I bet that title got your attention. It certainly got mine.
For week 26, I read Sex and Punishment: 4,000 Years Of Judging Desire, by Eric Berkowitz. I know what you’re thinking – DIRTY DIRTY SMUT DISGUISED AS LEARNIN’, right? Right? WELL, NO! I mean, not really. Kinda.
Here’s the thing, gentle readers; in among all those tales of crazy orgiastic funsters follow the horrible consequences of their misdeeds, and more than a little suspicion that the more salacious the tale, the less likely it is to be true at all. The less likely it is to be true, the more awful the whole thing sounds simply because some malicious nutjob made it up to get somebody else jailed, ruined, stoned to death, hung, or some other undeserved fate. Often the consequences were dire simply because the person in question was not wealthy, of high enough social standing, or in possession of a penis (their own, not someone else’s).
This is a hard book to read, at times. It’s interesting, and some of the political and social issues of the various times and various countries are put into a very different historical perspective, which always interests and amuses me. But it’s hard to read. It’s hard to read about a woman being tried for her husband’s death, on the basis that she didn’t fight her rapists (and her husband’s murders) hard enough, so therefore she not only was not really raped, but she must have planned this attack with them. An honest, faithful wife would rather have died than neglect her husband’s honor in such a way as to allow herself to be raped and the house invaded, you see. Not that it matters overmuch; at that time, women were not proper citizens, so the laws surrounding them tended to focus on their ownership, and how much their fathers/husbands would be compensated for their damage, especially if they were still virginal. Yeah, it was a hard book to read; but for all that, still important.
It examines a lot of different aspects of the progression of immoral acts, and uses existing documentation to show that when it comes to sexual appetites, fetishes, and plain old weird stuff, our ancestors were in no way innocents.
I highly recommend this book. I had to put it down several times, to let the steam come out of my ears for a bit and cleanse my palate with something happier and less rage-inducing, but otherwise I would have been glued to the pages.