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How gay panic gripped 1960s Royal Navy
October 31, 2002 8:41 AM   Subscribe

How gay panic gripped 1960s Royal Navy One sailor reportedly picked up a prostitute who he believed to be female. Realising he wasn't who she appeared to be, the sailor reportedly declared: "Blimey, you're all there!" Nevertheless, he apparently became "infatuated". This kind of incident led admirals to argue that most of the men accused were only inadvertently homosexual, rather than dangerous "perverts".
Just-released documents from the UK Public Records Office show some interesting attitudes among the Navy hierarchy at the time. The rationalising of the various activities uncovered is actually quite creative, and weirdly more tolerant than that in subsequent decades, when gay activity got people summarily thrown out of the forces. Even this particular 'crisis' eventually triggered a new 'education' programme on the evils of homosexuality though. In this instance, the pendulum seems not so much to have swung as to have careered wildly in all directions. A bit like the sailors.... (sorry).
posted by jonpollard (11 comments total)

 
Perhaps this was the inspiration for "The Crying Game"?
posted by laz-e-boy at 9:03 AM on October 31, 2002


Yo ho ho!
posted by Pressed Rat at 10:36 AM on October 31, 2002


I'll refrain from any comments about the prophetic nature of The Village People...
posted by split atom at 10:49 AM on October 31, 2002


Is it just me or is that article really, really badly edited? It really seems to jump around with almost no continuity at all.
posted by dvdgee at 10:56 AM on October 31, 2002


Is this not in fact what the Monty Python navy sketches were really all about? "There is absolutely no cannibalism in the Royal Navy. And when I say absolutely none, I mean there is a certain amount."
posted by yhbc at 10:56 AM on October 31, 2002


Wait a minute, wait a minute. This passage...
"While the policy of discharging offenders involved in public acts of indecency in front of "hand-clapping audiences" was valid, there should be more flexibility in the rules, he argued" shows that the ratings were publicly humiliated and cruelly punished, for stuff which local commanders probably turned a blind eye to [otherwise, why would the ratings act sexually 'in public' at all? They surely werent insane].

I'm not trying to say 'let it all happen': but I do think that people alive now were caused immense pain by the sanctions imposed for sexual activity. Cruel & unusual punishment, I'm sure: what did these guys get up to on relesae? Did they return to heteosexuality? Did they find another trade? Did they 'sink' into further criminal activity [until recently, any gay sex was illegal, unless it was behind locked bedroom doors, only 2 people involved, and both were over 21 and not in the services].
posted by dash_slot- at 11:50 AM on October 31, 2002


Sir Winston Churchill once reportedly said that the only naval traditions were "rum, sodomy and the lash."

And all at once, apparently. What a shame the Government wasn't half as tolerant of Alan Turing.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:02 PM on October 31, 2002


"All new recruits would be lectured on the evils of homosexuality"

They don't learn them like they used to. Kids these days, with their Pokemon and Sunny D
posted by clearspring at 12:49 PM on October 31, 2002


damn straight clearspring!
(no pun inended)
posted by Captain Supermarket at 2:13 PM on October 31, 2002


I've never understood the "gay panic" line of defense. For one thing, it makes male humans out to be the most nervous and insecure species in the history of the universe. Secondly, if it's all right to claim temporary insanity due to this type of "panic" and, essentially, get away with murder, then why isn't the opposite type of panic acceptable? I mean, jeez, any one of youse guys could be lying to me just to get a free bj, you could really be married with kids instead of ... oh, never mind, you already are all married with kids. BLAM BLAM BLAM.
posted by WolfDaddy at 3:20 PM on October 31, 2002


For one thing, it makes male humans out to be the most nervous and insecure species in the history of the universe.

And the problem with that is...?
posted by msaligned at 7:41 PM on November 1, 2002


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