Mighty Lewd Books
Women's Writing
Sex & Civilisation
Cultural History of Sex

Julie Peakman is an author and historian known for her books and media appearances.

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). 

Her Amatory Pleasures. Explorations in Eighteenth Century Sexual History (Bloomsbury) is due in 2016.

 Amatory Pleasures. Explorations in Eighteenth-Century Sexual History

The book reveals some of the more hidden aspects of eighteenth-century sexual culture and sheds light on the private lives of individuals and groups of people.  Many eighteenth-century men and women married or cohabited, some remained happily monogamous and some had adulterous affairs. Others varied their sex lives with non-mainstream acts of sex. Some acts were legal and resulted in the birth of children, some were permissible forms of entertainment.  Other acts were condemned by the church or deemed criminal.

While mainstream texts often showed a misogynistic view of the world, others books, pamphlets and images fêted sexual activities of both men and women in a flourishing celebration of all kinds of diverse amatory pleasures. This is an exploration of those men and women who conformed, and of those who broke the rules.

Peg Plunkett was one of eighteenth-century Ireland's most notorious prostitutes. For almost half a century, polite and impolite society in Dublin revolved around Peg Plunkett, her liaisons and the brothels she ran.

Escaping a violent domestic background and facing a life of poverty, Peg blitzed her way through balls and masquerades, creating scandal and gossip wherever she went, leaving dukes, barristers and soldiers stranded in her wake.

She had affairs with Charles Manners, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and David LaTouche, Governor of the Bank of Ireland. As her looks faded and her long tempestuous career came to an end, she found herself in debtor's prison. In order to extricate herself, she hit on the idea of writing her memoirs thereby exposing the shoddy behaviour of men who had failed her, creating a furore in the process.

Peg became the first madame to write her memoirs and lef behind an extraordinary portrait of the glamorous society - and seedy underbelly - of Georgian Dublin and Regency London, documenting the politics and personalities of her illustrious clients as well as their sexual predelictions.

This biography draws on those scandalous memoirs to uncover the life of one of the era's most fascinating women.

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.

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 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 fromthe 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.

BOOK REVIEWS for The Pleasure's All Mine

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.'
- ThomasW. Laqueur, Helen Fawcett Distinguished Professor
in the Department of History, 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. 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 coveringWestern 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

For those with an erudite interest in debauchery, this latest from author, historian,  and sex scholar Peakman (Lascivious Bodies: A Sexual History of the Eighteenth Century) 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. 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. VERDICT Exhaustively researched and packed with startling images, this work is a fact-filled, entertaining read for sex history neophytes and scholars alike. - Jeanne Bogino,  Library Journal

This is me in Herculaneum on an excusison to see the erotic paintings. The cutest thing I saw was the lovely little tiles from the bathing area.      

Pompeii was amazing with many of the rooms painted in wonderful scenes.

LASCIVIOUS BODIES, A SEXUAL HISTORY OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY is a spicy ground-breaking history of sex in the eighteenth century, a period of wide-ranging experimentation which saw the birth of modern sexuality. Lascivious Bodies is set to become the standard account of a period of multi-sexual pleasures, and the extraordinary attitudes they engendered - a time that has shaped how we think about sex today.

The eighteenth century saw a revolution in ordinary people's sex lives. at a time of social flux, the sheer array of sexual experimentation during this period led to the birth of sexuality as we know it.                                                          From Florentine lesbian nuns to French cattle buggers, Lascivious Bodies examines all sorts of sex, in all sorts of places, with all sorts of people. Drawing upon vivid first-hand material, journals, memoirs and private letters, Peakman depicts the libertine men and flighty courtesans of the era, including such personalities as James Boswell, Casanova, Peg Plunket , Harriette Wilson and Julia Johnstone. She also explores behaviour in courtship, marriage, adultery, divorce and prostitution: more curious or abnormal activities, such as foot fetishism, flagellation, and necrophilia; as well as male and female homosexuality and cross-dressing.


BBC History Magazine: BOOK OF THE MONTH. 'Peakman's book is distinguished by careful scholarship and a refusal of generalised theories...This pleasurable bedside encyclopedia   offers eloquent testimony to the anarchic misrule of 18th-century sexuality.' Rachel Holmes

Telegraph - 'Lascivious Bodies is a romp, full of racy anecdotes, and a pleasure to read.' Luscasta Miller.

The Spectator -' Peakman is a rarity: a scholar with all the credentials....who knows how to write a popular book...Deep research and erudition underpin all her allegro vivace discursiveness, insights and levity. She is like an artist who has drawn from plaster casts, then in the life class, before allowing herself of the leash for a bit of "self-expression"...most impressive.' Bevis Hillier

BBC History Magazine, 100 Books of the Year -'a treat '

New Statesman - 'Peakman is an energetic researcher', Edwina Currie

The Sunday Times - 'soundly researched and spiced with lurid detail...sparkling', Miranda Seymour

The Times - 'entertaining survey of C18th sexual tastes and habits

Click on other pages for further information on her other publications.

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