Sex and Punishment: Eric Berkowitz Talks 4,000 Years of Judging Desire

"Our sex organs were kind of like hands or feet, they were obedient," says Eric Berkowitz, author of Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire. "After we ate the apple and did what we did, the sex organs to Augustine became like little dictators that we have to either succumb to or overpower."

ReasonTV's Tracy Oppenheimer sat down with Berkowitz to discuss original sin, trends in sex laws, and societies' perceptions of sexual transgressions.

About 9 minutes.

Produced by Tracy Oppenheimer; shot by Zach Weissmueller.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I hope his neighbor's dog didn't feed him these ideas.

  • Jan B.||

    Yes, for thousands of years society has been concerned about the expression of human sexuality and has made guidelines to protect the best interests of the majority against the strong tendencies of the few to express themselves at the expense of others. Our sex organs are no different, after all, from our other organs; we don't get to 'express' our bowels wherever we like, because it spreads disease and bad smells--at least successful societies don't. Marriage is a tough deal, and also the most effective social organization of human sexuality. It results in children, who are any economy's principal wealth, as producers and consumers, and certainly as caretakers of the last generation.

    Sorry, I like those old rules and hope at least some societies keep them, because this new sweet deal in which you get to define your own gender and make up your own sexual stipulations and turn human sexuality into a sterile and childish game that ends when you want to go home will end in disaster for the US.

  • Almanian.||

    Your chastity belt is showing.

  • ||

    Also her collectivism belt.

  • $park¥||

    Sexual repression, it's for the children.

  • Aresen||

    Yes, for thousands of years society has been concerned about the expression of human sexuality and has made guidelines to protect the best interests defend the prejudices of the majority against the strong tendencies of the few to express themselves at the expense of others do stuff I think is icky.


  • A Mathematician||

    Actually the way for the human population to achieve greater genetic diversity (right now) would be mate swapping. Greater diversity in a population gives the population more chance of survival in the long run. I say right now because in the future we'll have the ability to engineer what genes we want our offspring to have.

  • A Mathematician||

    The point is, single mate pairs is not optimal, so your marriage argument sucks.

  • Rasilio||

    True, probably the best and most stable system of socio-sexual organization would be something akin to a Line Marriage, every few years a new member is added into the marriage, generally alternating between male and female, so that the marriage entity never ends.

    The females in this type of arraingement would typically have children from several of her husbands over the course of her life.

    This also solves the issue of what to do to protect and care for the elderly, that duty would not fall to the children of the marriage, the marriage itself would care for them because there would be a constant influx of younger wage earners to pay for their care and those elderly could provide services to the family by running the household and caring for the children.

    Another advantage of this is that with the marriage unit in theory never ending there is no limit to their ability to accumulate wealth rather than their wealth being destroyed/broken up with the death of the members.

  • Rasilio||

    "Marriage is a tough deal, and also the most effective social organization of human sexuality."

    Your evidence for this statement?

    Oh and don't try the cop out of marriage being around forever, yes the word has been but the word marriage has been applied to so many systems of organizing human sexuality that it is relatively meaningless.

    The fact is that Marriage in the form it is currently practiced in the west is less than 300 years old and has only been the dominant form of socio-sexual organization for about the last 120 years.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    If only we had some experience with extramarital family arrangements, so that we could compare and contrast different "family structures" on such areas as crime and poverty...

  • The Unknown Pundit||

    If only moralists in the 20th century had eschewed its disasterous drug prohibition policies, we might have never seen the out-of-wedlock birth rates rise so dramatically the last 40-50 years.

    Heavy enforcement in minorty communities have left females in those communities with few marriage options. Large numbers of their male peers have police records, usually relating to drug offenses. These women still want children and do have them without the benefit of marriage because they don't want to officially recognize the father, as he likely has a criminal record.

    One of the many unintended consequences from the WOD.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    It's possible to oppose the War on (Some) Drugs without assigning it responsibility for everything which goes wrong in America.

    The rot started in "minority communities," but sure hasn't ended there, any more than the icy waters of the Atlantic stopped at the steerage compartments of the *Titanic* without reaching the first-class compartments.

    The drug war started back in 1914, and was exacerbated for several years by a way on booze, but at the time it didn't see a spike in out-of wedlock births. So we probably have to look for other causal factors.

  • The Unknown Pundit||

    It's possible to oppose the War on (Some) Drugs without assigning it responsibility for everything which goes wrong in America.

    I never said otherwise.

    The drug war started back in 1914, and was exacerbated for several years by a way on booze, but at the time it didn't see a spike in out-of wedlock births. So we probably have to look for other causal factors.

    The bad unintended consequences of public policy don't always manifest themselves immediately. Sometimes it can take years or even decades before all the effects of a policy are recognized. I think that is what happened with the laws concerning MJ.

    The spike in out-of-wedlock births starting in the 1960's in the black community may likely be a lagging indicator of the enforcement effects of the previous 20+ years of MJ prohibition. And because the laws were xenophobic to begin with, blacks and latinos were targeted for enforcement from the beginning.

    Bad drug laws, ill advised social programs and welfare, changing mores, failing public schools, and i'm sure other factors have played a role in the dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock births and the problems that stem from it.

    Methinks you dismiss the social pathologies that spring from our failed drug laws much too casually.

  • Rasilio||

    We do have such data and unfortunately it is inconclusive because even where children are raised in a single parent household vs a 2 parent household it is difficult to seperate out causation vs correlation.

    That is are they more likely to be in a single parent household because they are poor or are they more likely to be poor because they are in a single parent household, or are both results of some other factor(s).

    Further, as it happens that those correlations do not map across all cultures in all times.

    Even here however you are merely comparing 2 out of a range of possible options of socio sexual arraingements and only with respect to child rearing which is an important but not the only issue in such systems.

  • Adonisus||

    @Jan B.

    Yeah....piss off, Fascist.

  • johnl||

    There is no reason why breeder cultists can't live in peace with the rest of society. If this cult can't stand up to competition and recruit or manufacture new followers without initiating force, then it doesn't deserve to make the ruled for others.

  • Brandybuck||

    You are right, yet oh so very wrong! Society is concerned about a lot of things revolving around procreation and the family, but you are viewing history through victorian-colored glasses.

    How about the several thousand year old custom of polygamy? Shall we return to that? Or how about the several thousand year old custom of raping the women of the enemy tribe and taking them as your wives? Not only are these the "old rules" that you think society should keep, they're also Biblical.

    You are right that societies are concerned that males and females create stable family bonds for the sake of the children. But you're wrong in that those societies forbade other sexual expressions. If you were straight you got married, had kids, then had an affair on the side. If you were gay you got married, had kids, and had a gay lover on the side. Also, many societies contemporaneous with the Old Testament had temple prostitutes, who you were EXPECTED to utilize to ensure a good crop.

    As Steve Horwitz points out in works on the history of the family, throughout most of human history people got married for economic and political reasons, and love rarely had anything to do with it. Your parents and not your hormones determined your spouse. The idea of marrying for love is a new idea. It came from the Victorians, ironically the same culture that gave us most of our sexual repressions. (Many puritans would have seemed downright libertine compared to some latter Victorians).

  • ||

    Sex is the punishment.

  • Libertarius||

    Of course, this whole issue goes back to the soul-body dichotomy, and all the corollary notions born from it which have trickled down through the centuries. The original version of this false dichotomy regarded man's soul (that is, his consciousness) as a metaphysical being from another dimension, and his body as an intrinsically evil prison holding it in bondage to the earth and the intrinsically evil physical reality.

    This dichotomy lives on today in its modern form, the mind-body dichotomy, which regards the mind as an impractical spirit in an ivory tower and the body (which means: physical reality) as a mindless, intrinsically anti-intellectual, "materialistic" dimension within which practicality demands the surrender of the mind. Like Hugh Akston said in Atlas Shrugged, "What if I told you that the corollary of the mystics' theory of sex is the looters' theory of economics..."

  • Capt Ace Rimmer||

    sounds like you've described a nihilist

  • Libertarius||

    Why u no good at trolling?

  • Capt Ace Rimmer||

    sorry i hurt your feelings. I'd sorta like to know why.

  • Libertarius||

    You couldn't if you tried.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The French Revolutionaries allowed divorce, the Commies (outside Romania) legalized abortion, the Communist Manifesto poured scorn on traditional sexual morality, calling it a mass of bourgeois hypocrisy...are these all victories against statism?

  • Adonisus||

    If the State is using its power to control what people do in the bedroom...then yes, it's victory against Statism.

  • Outlaw||

    Stalin outlawed it, because WORKERZ.

    During the period that it was illegal it was considered a crime against the state.

    One thing's pretty clear, though: abortion devastated the Soviet Union and is currently devastating Russia's population.

    "In 2001, 1.31 million children were born in Russia, while 2.11 million abortions were performed."

    The Russian people are committing suicide IMO.

  • Free Society||

    I hope Tracy Oppenheimer is at the age of consent.

  • Ryan60657||

    More of Tracy Oppenheimer. Less of "the Jacket". Please.

  • ||

    This is why there are no female libertarians.

  • Libertarius||

    Because men might want to screw them?

  • grey||

    Did I really see someone compare relieving your bowels in the street to having sex with whomever I want? What kind of people would buy into such a ridiculuous analogy to support the State's regulation of other people's sex habits? Do these people have a name, because I need to identify and despise them.

  • jway||

    The whole religion thing is a fantasy. Humans never ate any "apple" and "sin" is a fairy tale word. If we want to talk about real things then let's keep them real!

  • Perry5||

    my roomate's step-sister makes $60/hour on the computer. She has been laid off for 10 months but last month her paycheck was $21308 just working on the computer for a few hours. Go to this web site and read more http://www.FLY38.COM

  • Agreenweed||

    "Dictators," that's a BJ with hashbrowns.

  • شات عراقنا||

    Nicest chat and chat Iraqi entertaining Adject all over the world

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