XI – Three Full Circle Stories
Chapter 25: Reckoning with #MeToo
Chapter 26: Full Circle Love
Chapter 27: Return to Mexico
Part XII – Conclusion
Chapter 28: Conclusion: Healing Through Culture, History and Context
Dr. Leanna Wolfe’s Research
About the Author
Wolfe has gifted us with a heartfelt and powerfully candid deep dive into her journey around the world, but more importantly through her remarkable life. It’s a bold and unpredictable tribute to radical truth and adventure—weaving threads of memoir, sexological research, and sexual revolution. This work's brazen honesty will inspire you to also live in an extraordinary way.
Part uncensored adventure story, part auto-ethnographic research, this genre-bending tale takes you on an honest anthropological journey, complete with erotic stories, historical side-bars, and personal theoretical reflections on concepts we often take for granted, stuff like intimacy, virginity, consent, and monogamy—in short, all the messy elements that make up what we call 'sexuality'. Leanna Wolfe fearlessly shares all her direct participatory experiences—the good and the bad—in stunning cross-cultural portraits of sexuality from around the world—from Thailand to Jamaica to Mexico and more. Undoubtedly, all readers (even conservative folks with slightly less than 177 lovers!) will appreciate Wolfe’s underlaying question that continues to puzzle humanity: Why do people partner with one another? Answer: It’s complicated.
This a surprising and astonishingly honest book by a professional sex researcher. Through the revealing lens of her own life story as a woman, Leanne Wolfe explores the meaning of various beliefs about sexual behavior in wildly different cultures and phases of life. This book exemplifies the classic anthropological method of participant observation, interspersed with the results of carefully constructed surveys on the differences between what informants say and what they do about sexuality, including Wolfe herself. There is much treasure and wisdom here.
A delightful romp with sensitivity and insight with an anthropologist's answer to Anaïs Nin, Dorothy Parker, and other female challengers to the social conventions of their times.
Leanna Wolfe tells the story—fearlessly, absorbingly and without apology—of a young woman’s sexual awakening (her own) and maturation into an uninhibited carnal expert/educator. She travels the world to glean her fascinating perspective, emerging with a well-researched volume of great wisdom and candor.
The author's fearlessness and honesty about her love life and her sexual journey throughout her life are truly revolutionary and very refreshing. I especially appreciated the author's ability to convey the 'flavor' and reality of each relationship. Her experience as an anthropologist allows her to provide us with an astute analysis of the sexual mores, relationship styles, and trends of the past half-century. A totally unique book and truly a page-turner!
Dr. Wolfe’s auto-ethnography is an engaging and very real story. Living through the women’s liberation movement in the '60s-'70s and the more recent #MeTooMovement, she describes the challenges and benefits of being a professional woman who is also a sexually vibrant being. This work is open, inspiring, and a joy to read. I would recommend this not only as an ethnography, but also as a case study in gender and sexuality.
177 Lovers and Counting: My Life as a Sex Researcher is a riveting exploration of love, relationships, and sexuality seen through the lens of an anthropologist and trained sexologist. This book chronicles the author’s personal journey as she studies cultures around the world and navigates through her own experiences with love and relationships.
The author’s unique perspective as an anthropologist allows her to delve deep into the societal constructs that shape our understanding of love and relationships. She challenges traditional norms and expectations, offering a fresh perspective on what it means to form relationships, encouraging readers to explore their own relationships with an open mind.
177 Lovers and Counting is more than just a memoir; it’s a thought-provoking examination of love, relationships, and sexuality. It’s a must-read for anyone seeking to understand the complexities of love in the modern world.
From the rituals of remote tribes to the bedrooms of the modern world, the author takes readers on a journey across continents and through time, challenging preconceived notions about what is ‘normal’ and ‘natural’. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of human nature, this book offers a fresh perspective on sexuality that is both enlightening and thought-provoking.
Whether you’re a seasoned scholar or a curious reader, 177 Lovers and Counting promises to broaden your understanding of one of humanity’s most fundamental and fascinating aspects. Prepare to have your beliefs questioned, your knowledge expanded, and your horizons broadened in this journey into the heart of sexology.
Leanna’s 177 Lovers is a one of a kind and a generous offering. She not only honestly shares intimate details of her erotic adventures, but in many different countries and from a cultural anthropologist's perspective. Clearly her body was her laboratory for her extensive sex research and she has great knowledge to share.
In a fraught time in history for sex and relationships, a researcher with much academic and lived learning guides us through a sex history—her own—that sheds light on the many options and experiences, not to mention opportunities for pleasure, reflection, and growth, that our sexuality can bring us. It's a document of different times—and a way to think deeply about our own using the tools of anthropology, sociology, and our precious experience.
3/2/2023, Choice Reviews: This book was included in a roundup of forthcoming titles in Women’s and Gender studies.
Includes photos of the author embedded in international and domestic research projects that normalize and illustrate the author's research, life, and the communities where she conducted her research.