1. Sex by Prescription: Lovesickness in the Middle Ages
2. To Live outside the Camp: Medieval Leprosy
3. The Just Rewards of Unbridled Lust: Syphilis in Early Modern Europe
4. A Broom in the Hands of the Almighty: Bubonic Plague
5. The Heinous Sin of Self-Pollution: Medicine, Morals, and Masturbation
6. AIDS in the U.S.A.
Conclusion: The Week Nobody Died
Wages of Sin: Sex and Disease, Past and Present / Edition 2by Peter Lewis Allen, University of Chicago Press
Pub. Date: 06/28/2002
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Near the end of the century, a new and terrifying disease arrives suddenly from a distant continent. Infecting people through sex, it storms from country to country, defying all drugs and medical knowledge. The deadly disease provokes widespread fear and recrimination; medical authorities call the epidemic "the just rewards of unbridled lust"; a religious leader
Near the end of the century, a new and terrifying disease arrives suddenly from a distant continent. Infecting people through sex, it storms from country to country, defying all drugs and medical knowledge. The deadly disease provokes widespread fear and recrimination; medical authorities call the epidemic "the just rewards of unbridled lust"; a religious leader warns that "God has raised up new diseases against debauchery." The time was the 1490s; the place, Europe; the disease, syphilis; and the religious leader was none other than John Calvin.
Throughout history, Western society has often viewed sickness as a punishment for sin. It has failed to prevent and cure diseases—especially diseases tied to sex—that were seen as the retribution of a wrathful God. The Wages of Sin, the remarkable history of these diseases, shows how society's views of particular afflictions often heightened the suffering of the sick and substituted condemnation for care. Peter Allen moves from the medieval diseases of lovesickness and leprosy through syphilis and bubonic plague, described by one writer as "a broom in the hands of the Almighty, with which He sweepeth the most nasty and uncomely corners of the universe." More recently, medical and social responses to masturbation in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and AIDS in the twentieth round out Allen's timely and erudite study of the intersection of private morality and public health. The Wages of Sin tells the fascinating story of how ancient views on sex and sin have shaped, and continue to shape, religious life, medical practice, and private habits.
- University of Chicago Press
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Comprehensive and Engaging Having come across Peter Allen several times in my research on the history of AIDS as the author of several essays, this book seemed perfect for a broader history of sex and diseases. His personal experience of losing his partner to AIDS really hit home and brought an engaging, although sometimes sad, tone to his writing. In "The Wages of Sin" Allen sets out to educate the reader on three of the most prominent subjects in human history: disease, sex, and religion. While the three subjects are not ones you would normally knit together, Allen has created an engaging piece of work that shows how each of them impact the others and how they've each shaped our history to form the culture we have today. He focuses on issues from the late middle ages onwards, showing how opinions have changes over the years and how science and religion often clash when it comes to the subjects of disease and sex. I very much enjoyed reading about the social side of disease, sex, and religion and how people's opinions have changed (and in some cases not changed) in the past few hundred years. Through the course of the book Allen covers some almost unbelievable 'diseases' and opinions, one of which being "love could be an illness and sex a cure." Overall, the book was incredibly insightful and filled with eye-opening facts. Allen has put a great deal of research into this book, making for an educating yet still enjoyable read. The tone he writes in is engaging, honest, and chatty, and he's structured the book so it flows easily, making for an easy read. This is definitely one of the most comprehensive books I've come across on the subject of sexual history and disease - second, more or less, to Sexuality: An Illustrated History by Sander Gilman.