Sodomy throughout the Middle Ages (and beyond)

Discussion in 'Politics' started by D_Ireonsyd_Colonrinse, Jun 8, 2009.

  1. D_Ireonsyd_Colonrinse

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    This is a thread I've thought about starting ever since reading John Boswell's "Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century)".

    There's really no such category as a "homosexual", a noun, before the mid-to-late nineteeth century. There are only men performing sodomy, a generally criminal offense, but with most sodomy laws rarely enforced. Sodomy was any non-procreative sex no matter whom the object of desire. Oral and anal sex were sodomy - whether performed by or to men or women - because these acts could not contribute to the creation of children. I suspect that masterbation was also considered sinful because it was merely pleasure for pleasure's sake and could not be directly linked to the procreative act.


    Found this sentence on an online journal:

    The “Renaissance” and the “homosexual” are both nineteenth-century inventions.The term homosexual was first used in 1892, and, as Michel Foucault, David Halperin, and others have argued, it was during this period that
    the term came to be understood as a “personage” or “species” in which “nothing that was part of his being was unaffected by his sexuality."


    Here's a paragraph from a different souces, a paper discussing the origin, or invention, of the term "homosexual":

    "The word Homosexualität was coined by the German-Hungarian Károly Mária Kertbeny (born Karl Maria Benkert; 1824–82). It is a compound of Greek homo, same, and Medieval Latin sexualis, sexual, and was coined along the lines of the late eighteenth-century French botanical terms unisexuel and bisexuel. There are no grounds for rejecting it as a ‘bastard’ term, any more than innumerable Greek/Latin hybrids such as petroleum and automobile and television. It occurs first in a letter to Karl Heinrich Ulrichs dated 6 May 1868, and then in two pamphlets published in 1869 in Leipzig arguing for reform of Paragraph 143 of the Prussian Penal Code penalizing sexual relations between men."



    Before the mid-to-late nineteenth century, there was no "homosexual", there was no noun name for a sexual class - which slowly led to the political class that we have today. There was "sodomia". There was "sodomite". There was "buggery".


    (more to follow -- hopefully I can explore changing sodomy laws and various attitudes towards sodomy during the Middle Ages, and beyond, in later posts --- In a semi-humorous thread I wrote a couple weeks ago, Jamestown Settlement, founded 1607, America's "First Homosexual Community"?, Nick4444 linked me to an unusual site: Sodomy and the pirate tradition ... - Google Book Search)
     
  2. SEXXXX

    SEXXXX New Member

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    I love the word sodomy, sounds so biblical

     
  3. Drifterwood

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    We suffer from the imposition of a religiously constructed natural order of sexuality, before that we were simply humans, with a range of loves, lusts and emotions.
     
  4. therunningman

    therunningman New Member

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    Willtom27- great thread post. I've always enjoyed medieval history and have lately gotten into reading up on "homosexuality" in the middle ages. Boswell's book got me thinking more on the topic also. Despite all of the criticism of the book, I found it illuminating. The book actually inspired me to purchase a book with translations of all of the works he cites and read them myself and see what I think. Of course, since the publication of Boswell's book there has been a wealth of research on "gay history" including the medieval period. Hit me up if you'd like to chat more.
     
  5. houtx48

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    not that this is not interesting but how is this political?
     
  6. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    Any social issue is political because social issues are those things which effect society as a whole. Politics, in its strict definition, is not confined to governance.
     
  7. kalipygian

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    I've had my copy since '80. His other book is 'Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe'.
    In one of them he says that the Hebrew word translated as 'covenant' for the relationship of David and Jonathan is everywhere else translated as 'marriage'. So, there is gay marriage in the OT. Slightly frustrating he is too obtuse to transliterate the Hebrew.
     
  8. therunningman

    therunningman New Member

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    I keep meaning to read Same Sex Unions but I always forget. Thank you for the reminder!
     
  9. houtx48

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  10. BiggerInTexas8

    BiggerInTexas8 New Member

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    So if the term homosexual was first invented and used in 1892 how is this about the middle ages if in the middle ages there were no sexual orientation terms like we have today such as homosexual/gay, bisexual, or heterosexual/straight? I also do not understand how this has anything to do with politics or the middle ages?
     
  11. therunningman

    therunningman New Member

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  12. houtx48

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    I don't really care if it's here, just like to watch the queens squeel .
     
  13. therunningman

    therunningman New Member

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    haha!
     
  14. crescendo69

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    Didn't King James call them (me) "abusers of themselves with mankind"?:biggrin1:
     
  15. BiggerInTexas8

    BiggerInTexas8 New Member

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    WillTom, why are you even trying to write about "gay" history when you are not homosexual or gay at all and you are bisexual? Everyone knows that history is pretty much always biased and written by the victors anyway. :wink:
     
  16. D_Ireonsyd_Colonrinse

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    I just posted this on another thread, and it got me thinking about Sodomy throughout History again:

    I'm fascinated by the late 19th century: Oscar Wilde, Gilbert & Sullivan, and the Labouchere Amendment of 1885 which criminalized acts of oral sex and mutual masterbation - any sexual activity between men beyond anal sodomy - calling all sexual contact between males "gross indecency" and outright sodomy (this was new in history; sodomy had been previously confined to anal penetration).

    --------------------

    Here's a passage from a book I'm reading called "The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde":


    Sodomy had been illegal in England since the seventh century. But, until the reign of Henry VIII, cases had always been dealt with by ecclesiastical courts, the usual punishment being death by being buried alive, burning, hanging, or drowning. In 1533, "the detestable and abominable Vice of Buggery" was codified into secular law and became a felony punishable by death.

    In 1885, a conviction for sodomy meant a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. But there was a gap in the law: other sexual acts between men like mutual masterbation and fellatio were not the subject of legislation. Technically, it was perfectly legal for men to have non-penetrative sex with other men, although any sexual expression between men was viewed as utterly perverted. The law required a heavy burden of proof to obtain a conviction of sodomy. There had to be incontrovertible proof of penetration as well as proof of what the law quaintly called "emission of seed" in the partner's rectum. Unless ejaculation could be proved to have taken place, there was no case to answer.

    --------------------


    This is a very high burden of proof. Because it is extremely difficult to provide evidence in court of ejaculate in the rectum, relatively few cases of sodomy were actually prosecuted.

    This "Labouchere Amendment", which was attached to another bill at the last minute and rushed through Parliament, made any contact between men punishable for up to two years imprisonment (with or without hard labor).

    Here's the amendment: "Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures, or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and being convicted shall be liable at the discretion of the Court to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour."


    This amendment set the homosexual cause (or the "Uraniun" movement as it was sometimes called - since the word "homosexual" was not yet in popular usage) back decades. All throughout the first half of the 20th century, this amendment and Oscar Wilde's three trials colored the public perception of homosexuals.
     
  17. B_Nick8

    B_Nick8 New Member

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    Sex in an historical context always fascinates me, too. It's amazing how political a basic human function has always been.

    Will, you've read De Profundis, right?
     
  18. D_Ireonsyd_Colonrinse

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    Nick8: I have not read De Profundis yet. I'm still working my way through the light, frivolous, bon-motty Oscar Wilde from the plays. De Profundis is spiritually heavy & written while imprisoned, so... I will get to that, but have not as yet.


    The Oscar Wilde book I referenced above is brilliant. The evocation of the "gay" London underground of the time is stunningly reproduced ("gay" is probably not a proper adjective to describe same-sex London in the 1880's & 1890's... this underground was not yet political... although people like Oscar Wilde and John Addington Symonds - and Walt Whitman in America before them - were already beginning to think in terms of a political movement).


    In the late 17th century and early 18th century there were same-sex establishments called "Molly Houses".

    "Molly" was a popular female's name of that period. Were "gay" men in the early 1700's using the same feminized gay slang that men used in the 19th and 20th centuries? ("Oh, Mary!", for instance, or "Lilly Law" which was popular gay slang for policemen in the 1930's).


    Molly house - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


    Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England
     
  19. Northland

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    #19 Northland, Oct 17, 2009
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2009
  20. B_Nick8

    B_Nick8 New Member

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    Oh, Northland. Don't be a pedant. Leave Will alone.
     
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