Episodes
The word drag is synonymous with flamboyant, fun performances. But where does the term come from and what does it mean?  This more modern story of playing with gender identity’s dates back to the 1870s, and it’s a history that takes in the wars, censorship and fears. Heaven forbid! Taking us through this fascinating history of drag as we know it today is Jacob Bloomfield, author of Drag: A British History.  This episode was edited by Tom Delargy. The producer was Stuart Beckwith. The senior...
Published 04/12/24
King James I was a man whose sexuality was known by people in France, let alone (the newly formed) Britain of the early 17th century. So it may come as no surprise that men, such as the handsome George Villiers, might use their sexuality to their advantage and gain status, money and power whilst romancing the king. Helping Kate explore the sex and scandal of the Jacobean court is Anthony Delaney, historian and co-host of History Hit sister podcast After Dark. As an added treat, Kate's also...
Published 04/08/24
We think we know the Vikings, but how well do we really know them? From the insignia we think they wear, to the names they call themselves and the way they spoke to each other, there's a lot to uncover. Joining Kate today is Dr. Caitlin Ellis, historian and Associate Professor at the University of Oslo, to take us back to this world and find out more. This episode was edited and produced by Stuart Beckwith. The senior producer was Charlotte Long. Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning...
Published 04/05/24
Of all the taboo topics covered on Betwixt the Sheets, this one might make you wince the most. But it cannot be denied that poo and our management of it through history has massively shaped human civilisation. What are the evolutionary reasons why we're so repulsed? What would happen if you came across the Aztec poo goblin? And what does the future hold for us and our poo? Joining us today is the marvellous Suzie Edge, author of History Stinks!: Poo Through The Ages to tell us more. This...
Published 04/02/24
We've been fascinated by royalty for hundreds of years, but what do we know about their sex lives? Quite a lot, it turns out. Today we're revisiting an episode Kate recorded with bestselling author Eleanor Herman to find out about what it took to not just be a mistress of a royal, but keep competitors at bay, too. This episode was edited by Tom Delargy and Matt Peaty. It was produced by Stuart Beckwith and Sophie Gee, the senior producer was Charlotte Long. Enjoy unlimited access to...
Published 03/29/24
Whilst ballet is undoubtedly one of the most graceful and elegant art forms, it also has a long and dark history of sexual exploitation. How did King Louis XIV's love of the ballet fundamentally change it? What was the patronage system and how did dancers use it to their advantage? And who were some of the female pioneers who embraced sexuality within the ballet? Joining Kate today is Deirdre Kelly, author of Ballerina: Sex, Scandal and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection, to find out...
Published 03/26/24
Abraham Lincoln is often thought of as the most loved president in America's history, but how much do we know about his personal life? Furthermore, how much do we know about his sexuality, and the potential he might have been gay? Joining Kate today are Callie Hawkins and Joan Cummins, who work at Lincoln Cottage, where he lived for over a quarter of his presidency. They also host their podcast, Q&Abe, which covers questions that visitors to the cottage often ask them, including whether...
Published 03/21/24
This is the story of one of the most notorious women of the Ancient world. Phrynne was a sex worker in the 4th century BC who came from an impoverished background to be one of the most talked about, and wealthiest, women in Greece. What do we know about her remarkable life? Was it true that by exposing her breasts in court, she was acquitted from a potential death penalty? And how has her influence been felt in the centuries since then? Joining Kate today is Melissa Funke, author of Phryne: A...
Published 03/19/24
The Vikings have a fair claim to being the most overly-eroticised group of people in history. It's fair to say this is somewhat reductive. What forms did sexuality take in Viking society? How was magic a part of their understandings of sexuality? And what were their attitudes to sexual violence? Joining Kate today to tell us more is Marianne Hem Eriksen, Associate Professor of Archaeology at Leicester University. Marianne is also leader of Body Politics, a research project which is looking...
Published 03/15/24
Whether it's a declaration of love, anger or rebellion against the government, graffiti can give us incredible insight into the social history of everyday people. By the 18th century it's recognised by authorities a serious social problem and a threat to their positions of power. How was graffiti used to fuel political unrest? How was it used to aid the sex trade? And how was it used in solving a murder trial?  Joining us today is Maddy Pelling, co-host of sister podcast After Dark and author...
Published 03/12/24
How did a peasant girl go on to lead French armies at the age of 17? To mark International Women's Day on March 8th, Kate's joined by Eleanor Janega, co-host of sister podcast Gone Medieval, to explore the life of the formidable Joan of Arc. How did her visions of saving France from the English play a part in her life? Why was it significant that she wore men's clothes and led armies? And what's her legacy today? This episode was edited and produced by Stuart Beckwith. The senior producer was...
Published 03/08/24
Come with us back to Renaissance England, when writers were playing with ideas of sexuality in interesting ways. How much of a filth bag was Shakespeare? How did he play with the ideas of power dynamics for pleasure in his plays? And what were other writers doing to explore non-traditional ideas of sex, fantasy and desire? Joining Kate today are Joseph Gamble and Gillian Knoll, co-editors of the forthcoming book The Kinky Renaissance, which explore questions of sexual history through...
Published 03/05/24
Despite lawmakers best efforts, sex work has been around for since record began...and will certainly go back even further. We often explore the history of sex work in Europe, but what history does this huge industry have in America? How did the colonisation of America and the slave trade impact and shape it? And how did sex workers and brothels help in the American Civil War? Kate's joined by Katie Hemphill, author of Bawdy City: Commercial Sex and Regulation in Baltimore, 1790–1915, to...
Published 03/01/24
She's the warrior queen who took on the mighty Roman Empire, but who really was Boudica? Separating facts from the myths we've read can be tricky, but thankfully Kate is joined by the wonderful Emma Southon, author of A History of the Roman Empire in 21 Women, to find out the truth and explore our most reliable sources. What happened when Boudica launched a surprise attack on the Roman headquarters in England? What is her legacy? And why has her story come in and out of favour through the...
Published 02/27/24
If you've seen the film Braveheart, you might have certain expectations about the real history of William Wallace. Separating fact from fiction can be tricky, but what do we really know about this iconic Scot, and the supposed relationships that sparked his rebellion against the English? Today Kate is joined by author and host of Gone Medieval, Eleanor Janega, to find out the truth behind William Wallace. How does his life tie into the Scottish Wars of Independence? Why did he receive such...
Published 02/22/24
The origins of the modern sex doll are shrouded in myth. Some say they came from crafty sailors in the 18th century, a long way from home and in need of, ahem, company. In today's episode, Kate is joined by Bo Ruberg, author of Sex Dolls At Sea: Imagined Histories of Sexual Technologies to uncover the truth. How were early sex dolls used to smuggle booze into Paris? What do the sex doll myths reveal about ourselves? And why is there such stigma around them compared to other sex toys? This...
Published 02/20/24
Medieval England was not subtle. Take sex work, for example. You knew exactly where to go, because the streets were labelled accordingly. Cokkes Lane, anyone? Not only that, but the areas were sanctioned by a Bishop. Yes, you read that correctly. Ever wondered how sex work was viewed in Medieval times? Were attitudes more progressive then than they are now, even? Kate is joined by friend of the show and co-host of our sister podcast, Gone Medieval, Eleanor Janega, to take us through this...
Published 02/16/24
What do Alexa, Adolf and Karen have in common? They're all names that have plummeted in popularity. The most recent, Karen, is largely due to the meme-powered phenomenon of calling out white privilege by calling someone a 'Karen'. What is the history of calling out privilege in this way? Is this a force for good, or has it become sexist? Today Kate is joined by Senior Lecturer of Language and Linguistics at Leeds Trinity University, Linda Walz, who has researched this social phenomenon in...
Published 02/12/24
What happened when medieval monks were told by the church that they had to be celibate? And how did their wives react? On today's episode, we're joined by Katherine Harvey, historian and author of The Fires of Lust: Sex in the Middle Ages, to take us back to the middle ages and answer the question: what was sex like in medieval times? This episode was edited by Tom Delargy. The producer was Stuart Beckwith. The senior producer was Charlotte Long. Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning...
Published 02/08/24
Joining us today is writer, actor and all-round Charles Dickens superfan Miriam Margolyes. You might be familiar with Dickens' hugely popular stories and characters, but what influence did the women in his life have on them? Having written and starred in the play, Dickens Women, Miriam knows better than most the complicated relationships he had in his life: from his mother who took him out of school to work in a rat-infested blacking factory aged 12, to his wife whom he had a bookcase wall...
Published 02/05/24
What comes to mind when you think of a neanderthal?  Probably a hunched, hairy, grunting version of a man who’s shuffling around his cave some 40,000 years ago. How accurate is this reputation? What were their sex lives like? And how much did they go back to the caves of us Homo sapiens?  Joining us is to explore the life and sex of neanderthals, is Palaeolithic archaeologist and author of Growing Up In The Ice Age, April Nowell. This episode was edited by Tom Delargy. The producer was Stuart...
Published 02/01/24
How sexually depraved were the Romans? Whilst they were a civlised, stoic and innovative bunch, they were also a promiscuous bunch with very questionable morals. Joining us today is friend of the show Emma Southon, author of A History of the Roman Empire in 21 Women. How did the Romans view incest? What fate awaited the Vestal Virgins? And what went on at the debauched festivals of Bacchus? Let's find out. This podcast was edited and produced by Stuart Beckwith. The senior producer was...
Published 01/29/24
How did the Ancient Egyptians differ from us? In many ways they did, but in terms of sexuality, perhaps not so much.  As we’ll find out, they were certainly partial to a filthy poem.  Taking us on a journey back to this ancient world is Egyptologist Sarah Parcak. Amongst other things, she talks us through the Turin Papyrus - possibly the oldest depiction of human sexuality we have.  This episode was edited by Tom Delargy. The producer was Stuart Beckwith. The senior producer was Charlotte...
Published 01/26/24
How did an 18th century working class farm labourer climb the social ladder to become the most beloved poet Scotland has produced? By the time he died aged just 37, he had taken the country by storm with his romantic verse and was welcomed into the bosom of Edinburgh high society gentlemen clubs. Another side of Robert Burns' work was his bawdy work, which celebrates sexuality and barbed satire, much of which wasn't properly published until the 1960s due to censorship laws. Ahead of Burns...
Published 01/22/24