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Sex and Punishment : Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire
by Eric Berkowitz


Overview - The "raging frenzy" of the sex drive, to use Plato's phrase, has always defied control. However, that's not to say that the Sumerians, Victorians, and every civilization in between and beyond have not tried, wielding their most formidable weapon: the law.  Read more...

 
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More About Sex and Punishment by Eric Berkowitz
 
 
 
Overview
The "raging frenzy" of the sex drive, to use Plato's phrase, has always defied control. However, that's not to say that the Sumerians, Victorians, and every civilization in between and beyond have not tried, wielding their most formidable weapon: the law. At any given point in time, some forms of sex were condoned while others were punished mercilessly. Jump forward or backward a century or two (and often far less than that), and the harmless fun of one time period becomes the gravest crime in another. Judging Desire tells the story of the struggle throughout the millennia to regulate the most powerful engine of human behavior.

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.

 
Details
  • 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


Related Categories

Books > Law > Legal History
Books > Law > Criminal Law - General
Books > Psychology > Human Sexuality (see also SOCIAL SCIENCE - Human Sexuality)

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

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.)

 
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