Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire

Overview

From the bedroom to the courtroom-a riveting history of the law of sex. The "raging frenzy" of the sex drive, to use Plato's phrase, has always defied control. However, that's not to say that every civilization has not tried, using its most powerful weapon: the law. At any given point in history, some forms of sex were condoned while others were punished mercilessly, jump back or forward a century or two, or cross a Border, and the harmless fun of one society becomes the gravest crime in another. Sex and ...

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Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire

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Overview

From the bedroom to the courtroom-a riveting history of the law of sex. The "raging frenzy" of the sex drive, to use Plato's phrase, has always defied control. However, that's not to say that every civilization has not tried, using its most powerful weapon: the law. At any given point in history, some forms of sex were condoned while others were punished mercilessly, jump back or forward a century or two, or cross a Border, and the harmless fun of one society becomes the gravest crime in another. Sex and Punishment tells the story of the struggle to regulate the most powerful engine of human behavior.

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Editorial Reviews

Sara Wheeler
This is an excellently researched, almost scholarly book that draws on a wide range of sources from Herodotus to St Augustine... and on to Pepys and Foucault. All are properly credited. By backing up his material and selecting sources wisely, Berkowitz has achieved a perfect balance between case study and analysis, and between narrative and reflection.... a wonderfully well-written, well-organised and accomplished book.
Literary Review
Publishers Weekly
Berkowitz, a lawyer-journalist, begins his historical tour of “sex and punishment” with the 4,000-year-old murder of a priest in Mesopotamia—his wife, suspected of adultery, was executed for the homicide. The book ends with Oscar Wilde’s well-chronicled pillorying for his homosexuality. In between is a bewildering array of ideas about what sexual behavior was unacceptable and strange, and the brutal punishments handed down for it. Berkowitz builds his history around various legal systems, ancient to modern, religious to secular, but he seems to delight in graphic descriptions of the various punishments visited upon adulterers, sodomites, and others who transgressed against the sexual mores of their time and place. In Mesopotamia a disloyal wife was impaled on a pole “and left to suffer a slow and very public death.” The medieval Church burned homosexuals at the stake. Berkowitz also highlights the long history of prostitution and the hypocrisy surrounding it; for example, a 1566 papal edict exiling prostitutes from Rome was rescinded when it was learned that 25,000 people planned to leave the city. Berkowitz writes straightforwardly and has done credible research, but lacking enough sociological and cultural context, the material becomes repetitive. Photos. (Apr.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781619021556
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 11/13/2012
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,209,713
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Eric Berkowitz is a writer, lawyer and journalist. He has a degree in print journalism from University of Southern California and has published in the Los Angeles Times and The Los Angeles Weekly, and for the Associated Press. He was an editor of the West Coast’s premier daily legal publication, The Los Angeles Daily Journal. He lives in San Francisco.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Channeling the Urge: The First Sex Laws 10

2 Honor Among (Mostly) Men: Cases From Ancient Greece 56

3 Imperial Bedrooms: Sex and the State in Ancient Rome 86

4 The Middle Ages: A Crowd Condemned 123

5 Groping Toward Modernity: The Early Modern Period, 1500-1700 174

6 The New World of Sexual Opportunity 251

7 The Eighteenth Century: Revelation and Revolution 273

8 The Nineteenth Century: Human Nature on Trial 328

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