The War on Sex

Western Repression from the Torah to Victoria


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About the Book

From earliest times, sex has fascinated and repulsed society in equal measure. In an effort to untangle Western society’s complex relationship with the realities of sex, this provocative volume explores the ways in which governments, religious leaders and cultures in Europe tried to regulate sex and sexuality throughout history. From the sacred texts of ancient Israel to the slums of 19th century Britain, this book explores political, legal and cultural controls on consensual sex and the individuals and movements that resisted them. Topics range from prostitution and homosexuality to marriage, contraception and abortion. While traditional narrative holds that Europe alternated between sexual freedom and oppression through the Victorian age, this work reveals that the real story of how sex was regulated—and how people defied regulation—is not so clear cut.

About the Author(s)

Chad Denton lives in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Chad Denton
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 292
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-9504-7
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1661-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments  xi

Preface  1

Introduction  3

I. The Torah  7

Sex and Purity  8

Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13  10

Female Sexuality and Its Male Victims  13

II. Ancient Greece and the First Sexologists  18

Old-Fashioned Greek Values  19

Homer and Hesiod, Sappho and Achilles  20

The Greeks Contemplate Pederasty  24

Sex, Honor and Hybris  30

III. The Decadent Past,

from Alexander the Great to Antinuous  34

Sex in the Hellenistic World  34

When Romans Were Romans  37

Fornication, Marriage and

Scandal under the Republic  39

Imperial Interventions  43

Perverts and Prostitutes  45

Celibacy and Sex for Pleasure  51

Punishing Desire in the Afterlife  53

IV. Rise of a New Order  56

When East Meets West  57

Sex and the New Testament  60

The Church Fathers versus Sex  64

Sex under the Late Roman Empire  69

Escaping the World  77

V. The War on Sin  80

Justinian I and the End of Antiquity  81

Sex under Irish and Welsh Law  84

Sex under Germanic Law  86

Choosing Holiness  89

Imposing Holiness  95

The Islamic Alternative  101

VI. Medieval Rigidness  107

Triumph of the Church  109

The Theology of Sex  114

Jews in a Christian World  117

On the Frontier: Scandinavia and Slavic Europe  119

Sex and (Imagined) Love  121

Civilization’s Sewer  126

Invasion of the Sodomites  129

Sinners Defiant  134

Savonarola’s Florence  137

VII. The Sensual Empire: Turkey, 1453–1800  139

Sharia Law, Civil Law and Sex  140

Beardless Youths  142

In the Harem  144

The War on Prostitution  147

VIII. Reforming and Reaffirming  149

The Reformers versus Sex  150

Sex in Protestant Europe  153

Heaven on Earth: Calvin’s

Geneva and Cromwell’s England  159

Sex in Catholic and Orthodox Europe  162

The Radicals of the Reformation  170

The Erotic Side of the Printing Press  172

Deporting Morals  175

Rationalizing Sex  184

IX. Enlightened Bedrooms, 1700–1814  189

The Philosophes Debate Sex  191

The Age of Decadence  199

The Age of Reform  204

Tribads and Mollys  211

The Pornographic Underground  215

Sex under the First Republic and Napoleon  218

X. A Brave New World  222

A Bourgeois Mentality  224

Imposing Decency  230

Invasion of the Inverts  233

Indecency for Mass Consumption  237

The Science of Sex  239

Radicals versus (or for) Sex  240

Epilogue: The Thaw  243

Chapter Notes  249

Bibliography  267

Index  277