mardi 8 mai 2012
Homosexuals in Dutch army : cases brought before the military court in Haarlem
The stockades of the barracks are often mentioned in these indictments. This suggests that some soldiers addicted to the pursuit of this pleasure were rather heedless in seducing their comrades and ran into problems only in new situations, such as the stockades. It is also possible that bunk-mates were disinclined to denounce the soldiers with whom they had lived for some time in the barracks unless there were aggravating circumstances. Such a balance, of course, did not exist in the stockades. In certain ways the barracks produced homosexual behavior. Fully half of the charges of public indecencies on the part of soldiers involved this setting. Sex was possible, in the first place, because the barracks dormitories were unlighted and crowded with young men who, moreover, were often drunk. Intoxication was mentioned in connection with twenty-five defendants, and of seventy-two men indicted for homosexual indecencies, fifty were between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine, which is considered to be a male's sexually most active age. Even if other soldiers wanted to denounce their bunk-mates, it was often difficult to prove what had actually happened. For a conviction, the courts required two witnesses to testify that they had seen the defendant commit the act, unless he confessed his crime. In many cases, the defendants were acquitted because the witnesses could not swear to have seen the bare genitals. In some cases involving a defendant who had tried to seduce various mates and had groped their private parts, the serial indecencies could not be proved because there was only one witness for each assault, which fell short of the evidentiary requirements for a conviction. Also, many of the accused seeking acquittal claimed they had been drunk or seduced by their comrade. In most instances, such exculpatory or extenuating circumstances did not sway the courts, although in exceptional cases they were accepted.
Most of the accused did not succeed in consummating their sexual deeds, as they were caught in the act. The precise acts that were being perpetrated often cannot be ascertained, both because in many instances the men had only started touching each other and because the terms used in the court archives are vague, such as ontucht (vice or lewdness) and "loathsome posture." The specific sexual acts mentioned most frequently are anal penetration and mutual masturbation; fellatio is mentioned only rarely. The type of act apparently had no influence on the severity of the sentence. Nearly half of the cases (twenty-nine men) involved consensual sex. Most of these relations were consummated in the sleeping quarters of the barracks, but pairs of soldiers were also arrested in other places. These men were the most ingenious in presenting excuses, such as having been intoxicated. In the case of a sergeant and a corporal who were arrested in an Amsterdam park, the sergeant testified that he had been drunk, while the corporal stated that he had been forced by his partner. They did not succeed in convincing the court of their innocence. But two young marines who were found in "loathsome postures" in another Amsterdam park were acquitted, because they claimed they had only been relieving themselves. This was confirmed by a police officer who had been dispatched to the park following their arrest, for he indeed found their stools on the spot. According to the testimony, the marines also made remarks after their arrest that suggested culpability. The younger one confirmed to the arresting officer that he had been the "wife." And both marines apparently even tried to bribe the night watchmen not to arrest them. Precise investigative work was key in another case. A sergeant and a corporal were arrested on the ramparts on Naarden. There was only one witness, but the responsible under-officer immediately set off for the scene of arrest and thus was able to testify that the grass was downtrodden at that spot and that he had even found a substance looking most like "the raw white of an egg." The court held this to be definite proof of public indecency.
Regrettably, information on the sexual discourses of the soldiers is documented in only a few cases. In one, a trumpeter named Torrer complained that another soldier wanted to "queer" him (flikkeren, which as a verb is nonexistent in Dutch). "Queer" (flikker) was also used as a noun. One soldier remarked to bystanders that another soldier wanted to "sodomize" him (sodomieteren, also unknown as a verb in Dutch). Two twenty-one-year-old infantrymen mutually masturbated each other on a cot, and witnesses heard them say, "You have to strip naked," "Aren't you ready?" and "Yes, I am ready, feel it." When trying to seduce a trumpeter, the drunken corporal Andreas Enders said to him, "What a lovely little trumpeter you are," and "Let me feel your little sweet one," whereupon he tried to touch the trumpeter's genitals. The object of his desire then turned around, which the corporal understood not as a refusal but as an indication that the trumpeter was embarrassed in this situation, so he continued his advances and proposed to the trumpeter, "Come on to the street, then we can do a little thing, I'm so horny." Several years earlier, the following utterance was reported of two soldiers who enjoyed each other's company in a berth: "You are my best cock." The men lay naked against each other and embraced each other "as a man a woman." This gender metaphor also appears in other indictments. In the same year, a soldier testified that the accused had touched his genitals "as if he were a girl." Such gender metaphors are also documented in other archival sources. There are at least two ways of interpreting these metaphors. On the one hand, it may refer to the traditional sex/gender system of the sodomite: men who were approached felt themselves put in the passive (non-male) sex role and were afraid to be penetrated. [...] The second possibility is that anxiety about being put in the female role actually referred to being considered a queer and having a homosexual identity, if we assume that homosexual behavior and effeminacy were conflated, as in Trumbach's sex/gender system. This seems less likely in these cases. According to an Amsterdam court proceeding of 1830, a man was approached by someone described as a "sodomite" and as "being known to commit unnatural fornication"; here, the metaphor of effeminacy was applied not to the sodomite, but to the solicited man who had been put in a passive, unmanly role. The gender of the sodomite was certainly not questioned. The use of the gender metaphor can indicate both sex/gender systems, and it is not always possible to disentangle its references.
Not only cases of public indecency were prosecuted, but also aggravated assaults, assaults on minors, and sex with dependents. A fifteen-year-old trumpeter was caught in the act of rubbing his penis against the buttocks of a [little] boy. Probably because of his age, he was given a light sentence: three months in prison. Another soldier convicted of touching two boys, age fifteen and twelve, was sentenced to five years. The severest sentence in this series was handed down in the case of a twenty-one-year-old trumpeter, Petrus Wittebol, who had [...] violently assaulted another soldier (no age indicated, but probably in his late teens). Wittebol was condemned to ten years. Four out of seven assault cases were tried after the introduction of the revised criminal code in 1886, which extended the definition of sex crimes. The sentences were less severe than earlier, but more consistent. The hardest sentence after 1886, for a prison term of three years, was handed down in the case of a soldier in a hospital, who had masturbated two soldiers "until a seminal discharge took place." The young men were asleep in the barracks where the accused was on guard duty. How he succeeded in bringing them to climax without awakening them was not explained. [...] Psychical abnormalities are never mentioned in the Dutch material, and the court officials never sought the expert testimony of psychiatrists. The same was true of contemporary civil courts, which only started to rely on psychiatric expertise in the final decade of the nineteenth century. Nor was medical testimony concerning the clinical evidence of sodomy requested by military courts, and rarely so by civil courts. Sexual slanders were brought before the military courts in addition to sex crimes. One soldier was charged with slander after telling his fellow soldiers in the barracks that a certain captain had "obliged him to come to his quarters and that the captain forced him to do things and committed acts against him of a very obscene and vicious nature." Although these slurs were contrary to military discipline and were of a sort that would "expose [the captain,] if true, to the contempt and hatred of the citizenry," the court ruled that the barracks did not constitute a public place, and thus the soldier had not committed a crime. This is a remarkable decision, because the court never hesitated to consider indecencies in the barracks to be public deeds. And it is also remarkable that they did not shield the captain, surely a fellow officer, from this defamation. One soldier, who was being taken into custody for an unrelated crime, resisted the arresting sergeant, shouting at him, "Keep off my body, you dirty hound, I'll grab your sodomite! [Not a standard Dutch noun-he meant cock.] This is really a sodomitical thieves' gang here." He was sentenced to be drummed out of the military. But how true was his characterization of the barracks, and how routine was homosexual behavior in the sleeping quarters?
from "Homosexual Behavior in the Nineteenth-Century Dutch Army" by Gert Hekma in Journal of the History of Sexuality, Oct. 1991.
Publié par frounch à 04:31