Bolshevik Sexual Forensics
Diagnosing Disorder in the Clinic and Courtroom, 1917-1939
Northern Illinois University Press 2009
New Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network November 26, 2012 Elizabeth Heineman
I have long been an admirer of Dan Healey‘s work. His research has opened the world of homosexual desire and the establishment of the gay community in revolutionary Russia and has made an important contribution our understanding of the history of homosexuality; Healey’s new book follows logically from his previous one. In Bolshevik Sexual Forensics: Diagnosing Disorder in the Clinic and Courtroom, 1917-1939 (Northern Illinois University Press, 2009), he takes us from the establishment of a gay identity and community to the new Russian state as it seeks to define its position vis a vis sexuality. With the Bolshevik revolution, revolutionaries decided to modernize Russian sexual science and beliefs. Russian sexual scientists were already in conversation with their Western European colleagues and sought to modernize and rationalize sexual relations between women and men. Policy makers introduced a number of reforms to aid in the process of modernization. They abolished the age of consent, for instance, and replaced it with an age of maturity. Bolsheviks also envisioned a modern role for science in the new Russian state – one that brought the psychiatrists into the justice system. These new sexual experts began to link sex crimes to mental disease, described and diagnosed sexual psychopathy, and they began a systematic investigation of the bodies of hermaphrodites. Bolshevik Sexual Forensics discusses these developments and their impact on sexual beliefs and the regulation of sexuality. Given the archival record, Healey does not attempt to predict how these changes influenced sexual experience. Court records, he notes, are largely silence on the impact that “modern visions” of sexuality had on young rape victims, for instance. Instead, Healey does what the records allow him to do: trace the changing role of sexual experts and sexual science of people of the young Russian nation tried to distance themselves from the old tsarist beliefs – yet lapsed over and over again into traditional notions of sexuality. Listen as Dan Healey tells us about his new book, Bolshevik Sexual Forensics.