Tongue First: Adventures in Physical Culture


Tattoos, nude beaches, sensory deprivation. Napping, go-go dancing, Rolfing, acupuncture, boxers versus BVDs. The politics of blue eyeshadow or a shaved head.

A journey through the dark passages and taut membranes of our surprisingly physical culture: Why is it socially acceptable to put a gold ring through your ear-lobe, but not your nose? Why is it alright to pay someone to rub your back, but not your genitals? Jenkins allows us the voyeur's role as she takes us on a personal adventure from ordinary to extreme circumstances. From the cocktail hour, to experiments with sensory deprivation, she tries everything at least once—and the results are often surprising.

Note: Tongue First is out of print in the USA, though Amazon will probably dig it up for you. You can also get the British edition from


What People Say about Tongue First

"Emily Jenkins throws a big, bloody,boozy, bluesy, bruising blow against the anorectic, inhibited cult of the female body, offering an alternative view through one woman’s pursuit of her myriad, robust and often monstrous physical desires. Jenkins turns her own body into a travelogue of possibility, creating an entertaining portrait of just how entertaining one’s physical self -- and, by extension, one’s own life — can be."  —Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation and Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women

"Unfailingly funny and fresh"  —Self magazine

"A great storyteller...Jenkins' observations are at once outlandish and perfectly logical; she has the natural beauty of language that only the non-judgmental can have."  —Lisa Carver, author of Dancing Queen, in New York Newsday

"The brilliance of this book lies in the sheer humanity of an author whose unflinching reportage is tempered by a light, dancing wit."  —London Daily Mail

"Jenkins is like your really, really smart, witty girlfriend giving you the cool, sharp intellectual dish on say, her trip to the Russian baths: the interplay of steam and shame, of public and private, of touch and terry cloth."  —Lynn Harris in The New York Daily News

"Nothing passes by Emily Jenkins' eye. She is a wry and pungent chronicler of detail. Now I understand what every pierce and tattoo is meant to mean. I am eternally grateful to this crisp and clear young writer."  —Wendy Wasserstein, pulitzer-prize winning author of The Heidi Chronicles and An American Daughter

"That she's come out of all this alive is impressive in itself. That she's written such a fascinating and modest account is even more admirable." **** (four stars)  —The Daily Mirror

"Her descriptions of sensation make the book pleasurable, but it's her nose for sudden clarity that makes it surprising and memorable...In a tone that's both precise and swollen with subterranean emotion, she picks her way delicately to the anxious heart of each exploit."  —Etelka Lehoczsy in Salon

"Unadulterated and a hell of a lot of fun!"  —Jayne Margetts in Spike Magazine