"Syphilis and Sodomy in Argentina and the United States, 1870-1940" | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
University of Pittsburgh

"Syphilis and Sodomy in Argentina and the United States, 1870-1940"

February 23, 2011 - 3:00pm - 4:00pm
Julien Comte, Doctoral student, History, University of Pittsburgh

Women's Studies Program

Until the 1940s, Argentine and American syphilologists silenced same-sex acts, thus privileging a heteronormative vision of the disease.

A survey of the medical literature reveals that Argentine and American doctors knew that syphilis could spread via anal and oral sex, just as they knew that, by extension, this placed men who had sex with men at risk. Yet, none of the medical propaganda aimed at the general public warned of the dangers of anal and oral sex, even though doctors recognized that some men turned to anal and oral sex thinking that these practices were safer. Doctors occasionally acknowledged the false sense of security that permeated the general public, but vulgarization literature remained vague about how the disease was transmitted sexually, never mentioning anal and oral sex explicitly or implicitly. Disregarding same-sex acts, Argentine and American doctors instead linked syphilis with female prostitution.

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