Uncovering the unmentionable vice: Male homosexuality, race and class in Spain's Golden Age
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis study examined male homosexuality in Spain during the early modern period in the context of social structures, race relations and gender assumptions. Since men who engaged in homosexual activity also contended with issues of status and ethnicity, the analysis focused on the interaction between their sexuality and their public personae. From this baseline, the study also examined public and official attitudes towards homosexual practices and how they shifted on the basis of social hierarchy. Over five hundred sodomy trials from the Aragonese Inquisition were examined, alongside a range of supporting archival and manuscript evidence. The use of sodomy trials allowed for an exploration of attitudes concerning the explosive mix of sexuality and hierarchy in three distinctive groups: the people of cities and towns who accused individuals of sodomy, the inquisitors who tried the latter, and the accused themselves. The analysis showed that early modern men defined sexuality on the basis of gender assumptions that upheld the masculinity of the active, usually older partner. The combination of a masculinity of penetrative sexuality and status within the community meant that homosexuality could both uphold or subvert hierarchies depending on the social identities of the active and passive partners in intercourse. Moreover, Aragonese people displayed a tendency to denounce outsiders to their communities. Inquisitorial judges, however, while demonstrating leniency towards these targets of popular persecution, reserved the harshest punishments for those who specifically challenged order by engaging in active sodomy with a social superior. These two differing strategies that separated the objectives of accusers from those of judges highlight the heterogeneous and diffuse nature of the process by which differing groups sought to impose particular views of required social order. Homosexuality in early modern Aragon emerges as a space that tested the boundaries of hierarchy and also reflected the structure of the social milieu that contextualized it.
Degree ProgramGraduate College