Laws of Sodomy

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

William Eskridge, the John A. Garver Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale and author of Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws In America, talks about his new book.


William Eskridge

Comments [49]


Imagine engaging in these "dishonorable passions" whilst wearing sometihng of a cotton/poly blend OR something of linen and wool. Whooee. The mind shudders (and yet, somehow is also deeply excited) at the very thought...

May. 16 2008 02:14 PM
Charles from Bklyn

Well, probably the final comment on this ...

I read the whole comment string, and listened to the program.

First. Strict constructionists/Literalists of the bible will not understand this program.

Second. I am a jew, christian, progressive modern NYC man who believes in alien life, therefore an Anerican. My bible is the Constitution of the United States, which under the laws and interpretations now established, what consenting adults do in their "zone of privacy," which includes public places, is their own business. That trumps the bible in America. (And we should all thank God for that)

Third. People should fear and respect the knowledge of law professors, as their voice is usually paramount to all those around them.

May. 14 2008 01:11 AM
Marty Wolfe from Brooklyn

For anyone still reading this thread: Mr. Eskridge (the guy being interviewed) made a bad misquote (the translations are mine):
Leviticus 19:19 - "You (plural) shall keep my laws: your animals you shall not interbreed, your fields you shall not sow with a mixture, and a garment mixed of 'shatnez' shall not go upon you"
Deuteronomy 22:11 - "You shall not wear 'shatnez': wool and linen together"
No mention of an "abomination" here, and poly/cotton is not forbidden - not even wool/cotton, only "wool and linen". The Brian Lehrer show deserves better than that.

May. 13 2008 11:22 PM
Voter from Brooklyn


I would like to see your point of view (though I disagree), but your argument is so irrational and uninformed it makes it hard. You to make basic assertions that are correct, such as acts aren't characteristics, but you're missing the greater point. Yes, some states, like my home state, had universal sodomy laws that were "crimes against nature" laws. That meant any genital to anus or genital to oral contact was forbidden. The persons sex or marital status did not matter; either way it was a felony offense. However, many other states had laws that specifically targeted male-male contact. Some states allowed people even perceived as homosexual (not engaging in sodomy) to be arrested, both in public and private settings including their own homes. So suspicion of being a homosexual, even a celibate one, was illegal. This is where it is very much like having blue eyes. Blue eyes and blond hair are anomalies, much like homosexuality; however, blond hair and blue eyes were never considered diseases or criminal.

You also seem to be using the words unhealthy and unsanitary interchangeably, which they are not. I disagree with you on both points, but if you look at it in a completely objective way, both the male genitalia and the female genital have either other functions or excrete substances that in other way or another can be rather objectionable. I think other should respect your views, but they're just not that well thought out.

May. 13 2008 02:29 PM
hjs from 11211

I never understood why some people spend so much time and energy worrying about thing that doesn't effect them

May. 13 2008 02:00 PM
PJK from Queens

Hjs that proves my point you can only come back with childish attacks.

AIDS is not being spread between monogamous couples. look it up.

activist glbt extremeist are pushing graphic pro-glbt sex education in public schools even if parents object to it.

Its not a matter if I am disgusted or not
I am merely stating people can object to this practice as being unhealthy without any malice intended to those who practice it.

Just stop trying to promote it in public education arena as something healthy when its not or that you have no choice over your behavior.

You have no tolerance for views other than your own. I am not even talking about whether it should be legal or not.

And you are by extension conceding that the only possible way that this is a legitimate behvior and/or lifestyle is if its uncontrollable and inborn.

So you have a lot in common with the fundamentalist, you just do not or can not agree whether its uncontrollable or inborn etc. or not.

I am taking the view that regardless no behavior is a physical characteristic. But nonetheless adults have the right to do what they want with other adults Whether they think they were born to smoke or simply like it thats there choice.

So which is the more progressive view. yours that only if something is "uncontrollable" its okay as a choice..or mine thats says even if its not so what thats your choice but that has nothing to do with whether that is a healthy activity.

May. 13 2008 01:49 PM
hjs from 11211

you can use logic with these people!
someone, waving a 2500 year old bible in your face threating to hit you over the head with it, wants to live in a small world. the type of world, if you don't fit in to, you should be burned at the stake.
on the up side younger people don't seem to care about these hang ups, race sex drug that their parents spent a lot of engery on. so there is hope. i just hope i'm still around to see it.

May. 13 2008 01:40 PM
eligit from astoria

i thought the whole discussion was about laws, right? was that not the topic? the history of sodomy laws.


"Merely stating that it is unsanitary.

And going the opposite extreme...promoting it is not good for society or individuals"

so if you are saying it is "not good for society" aren't you basically saying it SHOULD be illegal. it should be discouraged, correct? taken to it's logical conclusion you are saying

"because it is unsanitary gays should not have sex at all and women and men should not have oral sex even tho it is no more dangerous than good 'ol missionary"

this is your point, correct? just striving for a bit of clarity.

i have even heard that the really extreme folks consider sex out of wedlock to be EQUALLY as bad and dangerous as sodomy or even include it in the same definition. I assume you would not go that far.

however if you are simply saying "i do not want to participate in the following sex acts"....well that is totally cool. to each their own. nobody is telling you how to have sex....they would just appreciate the same in return.

one thing i DO know is that if i tell my girlfriend i will no longer give her oral sex because it is unsanitary.....she will kick my ass out of bed!

whew.....i am having debate team flashbacks.

May. 13 2008 01:25 PM
PJK from Queens

You are not paying attention I noted several times that I did not by implication mean if somehting is unhealthy then it has to be illegal!!

Merely stating that it is unsanitary.

And going the opposite extreme...promoting it is not good for society or individuals.

May. 13 2008 01:07 PM
eligit from astoria


interesting tack there.

at least it sounds more logical than purely medieval. that is always refreshing.

as far as i know oral sex is no more dangerous than "normal" sex (and certainly will not result in unintended pregnancy)....and yet under MANY statues and definitions it is also considered sodomy.

i am also acquainted with more than a few women who would consider a man (or woman, depending on who specifically we are talking about) unwilling to perform this act for them a blatantly unacceptable sex partner. unsatisfactory. true fact.

also as far as correlation of orientation and behavior....if you RULE out oral sex as well....then i guess you are totally ok with gays having long as it does not involve any actual sex. i am sure gays are overjoyed that you are ok with them kissing tho!

as far as the smoking does not really make sense in this case. smoking is only against the law where it endangers those who are not smoking...which is as it should be.

also get back to me when having PROTECTED sodomy with a sane number of parters (or maybe just one) results in lung cancer. AIDS is spreading like wildfire with "normal" sex in africa as we speak. look it up.

if you are disgusted by "non normal unsanitary" sex....nobody is forcing you to participate. end of story.

May. 13 2008 01:00 PM
PJK from Queens

eligit in response to your response to the fundamentalist:

SODOMY is an act having blue is an characteristic it is not an act.

You could argue that some people have a proclivity for it or an attraction to it it does not make it okay (nor does it make it wrong btw).

Stop trying to confuse the two (acts/behaviours with features).

However i am all for religious people like yourself expressing your opinion. it is very educational for the rest of us.

All objections to this are countered again with more slurs thats not an argument as people who are not very religious or secular may also hold to that sodomy is unhealthy on practical scientific evidence not "simple religious prohibition".

Again having said all that that does not automatically mean it should be illegal.

But I notice with some people on the extreme view the only choice is to be 100% pro-gay or else you are a neo-Nazi Stalinist or Fundamentalist..this is an orwellian style josef TGoebbels style method of forcing a view on the rest of society.

I sense a lack of tolerance for differing view points from eligit, although he/she may be so committed to defending his/her right to sodomy that the ends justify the means. Asking fro tolerance for demanding approval and acceptance for anything they DO, not are, but refusing to tolerate any dissent.

Wow what has become of liberalism.

May. 13 2008 12:48 PM
J.T. from NYC

Have you taken the F train Lately? Now THAT'S unsanitary!

May. 13 2008 12:48 PM
PJK from Queens

putting the Bible aside as superstition, the fact remains:

-Sodomy of either men or women is unsanitary.
and thats a fact not a superstition.

*Why is that if one holds this view they are attacked as homophobes( an orwellian neologism )? Any time someone just throughs names and slurs like racist or homophobes its in a way admitting that they lost the debate because they can not counter argue with facts.

Note I am not advocating mistreating anyone. Just stating a fact that this practice is unsanitary..after all we know what comes out of there.

Whether it should be against the law is another issue. Like smoking its unhealthy but people are allowed to do it. But most smokers do not accuse non-smokers who do not want to pay excessive health insurance for their practice smokeaphobes! or maybe a better comparison is when a non-smoker asks a smoker relative to stop for their own health.

Also why do you compare a behavior with an attribute. the two are not synonymous.
i.e skin and behavior.

Maybe you may argue that there is an attribute that influences the behavior but in any case, that does not mean its 100% determined that one must perform certain behaviors whether its drinking excess alcohol or sodomy.

May. 13 2008 12:32 PM
eligit from astoria

^ are wrong. legislation that makes gays into criminals is no more just than that which would deprive blue eyed people of certain rights. Religious fundamentalists like to frame it as an issue of "choice".....but choice really has nothing to do with it.

However i am all for religious people like yourself expressing your opinion. it is very educational for the rest of us.

May. 13 2008 12:31 PM
Katie from Forest Hills

#31 eligit and #26

The two are not comparable. You are comparing apples with oranges.

May. 13 2008 12:13 PM
Brianna from Forest Hills

The Bible says women should be silent in church not on the Brian Lehrer show!

May. 13 2008 12:07 PM
peter from brooklyn

actually it would appear that god is a sex obsessed dirty old man

May. 13 2008 11:47 AM
Nelson from NYC

While Freedom of Religion IS an essential right, the Freedom of Speech (even if it offends your particular religious sensitivity) is even more important for without it there would be no Freedom of Religion. But I agree with Katie about being tolerant of others beliefs.

May. 13 2008 11:47 AM
eligit from astoria


true long as the religious superstition does not influence LAWS that apply to both believers and non believers alike.

May. 13 2008 11:45 AM
hjs from 11211

Theresa 28
what's the point of being an all power all knowing god if u can make crazy rules for your followers to obey?

May. 13 2008 11:43 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

If you want tolerance for your way of thinking, extend tolerance to those of different religious views also. Freedom religion is still a right for all Americans in the Bill of Rights, regardless of whether or not everyone agrees.

May. 13 2008 11:40 AM

I really wonder about that Leviticus-Deuteronomy God. What a grumpy, picky guy.

May. 13 2008 11:38 AM
hjs from 11211

and god always cares who wins big brother also

May. 13 2008 11:36 AM
eligit from astoria

hey katie, i'm with you!

the way i put it is:

"hey, larry....i love's just the dark skin that i hate! if only you could bleach your skin white....everything would be great! heaven for all!"


for the sarcasm impaired....this was SARCASM!

May. 13 2008 11:34 AM
Robert from NYC

Elaine? Elaine? eh, we don't care, okay?

May. 13 2008 11:33 AM

George, don't forget this omnipotent being also shows a great interest in American football.

May. 13 2008 11:32 AM
peter from brooklyn

the women must keep silent. They don't have the right to speak. They must take their place as Moses' Teachings say.

1 Corinthians 14:34
depending on your translation

so hush!

May. 13 2008 11:32 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

#18, yes, the Bible says women should be quiet in I Peter 3 in verse 3-9. Say women should have a gentle and quiet spirit and Proverbs, not sure it is is 31 should the wife should be busy at home.

May. 13 2008 11:31 AM
George from Brooklyn!

I've always been amazed that people can imagine an omnipotent, omniscient being, then immediately turn around and limit said being by prescribing such petty restrictions to it, such as imagining it would care about combining different types of cloth, or cross-dressing, or what have you. If God exists, It is as far beyond us as we are above the, I don't know, the parasites under our fingernails, or further even. Those parasites could wear little flowered hats for all I care, it wouldn't matter to me. I like to think that a Supreme Being really wouldn't care about what a person wears, or has sex with, whatever, as long as no one is hurt by those actions.

May. 13 2008 11:29 AM
hjs from 11211

my guess why do some hate gay people ( besides the jealousy that a gay man can have sex whenever he wants to) is the general Calvinist hatered and suppression of sex

May. 13 2008 11:29 AM
Elaine from Baltimore MD

AUGHGHG! The prohibition is specifically linen & wool. The concept are the "chukim" laws of the Torah. The concept of "Chukim" is quite profond and not worthy of a sound bite. Also, is your author taking into consideration the Oral Law as well? If not, he is giving us a superficial understanding! Is he reading an english translation of the bible? Another mistake.

May. 13 2008 11:29 AM
peter from brooklyn

does the bible say anything about women being quiet?

May. 13 2008 11:29 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

Great material about sex education! Should be added to classes about sex in law in NY state.

May. 13 2008 11:27 AM
CH from NYC

Perhaps those who try to legislate "morality" are attempting to put the onus of controlling temptations which the legislator cannot personally resist. By making laws prohibiting those things which are perceived by conservatives, and others, as immoral or sinful, these "sinning" law-makers are absolving their responsibility for their own actions. It is NOW the job of society to control each person, and if anyone—especially the legislator—falls to temptation, well then, it is society's fault for not removing these "sins" from society.

May. 13 2008 11:26 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

Many people hate the sin and love the sinner.

May. 13 2008 11:25 AM
Ken from Manhattan

This isn't helpful.

Yeah, yeah, people hate gays, people pass laws against them and violate their rights, and it's terrible.

We know this.

I wanna know why. Why?

And, no don't trot out that old "people hate gays because they are afraid they might be gay themselves". Unless you have evidence to prove it is true.

Anti-gay laws, anti-gay prejudice, and anti-gay violence are big problems. I want to know where this hate comes from. Why do so many of us hate gays?

May. 13 2008 11:24 AM
RCTB from Westchester

Michelle is a religious zealot. I wouldn't be nice to her.

May. 13 2008 11:24 AM
Meg from Morristown, NJ

Henry VIII did not murder half of his wives. Only Anne Boleyn (wife #2) and Katherine Howard (wife 5) were beheaded. There is an old British rhyme used for school children to remember the six wives of Henry VIII.

May. 13 2008 11:23 AM
Steve Gleit from New York

Eating shrimp is an abomination also. As is eating milk and meat together.

Christians seem to be selective in which abominations they follow.

May. 13 2008 11:18 AM
Robert from NYC

i think of it as the natural (nature) way to contraception and so it is natural. Or if you prefer, God's way of giving birth control.

May. 13 2008 11:18 AM
hjs from 11211

Leviticus 11:9-12 says:
9 These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.
10 And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
11 They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.
12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

May. 13 2008 11:18 AM
Leonardo Andres

mathew is an abomination....I just tuned in and i hear preaching. not sure if i like it

May. 13 2008 11:17 AM
Nelson from NYC

The reason why so many Pentecostal and other strict interpretationalists do not allow women to where pants...

May. 13 2008 11:17 AM
Robert from NYC

Polyester IS an abomination. It causes rashes.

May. 13 2008 11:16 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

To commenter #1 (Katie)
I doubt this segment is going to be an instructional one, so you needn't worry; however, you've been forewarned so you can turn the radio off, if you wish. That said, this topic is a VERY important one.
I am originally from a state where sodomy was a low-level felony. This means that anyone with any sort of state issued certification, registration, or license could loose it for committing a private act with a consenting adult. This law also allowed the state to dictate what actions were acceptable between consenting adults regardless of sex or marital status. There were common sense laws to protect children from incest, but the laws were over reaching and designed to impose religious beliefs on society under the guise of protecting people from "crimes against nature."

May. 13 2008 11:10 AM
Derek from Inwood, NYC

To Katie at #1: Unfortunately, this IS a family issue as it has affected millions of Americans for a century, until the recent Supreme Court ruling. If it hadn't been made a legal issue by a homophobic society in the first place, it wouldn't be a family issue or (for that matter) a public issue worth discussing. But it was, so it is.

May. 13 2008 11:06 AM
Robert from NYC

Thank you for presenting this interesting and important topic.

May. 13 2008 10:42 AM
hjs from 11211

oh dear, hide your kids!
oh wait, they know ALL about it!

May. 13 2008 10:37 AM
Katie from Forest Hills

Isn't this a family friendly show? why this topic?

May. 13 2008 10:26 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.