The Pleasure’s All Mine – A history of perverse sex, by Dr Julie Peakman

By on March 11, 2014

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What is perverse sex and what isn’t? The Pleasure’s All Mine explores the gamut of sexual activity that has been seen as strange, abnormal or deviant over the last 2,000 years. This first comprehensive history of sexual difference examines an abundance of original sources – letters, diaries, memoirs, court records, erotic books, medical texts and advice manuals – and shows how, for ordinary people, different kinds of sex have always offered myriad different pleasures. There never was a ‘normal’.

Sodomites, fellators, those who desired their own sex, transvestites, sado-masochists, necrophiliacs – all of these have been considered ‘deviants’ in the past – and some still are. Concomitantly there has been almost universal acceptance that unembellished vaginal penetration, performed by one man and one woman, is ‘normal’ sex. This is now contested (especially by us).

Almost all sexual behaviours have travelled to and fro along a continuum of proscription and acceptance. Attitudes have changed towards masturbation, leatherwear, ‘golden showers’ and bondage.

From the specialised cultures of pain, necrophilia and bestiality to the social world of plushies and furries, and lovers of life-sized sex dolls, some previously acceptable behaviour now provokes social outrage, while activities as diverse as sodomy and wife-swapping have moved on the spectrum of acceptance from sin to harmless fun. Each ‘perversion’ is explored from the time it was first visible in history, to how it is viewed today. Along the way, the book asks why we can be so intolerant of other people’s sexual preferences.

Carefully researched as well as a fascinating read, and featuring a wide array of illustrations, The Pleasure’s All Mine reaches conclusions that are surprising, and sometimes shocking. This is an essential volume for anyone interested in the art, history and culture of sex.

Dr Julie Peakman is a historian, author and broadcaster. She is an honorary fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London and author or editor of many books including Mighty Lewd Books: The Development of Pornography in Eighteenth-century England (2003), Lascivious Bodies: A Sexual History of the Eighteenth Century (2004), Sexual Perversions.
1650–1890 (2009) and A Cultural History of Sexuality (2010)

Hardback, 464 pages, 180 illustrations (68 in colour)


‘Serious, historically informed, and as close to an exhaustive account as we are likely ever to see of the extravagant creativity that humans have invested in sex. A masterpiece.’ – Professor Thomas W. Laqueur, University of California, Berkeley

‘Throughout history, sexual norms have shifted drastically: an act that is seen as deviant at one time may be widely accepted at another. Peakman argues that sexual acts have not changed much through the ages, but the cultural response to them has. Peakman asks readers to think about how society dictates their own opinions and her work helps pave the way for more open discussions of sexuality in the future.’ – Publishers Weekly

‘For those with an erudite interest in debauchery, this latest from author, historian, and sex scholar Peakman is just the ticket. Along with the expected whips, handcuffs, and nipple clamps, readers will explore a gamut of alternative sexual predilections ranging from paraphilic infantilism (adult baby syndrome) to acrotomophilia (eroticization of amputees) Historical accounts include those of accused zoophile Thomas Hogg, prosecuted for fathering a piglet; the legend of a ninth-century pope, presumed male until she went into labor; and the lurid tale of a 1930s radiologist who fell in love with a corpse and slept with it for years, using wax, piano wire, and perfume oils to keep the body intact. Peakman’s broad overview is stunning, sweeping, and very carefully nonjudgmental.’ Library Journal Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY

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