I found this cool little resource today, and promptly looked up my favorite word. I'm thinking of sponsoring it. Lord know, sex has sponsored me....
Online Etymology Dictionary
sex (n.) 1382, "males or females collectively," from L. sexus "state of being either male or female, gender." "Commonly taken with seco as division or 'half' of the race" [Tucker], which would connect it to secare "to divide or cut" (see section). Meaning "quality of being male or female" first recorded 1526. Meaning "sexual intercourse" first attested 1929 (in writings of D.H. Lawrence); meaning "genitalia" is attested from 1938. Sexy first recorded 1925 (as an Eng. word in Fr.), originally "engrossed in sex;" sense of "sexually attractive" is 1932. Sex appeal first recorded 1924; sex drive is from 1918; sex object and sex symbol both first attested 1911, the former in ref. to Jesus. Sexpot is from 1954. Sexpert "sex therapist" is from 1924. Sexploitation is attested from 1942.
I'm surprised at the dates those expressions first popped up - some seem too late, some seem too early. I would've thought sexpot's been around longer. Seems like the kind of word tossed around in the days of flappers, certainly by the time Harlow was making movies. Instead it's a 50s phenomenon, along with Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield and the other simmering sexpots of that full-bellied generation. Similarly, I thought sex therapist would have more recent coinage (and wonder just what kind of sex therapy training was available 100 years ago, I have a tiny collection of sex manuals written by antiseptic Victorians and if they reflect the contemporary thinking on sexuality, well, let's just say it explains sooooo much about American society).
So lots of fascinating little facts and ideas to ponder packed into that etymological nugget. Now what I'd really like to know is who called Jesus a sex object in 1911?