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Dirty Sexy History

Dirty Sexy History

By Jessica Cale
Going beyond the sanitized and idealized to the dirty reality of human history with Jessica Cale. There's more to history than what you learned in high school, and we're going to skip to the good stuff together.
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Episode 2.5. The Women’s House of Detention

Dirty Sexy History

Episode 2.5. The Women’s House of Detention
This week, we talk to historian and curator Hugh Ryan about the Women’s House of Detention, a prison in the heart of New York City’s Greenwich Village where countless women and trans men were incarcerated for all kinds of heinous crimes, like…smoking and wearing pants? It wasn’t too long ago that a woman on her own could be arrested for prostitution without proof and jailed for her perceived ability to spread sexually transmitted infections. This wasn’t the dark ages; the Women’s House of Detention was open until the 1970s. This is the story of a prison built on structural racism, homophobia, and misogyny, and how those incarcerated fought back.
August 04, 2022
Episode 2.4. Before We Were Trans: Gender Nonconformity in History with Dr Kit Heyam
We constantly hear that trans and gender-nonconforming identities are a strictly modern concept. But are they? In this episode, we talk to historian Dr Kit Heyam about gender nonconformity in world history and how definitions and experiences of gender vary between time periods and cultures. Dr Heyam is the author of Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender, which is out now
July 20, 2022
Episode 2.3. The Real Stede Bonnet with Jeremy Moss
Everyone loves Our Flag Means Death, but who was the real Stede Bonnet, and what exactly was going on between him and Blackbeard? On this week’s show, we talk to Stede’s biographer Jeremy Moss about this, plus libraries on ships, walking the plank, and what makes a good pirate flag
July 06, 2022
Episode 2.2: Secrets and Scandals of Regency Britain with Violet Fenn
Violet Fenn returns to the podcast to talk about Lady Hamilton, Harriet Wilson, portable chamber pots, and the dateability of Regency dukes
June 22, 2022
The Facemaker with Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris
In this great interview with Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris, we discuss pioneering plastic surgeon Dr. Harold Gillies, his brave patients, and the multitalented medical heroes who made his work possible. You’ll never look at WWI quite the same way again.
June 08, 2022
Episode 33: Gunpowder Toothpaste. 10 Surprising Victorian Beauty Trends
From hot pink and fetish gear to fake eyelashes, tattoos, and nipple piercings, this week we’re talking about some surprisingly “modern” fashion and beauty trends of the 19th century. What did the Victorians wear apart from all that black? We can’t wait to tell you
March 17, 2022
Episode 32: “The Poor Whores’ Petition” and the Shrove Tuesday Riots of 1668
Shrove Tuesday—Mardi Gras—is now celebrated with pancakes and parades, but in 17th century London, it was another story altogether. For years, local apprentices used the holiday as an excuse to attack sex workers and vandalize brothels. The damage in 1668 was so severe that London’s sex workers petitioned the king’s mistress to help. This week on DSH, we talk about (and attempt to read) The Poor Whores’ Petition of 1668.
February 23, 2022
Episode 31: Lola Montez Part Two. When Lola Met Ludwig
In this episode, we cover the tumultuous year Lola spent in Bavaria which resulted in the abdication of Ludwig I. There’s political intrigue, hints of the occult, and some spectacularly dodgy poetry. Check out our Instagram for the photos we mention @dirtysexyhistory
February 16, 2022
Episode 30: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of Claude Duval
On the anniversary of Claude Duval’s death, Jess talks about the gallows at Tyburn, then covers the life and high-profile hanging of this legendary highwayman. As a bonus, we host special guest Matt Robinson of the paranormal podcast Ghoul Britannia to talk about a historic hotel in England that Claude allegedly haunts
January 19, 2022
Episode 29: The Legend of Lola Montez (Part 1)
In this week’s episode, Jess covers the life of infamous dancer and courtesan Lola Montez from her tumultuous childhood in India to her earliest doomed love affairs with Franz Liszt, Alexandre Dumas, and Alexandre Henri Dujarier. Montez was said to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s inspiration for femme fatale Irene Adler, but her real life was far more interesting
January 14, 2022
Episode 28: Historical Themes in Heavy Metal
Jess talks to Dr. Charlotte Naylor Davis and Dr. Jeremy Swist about historical themes in Heavy Metal ahead of their online conference, Heavy Metal and Global Premodernity (February 24th - 26th). We touch on race, feminism, inclusivity, and some of the exciting ways modern readers misinterpret classical texts. This week is a little History, a little Media Studies, and a whole lotta Metal. Spotify playlist for this episode: Heavy Metal and Global Premodernity: Conference Info and Registration: Dr. Charlotte Naylor Davis: Dr. Jeremy Swist: Conference poster art by Lauren Gornik:
January 05, 2022
Episode 27: Ariadne Unraveled
This week on Dirty Sexy History, Jess talks to Zenobia Neil, author of Ariadne Unraveled. We speculate of the truth behind the myth of the Minotaur and talk sexual fluidity, body positivity, and contraception in the ancient world.
December 22, 2021
Episode 26: The Chevalier de Saint-Georges
This week on Dirty Sexy History, we look at the extraordinary life of Joseph Boulogne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. As a composer, he tutored Marie Antoinette and was so talented that Mozart despised him. An abolitionist and accomplished swordsman, he also led the Legion Saint-Georges, the first all-Black regiment in Europe.
November 25, 2021
Episode 25: “Female Husbands.” LGBTQ+ Unions in England through the Georgian Era
We’ve already established that transgender people have always existed, but gay marriage is new—right? Not so much. This week, we have a brief overview of different kinds of same-sex or gender-nonconforming marriages and other unions in England prior to 1800, with a closer look at some fascinating figures from Jen Manion’s brilliant book, Female Husbands.
November 17, 2021
Episode 24: Cocaine, Coca-Cola, and the Contraceptive that Wasn’t
In this week’s episode of Dirty Sexy History, Jess talks about the history of cocaine from its uses in medicine to the development of Coca-Cola, and how these were used in sex, pregnancy prevention, and childbirth into the 20th century. Don’t try this at home.
November 10, 2021
Episode 23: The Monster Mash
In this year’s last episode of the Halloween series, Doctor John presents the Monster Mash: a little history behind werewolves, Dracula, “resurrected corpses,” and mummies’ curses. It’s a graveyard smash!
November 08, 2021
Episode 22: Byron’s Fault. An Introduction to Vampires with Violet Fenn
Happy Halloween! This week, we welcome special guest Violet Fenn, author of The History of the Vampire in Popular Culture: Love at First Bite. We cover everything from the earliest myths to the Victorians, and even make it to 1950s Glasgow and a (not so) surprising connection to the Monmouth Vampire in 1980s Wales. Release the bats!
October 27, 2021
Episode 21: Daniel Mendoza and the Modern Art of Boxing
This week on DSH, we look at the life of 18th century prizefighter Daniel Mendoza, who paved the way for acceptance of the Jewish community in Georgian London and changed boxing forever.
October 20, 2021
Episode 20: Death in the Walls. How Arsenic Green Poisoned Victorian Britain
Decor can be ugly, but what about when it’s deadly? Continuing with our Halloween series this week, we’re talking about Scheele’s Green, the arsenic-based pigment that filled homes in Britain throughout the nineteenth century, and its surprising connection to William Morris, one of the most influential figures of the Arts & Crafts Movement. Millions of miles of arsenic green wallpaper filled the homes of Victorian Britain, causing illness and death with toxic dust. You’ll never look at green walls quite the same way again…
October 06, 2021
Episode 19: 40 Elephants, with special guest Sarah MacLean
This week, we look at 40 Elephants, an infamous all-female gang active in London from about 1870 - 1950. Then Jess talks to New York Times Bestselling Author and host of Fated Mates, Sarah MacLean, about the gang and how it helped to inspire her latest Historical Romance, Bombshell. From organized crime and chloroform to Victorian fast food and IUDs, we cover it all today on Dirty Sexy History
September 29, 2021
Episode 18: The Catacombs of Paris
In Episode 3 of our Halloween series, Jess talks about the history of Paris’s catacombs from the dangerous graveyards that led to their opening to the surprising things they are still used for today
September 22, 2021
Episode 17: The Malleus Maleficarum. Witch Hunts in Late Medieval Europe
In the second episode of our Halloween series, we’re picking up where we left off last week with a look at the Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th century German handbook for the identification of witches.
September 15, 2021
Episode 16: Witchcraft, Part One. Women’s Vices
In the first episode of our Halloween series, Jess talks about 11th century ideas of witchcraft in penitential literature and reads some of her favorite “women’s vices” from Burchard’s Decretum
September 09, 2021
Episode 15: Heroin and the Spanish Flu
How did people manage their symptoms during the last pandemic? Heroin! Once and over-the-counter cough aid, it was sold to women, children, and soldiers with chronic pain as a “non-addictive” alternative to morphine. In this episode, John looks at the early history of heroin as well as other common treatments for the Spanish Flu.
September 01, 2021
Episode 14: Porn. Politics and Censorship in 19th Century England
In this overview, Jess traces the development of pornography in Britain from its working-class political origins with Fanny Hill to later Victorian attempts to crack down on its sale
August 25, 2021
Episode 13: Perfect Love and Sacred Sin. The Spiritual Side of Historical Kink
This week, Jess talks about the spiritual side of historical kink with a look at the death of Czech composer Frantisek Kotzwara in 1791 from erotic asphyxiation, and the murder trial that followed. Then, we jump to Imperial Russia for a look at Rasputin’s views on love and sex to answer the eternal question—was Rasputin really Russia’s greatest love machine?
August 18, 2021
Episode 12: Dead Sexy. Tuberculosis and Other Beauty Tips
Following on from Episode 11, we look at how the symptoms of tuberculosis became the gold standard for Victorian beauty, then we jump to Gilded Age New York for some skin care tips from “The Ugly Girl Papers.”
August 11, 2021
Episode 11: Dreams of Love: Franz Liszt and la Dame aux Camelias
La Traviata, Les Miserables, Moulin Rouge… the tragic courtesan of so many stories is based on just one woman: Marie Duplessis, better known as la Dame aux Camelias. This week, we’re looking at her short life, her love affair with composer Franz Liszt, and her enduring legacy in art and music.
August 04, 2021
Episode 10: The Necessary Evil. How Sex Work Built London’s Churches
In this episode, we’re looking at sex work in Southwark from the Roman period until the 12th century, when the Church was in charge of licensing the “Winchester Geese” and used the money to build places like Southwark Cathedral, which sits on the site of an ancient Roman temple to Isis
July 28, 2021
Episode 9: Pumpkin Spice Laudanum
Once as common as aspirin, laudanum was immortalized in 19th century literature and still pops up in period dramas today. So what was it? Opium and alcohol, and it was used for *everything.* Today on DSH, we’re talking about those uses—authorized and otherwise—and looking at Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater
July 21, 2021
Episode 8: The Storming of the Bastille
Happy Bastille Day! This week, we’re talking about the factors that led to the storming of the Bastille on July 14th of 1789 and finding parallels between today’s income inequality and that of Revolutionary France
July 14, 2021
Episode 7: In Love and Dirt: Cross-Class Romance in 19th Century England
In the 19th century, no one ever married outside their class…right? In this episode, we look at some people who did. Elizabeth Armistead was a courtesan to the aristocracy who married the love of her life, politician and abolitionist Charles James Fox. Arthur Munby was a gentleman who secretly married Hannah Cullwick, a maid with a very interesting fetish.
July 07, 2021
Episode 6: The Transgender Priests of Cybele
Trans identities aren’t a new thing; they have existed since at least ancient Mesopotamia around 3100 BCE. In this episode, we take a look at the trans priests of the goddesses Inanna and Cybele, and how an oracle’s prophecy brought them to Rome to defeat Hannibal
June 30, 2021
Episode 5: Chasing Ghosts in 19th Century Paris. Horror Tourism in the City of Light
In this week’s episode, Jess takes you on a tour of the darker side Parisian nightlife in the 19th century from Robertson’s Phantasmagoria to the awesomely goth nightclubs of 1890s Montmartre. As a bonus, she explains how to drink absinthe like a pro so you don’t embarrass yourself in front of Oscar Wilde
June 23, 2021
Episode 4: The Sickness of Naples. Syphilis and the Invention of the Modern Condom
Did Columbus bring syphilis back to Europe from the New World? Almost certainly. In this episode, Jess talks about how Columbus caused the deaths of 120 million people worldwide from disease alone, leading to the invention of the modern condom in the 16th century.
June 16, 2021
Episode 3: The Problematic History of BMI, plus Deadly Diet Drugs of the 1930s
In this double episode, Jess talks about the 19th century origins of BMI and explains how it’s still inherently flawed today. John covers Egyptian and Roman laxatives, then it’s on to the deadly diet pills of the 1930s, namely DNP and Pervitin, the once-legal meth added to chocolate that went on to fuel the Third Reich. Buckle up, minions, it’s going to get weird!
June 09, 2021
Episode 2: Hurts So Good! 19th Century Dominatrix Theresa Berkley
So you think kink is modern? In Regency London, dominatrix Theresa Berkley opened a multistory sex dungeon and became a self-made millionaire. More on Theresa and the English Vice today on DSH
June 02, 2021
Episode 1: Contraception in History, from Pomegranates to Pennyroyal
In this first episode of the podcast, we look at contraception and abortion in history from the ancient world to the twentieth century.
May 26, 2021
April 26, 2021
April 26, 2021