Lesbianism in Victorian England


In Victorian England, terms such as lesbian and sapphic came into use for female relationships. For some time, the Victorians never seemed to consider criminalising female homosexuality.

Apocryphally, these were also due to be criminalised in the 1885 legislation know as the Labouchere Amendment, until Queen Victoria declared them impossible, whereupon the clause was omitted – a joke that serves to underline a common, and commonly welcomed, ignorance, at a time when lurid, fictionalised lesbianism was often figured as an especially repulsive and seductive French vice.

“The single best thing about coming out of the closet is that nobody can insult you by telling you what you’ve just told them.” – Rachel Maddow

One of the first people to break the amendment was Oscar Wilde. The judge sentenced him to two years hard labour, although he wished he could punish him even more saying that, “this is the worst case I have ever tried.” A week earlier, the same judge tried a case of child murder.

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