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The Enemy of the New Man

Homosexuality in Fascist Italy

Lorenzo Benadusi

Publication Year: 2012

In this first in-depth historical study of homosexuality in Fascist Italy, Lorenzo Benadusi brings to light immensely important archival documents regarding the sexual politics of the Italian Fascist regime; he adds new insights to the study of the complex relationships of masculinity, sexuality, and Fascism; he explores the connections between new Fascist values and preexisting Italian traditional and Roman Catholic views on morality; he documents both the Fascist regime’s denial of the existence of homosexuality in Italy and its clandestine strategies and motivations for repressing and imprisoning homosexuals; he uncovers the ways that accusations of homosexuality (whether true or false) were used against political and personal enemies; and above all, he shows how homosexuality was deemed the enemy of the Fascist “New Man,” an ideal of a virile warrior and dominating husband vigorously devoted to the “political” function of producing children for the Fascist state.
    Benadusi investigates the regulation and regimentation of gender in Fascist Italy, and the extent to which, in uneasy concert with the Catholic Church, the regime engaged in the cultural and legal engineering of masculinity and femininity. He cites a wealth of unpublished documents, official speeches, letters, coerced confessions, private letters and diaries, legal documents, and government memos to reveal and analyze how the orders issued by the regime attempted to protect the “integrity of the Italian race.” For the first time, documents from the Vatican archives illuminate how the Catholic Church dealt with issues related to homosexuality during the Fascist period in Italy.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xvii

Let us imagine an Italian in Fascist Italy at the beginning of the 1940s who wanted to know something more about how Fascism viewed homosexuality and what the eventual punishment for being homosexual might have been. Of course, our Italian already knew that public opinion in Fascist Italy, like in Liberal Italy, severely condemned homosexuality as did Catholic morality, for ...

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p. xix

The idea for this book came to me after reading the work of George L. Mosse, whose studies, like Ariadne’s thread, were able to guide me during some difficult moments. A heartfelt thanks to Emilio Gentile; his comments, which always led to queries and new considerations, encouraged me to look at issues from multiple points of view and to critically evaluate interpretations that are often taken for ...


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pp. xxi-xx

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Introduction: Against Nature: Masculinity and Homosexuality

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pp. 3-10

In 2000, when I began doing research on homosexuality and Fascism, the argument was all but ignored in Italy. Fascism’s repression of homosexuality did not even receive attention at the gay pride festival in Rome that summer, despite the enormous media attention surrounding the event. It was as though the homosexual community had taken center stage out of nowhere without ...

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1. The Making of the Virile Italian

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pp. 11-30

After the unification of Italy, the difficult task of “making Italians,” of nationalizing the masses, meant not only spreading the ideal of a common nation but creating conformity in behavior, habits, and lifestyle, something the kaleidoscope of Italian regions lacked, so much so that it seriously jeopardized the creation of a unified state. The socioeconomic and cultural differences between ...

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2. The Discovery of Homosexuality

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pp. 31-78

In the nineteenth century the continuous avoidance of any reference to homosexuality—a taboo subject of such unspeakable indecency and immorality that even classical Greek and Latin texts were censored to avoid corrupting the honest reader—was destined to clash with the new scientific interest in sexuality.1 Yet the “conspiracy of silence” regarding “abnormal” sexual behavior was broken ...

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3. Sodomy: Sin or Crime

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pp. 79-110

The rise of Fascism seemed to ease the Church’s growing concern with the rapidly changing nature of sexual morality brought on by modernity and accelerated by the First World War. For the Church, the secularization taking place collided with morality, creating a divergence between sacred Christian principles and the lifestyle of citizens, official religious precepts, and everyday life. ...

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4. The Repression of Homosexuality

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pp. 111-167

Although there was no specific law regarding the “crime” of homosexuality, the repression of the “vice,” as well as the persecution of any behavior that did not conform to state-imposed rules, were the basic instruments that Fascism implemented in its attempt to completely regenerate Italian society and the Italian people. Mussolini expressed this prerogative very clearly as early as ...


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pp. 168-184

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5. Madmen or Criminals

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pp. 185-211

Institutions such as jails and insane asylums were also used to repress homosexuality. As we have seen, despite the lack of any specific article against homosexual relationships, one could be condemned for indecent behavior or solicitation, two crimes that had acquired a very broad meaning during the dictatorship, including, of course, any violation of the Fascist standard of virility. Consequently, ...

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6. The Political Use of Homosexuality

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pp. 212-270

During the Fascist period, homosexuality—the accusation of practicing it— became a common weapon for attacking one’s political adversaries. Accusing an adversary of homosexuality served to remove politically troublesome individuals or to have others, often public figures, dismissed, threatened, or blackmailed. Whether the person was actually a homosexual or not mattered very little. ...

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7. Bourgeois Respectability and Fascist Morality

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pp. 271-299

The fact that the regime wavered between repression and laxity in relation to pederasty was largely due to its rigid view of homosexuality and its largely superficial idea of virility. As a consequence, only those whose public behavior went against the stereotype of the virile, muscular, traditionally attired, and sexually active male—such as effeminate men, transvestites, and prostitutes— were persecuted. ...


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pp. 301-405


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pp. 407-432

Further Reading, Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780299283933
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299283940

Page Count: 424
Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 785775110
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Enemy of the New Man

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Fascism -- Italy -- History.
  • Masculinity -- Italy -- History -- 20th century.
  • Gay men -- Italy -- History -- 20th century.
  • Fascism and sex -- Italy.
  • Italy -- History -- 1922-1945.
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