Homosexuals, transvestites, transsexuals, sado-masochists, necrophiliacs - all of these have been, or still are, considered 'deviants'. 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. But what is perverse sex and what isn't? Julie Peakman explores the gamut of sexual activity that has been seen as strange, abnormal or deviant over the last 2,000 years, examining 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'. 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 sado-masochism.From the specialized 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, and along the way she asks why we can be so intolerant of other people's sexual preferences.
Julie Peakman is a historian in eighteenth-century culture, sexuality (all eras) and pornography. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and Honorary Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is a frequent contributor to newspapers and popular magazines, as well as academic journals. She has worked on television documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4 and the Biography Channel.
Her books include Mighty Lewd Books: The Development of Pornography in Eighteenth-Century England (Palgrave, 2003), Lascivious Bodies: A Sexual History of the Eighteenth Century (Atlantic Books, 2004) and The Pleasure's All Mine. A History of Perverse Sex (Reaktion, 2013)
Her biographies include two eighteenth-century women, Emma Hamilton (Haus, 2005) and Peg Plunkett, Memoirs of a Whore (Quercus, 2015). She has also edited a 6 volume set A Culture of the History of Sexuality (Bloomsbury, 2011) and an 8 volume set Whores' Biographies 1700-1825 (Pickering & Chatto, 2006-7).