Betwixt The Sheets: The History of Sex, Scandal & Society

Betwixt The Sheets: The History of Sex, Scandal & Society

Why did kings and queens have spectators on their wedding night? Who had the very first boob job? And did our ancestors have their unmentionables pierced? Join historian, Kate Lister, Betwixt the Sheets as she unashamedly roots around the topics which seem to have been skipped in history class. Everything from landmark LGBTQ+ court cases, to political scandal, to downright bizarre medieval cures for impotence. The etymology of swear words, gender bias in medicine, and satanic panic and cults - there’s nothing off limits. She'll be bed-hopping around different time periods; from ancient civilisations, to the middle ages, to renaissance and early modern...right up to now. You’ll laugh, you’ll wince, and you’ll ask yourself how much has actually changed. So join Kate Betwixt the Sheets: The History of Sex, Scandal & Society - a podcast from History Hit. Enjoy unlimited access to award-winning original documentaries that are released weekly and AD-FREE podcasts. Get a subscription for £1 per month for 3 months with code BETWIXT sign up at You can take part in our listener survey here.


May 20, 2024 43 mins

From the earliest iterations on the plains of Africa, to 21st century reconsiderations of it: are humans meant to be monogamous?

Joining Kate today is Helen Fisher, author of ANATOMY OF LOVE: A Natural History Of Mating, Marriage, And Why We Stray, to shed a light on our own relationship with this ancient social status.

How successful is it really? And will it survive well into the future?

This episode was edited by Tom De...

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The long-awaited third season of Bridgerton is here! And with it, we all become obsessed with a particularly sexy version of Regency-era history.

Today's episode is the first in our mini-series on the REAL Bridgerton. Across four episodes we'll uncover Georgian attitudes to drugs and alcohol, insights into the celebrities of the time, and a re-cap on the historical accuracies of the latest season.

First and foremost, though, ...

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May 13, 2024 49 mins

When you say ‘going medieval’ on someone, it brings up quite nasty connotations. 

But is this brutal suggestion a fair depiction of medieval times and their thoughts on torture and punishment? What are some of the more gruesome methods they employed? And why did Henry I give authorisation for his own granddaughter-in-law to be blinded? 

Joining Kate today is Matt Lewis, co-host of our sister podcast, Gone Medieval, ...

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When you look into the history of menopause it’s steeped in misogyny, fear and demonising women’s bodies. 

But what is the truth behind some of the popular menopause myths? How has it been understood (or misunderstood) throughout history? And how have post-menopausal women essential to human evolution? 

Joining Kate today is Dr. Jennifer Gunter, author of the Menopause Manifesto and gynaecology physician of 30+ year...

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There are many privileges that come with being a royal, but where do mistresses lay amongst these? If you'll excuse the pun.

Charles II was notorious for the women in his life, from his wife Catherine to infamous mistresses like the formidable Nell Gwynn.

What was in it for them? And how did they all get along? Joining Kate today is Linda Porter, author of Mistresses: Sex and Scandal at the Court of Charles II.

This episod...

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May 2, 2024 42 mins

What does it mean to be a geisha? How does someone become one? And how do they differ from sex workers?

The geisha world is famously very secretive and private, and taking us into it today is Lesley Downer, who spent years befriending geishas in research for her book Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World.

This episode was edited by Tom Delargy and produced by Stuart Beckwith. The senior producer is Charlotte Long.

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Glass of meat wine, anyone? That's right, the Victorians loved a glass of meaty wine.

They loved drinking so much that it became a moral panic, with whole movements of temperance cropping up around Britain.

What was drinking culture really like in the Victorian and Edwardian Britain? Were women able to drink as much as men? And what exactly went into that meat wine?

Helping Kate get to the bottom of this is Thora Hands, au...

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April 25, 2024 36 mins

Elvis Presley embraced sexuality from the start. Rock n roll was not tame music, and neither were his early performances.

So much so that he was nicknamed Elvis 'the pelvis' after early TV performances.

But were his personal relationships and relationship with sexuality like? How did his relationship with his mother influence him? And how was his relationship with a 14 year old Priscilla seen at the time?

Joining Kate toda...

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If there’s one thing you’ll find out from this episode, it’s that the Ancient Greeks were better at philosophy than gynaecology.

Struggling to conceive? You might be given a stuffed dead puppy to provoke fertility.

Helping Kate make sense of Ancient Greek gynaecology today is Helen King, author of Hippocrates' Woman: Reading the Female Body in Ancient Greece.

What questions will a visit to an Ancient Greek doctor be like? ...

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April 18, 2024 44 mins

The Aztec Empire might conjure up images of human sacrifice.

And whilst religious violence was part of their society, theirs was also a very egalitarian society where pleasure was valued and sexuality was an unashamed part of every day life.

How was queerness perceived and represented in this period? What sexual freedoms did they enjoy? And what part did the Goddess of Filth play in their lives?!

Joining Kate today is Caro...

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April 15, 2024 63 mins

What is the origin of the word fetish? How did the war play a part in shaping fetishwear? And what are some of the styles that are most enjoyed?

Kink and fetish scenes have been a part of society for years, and the clothing that participants wear is often very specific, and a key part of what makes them, well, effective. 

It’s a fascinating history, and to explain it to us is Frenchy Lunning, author of Fetish Style. Kate...

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April 10, 2024 42 mins

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. 


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April 7, 2024 61 mins

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 Hist...

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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 prod...

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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, aut...

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March 28, 2024 42 mins

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 sen...

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March 25, 2024 55 mins

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: Se...

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March 20, 2024 38 mins

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 questio...

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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 ...

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March 14, 2024 48 mins

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 ...

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