Start Date

4-2020 9:00 AM

End Date

4-2020 10:00 AM

Disciplines

European History

Description

In 1791, homosexual acts became legal between two consenting adults in France. To understand how progressive this legislation was, it is important to consider how much later other Western countries decriminalized same-sex sexual acts, termed sodomy: Italy in 1890, Denmark in 1933, the United Kingdom in 1982, and the United States in 2003. Generally speaking, Western countries generated very little legislative acceptance of homosexuality until the twentieth century, when changes in the law mirrored the broadening social acceptance towards the gay community. So one must ask: Why was France so ahead of the curve in terms of acceptance towards homosexuality? The simple answer: They were not. The French decriminalization of sodomy in the 1791 Penal Code seemingly had very little to do with homosexuality, its role in society, or public attitudes toward it. In the end, the decriminalization of sodomy in Revolutionary France was truly a result of circumstance, which occurred without any direct support from the people. This paper explores the many factors which lead to the inadvertent decriminalization of sodomy in Revolutionary France.

Persistent Identifier

https://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/32888

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Apr 27th, 9:00 AM Apr 27th, 10:00 AM

Sodomy Laws in France: How The 1791 French Penal Code Decriminalized Sodomy Without The Will of The People

In 1791, homosexual acts became legal between two consenting adults in France. To understand how progressive this legislation was, it is important to consider how much later other Western countries decriminalized same-sex sexual acts, termed sodomy: Italy in 1890, Denmark in 1933, the United Kingdom in 1982, and the United States in 2003. Generally speaking, Western countries generated very little legislative acceptance of homosexuality until the twentieth century, when changes in the law mirrored the broadening social acceptance towards the gay community. So one must ask: Why was France so ahead of the curve in terms of acceptance towards homosexuality? The simple answer: They were not. The French decriminalization of sodomy in the 1791 Penal Code seemingly had very little to do with homosexuality, its role in society, or public attitudes toward it. In the end, the decriminalization of sodomy in Revolutionary France was truly a result of circumstance, which occurred without any direct support from the people. This paper explores the many factors which lead to the inadvertent decriminalization of sodomy in Revolutionary France.