What is perverse sex and what isn’t? Now available in paperback, 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 perversion 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’.
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 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.
‘In 12 wide-ranging chapters, Julie Peakman tackles the history of “abnormal” sex, from Ancient Greece to the present . . . From homosexuality and transvestism, through flagellation and exhibitionism, and on to avisodomy, necrophilia, paedophilia and infibulation, Peakman hurtles forward at a tremendous pace, cataloguing every fetish you’ve ever heard of, and then some.’ – The Times
‘This seductive book traces changing attitudes to a dozen different sexual perversions from the beginning of Western civilisation to the present day . . . In an ambitious book that unites compelling subject matter with authoritative style, the author does an excellent job of tracking the multiple and changing attitudes towards non-mainstream sexual preferences. The study is enlivened by many telling examples . . . the illustrations within are fabulous.’
– Times Higher Education
‘Julie Peakman has explored two millennia’s worth of strange, abnormal or deviant sexual activity in her new book, The Pleasure’s All Mine. This first comprehensive history of sexual difference seeks out 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 a huge choice of different pleasures. There never was a “normal”.’ – Erotic Review
‘For those with an erudite interest in debauchery, this latest from author, historian, and sex scholar Peakman is just the ticket. . . . Peakman’s broad overview is stunning, sweeping, and very carefully nonjudgmental. She recounts the history of each so-called perversion from its earliest recorded occurrence through the present, showing how the shifting mores of society color our views on this endlessly fascinating subject . . . Exhaustively researched and packed with startling images, this work is a fact-filled, entertaining read for sex history neophytes and scholars alike.’ – Library Journal
‘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. Today, discussions about sexual preferences are still taboo in many parts of the world, and many opinions are still colored by society’s long-held beliefs . . . This is a history for the general reader, primarily covering Western thought; it’s also a wonderful reference source for sexual studies and research . . . 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
‘beautifully illustrated and hugely informative . . . meticulously researched and immensely interesting, The Pleasure’s All Mine is superbly intriguing in a delightfully wicked way. With humour, wit and a huge pinch of humanity, the author lifts the veil on the history of perversion and the biological reasons behind our distaste for unusual sexual antics.’ – Irish Examiner
‘Like many readers I thought I knew quite a bit about this subject! The first few chapters were familiar accounts of sex in the Greco-Roman era . . . But later chapters were revelatory. I didn’t understand the physiognomy behind auto-asphyxiation but now certainly do.’ – Charlotte Raven, The Independent
‘Julie Peakman’s latest addition to her already considerable output on sexology makes for an enthralling (and occasionally deeply disturbing) read. It is certainly not a book for the easily offended or squeamish, being graphically illustrated with depictions of many sexual perversions . . . a meticulous review of societal and cultural intolerance of various sexual practices and the many changes over time with regard to what has been considered ‘normal’ . . . thoroughly recommend the book.’ – Law, Crime and History Journal
‘I recommend The Pleasure’s All Mine wholeheartedly. It is crisply and cleanly written, covers a wealth of material from difficult to find sources, is rigorously researched, and packages all of that in a big beautiful book with 178 wonderful illustrations. I will return to this book again and again as a wonderful resource and, frankly, simply for the pleasure of it.’ – Metapsychology
‘a substantial, well-illustrated, funny, and thoughtful work that shows how changeable through the times are our discomforts that “other” people are enjoying sex in the wrong way.’ – The Dispatch
‘The author uses an array of primary sources to uncover the most hidden aspects of something considered so private. A thorough history of sexual stigmas, this book will prove especially useful to undergraduate and graduate students interested in the study of sexuality and culture. General readers will find the book entertaining. Recommended.’ – Choice
‘Covering the history of sex and perceived deviances including ideas around masturbation, homosexuality, sadomasochism, bestiality, transsexualism and more, Peakman opens ones eyes to how different these ideas have been over time and the influences of religion, politics and sexism on people’s sexual freedom.’ – Full Scream.com
‘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.’ – Thomas W. Laqueur, Helen Fawcett Distinguished Professor in the Department of History, University of California, Berkeley
Julie Peakman is a historian, author and broadcaster. She is 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).