Criminal sexuality in central Mexico, 1750--1850

Date of Completion

January 1993


History, Latin American|Women's Studies|Sociology, Criminology and Penology




This dissertation attempts to understand the diverse social norms that existed in central Mexico from 1750 to 1850 by examining written and verbal expressions of sexuality, pre-marital sexual relations, prostitution, adultery, incest, rape, sodomy, bestiality and deviant female sexuality. It reveals valuable information about family relationships, sexual and verbal violence, licit and illicit sexual relationships and gender roles. The time frame selected provides an excellent opportunity to compare attitudes and laws concerning sexual crimes during both the colonial and post-independence periods. Many trials contain information on the marital status, occupation, and racial/ethnic group of the people involved, and this information is examined and placed within the context of the crimes selected.^ Chapter I discusses the climate of opinion, the ambiance of those who accepted 'official' culture and those who rejected it. Chapter II examines pre-marital sexual activities and focuses on the concepts of virginity and honor in Mexican society. Chapter III explores the crime of adultery and demonstrates how officials worked together to confine sexuality within the marriage union. Chapter IV addresses the myriad socio-economic reasons that couples entered incestuous relationships and the convergence of sexuality and violence. Chapter V describes the conduct of persons who engaged in homosexual, bestial and solitary sexual activities, and society's reactions to them.^ This dissertation draws largely upon Inquisition and criminal documents at the Archivo General de la Nacion (Mexico) and the Archivo Judicial Tribunal Superior de Justicia (Mexico City). Confessional manuals stored at Mexico City's Biblioteca Nacional provide further insight into sexual mores because they contain the very personal questions that priests could ask their penitents concerning acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Newspapers and magazines housed at Mexico City's Hemerateca Nacional demonstrate how elite concerns and preoccupations clashed with those of the populace. ^