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

by Chad Denton

Format: softcover (7×10)
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

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

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