Outrages: Inventing Homosexuality as a Crime and a Cause

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The dramatic, buried history of how nineteenth-century laws gave the state new powers to criminalize love between men--and how the movement for gay rights rose from the ashes

In 1857, Britain invented civil divorce, new obscenity laws, and new ways to criminalize love between men. New York Times best-selling author Naomi Wolf's Outrages is the story, brilliantly told, of how this perfect storm helped to originate the kinds of damaging homophobia and censorship we live with today.

Wolf paints the ways these laws affected a bohemian group of sexual dissidents, including the English critic John Addington Symonds and American poet Walt Whitman. Symonds fell in love with Whitman's homoerotic voice in Leaves of Grass--a dangerous love, as dire prison terms became penalties for such love, even if only expressed on the page.

Powerfully, Wolf recounts how a dying Symonds helped to write the book on "sexual inversion" that created our understanding of homosexuality. And she shines a light on his secret memoir: a half-hidden text that is rightfully understood as one of the first gay rights manifestos in the West.

Publication Date: 
June 1, 2020