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France in Early 20th Century

Posted by: webmaster on Thursday, May 20, 2004 - 09:42 _PRINTPrinter friendly page  _EMAILFRIENDSend this story to a friend
The Early 20th Century

An important movement of the history of sexuality took place in France, in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the so-called Belle Époque. Paris became the center of modernity in Europe, where technology and cultural innovations appeared to be everywhere.

Society gave Paris the status of the pleasure-capital of Europe. The light city became reference for same-sex cultures, where homosexual men and women could feel free to express their preferences in a very positive way. The Parisian underground had plenty of cafés, cabarets, salons and places where people could express their sexuality. Bohemians from France and other places took refugee in Paris, trying to escape from the conservative demeanors adopted by Europeans at the time. Poets and writers such Oscar Wilde, Toulouse-Lautrec and Charles Baudelaire found their place in France, enjoying the luxury of the cabarets and drinking absinthe (beverage known as "the green fairy" because of its entrancing effects) as inspiration.

Lesbianism was particularly popular at the time. There was a sort of primordial feminist movement happening, and for the first time in the history of sexuality the female homosexuality started to gain some real space. In fact, this popularization resulted in a very sensationalistic view of the homosexuality.

On the other hand, politicians and conservationists had started to fight against this liberation, accusing it to be the cause of such social degeneracy France was enduring.

Later, due to the Nazi occupation of France, homosexuality was made illegal in the country. All those venues were closed, and open homosexuals were captured and in some cases killed. The history of sexuality took a dark route during this period.

After World War II, homosexuality was no longer a crime, but in France, as well as elsewhere, the society remain in a conservative mood. In this homophobic environment, homosexuality had to go back underground.

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France in Early 20th Century