Thesis: Gay male relations common in pre-war Finland

1st February 2014, 2:50 pm

A new thesis up for review contends that Finnish men were commonly having homosexual relations as far back as the Second World War. The reasons for the same-sex engagements include curiosity, money, passion, a lack of women and inebriation.

A 1934 photo of the Kappeli (Chapel) restaurant and Esplanade park in Helsinki. Image: Yle

A 1934 photo of the Kappeli (Chapel) restaurant and Esplanade park in Helsinki. Image: Yle

In her dissertation, Sandra Hagman contends that sexual relations between men were common before the Second World War and they did not restrict people. The thesis tells the story of modern same-sex romance through the experiences of seven men.

According to the paper, Finnish men were engaging in gay sex for a number of reasons, including curiosity, money, passion, lack of women and drunkenness.

Hagman asserts that such relations were not controlled and relates that in scientific discourse of the day, relations between men were described as “pseudo homosexuality”.

The thesis is based on more than 100 hitherto unexamined court cases, scores of newspaper articles, as well as letters and memoirs.

Gay relations accepted in early 1900s

According to the legal documents sexual relations between men and boys were widely accepted in the agrarian society of the early 1900s.

Hagman claims that the condemnation of homosexuality emerged during the right-wing 1930s. Behind the hardening of attitudes was the spread of the Nazi notion that homosexuality was contagious.

“Pseudo homosexuality became dangerous because of the theory of seduction. Men would no longer desire women once they had succumbed to homosexuality. Once it was accepted that men in the company of men would end up in gay relations, war became a danger zone. And when an entire cohort of reproductive age men were placed on the front, the Finnish nation faced ruin,” Hagman explained.

The researcher said this perception of homosexuality became widespread during the war.

Major impact of seduction theory

Hagman says the role of seduction theory in Finnish politics cannot be understated. Its influence can be seen in the criminal code up to 1999, when incitement to gay sexuality was finally decriminalised.

“On the other hand, seduction theory is very radical sexually, since it implicitly suggests that heterosexuality and homosexuality aren’t natural and permanent states, and that in fact there is a fear that homosexuality might be the more attractive option,” she pointed out.

The dissertation shows that cases of homosexuality were unevenly distributed across the country. The highest number of criminal sentences for homosexuality was handed down at the beginning of the 1950s.

The highest number of sentences per capita occurred in northern Finnish cities. In southwest Finland and Ostrobothnia there were few or no sentences at all. In the peak years in the 1950s half of the cases were in Helsinki, driven by the Olympics, Hagman noted, when authorities felt the need to cleanse the city streets of “anti-social” elements.






Authors own abstract of her thesis:
Seven Queer Brothers. Narratives of Forbidden Male Same-Sex Desires from Modernizing Finland 1894-1971

Published: 1st February 2014


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