three pairs of lovers with space

GREEK LOVE IN MODERN ITALY

 

Italy's firm reputation in the Renaissance and earlier as the European country most favourable for Greek love endured into the middle of the twentieth century, so much so that she drew in many of the most famous pederasts from the more repressive countries of the north. As everywhere in Christian Europe, there was a death penalty for sodomy in the 18th century, but it was peculiarly disregarded in Italy, and in the next century the introduction of the Code Napoléon in most of Italy, following French conquest, resulted in a legal toleration that finally matched reality. Ever since then, Italy has been the European country with probably the gentlest attitudes to Greek love, with one brief exception.

A new penal code promulgated in the Kingdom of Sardinia on 20 November 1859 criminalised all "libidinous acts against nature", and with especial harshness where this involved the "corruption" of anyone under 21.[1] As it was precisely this one Italian state that drew all the others into the new Kingdom of Italy constituted in 1861 and imposed its own laws on the whole of the new country, the result was that all male homosexuality once again became a crime. Fascinatingly, however, it was so prevalent in the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the south, generally in a pederastic form that was gradually becoming archaic in northern Europe, that an extraordinary exception was made for just that region on account of the "particular characteristics of those that lived in the south".

In any case, the new repressive law lasted only a generation. The first "Zanardelli" penal code of the Kingdom of Italy, which came into force on 1 January 1890, decriminalised homosexuality, introduced an age of consent of twelve for all sexual acts, and applied equally to the whole country.[2] This age of consent was eventually raised to 14 by the fascist government, according to the new "Rocco" penal code, which came into force on 1 July 1931,[3] and there it has remained ever since, unmoved by the successive waves of sexual liberalisation and new repression that swept over the rest of Europe in the late twentieth century. An ironic footnote to this is that the Vatican, which became an independent state in 1929, adopted the Zanardelli code of the time, with the result that its age of consent remained 12 until 2013 (when it was raised to 18![4]), by when this sovereign manifestation of the power that had harmed Greek love so grievously for so long had the least repressive laws regarding it in the world.

In surviving correspondence and memoirs from the 1890s to the 1960s, writers such as Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas, André Gide, Frederick Rolfe, Norman Douglas, Michael Davidson and Roger Peyrefitte all enthused about the beauty and sexual willingness of Italian boys. The pederastic antics of the German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp in Capri led to a major scandal in 1902.

An American initiated in war-time Naples, 1943-67 begins as a soldier's account of his chance initiation into pederasty with a boy prostitute in war-time Naples.

Ischia, Island of Lavish Boys, 1951-3 is the aforementioned Davidson's account of his liaisons with its ever-willing adolescent inhabitants, "Rome" his description of the post-war venues for man/boy trysts in the Eternal City, Naughty Naples, 1958 an account of a misadventure in that city, and Catania in Sicily, 1959 his account of what he witnessed there of the open sexual antics of boys.

Modern Italy in Boys for Sale is a brief account of boy prostitution in the 20th century, mostly in Naples.

According to the Swedish photographer Nicola, who visited Naples in the 1970s and took stunning photographs of boys proudly disporting their beauty in minimal swimwear, during his first visit there was still a flourishing prostitution scene of boys of 13 or 14 "who cruised Via Roma around midnight", but it had disappeared by the time of his second visit.[5]

 

[1] Codice penale per il Regno di Sardegna, Libro II, titolo VII - "Dei reati contro il buon costume", articles 420-425. 

[2] Article 331.1 of the Codice Penale per il Regno d’Italia, published in Rome in 1889.

[3] Article 609.4 of the Codice penale, Regno d’Italia, published on 26 October 1930.

[4] Law No. VIII of 11 July 2013, entitled "Supplementary Laws on Criminal Law Matters".

[5] Destroyer magazine IX (Berlin, June 2009) p.15.