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date: 08 December 2021

Homosexuality and Political Scandal Until 1919locked

Homosexuality and Political Scandal Until 1919locked

  • Anna ClarkAnna ClarkDepartment of History, University of Minnesota

Summary

Same-sex scandals often had political implications both on a superficial level of political rivalries and the larger level of political ideas. Scandals gain traction when sexual misbehavior becomes a metaphor for larger political misbehavior, for instance, mixing up one’s personal interests with governmental actions. Pre-20th century scandals were different than later ones because the notion of homosexuality as a fixed identity had not emerged. As historians have long shown, in the past same-sex desire was defined in very different ways, and not as a fixed, exclusive sexual orientation. In ancient Greece and Rome, politicians accused enemies of sexually submitting to other men to undercut their claims to citizenship even though it was acceptable for men to sexually dominate male slaves, foreign men, and non-citizen youths. In the early modern period, enemies could accuse politicians, aristocrats, or monarchs of indulging in sex with both men and women. In doing so they undercut the acceptability of a political structure based on dynasties and personal patronage. In the period up to World War I, radicals used same-sex desire not just to challenge individual politicians, but to challenge the militaristic, aristocratic dominance. Same-sex scandals could also justify imperial interventions, or conversely, undercut white pretensions to superiority. By the late 19th century, same-sex scandals also emerged out of larger controversies over police regulation of prostitution. Only at the very end of this period did the sexological notion of the homosexual as a distinct personality emerge as a (minor) factor in political scandals.

Subjects

  • History and Politics

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