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.
Nothing optional—from homosexuality to adultery—is ever made punishable unless those who do the prohibiting (and exact the fierce punishments) have a repressed desire to participate.
Shakespeare touched upon this phenomenon in King Lear, when Lear reproaches the policeman who is whipping a prostitute because of his lust for her company:
Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
Why dost thou lash that whore?
Strip thine own back;
Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind
For which thou whipp’st her.
– King Lear (Act 4, Scene 6) Continue reading →
What about all of the good things people have done in the name of God? It is undeniable that many people of faith make heroic sacrifices to relieve the suffering of other human beings.
You’re right. But is it necessary to believe anything on insufficient evidence in order to behave this way? If compassion were really dependent upon religious dogmatism, how could we explain the work of secular doctors in the most war-ravaged regions of the developing world? Many doctors are moved simply to alleviate human suffering, without any thought of God. Continue reading →
“Friends, with your help and love you have shown us how to make sense of the world, and when the world hasn’t made any sense at all you told us to sit back and enjoy it; you taught us what’s right, what’s real, what’s beautiful about this planet, and for that we are eternally grateful.”