“The Enemy of the New Man: Homosexuality in Fascist Itally” by Lorenzo Benadusi— Homosexuality, Gender and Italian Morality during the Fascist Era in Italy

Benadusi, Lorenzo. “The Enemy of the New Man: Homosexuality in Fascist Italy”, (translated by Suzanne Dingee and Jennifer Pudney), University of Wisconsin Press. 2012.

Homosexuality, Gender and Italian Morality during the Fascist Era in Italy

Amos Lassen

We still know very little about life in Fascist Italy and even less (until now) about homosexuality during that period. Using archival information, Benadusi tells of sexual politics during the period and shows the complex relationships of sexuality, masculinity and Fascism. Keeping in mind that Italy is a Catholic country, he looks at connections between the Roman Catholic church and Italian traditionalism and nationalism. Catholic views on morality definitely determine Italian views and we see that Fascism denies that there were homosexuals in Fascist Italy (not even in the hypocritical Catholic church?). Benadusi does documents how homosexuality (which did not exist) was repressed and those who practiced it were thrown into prison. Furthermore he shows that homosexuality was named as the enemy of the “New Man”, the Fascist ideal of “a virile warrior and dominating husband vigorously devoted to the ‘political’ function of producing children for the Fascist state.”

Gender was regulated and regimented by the regime and together with the Church was part of the cultural and legal engineering of the concepts of male (masculinity) and female (femininity).  We learn of the tremendous amount of unpublished documents that exist as well as official letters, speeches, confessions (coerced), private letters, diaries, legal documents and official memos that both show and analyze how the orders that the regime issued attempted to “protect the integrity of the Italian race”. We also learn of Vatican documents that show how the Church dealt with those issues of homosexuality and those that related to it.

Mussolini attempted his totalitarian experiment by making and shaping the laws and cultural codes that were responsible for the regulation of gender and sexuality. We, therefore, get an enlightened look at the regulated sexual lives of Italians. The book is a monumental study replete with pictures and notes and is a wonderful look at a period of history that has been hidden for too long. I found it a pleasurable and educating read and plan to read it more carefully.

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