In 1677 a married woman in London was sentenced to death for copulating ‘wickedly, devilishly, and against nature’ and ‘to the disgrace of all womankind’ with her dog. The dog was brought into court, wagging its tail and seeking kisses. As Julie Peakman comments, nobody was hurt and the dog seemed quite happy. But the neighbours, who had spied through holes in the wall, and the legal system that punished ‘perversion’ deemed bestiality a crime.
Religion, law and tradition set the boundaries of acceptable sexual behaviour. But these boundaries shift. Male-on-male sex was outlawed in the medieval and early modern periods – in many places it was a capital offence – but had been acceptable in ancient Greece and is no longer illegal