Sex and Punishment

Sex and Punishment

Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire

9781908906106 March 2013 Paperback 476pp

About the Book

Sex and Punishment tells the story of the struggle throughout millennia to regulate the most powerful engine of human behaviour: sex. From the savage impalement of an Ancient Mesopotamian adulteress to the imprisonment of Oscar Wilde for ‘gross indecency’ in 1895, Eric Berkowitz evokes the entire sweep of Western sex law.

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.

About the Author

Eric Berkowitz is a writer, lawyer and journalist. Before devoting his practice to public interest and asylum law, he practiced intellectual property and civil litigation in Los Angeles for more than twenty years. Berkowitz has published widely throughout his career, including investigative pieces in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and articles in the Washington Post and The Economist, among others. He lives in San Francisco, California.


‘Stimulating … A wonderfully well-written and accomplished book’
Sara Wheeler, Literary Review

‘Enlightening and hugely entertaining’
Sunday Times

‘Fascinating and gruesomely compelling’
Mail on Sunday

‘Jaw dropping data on sex and sin … worth every penny’
Nicholas Lezard, Guardian

‘A wonderful exposure of the illogicality of so much legislation that attempts to regulate sexual activity’
Mary Beard, author of Pompeii