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EARLY AMERICA SEX, MARRIAGE, CHILDREN, GAYS, LESBIANS, BOYS AS GIRLS, ABORTION, BREECHING, FAMILY AND OTHER MYTHS. PART 11

Research and edited, Jim Allison


Lesbian

Lesbianism (referred to as LEWD BEHAVIOR, ACTS AGAINST NATURE or UNSEEMLY PRACTICES BETWIXT WOMEN) was more tolerated, since women were at first seen as sexually irrepressible. Also, no seed was wasted as in male deviant sexual practice. Whipping or fines were the two most common punishments, although some colonies had a death penalty on the books. The repentant were accepted back into the church and society without permanent stigma. SOURCE: The Writer's Guide, Everyday Life in Colonial America From 1607 - 1783. Dale Taylor. Weiter's Digest Books (1997) p 128

 


 

"The sin conception of same-sex sexual activity prevailed in the colonies and in the United States before the late 19th century.(7) During this period, the modern concept of heterosexuality and homosexuality did not exist,(8) rather, almost all non procreative or non-marital sexual activities were considered immoral and made criminal.(9)

Yet those who transgressed the society's sexual moral code were not stigmatized as long as they repented.(10) Furthermore, sharp distinctions were not drawn between same-sex sexual activity and other forms of sin; rather sodomy represented a capacity for sin inherent in everyone.(11)

This conception of all non marital or non procreative sexual acts as sinful is reflective of the largely homogeneous society in which the family was the basic economic and social unit. (12) The homogeneity of society also explains the absence of distinction between homosexual and had heterosexual sexual orientation. The idea that some members of a community might be different and have different sexual orientation was less intuitive in such a society than the contrary notion that all members of the community were equally capable of moral transgression. (13)

The absence of a concept of sexual orientation is particularly vivid in 9th century society's treatment of relationships between women. During this time, deeply felt, intimate relationships between women were seen as normal and acceptable.(14) These relationships were both sensual and platonic,(15) they were never labeled as lesbian(16) but rather were seen as complementary to the woman's relationship with her husband and family.(17) Because men and women lived and worked in different spheres, relationships between women developed naturally."(18)

FOOTNOTES:

(10) See J. D'EMILIO & E. FREEDMAN, supra note 9, at 15.

(11)D'Emilio, supra note 8, at 917

(12)See Law, supra note 9, at 199

(13) See id

(14)See L. FADERMAN, SURPASSING THE LOVE OF MEN: ROMANTIC FRIENDSHIP AND LOVE BETWEEN WOMEN FROM THE RENAISSANCE TO THE PRESENT 157 (1981); Smith-Rosenberg, The Female World of love and Ritual: Relations Between Women in Nineteenth-Century America, I SIGNS I, 9, 27 (1975); A. RICH, Vesuvius at Hornet The Power of&mily Dickinson, in ON LIES, SECRETS AND SILENCE: SELECTED PROSE 1966-1978, at 161-63 (1979)

(15) Smith-Rosenberg, supra note 14, at 4

(16)Indeed, most people never imagined that relationships between two women could be sexual. See P. BLUMSTEIN & P. SCHWARTZ, AMERICAN COUPLES 40 (1983), see also Law, supra note 9, at 202 ("Lesbians Were censured by silence; sexual acts between two women were unimaginable."). This view was also a reflection of the common belief that women were asexual. See D. GREENBERG, THE CONSTRUCTION OF HOMOSEXUALITY 376-77 (1988)

(17) See P. BLUMSTEIN & P. SCHWARTZ, supra note 16, at 41, P. CONRAD & J. SCHNEIDER, DEVIANCE AND MEDICALIZATION 173 (1980) (As long as women's behavior did not interfere with carrying, bearing, and rearing of children, it received comparatively little attention."); D. WEST, HOMOSEXUALITY RE-EXAMINED 177 (1977) ("In male-dominated societies,... lesbian activities ... seem to have been treated with an amused tolerance, so long as they did not interfere with masculine satisfactions.")

(18) See Smith-Rosenberg, supva note 14, at 9-13; L. FADERMAN, supra note 14, at 157-58 (SOURCE OF INFORMATION: SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND THE LAW, by the editors of the Harvard Law Review, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass, London, England. (1989) pp 2-3)

CONTINUE ON TO EARLY AMERICA SEX, MARRIAGE, CHILDREN, GAYS, LESBIANS, BOYS AS GIRLS, ABORTION, BREECHING, FAMILY AND OTHER MYTHS. PART 12

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