Sexual Hierarchies, Public Status

Sexual Hierarchies, Public Status: Men, Sodomy, and Society in Spain's Golden Age

CRISTIAN BERCO
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 248
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442684782
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  • Book Info
    Sexual Hierarchies, Public Status
    Book Description:

    By focusing on how hierarchies were created both within sexual relationships and in the public eye, this investigation traces the significance of homosexual desire in the context of daily social relations informed by status, ethnic, religious, and national differences.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8478-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    Even if some have at times deplored the inefficiency of early modern Spanish bureaucracies – an assessment increasingly under question – the often obsessive need apparent throughout early Spanish institutions to maintain a verifiable written record has provided historians with a veritable treasure of sources to peruse, a scholar’s heaven where the sought-after records of a past society flow like manna from thousands of dusty volumes in their archival repository. Although much maligned by the Black Legend and its more subdued modern forms, the tribunals of the Inquisition have nonetheless left us reams of valuable paperwork. Not only can historians...

  6. 1 The Dynamics of Male-on-Male Sodomy: Age, Gender, and the Dialectics of Dominance
    (pp. 23-38)

    The use of trial records as historical sources offers, perhaps more than most, complex challenges to an investigator. Rather than an accurate reflection of crime, trials occupy a space between fiction and reality most hard to delineate. Did a specific crime occur? Was a certain person innocent or guilty? These questions, though explored in older historical studies that relied on positivist epistemological notions, have largely disappeared from (post)modern scholarship. Lest we despair that trial records offer no tangible insights, the very process of constructing a trial narrative provides historians with valuable understandings of the mentalities informing such constructions.¹

    The cases...

  7. 2 The Breadth of Same-Sex Male Eroticism: Sexual Geography, Masculinity, and Male Sociability
    (pp. 39-55)

    That the Aragonese inquisitorial tribunals have left us over five hundred homosexual sodomy trials might initially signal a vigorous persecution, an unrelenting repression of same-sex eroticism. We can only imagine how men attracted to other males cowered in the shadows and margins of society, petrified by the Inquisition’s fierce purpose. Many men, certainly, when they engaged in amorous behaviour with an adolescent knew enough to urge silence on their partner. Consider, for instance, the case of Joan Beltrán de Valderrama, a twenty-nine-year-old resident of Tarragona. In 1575, according to a nineteen-year-old witness, Valderrama accosted him in his father’s dispensary. Manning...

  8. 3 Subverting Social Order: Homosexual Behaviour and Sexual Misalliance
    (pp. 56-74)

    In 1602 the chief ecclesiastical judge for the Archbishopric of Zaragoza, Martin Carrillo, described the sin of sodomy in the following terms:

    It is a vice so dirty and ugly that even the devil, who tempts and induces people to commit it, escapes and withdraws from the licentious individual at the time of the act (as St Anthony says), as if ashamed of being present before such an ugly and lewd act. And as the same saint says, this vice causes pestilence and tempests in the cities.²

    The danger of sodomy lay thus, not only in its gravity as a...

  9. 4 Sodomy, the Aragonese Tribunals, and Local Authorities
    (pp. 75-88)

    Heretofore, the analysis of the sodomy trial records has centred on uncovering the complex world of male sociability, masculinity, and eroticism that informed perceptions of same-sex amorous behaviour. The court records – through the assumptions contained in their testimony – have opened a window into the superstructure of gendered conceptions, social interaction, and internal hierarchies that loosely regulated the erotic encounters between men. Not only has homosexual behaviour emerged as a widespread possibility shaped by a culture of hyper-masculinity, but the constant potential for sexual misalliance – the threat of two hierarchical systems colliding – has been manifested in the...

  10. 5 Trial Procedure, Inquisitors, and the Social Context of Sodomy Cases
    (pp. 89-107)

    In 1623 afamiliararrested Francisco Tibau for having attempted to sodomize one of his bed partners in an inn. A desperate panic gripping him, Francisco pitifully pleaded with thefamiliarto release him, even offering all his estate to seal the pact.¹ He would have given anything to avoid trial at the hands of the Zaragozan inquisitors, such was the fear he had of them. Francisco’s terror rightly underscores the momentous event of a sodomy trial. The trial itself represented the culmination and centre point of the judicial system designed to punish lascivious criminality. It was here that dreams...

  11. 6 Social Control and Its Limits: Sodomy, Local Sexual Economies, and Inquisitors
    (pp. 108-129)

    In most societies, certain crimes so fire the social imagination, so embody a vision of the most perfect evil, that they constitute focal points around which anxieties about other social factors such as community, ethnicity, and status revolve. Historians interested in the relationship between crime and society and the constructions that effectively criminalized undesirables or outsiders to the community have pointed to sodomy as a particularly useful barometer for gauging social and state perceptions of various social groups in the early modern period. Communities or magistrates could easily utilize sodomy – a particularly malleable and adaptable concept – to persecute...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 130-140)

    ‘God was fucked from behind by Saint Joseph.’¹ With these words, Juan Laure, a soldier tried for sodomy and blasphemy, aptly summarized the connection between sexual roles, masculinity, and status that could render homosexual sex a political statement. In conceptualizing God as the passive receptor of homosexual sodomy, Juan specifically signalled him as an emasculated, dominated being. Although Juan’s statement remained only a metaphor divorced from concrete sexual activity, its deployment of sexuality into the realm of public hierarchy transfers well into the cases of homosexual sexuality examined in this study.

    Indeed, the uneasy confluence of sexuality and public status...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 141-176)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-190)
  15. Index
    (pp. 191-201)