Example Of Sexual Offences: Same-Sex Relationships Literature Review

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: Women, Men, Crime, Relationships, Homosexuality, Europe, Criminal Justice, People

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2021/02/22

I. Introduction
The late Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries were tough times for the many individuals who found affection and love in the arms of their same-sex partners. Van der Meer (1992) narrates that during the year 1972, the criminal courts in Amsterdam sought to exile women who “laid upon” other women. It was during this year that a woman named Bets Wiebes was exiled by the court for six whole years from the city of Amsterdam. She was exiled from the city for being with another woman in such a way that a man used to lay when he is having carnal actions with his wife. According again to Van der Meer (1992, p. 424) it was the first of such a punishment in the whole of the United Provinces. This event was quite different with the trials against sodomy because, for one, sodomy trials were already considered common since the 1730 when there was a great persecution of sodomites in the country. The 1730 executions were of course followed by another trial in 1764 in Amsterdam and in 1776, this time in Holland (Van der Meer, 1992). Three years following the first trial against Bets Wiebes, there followed a series of judgments against tribadism that went to proceed to the year 1798. Trials during this time happened not only in Amsterdam but also in other cities. For three years, women who were referred to as tribades by a judge were called in court. These were on the grounds of getting involved in “filthy things, caresses and sodomitical filthiness” (Van der Meer, 1992).
During the 1730 trial of sodomites, the affair became well-known in the country despite the ignorance of the people that surrounded the issue. Many of those who knew about the trial were ignorant of the practice and actions of sodomy. Also, many of those who were aware of the trial were ignorant about the fact that sodomy was a criminal offense (Van der Meer, 1992). However, as time progressed to the late eighteenth century, sodomy was already a well-known fact among the people. In fact, most people did not feel it necessary for them to turn over sodomites to the officials. On cases that these people turned over sodomites to the officials, it was only a result of physical or verbal aggression (Van der Meer, 1992). Although this was the case, many of the people opt to settle the sodomite cases with beatings outside the knowledge of the authorities. Despite the prevalence of the sodomites in the eighteenth century, ignorance of the same-sex relationships among women continued. Although many of the officials back then were able to give the rightful consequences for women, tribadism was still considered as a less serious offense when compared to sodomy. The average punishment that was bestowed upon women who were identified as tibades were given a confinement of six years when compared to twelve years of confinement for men. In addition to the current case, many of the women received a reduction in their sentences as opposed to their male counterparts (Van der Meer, 1992).
This event was the scenario of many same-sex relationships during the late seventeenth century until the eighteenth century. A Dutch historian according to Van der Meer (1992, p. 437) supposed that women who were not punished for same-sex acts during the eighteenth century contributed to the sources of erotic attraction for the many men in that era. Although the legalities in Europe provided a rightful amount of punishment for women, the sexual acts between the women were not conceived as an equal amount of action when compared to sodomites. The sexual acts between two women were not seen as an actual threat that was imposed in the same way as sodomy did back then. After all, because of the prevalence of Theology in the eighteenth century, the act of Sodomy was studied as an act that deserved the wrath of God. It is, therefore, a frightening scenario for a country with sodomites who attracts the wrath of God. This fact was at many times referred to the events in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Likewise, the act of sodomy was a threat to the well-established roles of men in a society that exists in Europe.
Because of its long prevalence, same-sex relationships present a great trend not only in Europe but all over the world as well. Also, since it is considered as a topic that can affect future generations, it is but applicable to study its origins and the people’s attitude towards same-sex relationships. This paper aims to illustrate how the people changed their perception of same-sex relationships in Europe during the past three hundred years. This paper will also examine the various judicial treatments surrounding women’s same-sex relationships and how different scholars have tried to expound on the differences.
II. Same-sex relationships in Europe views over the past three-hundred years
Sodomy according to Gert Hekma (1999, p. 79) was referred to as a lustful act that could not result in procreation as taken from the Bible. During the thirteenth century as stated by Hekma, sodomy was a grave crime and also a sin. Sodomy includes extramarital sexual acts, non-vaginal acts, and all forms of same-sex behavior. There were also issues of bestiality and masturbation. The best-known examples of persecuting against the act of Sodomy was the punishment directed at males who were having sexual acts with animals. After 1729, there were a listed two hundred executions on the grounds of sodomy, and that lasted until the year 1803. Hekma and Van der Meer are at an agreement on their perspective regarding the harshness of the punishments given to men. According to Hekma (1999 p. 80), the lesbians at that time were punished for their indulgence in pleasure and not by their object of choice. The same-sex relationships among women at that time were not persecuted because of their love for someone. Rather, they were prosecuted for expressing their desires of pleasure. As a quintessential model for this scenario, the Amazons who felt the feelings of love for women but kept their carnal desires, were not punished. They were rather identified in a rather different category and not as tribades (Hekma, 1999).
Because of the beginning expeditions to other continents, the European view on same-sex relationships tried to permeate the different societies across the globe. Upon their journey and interaction with the natives of the American continent, they have discovered a more lenient view on same-sex relationships. This leniency by the natives was, therefore, the anchoring argument that scholars used in the defense of decriminalizing the act of same-sex sexual crimes. According to these scholars, if the natural people or the natives of the Americas considered a lenient view on such sexual issues, it meant that it was the only culture that exploited the European values. During this time, nature was considered as an important philosophy in the moral discussions regarding sexuality (Hekma, 1999). The grave persecutions of the act of sodomy were the anchoring issues that most scholars use to counter the continuous persecution of sodomy. The French revolution opened the doors to decriminalizing the act of sodomy thus strengthening the social prevention. After the revolution, sodomy was removed from the law regulations, and there were only the lines of public indecency and the corruption of minors (Hekma, 1999). Although the removal of sodomy as a criminal act from the different law books the late eighteenth century presented a threat that had to do with a more strict interpretation of the law. However, despite having strict laws, only a few of the countries in Europe considered lesbianism as a crime. There was still a more strict perception of the law when it came to men as compared to women. According to Hekma (1999, p. 91), Finland and England were amongst those who left lesbianism out of the scenario. As stated by Hekma (1999), women were not considered in the anti-homosexual laws. This event was because they were viewed as people who did not know a thing about perverted sex thus they are too ignorant to indulge themselves in the act.
The dichotomous treatment between the men who engaged in same-sex sexual acts was supported by Crawford and Mendelson (1995). They stated that female eroticism was also less considered a crime when compared to the act of sodomy between men. According to the researchers, seventeenth century England has court records to show that the country did consider sodomy between two men a grave offense. However, women who were involved in sexual activities with their same-sex were regarded to not have committed any legal offense. Crawford and Mendelson’s (1995) study also support the idea studied by both Hekma and Van der Meer. These researchers revealed that the whole European continent found it hard to recognize the presence of physical attraction between women. As a matter of fact, according to the researchers, there were only a few of the listed cases of same-sex acts between women that were brought to court during the late seventeenth century. This claim is evidenced by the case presented by Crawford and Mendelson between Hunt and Poulter. The case between the two women who married in the church were dealt with only because it was a prank and that it was a slander of the sanctity of marriage. The court ended with a statement that both women should marry eligible men the next. Through this portrayal of a more lenient scenario between women marrying each other in the seventeenth century reveals a different perspective on women when compared to their male counterparts (Crawford and Mendelson, 1995)
The nineteenth century opened the doors to a more tolerant society. With punishments involving confinement to an asylum or months of hard labor, Rydstrom (2000 p. 270) in his article has revealed how the views of the people changed concerning same-sex relationships. During that time, homosexuality was no longer a crime, rather it was a threat to the whole social strata. Although it was only tolerant and still not that accepting, Rydstrom (2000) states that Sweden has changed its views on the homosexual practices. Since the act of sodomy involved bestiality and masturbation, activists on the side of homosexuality created an argument. The argument defied the usual idea of homosexuality as a sin. Rydstrom (2000, p. 279) has discussed that some activists used the argument that homosexuality is innate and that there was a biological influence on the identity. Because of such arguments, homosexuality was then considered a mental or biological disorder. The nineteenth century also opened an era that explored equality before the law. According to Rydstrom, the 1930s had opened its doors to an amazing change within the courts. If during the seventeenth until the late eighteenth centuries, homosexual trials among men only involved those in the lower classes, the 1930s opened opportunities for members of the noble families. These upper-class men were to be tried in the court of law because of homosexuality. Even members of the parliament were called into court for their homosexual acts. This transformation of society and the beginning of an idea that included homosexual as relational allowed the rise of a “homosexual identity.” This homosexual identity has contributed to the growth of a society that has treated homosexuals differently when compared to their predecessors. There was also the rise of a traditional or constitutional homosexual and the pseudo-homosexual who was known as a heterosexual but only involved in homosexual acts because of the need for money or curiosity (Rydstrom 2000).
Ana Clark in her attempts to classify the secret forbidden acts of the people has coined the term “Twilight.” This word was used as a metaphor for the moments that required a proper description and that did not fit into a permanent identity. From this study, it was revealed that there was a great disparity in the eyes of the society when talking about twilight moments that occurred in the desires of a man and a woman. According to Clark (2005, p. 147), twilight moments were found to consider the dynamics of sexual regulation. That is, while the noblemen have frequent engagements with prostitutes or rape their slaves, they commit these acts with no permanent punishments. In contrast, while these men have the power to conceal their identities in the dark for the threats of being publicly stigmatized, their female counterparts had a different story. According to Clark (2005), women who had their twilight moments were exposed and isolated from society. From this standpoint, women it was the social status that dictated the fate of these women. Clark (2005) states that the exceptions were to the advantage of women in the working class. These women who could escape being ostracized for the reasons of premarital sex were fortunate when compared to the men who seemed to be on the feminine side and who were submissive sexually. These effeminate men were acquired the penalties of a social stigma (Clark, 2005). The twilight moments characterize the scenarios that were evident in the earlier times and were used to describe the secret passions pursued by many of the individuals who lived in those eras. However, it was revealed by Clark that many of the twilight moments are still used by the people of today. These twilight moments occur for people who want to keep their secret affairs on the down low for these people refuse to be tied to a sexual identity. As an example, there are still many in society who opt to pose as a heterosexual man then pursuing their sexual desires for other men in secret (Clark, 2005).
III. Conclusion
The major changes in attitudes and laws for men in Europe during the past three hundred years has changed in such a way that fit the people’s perception of equality and homosexuality. The past three hundred years has begun from persecuting men who were identified as involved in the act of sodomy to classifying homosexuality as separate from sodomy and was identity in its own. Laws were harsher in the earlier times for men and aimed at persecuting those who were involved in sodomy. However, since the French revolution and the expedition of the Europeans to different continents, the sexual acts of men with each other were no longer classified as a crime. But these acts were considered only as a social problem that was deviated along the lines of indecent behavior.
On the other hand, women who were engaged in same-sex relationships were treated all the same throughout history. When opposed to the minor twelve year confinement for men, the women only received six years in the form of punishment. Later in the eighteenth century, many of the lawmakers especially in Finland and England thought it no longer necessary for women to be included in the consequences. These lawmakers believed that women were ignorant enough to engage in perverted sex and to be involved in such pleasures. But, according to Clark, this was not true for women in high social status for they hold the attention of the public thus engaging in same-sex relationships could mean ostracism from society.
The scholars who studied these same-sex relationships analyzed the situations of same-sex couples by investigating real life examples of such affairs. All scholars cited in this paper used real life couples and court decisions to make their point on the disparity that was involved between women and men. Many of them tried to include all members of the European continent to illustrate the legislations and perceptions that were attributed to same-sex relationships. They aimed to explain all of the events that were involved in a time where same-sex marriage was still considered as a crime down to when it was only considered as a mental illness.
All of the scholars seem to be in agreement with their analysis about the treatment of same-sex relationships across Europe for the past three hundred years. Those times were more advantageous for women who were involved in tribadism than for men who performed sodomy. The quintessential example of the disparity between men and women homosexuals was the case of Hunt v. Poulter in Crawford and Mendelson’s study where the two women were acquitted of the crime of disrupting the sanctity of marriage. They were only instructed to marry eligible men after the said affair. Also, although some women were punished with great labor, men still received the most harsh punishments. Instead of labor that was given to women they were persecuted, tried and received longer confinements. However, although today’s society seems to be more accepting of the same-sex relationships, many are only tolerant of its emergence and only a few accept the affair. It is no longer a crime as what it was in the earlier centuries, but some still consider it a threat in today’s society.

References

Clark, A. (2005). Twilight Moments. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 14(1), pp.139-160.
Crawford, P. and Mendelson, S. (1995). Sexual Identities in Early Modern England: The Marriage of Two Women in 1680. Gender & History, 7(3), pp.363-377.
Hall, L. and Hekma, G. (1999). Sexual Cultures in Europe: Themes in Sexuality. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp.79-103.
Rydstrom, J. (2000). Sodomitical Sins are Threefold. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 9(3), pp.240-276.
Van der Meer, T. (1992). Tribades on Trial: Female Same-sex offenders in Late Eighteenth-Century Amsterdam. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 1(3), pp.424-445.

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