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

Research and edited, Jim Allison


Homosexality

The natives presented another factor. It is difficult to believe all that the records tell us of their sexual habits; facts were likely distorted to make a case to seize land. According to the records, various tribes practiced polygamy, institutionalized (mostly religious) male homosexuality, promiscuity (especially as a courtesy to travelers) and abortion and infanticide, as well as regulating family size by late weaning. If homosexuality were as characteristic of Indian culture as some early records would suggest, the Indians would not have scorned the early all-male settlements because of the lack of families as strongly as they did. Their criticism of a society that, by absence of women, was at least suggestive of a state of homosexuality similar to that under which the Indians were alleged to have lived indicates the allegations were largely unfounded. Despite problems of veracity in the records, it is clear that some traditions were different enough to cause discomfort for the Europeans, and at least one community emulated "free love" Indian practices, to the disgust of its Plymouth neighbors. SOURCE: The Writer's Guide, Everyday Life in Colonial America From 1607 - 1783. Dale Taylor. Weiter's Digest Books (1997) p. 120 - 133

 


 

Sodomy was a male crime and required evidence of "unnatural" penetration, including two witnesses, for the death penalty. It included male/male and male/female anal sex and buggery (sex with an animal), but it did not include female homosexuality. We know of a small number of buggery executions in the seventeenth century, none in the eighteenth. Because buggery was believed to result in monstrous offspring, a man convicted was required to point out his partners, who were then killed before him as a prelude to his own execution. With proper punishment and confession, a male homosexual could be reintegrated into society without stigma.

The status of boys in English society changed over the period. Until they were breeched, boys were considered women. After adolescence they were men. In the intervening years they were neither during the early period. With time, breeching came to signify acceptance as men. This change occurred in England about 1680, but until then, boys were a perfectly acceptable outlet for male sexuality. Since the prevailing English view of sexuality was based in power and the submission to power, no man would willingly submit to another man. A boy, however, who was less than a man and may have been considered a woman, was under no stigma at all in providing sex, and no male lost any standing by taking it. This places special relevance on the boys sent to Virginia in 1607 and other early settlements, but would surely have run afoul of the New England strictures against nonprocreative sex, although the aristocratic nature of Chesapeake society almost assuredly meant English aristocratic practices were continued without comment. Needless to say, the records contain little about pederasty. SOURCE: The Writer's Guide, Everyday Life in Colonial America From 1607 - 1783. Dale Taylor. Weiter's Digest Books (1997) p. 120 - 133

 


 

"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)

FOOTNOTES: (7) See J. KATZ, GAY/LESBIAN ALMANAC 31-48 (1983). (8) See D'Emilio, Making and Unmaking Minorities: The Tensions Between Gay Politics and History, 14 N.Y.U. REV. L. & SOC. CHANGE 915, 917 (1986); Goldstein, History, Homosexuality, and Political Values: Searching for the Hidden Determinants of Bowers v. Hardwick, 97 YALE L.J. 1073, 1087 (1988) The terms "homosexual" and "heterosexual" and the concepts behind them were not popular in the United States until the 1920's See J. KATZ, supra note 7, at 16. (9) See J. KATZ, Supa note 7, at 29-65; Law, Homosexuality and the Social Meaning of Gender, 1988 Wis. L. REV. 187, 199. However, sexual acts between two women were generally not criminalized because the laws only sought to deter "the unnatural spilling of seed, the biblical sin of Onan." J. DIEMILIO & E. FREEDMAN, INTIMATE MATTERS: A HISTORY OF SEXUALITY IN AMERICA 122 (1988); see also Law, supra, at 202 n75("The traditional common law and religious condemnation of homosexuality did not encompass women."). (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. (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)

 


 

The 1960s generation did not invent premarital and out-of wedlock sex. Indeed, the straitlaced sexual morality of nineteenth-century Anglo-American societies, partly revived in the 1950s, seems to have been a historical and cultural aberration. Anthropologist George Murdock examined cultural rules concerning sexual behavior in 250 societies and found that only 3 shared our "generalized sex taboo" on sexual behavior of any type outside marriage. Nor is there evidence that homosexual or lesbian activity is more frequent now than it was in the past; the claim that increased toleration of such activity portends reproductive doom does not mesh with the fact that two-thirds of the historical societies for which evidence is available have condoned homosexual relations.9

9. Kain, Myth of Family Decline, p. 127; John Gillis, "From Ritual to Romance: Toward an Alternative History of Love," in Emotion and Social Change: Toward a New Psychohistory, ed. Carol and Peter Stearns (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1988), p. 94; Martin Duberman, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, eds., Hidden From History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past (New York: NAL Books, 1989), p. 10; David Greenberg, The Construction of Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988). SOURCE: The Way We Never Were American Families and the Nostalgia Trap Stephanie Coontz Basic Books, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers (1992) p 184

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/eresources/exhibitions/sw25/case5.html

With Gay American History, Jonathan Ned Katz published the first book of documents relating to homosexuality in American history. This fascinating and compendious source ranges from the sixteenth century up to present times; its texts include everything from denunciations of sodomy in colonial America to modern protests against homosexual persecution. Comparable in its historical scope is Lillian Faderman's Surpassing the Love of Men, which examines the history of romantic friendship between women from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. Focusing on the changing status of male-male love from the late classical era to the middle ages, John Boswell's groundbreaking Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality finds gay people and gay subcultures even further back in history. By demonstrating the important presence of same-sex desires, friendships, and sexual practices throughout Western history, these books were crucial in opening up new fields for investigation.

Male-Male Intimacy in Early America: Beyond Romantic Friendships By William Benemann http://www.maletomalefeeling.com/writings01.html

 


 

BIBLIOGRAPHY OF GAY AND LESBIAN HISTORY Compiled by Rictor Norton INDEX: [General History] [Anthologies] [Lesbian: General] [Pre-Modern Lesbian] [Modern Lesbian] [Literary History] [Language] [Theory] [Famous Homosexuals] [Anthropology] [Ancient] [Medieval] [Early Modern] [Renaissance] [European] [English Early Modern] [English Modern] [German] [Dutch] [French] [Spain & Portugal] [Modern American] [China, India and Japan] [Middle East] [Latin America] [Africa] [Colonial and non-European Updated 11 April 2005

http://www.rictornorton.co.uk/bibliog/

North America: Pre-Modern History http://rictornorton.co.uk/bibliog/bibamer2.htm

CONTINUE ON TO EARLY AMERICA SEX, MARRIAGE, CHILDREN, GAYS, LESBIANS, BOYS AS GIRLS, ABORTION, BREECHING, FAMILY AND OTHER MYTHS. PART 13

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