Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire
Eric Berkowitz evokes 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 cast of Sex and Punishment is as varied as the forms taken by human desire itself: royal mistresses, gay charioteers, medieval transvestites, lonely goat-lovers, prostitutes of all stripes and London rent boys. Each of them had forbidden sex, and each was judged - and justice, as Berkowitz shows - rarely had anything to do with it.
'I don't think I've ever read such an entertaining historical work. It has the wisdom granted by perspective, without the condescension of someone who thinks we're wiser than our ancestors. Whether you want to fuel your indignation, or simply furnish yourself with enough jaw-dropping data to galvanise a hundred party conversations, you really must shell out for this book. It's worth every penny.' Nick Lezard, Guardian 'This enlightening and hugely entertaining book tells the long and often astounding story of western sexuality and the endless attempts to repress it - At once broad-ranging and rich in detail, Berkowitz's cross-examination of human sexuality is both exciting and impressively relentless.' James McConnachie, Sunday Times 'A fascinating and gruesomely compelling study of human sexuality' Mail on Sunday 'From the Code of Hammurabi to the Wilde Trial, Eric Berkowitz finds any amount of entertaining evidence to support his thesis that sex law has been "as passionate and mercurial as the sex drive itself."' The Scotsman 'A wonderfully well-written, well-organised and accomplished book - Berkowitz has achieved a perfect balance between case study and analysis, and between narrative and reflection. - But it comes with a health warning. 350 pages of sex resulting in impalement or a barbed fish up the bottom may have a deleterious effect on the libido.' Sara Wheeler, Literary Review 'Throughout Berkowitz smoothly straddles the divide between the explicit and the subtle, the ridiculous and the sublime - Sex and Punishment constantly reminds us not to be complacent about past victories - nor to rest until genuine equality has been won, from the barricades to the bedroom.' Socialist Review 'A wonderful exposure of the illogicality of so much legislation that attempts to regulate sexual activity' Mary Beard, author of Pompeii 'Sex and Punishment is built on solid scholarship and spiced with plenty of sordid details that will make you the hit of any cocktail party.' Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality
Eric Berkowitz is a lawyer and journalist. He has published investigative pieces in the Los Angeles Times and maintains a public interest law practice, where he represents victims of domestic violence as well as homosexuals seeking political asylum in the United States.
Contents: Introduction; One Channeling the Urge: The First Sex Laws; Two Honor among (Mostly) Men: Cases from Ancient Greece; Three Imperial Bedrooms: Sex and the State in Ancient Rome; Four The Middle Ages: A Crowd Condemned; Five Groping toward Modernity: The Early Modern Period, 1500 - 1700; Six The New World of Sexual Opportunity; Seven The Eighteenth Century: Revelation and Revolution; Eight The Nineteenth Century: Human Nature on Trial; Notes Bibliography; Acknowledgements; Photo credits; Index