December 9th , 2014
The early twentieth century reflected a time period in the United States that viewed the act of sodomy as criminal, socially unacceptable and strictly outlawed. These feelings illustrated the social disregard of privacy towards sodomy and its attachment to sexual violence and abuse during this time period. Specifically, it was considered a crime that could lead to arrest and punishable by jail time. In 1908, the case of the people of NY vs. John Schaumloeffel ,
Schaumloeffel was charged of not committing the act himself but hosting an event were the act took place. Simply being tied with the act reflected the sense of criminality it held during the early twentieth century.
Sodomy was an illegal act during the time of the trial of John Schaumloeffel.
According to the trial transcript he was charged as being the proprietor and host of an event he called "The circus" in 1908. During the event, various women of colored and white descent performed sexual acts of intercourse with each other and other men, eventually leading to the act of sodomy between two colored women. John Schaumloeffel was the owner of the saloon the event took place in, and hosted the show where he charged men $2.50 to come see. He ultimately was arrested, charged with the crime as it was deemed criminal but ultimately was dismissed of all charges as seen having no acquaintance with the two women who committed the crime itself.
The resentment toward sodomy is further examined by researcher Stephenson
Robertson and its attachment to sexual violence. In his article Shifting the Scene of the Crime:
Sodomy and the American History of Sexual Violence, Robertson (2010) examines research that states "Most sodomy prosecutions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were
undertaken by the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC)" ( p.
229.) During this time period the act was seen as a danger not only between adults but as children as well, as it was tied with sexual violence. Because of this feeling, the act posed as a threat in the form of sexual abuse not only by homosexual predators, but by heterosexuals predators as well. The growing concern that this act could could cause harm to others led to some of the prosecutions and charges against people, like John Schaumloeffel. He goes on to state that sodomy in the early twentieth century and even in the colonial period was parallel to rape (Robertson, 2010.) John Shaumloeffel’s circus consisted of women described by the size of their anus where they also performed the act live. Based upon this evidence, these women were most likely sodemized previously as well which worked against Schaumloeffel in trial.
Sodomy also raised upon feelings of homosexuality during John Schaumloeffel’s trial.
Homosexuality was inappropriate during the time and deemed unacceptable. According to her article "Privilege, Possibility, and Perversion: Rethinking the Study of Early Modern Sexuality,"
Katherine Crawford (2006) states that during the early twentieth century sodomy was viewed as a form of homosexuality. In the case of Schaumloeffel, the act was between two women which gave it its’ sense of inappropriateness. As a result, prosecutions against sodomy could also be viewed upon as prosecutions against homosexuals (Crawford, 2006.) Homosexuality was also uncommon and those who were homosexuals kept it behind closed doors out of fear.
Morally, sodomy was viewed as weird and erratic behavior. In another article by
Stephenson Robertson (2005) "Stephenson What's