Essay about Homosexuality in Eighteenth Century England

Essay about Homosexuality in Eighteenth Century England

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Though same-sex relationships have been a prominent aspect of many cultures almost since the beginning of time, there has historically been a significant taboo surrounding the phenomenon in the Western world. "From the Fourteenth Century on, Western Europe was gripped by a rabid and obsessive negative preoccupation with homosexuality as the most horrible of sins" (Boswell 262). The majority of people did not understand or accept the idea, and consequentially did not have an appropriate way of talking about it. Over the years, as various cultures identified and even implemented practices currently associated with homosexuality, there arose a need for common terminology. Until the eighteenth century, it was referred to through the practices and stereotypes for which its participants were known, and not for the orientation, itself. "Sodomites and Fops" were two common ways of referring to homosexuals, and for the majority of the eighteenth century, homosexuality as we currently know it was undefined.

Expressing a lack of a common understanding and a general lack of acceptance, "An anonymous author commenting on the practice understood it but insisted it still had no name: 'It [i.e. homosexuality today] is yet without a Name: What shall it then be called? There are not Words in our Language expressive enough of the Horror of it."' (Rousseau 136). Although there was an uprising of the recognition of same-sex relationships in the 1700's, society did not even begin to understand or accept those unions. Due to the negative and even unbelieving attitudes of most people during the eighteenth century, the terminology used in the discussion of same-sex relationships was, for the most part, inappropriate for public use, and very colorful, ...


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...lity in England during the eighteenth century is difficult to tackle, in that the ideas and beliefs about it, and the terminology used in its description are confused and seemingly undefined. At that time, people did not know what to think or how to talk about it, which creates significant confusion in contemporary discussion. "The subject requires some type of philosophical overview ranging from definitional aspects to matters of value judgement in research" (Rousseau 133).

Works Cited

Boswell, John. Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe. Villard Books. New York, 1994.
Hyde, H. Montgomery. The Love That Dared Not Speak Its Name. Little, Brown and Company. Boston, 1970.

Rousseau, G.S. "The Pursuit of Homosexuality in the Eighteenth Century: 'Utterly Confused Category' and/or Rich Repository?" From Eighteenth-Century Life. Baltimore, MD, vol 9 #3, May 1985.

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