Love’s lustre’s lost

Prospect Magazine

Love’s lustre’s lost

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New history and philosophy books show how love and sex have become awkward bedfellows

Love couple in studio (Two Nudes), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938): “we have misplaced the human element of love”

One Tuesday 400 years ago, an unwed man and woman stood before magistrates in Westminster. They’d had sex together, it was alleged. He denied it; she, having given birth to a bastard child, confessed. A jury found both Robert Watson and Susan Perry guilty. Judges sentenced them to be stripped from the waist up and tied to a cart, then whipped all the way to Temple Bar some two miles away. From there, they would be banished from London, severing them from their homes, families and livelihoods. It is not known what became of their baby.

True and far from unique, this 17th-century story opens historian Faramerz Dabhoiwala’s first book, The Origins of Sex (Allen Lane). We’ve come a long way since then. Consenting adults are largely free to have sex

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Hephzibah Anderson

Hephzibah Anderson
Hephzibah Anderson is an associate editor of Prospect and the author of "Chastened" (Chatto & Windus) 

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