Former South West London student hoping to contribute to sexual equality in latest book


Julie Peakman explores sexual behaviour.

By Charlotte Goodwin

Why can we be so intolerant of other people’s sexual preferences? asks Julie Peakman in her latest erotic studies book.

The Pleasure’s All Mine explores the sexual behaviours that were thought of as deviant over the past 2000 years, and asks why some innocuous activities were considered a problem and why others, which we now consider to be problematic, were thought acceptable.

It looks at societies from ancient Greece, through the Enlightenment, the Victorian period and up to the modern day through a range of original sources including letters, diaries, memoirs, court records, erotic books, medical texts and advice manuals. 

She said: “I am quite excited as one of the leading experts in my field, Emeritus Professor Tom Laqueur has called it ‘a masterpiece’ – although I would probably not go so far!

“I just hope in some small way it can be a contribution to sexual equality. It has lots of lovely images in which may shock some people, but this is what artists were doing in the past.

“I admit that some of the conclusions I reach may be surprising and even shocking for some people. I have no doubt some people will see it as controversial.”

Peakman has lived and worked all over South West London and first came to the area when she was 16 to study drama and theatre. After this course she studied literature at Chelsea College, University of London.  

For the past 30 years Forest Hill has been her home, and is where she met her partner, Jad Adams. He encouraged her to write her first biography about Emma Hamilton, who shared a house with Nelson in Merton Park, and has plans for this to be turned into a drama.

After taking a Master’s Degree in History at the University of London in 1992, she decides to continue her studies and began a PhD at the Wellcome Trust.

It was while studying at the Trust she realised she wanted to become an historian and writer on a permanent basis, and her professor there encouraged her research in the history of sexuality, which began her investigation into the development of erotic books.

Her first book, Mighty Lewd Books was published by Palgrave MacMillan in 2002 and was reprinted in paperback as a classic of erotic studies. This book was followed up in 2004 with Lascivious Bodies: A Sexual History of the Eighteenth Century in which she relates lewd tales of reprobate life of the day with gamblers, womanisers, adulterers and prostitutes all making it in there.

She is now about to start work on another biography of the story of Peg Plunkett, an eighteenth-century brothel-owner and the first woman to write her autobiography.

Her book will be released on November 27.

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