chapter
Netherlands
Pages 8

Little is known of same-sex relations in the Netherlands before 1700. A hundred cases of sodomy have been uncovered until now. Half of them concern same-sexual acts among men, many but not all pederastic. Some women have been persecuted for entering a marriage with another female. In the arts, same-sex desire seems to have been largely absent, although little research has been instigated. Sodomy appears not to have been high on the agenda of either religious or political authorities until 1730. That year marked an important change when a major persecution of sodomites started in Utrecht. In the years 1730-1732, one hundred sodomites were sentenced to death, all for anal sex between men. Many more men were convicted in their absence. During the eighteenth century, several waves of smaller-scale persecutions took place. Another one hundred capital punishments were executed. After the Batavian Revolution of 1795, the Dutch copy of the French Revolution, the number of persecutions increased but the severity of the punishments decreased. Sodomy became a major concern during the Enlightenment, the period in which greater tolerance would have been expected. In 1777 the first tract that pleaded for less severe punishment of sodomy was published anonymously. Nevertheless, persecutions stepped up. This ambiguous situation has been explained as a revolution shaking northwestern Europe that gave rise to new gender and sexual roles and to a sodomitical subculture defined by illicit pleasures and secret places, by blackmailers and police persecutions. The subculture consisted of networks of friends and lovers, of rich men and the menservants and soldiers who served their sexual interests, of some bars and several public cruising places (the English word cruising stems from the Dutch kruysen used by Dutch sodomites for their sexual quests).