Domenico Rizzo e Laura Schettini
This issue aims to bring an original contribution to the history of gendered violence by focusing on the relationship between masculinity and violence and on its male perpetrators. We have chosen to privilege a long-term perspective (the essays presented span the sixteenth to the mid-twentieth century) as well as a closely-focused point of view, by looking in particular at the Italian case: the goal is to question how certain legal traditions, cultural patterns, social practices, and individual actions were intertwined, and influenced each other in the past. In this sense, the suggestions coming from the history of emotions and the common theme which runs like a red thread through the six essays – i.e. the forms and ways of “legitimizing” violent male behaviours – seemed particularly useful to investigate how cultural models and social expectations trigger violent acts by individuals.
This paper examines erotic representations of sexual violence in a select number of pornographic works produced in early modern Italy. The point of departure is a text by Lorenzo Venier, entitled La Zaffetta (1531), which narrates the (purely fictitious) account of the «trentuno reale» («royal thirty-one»): a gang rape perpetrated by eighty men to the detriment of Angela dal Moro, a well-known Venetian courtesan who – just as Venier’s short piece was about to be printed – began to make her name known on the public scene. My aim is to trace a historical line, deeply rooted in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Italy, which will allow me to identify the intersections between masculinity – or rather, a certain type of masculinity – and violence. In doing so, I will also touch upon the works of Pietro Aretino and Ferrante Pallavicino. Whether considered as a means of revenge for betrayed men (in the sense that it allowed them to wipe out shame and disgrace) or as a pedagogical instrument for women, rape – or, at the very least, its aestheticized narration – became a means of restoring a sexual order perceived as prescriptive and normative.
This article deals with the legitimization of marital violence in Christian marriage. The first part analyzes the legal discourse produced after the Council of Trent, showing how doctrine defined and organized the ideal relationship based on gender inequality. The second observes the procedure followed in early modern marriage courts in relation to male impotence, a condition that belies the normative idea of a potent and leading masculinity. The outcome of the first trial lays bare that the priority of safeguarding marriage and protecting the husband’s honor is what led to a verdict against the wife, who was urged to take charge of the situation. The second trial provides a medical report illustrating the ideas that circulated on male sexual physiology, deemed as necessarily powerful and difficult to restrain.
From 1866 to 1914 the Corte d’Assise in Florence dealt with twenty-two trials for murder or attempted murder of wives or women with whom the defendants had had a love affair. Cases of homicides stand for an additional historical source to investigate domestic violence, a topic which has been examined by historians largely through separation cases. The cases that occurred in Florence show recurring elements. First, they elucidate that the end of relationships could be marked by daily violence: before being murdered, how did women, and the community at large, try to cope with these mistreatments? Second, during the second half of the 19th century suspicion of infidelity was a sufficient mitigation circumstance, while at the beginning of the 20th century it also gave grounds for acquittals: how did defendants express themselves in courts? How did judges explain convictions? This paper will try to show that defendants, judges, and to some extent the community at large, shared the same moral values.
This essay is based on selected medical records from Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto’s criminal asylum, concerning cases of uxoricide. Through the analysis of these medical records and the related judicial information, the article focuses on the contexts in which gender-based violence took place, in order to reconstruct the voices and proofs of the social actors involved. It furthermore identifies the “tolerance limit” of gender-based violence, and how this could fluctuate and be subjected to bargaining. The voices and anxieties of the men involved and the study of these medical surveys stimulate a reflection, from a relational and performative perspective, on the connection between masculinity and gender-based violence. By proposing a consideration on the fine line between pathological and criminal uxoricide violence, the essay underlines how uxoricide seems to be linked to a male identity that is sometimes built on power relationships.
This essay analyses a number of feminicide trials and subsequent clemency measures that took place in Italy in the 1940s and 1950s. Verdicts and requests for clemency are used to reconstruct the circumstances of such homicides, the motivations brought forth by husbands, former fiancés and boyfriends, or sons for explaining and justifying feminicide, the actions and the victims’ actions and behaviour, the motivations for convictions, and the mitigating circumstances granted to felons by the courts. Furthermore, the court files regarding clemency shed light on the opinions of family members, neighbours, local authorities, and institutional representatives (such as members of law enforcement, physicians at mental institutions, and prison directors) on the feminicides and their perpetrators. Lastly, they allow for a partial reconstruction of the impact of these violent crimes on families and local communities.
By comparing a few examples, the article sketches some forms assumed by the complex relationship between homosexuality and violence in two different moments of the postwar Italian cinema, that is around 1960, when cinema became heavily influenced by crime news, and in the 1970s, when intimacy was primarily at stake. In doing so, this essay aims at showing how very different forms of violence, in different social and cultural contexts, deal with gender issues and are rooted in troubled masculinities and gender confusion.
Ricordo di Simonetta Piccone Stella
Sul primo femminismo italiano (1865-1925)