In the thinking of the time, criminality, including sodomy, was seen as a physical degeneracy passed from generation to generation. So convicts were seen by very nature to be poor stock with which to colonise the country. And the disproportion of men to women was seen as leaving the convict classes prey to the temptation of sodomy.
But if the anxieties of the authorities had unleashed a wave of debate and discussion about the dangers of debauchery, it is important to be aware there is another way of looking at this — recognising sodomy was also part of the lived experience of convict men and women, and that their experience was not at all the same as that of the horrified authorities. Where respectable colonists saw filth and moral evil, there is evidence convict women and men experienced companionship, affection and attachment, which included sexual love.
Your precious sight was always a welcome and loving charming spectacle. We know quite a lot about love between convicts because they were being constantly monitored by the authorities. One witness identified six female couples by name; others suggested there were anything from eight to 30 such couples. It was said there were cases where a woman, sent out of the factory and into private service, would reoffend, so as to be sent back to where her lover was. When the authorities tried to break up couples, women would refuse to leave their cells, or even riot.
The medical superintendent of the Ross female factory — who habitually intercepted the women's letters — reported on "warmth and impetuosity of the feelings excited in women towards each other, when allied in such unholy bonds". It is highly likely he used the term "unholy bonds" having in mind the "holy bonds" of matrimony, suggesting these women saw themselves as married. An , a British parliamentary inquiry into the transportation system heard much evidence of the extent of debauchery among the convicts. The inquiry came to believe there was a semi-underground subculture a "demi-monde" in existence.
New arrivals at the Hyde Park barracks, including younger men, put themselves under protection of older men — and adopted names such as Kitty, Nancy, Bett. On Norfolk Island, Robert Stuart reported as many as male couples, who referred to themselves openly as "man and wife". Same-sex marriage is not as new as we might think. Relationships among the convicts were of course many different things: situational — a desire for sexual outlet in the absence of the other sex — or coercive, expressing power over someone lower down the pecking order.
They may have been about the more desirable trading sex and affection for protection and advancement. All of these applied, of course, just as much to heterosexual relationships. But as with these, love between men or between women was often enough just that — love. Originally published in The Conversation. Topics: colonialism , history , community-and-society , sexuality , australia. If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC.
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Right now, unknown actors are scanning computers worldwide for a vulnerability that could be exploited to carry out a ransomware attack similar to WannaCry. Is your PC safe? By Erin Cooper. Busting out the cash now may cushion a flagging economy from a damaging global slowdown. But it would be an admission that the outlook is not as strong as forecast, writes Ian Verrender. By Yasmin Jeffery. There's a Whole New World of interest in Ash Barty's Wimbledon press conferences as the straight-faced world number one drops Disney references into her answers. The Conversation.
Photo: Only two offences deserved the death penalty, according to Arthur Phillip: murder and sodomy. State Library of New South Wales, public domain. Photo: Convicts experienced companionship, affection and attachment and sexual love. State Library of NSW, public domain. Photo: Same-sex relationships amongst convicts were not unusual.
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