“The Enemy of the New Man: Homosexuality in Fascist Italy” by Lorenzo Benadusi— Homosexuality, Gender and Morality Under Fascism

Benadusi, Lorenzo. “The Enemy of the New Man: Homosexuality in Fascist Italy”, University of Wisconsin Press, 2017.

Homosexuality, Gender and Morality Under Fascism

Amos Lassen

Lorenzo Benadusi brings us the first in-depth history of homosexuality, gender, and Italian morality during the Fascist era in Italy and in it he shares important archival documents regarding the sexual politics of the Italian Fascist regime. We get new insights to the study of the complex relationships of masculinity, sexuality, and Fascism, an explorations of the connections between new Fascist values and preexisting Italian traditional and Roman Catholic views on morality, documentation of both the Fascist regime’s denial of the existence of homosexuality in Italy and its clandestine strategies and motivations for repressing and imprisoning homosexuals. We also see the ways that accusations of homosexuality (whether true or false) were used against political and personal enemies. Most importantly we learn how homosexuality was the enemy of the Fascist “New Man,” which was, according to Fascism, an ideal of a virile warrior and dominating husband who was vigorously devoted to the “political” function of producing children for the Fascist state.

Benadusi thoroughly investigates the regulation and regimentation of gender in Fascist Italy, and the extent to which (in agreement with the Catholic Church) the regime became engaged in the cultural and legal ideals of masculinity and femininity that were engineered by the Fascist government. The sources for this are un-published documents, official speeches, letters, coerced confessions, private letters and diaries, legal documents, and government memos that reveal and analyze how the orders issued by the regime attempted to protect the “integrity of the Italian race.” Documents from the Vatican archives show and explain how the Catholic Church dealt with issues related to homosexuality during the Fascist period in Italy.

Much of this is new and gives insights into Mussolini’s totalitarian ‘experiment’ in actively shaping the laws and cultural codes that regulated gender and sexuality during the Fascist period in Italy. Benadusi takes us well below the surface rhetoric about the virility of the Fascist “New Man” and offers an important new understanding of the actual practices of sexual repression during the period and the specific legal and punitive measures that were elaborated for the regimentation of the sexual lives of Italians.

We see not only into the history of homosexuality in modern Italy, but also the key aspects of the fascist project with its cult of virility and accompanying misogyny; its obsession with “strengthening the race”; its relationship with the Catholic Church and the Italian bourgeoisie; its repressive tendencies; and the limits of its totalitarian aspirations.


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