Writer and lawyer Eric Berkowitz uses flesh-and-blood cases--much flesh and even more blood--to evoke 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 Judging Desire is as varied as the forms taken by human desire itself: royal mistresses, gay charioteers, medieval transvestites, lonely goat-lovers, prostitutes of all stripes, London rent boys. Each of them had forbidden sex, and each was judged--and justice, as Berkowitz shows, rarely had much to do with it.
With the light touch of a natural storyteller, Berkowitz spins these tales and more, going behind closed doors to reveal the essential history of human desire.
- ISBN-13: 9781582437965
- ISBN-10: 1582437963
- Publisher: Counterpoint LLC
- Publish Date: May 2012
- Page Count: 456
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.65 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-02-13
- Reviewer: Staff
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of prostitution and the hypocrisy surrounding it; for example, a 1566 papal edict exiling prostitutes from Rome was rescinded when it was learned that 25,000 people planned to leave the city.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.)