On Sodomy


Every time i end up reading an article on sodomy for a history class, i find myself pondering the power-structure in all relationships. i feel pretty safe in affirming that our conception of sex as an expression of love is a creation of the 1950s, but nonetheless, we have co-opted a lot of the dialogues found in prior societies. Worth mentioning is that the proto-feminists (i.e. up until the 1960s) were more likely to advocate an asexuality for all than the liberation and consequent lesbianism we tend to equate with feminism now.
And what exactly does sodomy mean? Our own use of the term is not consistent with its prior application, which, yes, did include anal intercourse between BOTH homosexual and heterosexual partners, but also any form of non-procreative sex: masturbation, oral intercourse and any form of contraception was a form of sexual heresy. In fact, in many of the American states where sodomy was illegal these were the activities actually being outlawed, not just homosexual actions.
To move to a contemporary Canadian context in this discussion, the current Bill of Rights, though penned decades ago and, hence, nonetheless provocatively progressive, explicitly states that anal intercourse is illegal even between partners under the age of 18, no matter their respective genders.
I am inclined to think that we still perceive of the act as one of subjection of one partner to the will of the other – while clearly in current pornography, the “subjected” is depicted as finding the act pleasureful. In a society whereby we believe in the individual agency of all, do we still require a belief that, within limited contexts, subjection can be a good thing? and is the act really one of subjugation? i don’t really know.
my own thoughts on the acts have little relevance to the conversation. i think, more importantly, this ‘power-structure within a relationship’ dialectic can help us determine just how much we deem sexuality to be defining of a person’s personality – something an article i just read by Helmut Puff on the Priest and the Sodomite in the German Empire claims were not linked. other material i have come across also concurs. our perception of sexuality (i.e. object preference) as a determining factor in identity is a relatively new phenomenon. Sodomy was generally described as illicit acts and the term “sodomite” was one of defamation closely linked to heresy. I think it’s sometimes constructive to debunk our supposedly timeless conception of sexuality.
Well, i guess that’s enough academic mantra for one morning. i am going to go make myself some lunch and read about the crisis of the 3rd century in the Roman Empire before going off to the play. This may mean, lucky readers, that you will get a 2nd post today reviewing the performance. i know you are all a-twitter with delight.
i am considering submitting this blog to YULE blog. i should surf their blogroll first, however, before deciding whether or not it is an appropriate action. Note the more philosophical/analytical content of this entry – i am attempting to up the thoughtfulness again. We’ll see how long that lasts.

2 thoughts on “On Sodomy

  1. I think a-twitter with delight is just the way I would describe my excitement at your second post…I hope you had a good time at the play(?)….this is bryan’s thing right? Other than that, the whole sodomy thing is a topic I don’t care to venture into, but to say that I would prefer not to think about it….

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