1878: Man unfairly arrested for loitering in Paris urinal


A Paris urinal c.1880 - not much privacy for anything really
A Paris urinal c.1880 – not much privacy for anything really

In the 1870s Paris’ police and civic leaders railed against what they considered a significant problem: men soliciting sex from other men at public urinals. Consensual homosexuality was not illegal in France (it had been decriminalised during the Revolution) but public displays of homosexual behaviour were nevertheless prosecuted as “offences against public decency”. Between 1870 and 1872 more than 100 men were arrested for loitering or acting suspiciously around street toilets in Paris. In 1876 police even found Count Eugene de Germiny, a conservative member of the city council, in a lavatory clinch with a young man named Pierre. After de Germiny’s arrest the concern about nefarious activities in public toilets reached fever pitch. One Paris physician, Maurice Laugier, attempted to penetrate the hysteria with an 1878 essay titled Du role de l’expertise médico-légale dans certains cas d’outrage public a la pudeur (“The role of forensic evidence in certain cases of outraging public decency”). Dr Laugier described several cases where men with verifiable medical conditions were unfairly dealt with by police, including one man:

“…suffering from a urinary tract infection… who was observed and questioned by the police [for his] very prolonged stay in a urinal and the manoeuvres that he was exercising on his penis.”

Men suspected of dubious activity in or around public toilets, wrote Laugier, should be questioned about their medical history and afforded a full medical examination before being charged or presented for trial.

Source: Dr Maurice Laugier, “Du role de l’expertise medico-legale dans certains cas d’outrage public a la pudeur” in Annales d’hygiene Publique et Medecine Legal, 1878. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1914: Women’s suffrage: a sign of homosexual tendencies


Wilhelm Stekel (1868-1940) was an Austrian doctor and psychologist who specialised in sexuality and fetishism. In the first decade of the 1900s Stekel became a disciple of Sigmund Freud; both men lived in Vienna and participated regularly in discussion groups and lectures. Writing in 1914 with Dr Samuel Tannenbaum of New York, Stekel argued that an individual’s sexual preference was “betrayed” by their choice of position:

“In many cases homosexual betrays itself in the mode of intercourse adopted by the patient. [Homosexual men] prefer to take the position normally occupied by the woman… [Homosexual women] show similar tendencies; they experience an orgasm only when they are on top… Some of the perversions, e.g. fellatio, cunnilingus, are indicative of homosexuality…”

He also described more gender-specific signs:

“Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, a [homosexual] man has his beard shaved off, or he suddenly begins to take an active interest in sports as permit him to see naked men. He becomes passionately fond of prize-fighting, boxing, sun baths, Turkish baths, gymnasia…”

Homosexually-inclined women will also:

“…begin to take an interest in the movement for women’s rights. In a very large percentage of active suffragettes, the driving force is unsatisfied sexual desire… Only very rarely, if ever, do women whose libido is satisfied take any interest in the suffragette movement.”

Dr Stekel committed suicide in 1940, taking a fatal dose of aspirin to relieve chronic pain caused by his inflamed prostate.

Source: Drs Wilhelm Stekel and Samuel Tannenbaum, “Masked homosexuality” in American Medicine, v.20, August 1914. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.