What was the first law about sex? And what’s going to be the last one?
(También en español) “The ‘raging frenzy’ of the sex drive, to use Plato’s phrase, has always defied control. However, that’s not to say that the Sumerians, Victorians, and every civilization in between and beyond have not tried, wielding their most formidable weapon: the law.” From Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire by Eric Berkowitz)
In 2007, while Eric Berkowitz was writing about legal history as a journalist, a friend posed the question, “What was the first law about sex? Curious as always, Eric found that the first known laws, from Ancient Mesopotamia, were highly preoccupied with sex. He followed the trail and unearthed a bounty of details spanning millennia. He was intrigued, challenged, and entertained and now we all can be too with the 2012 much-lauded publication of Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire. Check out the book’s cool website.
Eric discovered that many early sex laws sprung from the belief that the sex lives of individuals could bring risk to everyone — one person’s pleasure could be society’s destruction. And this tradition of insinuating the government into our sex lives “for the good of all” carries forth to the present day, as any glance at a newspaper shows.
After more than a year of research in Los Angeles and three years in Paris writing the book, Eric’s joyful fascination with the subject matter permeates every page-turning chapter. We are drawn into this fascination through his scholarly but entertaining and often heart-rending analysis of the flashpoints of sex, law, and politics throughout history. Eric fills the void between dry legal academic offerings, which no one reads, and the generally research-free books in the open market.
This book is also a roadmap of how sex laws provide a window into how societies define themselves. It’s a fresh and completely different point of view that will stoke your own desire for sexual freedom, renewing your drive to eradicate bullied and needless laws about sex, particularly the more modern regressive laws against women and other sexual minorities.
Talking recently, Eric said he’s not against laws about sex. Rather, laws should concern restricting violence and intimidation. He advocates for a world where all other laws about sex, particularly punitive sex registries marking people for life, have become part of our own ancient history.
Eric will be participating in this weekend’s Sexual Freedom Summit (September 21-23, Silver Spring, MD, produced by Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance), and is slated to be a part of the much anticipated Author’s Roundtable on Sunday. Look for more about Eric and his book here next week.
“Keep pushing, and push harder,” is how Eric summarizes his call to action aimed at committed sexual freedom advocates. “Keep the pressure up [to end these laws], and especially consider that those living in poverty are always the last to derive benefits from society’s advances in terms of access to healthcare and freedom from police bias.”
If you want to find out more about the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance and their views on sexual health education and other key issues of sexual freedom, such as sex work and reproductive justice, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit in September. Also, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit (September 21-23), where Alison Gardner and Dan Massey, VenusPlusX’s founders who work closely throughout the year with Woodhull as members of its Advisory Council, will be presenting their workshop session, “Sacred Sexuality and Erotic Communion, the Human Experience.”