Eric Berkowitz

Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire

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    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    several European cultures during the Middle Ages, mothers collected their daughters’ first menstrual flows, saving them and later mixing them into aphrodisiacs to spark desire in their sons-in-law
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    THE BELIEF THAT homosexuality could provoke famine, pestilence, and earthquakes remained strong wherever people used the Bible for moral guidance.
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    In the fifteenth century, the city of Dijon and its surrounding area had a population of less than ten thousand, yet the city supported a public bordello and eighteen private establishments. In Strasbourg, there were fifty-seven brothels in six streets alone.
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    wives, but barely. Building on Augustine, Pope Gregory the Great (circa 540–604) declared that marital intercourse was blameless only when there was no pleasure involved. By the end of the sixth century, new rules were coming into place to make sure that was the case.
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    After Paul came Saint Jerome (circa 347–420), who taught that all sexual relations were unclean—even in marriage
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    THE DOMINANT FIGURE in the first generation of Christian sages was the Apostle Paul, who taught that sexual behavior could be nearly as bad as murder: Homosexuals, masturbators, adulterers, anyone who sought sexual satisfaction for its own sake were, he said, to be barred from the kingdom of God
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    Jesus Christ said much about love, but precious little about sex. Although his own life was relatively chaste by local standards, the fine points of sexual behavior were not his main concerns. He made no statements on carnal relations between the unmarried or homosexuals, he was tolerant of prostitutes, and he was less harsh toward adulterers than the Jews had been. But Jesus the man did not last long in this world, and soon his word was taken up by others.
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    Their insistence on the conflict between the body (which craves sex) and the spirit (which sex destroys) would be a point of historical interest, nothing more
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    Christian doctrine announced that the body was an object of horror, and that the soul could be saved only through rejection of the flesh
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    Flora was a successful courtesan who had left a pot of money on her death to finance games and celebrations in her honor. The Senate, uncomfortable with an event built around a prostitute, tried to dress up the celebrations with respectability by recasting Flora as a fertility goddess associated with flowers
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    Rather than stop the activities of prostitutes, Rome’s laws were designed to prevent respectable wives and daughters from acting like whores. That turned out to be quite a challenge.
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    the ancient Jews were consumed with a sense of physical vulnerability, which they translated into spiritual terms.
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    While sex was essential to marriage, it was also a political act: Having sex (or rejecting it) according to Mosaic law was both a declaration of faith and a repudiation of the Hebrews’ hostile neighbors.
    Before God spelled out the multiple sexual prohibitions in Leviticus, he issued a commandment not to “do [have sex] as they do in Egypt, where you used to live,” and also “not [to] do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.”
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    Before the biblical period, sex law had nothing to do with morality as we know it, nor was forbidden sex laden with the psychology of guilt.
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    The Babylonians forced all women to put in time as temple prostitutes. According to Herodotus: “[E]very woman who is a native of the country must once in her life go to the temple of Aphrodite and there give herself to a strange man.” Only after they had performed this duty were they permitted to leave. The scene at the temple was chaotic, with women and customers constantly coming and going. Women from the wealthy classes arrived to do their service in covered carriages with dozens of servants milling about, while others showed up on foot.
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    No one took menstrual fear further into the realm of obsession than the Hebrews.
    Lisa Fedotovahas quoted5 years ago
    Plato also recognized humanity’s intense craving for sex, saying in his last dialogue, The Laws, that it “influences the souls of men with the most raging frenzy—the lust for the sowing of offspring that burns with the utmost violence.” For Plato, the sex drive was a mad subconscious effort to reunify humanity’s fractured nature.
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