Female Sexual Inversion: Same-Sex Desires in Italian and by Chiara Beccalossi

By Chiara Beccalossi

An exam of how lady same-sex wishes have been represented in quite a lot of Italian and British clinical writings, 1870-1920. It indicates how the psychiatric classification of sexual inversion used to be situated along different clinical principles of same-sex wishes, corresponding to the virago, tribade-prostitute, fiamma and gynaecological reasons.

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Extra resources for Female Sexual Inversion: Same-Sex Desires in Italian and British Sexology, c. 1870–1920

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While it was less consciously articulated in Roman Catholicism, the spiritual significance of the world of work and the domestic realm assumed a critical importance in nineteenth-century Protestant attitudes towards manliness. Male employment was viewed not merely as a necessity for economic survival, but as a means of proving that a man was independent, honest, and competent; work was thus the main way a man asserted his dignity. These elements became key attributes in the Victorian understanding of manly virtue.

A journey to Italy was deemed an appropriate conclusion for the education of a young British man of good family, while an accomplished young lady was expected to be able to sing in Italian. Italy shaped the artistic tastes of Britain, especially in England, where families of good standing would customarily own a box at the Italian Opera. 13 While such Italo-mania reached its peak in the first forty years of the nineteenth century, in the subsequent decades Italy did not cease to occupy an important place in the minds of the educated British.

In this history, I favoured a close and detailed reading of the texts in order to preserve the richness and complexity of the medical debates, and to recover various representations of female same-sex desires. Nonetheless, I have endeavoured to show the broader context in which such representations were situated; how the roles of institutions and associations, certain medical fields’ ongoing struggle to secure professional prestige, and how editorial policies of journals had an impact on the way physicians spoke about female same-sex desires.

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