The Boundaries of Desire: A Century of Good Sex, Bad Laws, and Changing Identities

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Product Details

Counterpoint LLC
Publish Date
6.1 X 9.2 X 1.4 inches | 2.0 pounds

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About the Author

Eric Berkowitz's lengthy career as a lawyer, journalist and writer has been marked by both meticulous scholarship and uncompromising advocacy. An active intellectual property, First Amendment and business litigator, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, California Lawyer, and The Washington Post, as well as websites such as

Huffington Post, AlterNet and Salon. He has been interviewed widely for radio and television including for the History Channel's recent 9-partseries, How Sex Changed the World. He lives in Los Angeles, California.


Praise for Boundaries of Desire

"Because sexual conventions tend to shape legislation rather than the reverse, sex law always lags behind our actual sex lives. As Berkowitz asserts, this leaves the former in a perpetual state of crisis. Time and time again, Berkowitz shows that sex laws are like ghosts, tormenting the living long after their own times have passed."--Slate

"A bracing look at the often-strange relationship between sexuality and the legal system over six tumultuous decades."--Booklist

"an eye-opening history of sexual legislation....Berkowitz makes legal history readable, not relying on the subject matter being salacious (which this book is not) but accessibly conveying sophisticated topics and complex events with the assurance of an expert....Readers will be sad to arrive at the end of this skillful piece of popular history."--Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"Sagely, Berkowitz throws some much-needed light on the still-shadowy definition of obscenity ...The author cogently exposes what he believes is "panic mentality" in many cases of rape and child molestation. As laws and mores continue to change at a rapid pace, this engaging study offers helpful historical and legal explanations."--Kirkus Starred Review

"This very well written, crisp, and clear description and analysis of American sex law deserves a wide readership. The laws relating to homosexuality, gender change, sexual activity by minors, prostitution, abortion and contraception, proof of sexual coercion and abuse, punishment (including post-release restrictions), and religious objections to various sexual activities and preferences, are disputed, confused, and conflicting, frequently obsolete, and on the whole probably too severe. The book lays out these problems concisely, and should stimulate a more active search for solutions." --Richard A. Posner, Judge Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals; Senior Lecturer, University of Chicago Law School; Author, Sex and Reason and A Guide to American Sex Laws

"There may be no facet of human experience as riddled with accusation, judgment, and shame as sex. In lively, passionate prose, legal scholar Eric Berkowitz shows how irrational, unjust, and destructive even well-intentioned attempts to legislate lust can be. This controversial book is as mind-blowing as it is heart-opening."--Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn: How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships

"A gripping account of how the law has enforced the sexual subordination of women, children, minorities and GLBT people -- and a thought-provoking appraisal of how new legal efforts to protect victims can backfire. In this fascinating read, Eric Berkowitz tells the human stories behind the law." -- Stephanie Coontz, author of The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap

Praise for Sex and Punishment

"I don't think I've ever read such an entertaining historical work. It has the wisdom granted by perspective, without the condescension of someone who thinks we're wiser than our ancestors. Whether you want to fuel your indignation, or simply furnish yourself with enough jaw-dropping data to galvanize a hundred party conversations, you really must shell out for this book. It's worth every penny." - The Guardian

"Eric Berkowitz has done an excellent job of showing just how far from certain any of us should be that we really know what is 'normal' or 'ethical' when it comes to sex. Sex and Punishment is built on solid scholarship and spiced with plenty of sordid details that will make you the hit of any cocktail party." - Christopher Ryan, author of the New York Times bestseller Sex at Dawn

"Enormously informative and entertaining." - The Boston Globe

"A thorough (and often surprisingly hilarious) look at the people who fall outside the parameters of the sexually condoned" -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Very interesting, enlightening, well written, and timely. [Sex and Punishment] performs an important service in narrating the pre-twentieth century history of sexual mores." - Richard A. Posner, professor, University of Chicago Law School, judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and author of Sex and Reason

"Enlightening, astounding, broad-ranging and rich in detail, exciting and impressively relentless" -- The Sunday London Times (lead review in book section)

"Entertaining, angry, and deeply fascinating." - The Independent

"Fascinating and gruesomely compelling" -- Sunday Mail

"Well-paced and lucid" - California Lawyer

"Berkowitz's book in the end is a rewarding wonderland of the forbidden, and of society's attempts to keep it so, despite their inevitable failure. It is a mural sometimes done as miniature, sometimes as epic, but always with a craftsman's hand--a sprawling story told with uncommon precision and purity of expression." -- Tri-Quarterly Review

"[Berkowitz] addresses his subject with precision and deftly placed humor." - We Love This Book

"This is a wonderfully well-written, well-organized and accomplished book." -- The Literary Review

"Sex and Punishment is fascinating in its entirety." - Brain Pickings

"Stories of political scandal, domestic intrigue, religious intolerance, and corporeal fervor are entwined in an intricate love--or lust--knot that's difficult to put down. Berkowitz's work will be of great interest to social historians, students of human sexuality, and anyone seeking a better understanding of that age-old wrestling match between power and desire." -- ForeWord Reviews