Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

Helsingin yliopisto, Helsinki 2006

"Secoituxesta järjettömäin luondocappalden canssa"

Perversiot, oikeuselämä ja kansankulttuuri 1700-luvun Suomessa

Teemu Keskisarja

Väitöskirja, marraskuu 2006.
Helsingin yliopisto, humanistinen tiedekunta, historian laitos.

Bestiality was in the 18th century a more difficult problem in terms of criminal policy in Sweden and Finland than in any other Christian country in any other period. In the legal history of deviant sexuality, the phenomenon was uniquely widespread by international comparison. The number of court cases per capita in Finland was even higher than in Sweden.

The authorities classified bestiality among the most serious crimes and a deadly sin. The Court of Appeal in Turku opted for an independent line and was clearly more lenient than Swedish courts of justice. Death sentences on grounds of bestiality ended in the 1730s, decades earlier than in Sweden.

The sources for the present dissertation include judgment books and Court of Appeal decisions in 253 cases, which show that the persecution of those engaging in bestial acts in 18th century Finland was not organised by the centralised power of Stockholm. There is little evidence of local campaigns that would have been led by authorities. The church in its orthodoxy was losing ground and the clergy governed their parishes with more pragmatism than the Old Testament sanctioned. When exposing bestiality, the legal system was compelled to rely on the initiative of the public. In cases of illicit intercourse or adultery the authorities were even more dependent on the activeness of the local community. Bestiality left no tangible evidence, illegitimate children, to betray the crime to the clergy or secular authorities.

The moral views of the church and the local community were not on a collision course. It was a common view that bestiality was a heinous act. Yet nowhere near all crimes came to the authorities' knowledge. Because of the heavy burden of proof, the legal position of the informer was difficult. Passiveness in reporting the crime was partly because most Finns felt it was not their place to intervene in their neighbours' private lives, as long as that privacy posed no serious threat to the neighbourhood. Hidden crime was at least as common as crime more easily exposed and proven.

A typical Finnish perpetrator of bestiality was a young unmarried man with no criminal background or mental illness. The suspects were not members of ethnic minorities or marginal social groups. In trials, farmhands were more likely to be sentenced than their masters, but a more salient common denominator than social and economical status was the suspects' young age. For most of the defendants bestiality was a deep-rooted habit, which had been adopted in early youth. This form of subculture spread among the youth, and the most susceptible to experiment with the act were shepherds.

The difference between man and animal was not clear-cut or self-evident. The difficulty in drawing the line is evident both in legal sources and Finnish folklore. The law that required that the animal partners be slaughtered led to the killing of thousands of cows and mares, and thereby to substantial material losses to their owners. Regarding bestiality as a crime against property motivated people to report it. The belief that the act would produce human-animal mongrels or that it would poison the milk and the meat horrified the public more than the teachings of the church ever could. Among the most significant aspects in the problems regarding the animals is how profoundly different the worldview of 18th century people was from that of today.

The title page of the publication

Julkaisu on tekijänoikeussäännösten alainen. Teosta voi lukea ja tulostaa henkilökohtaista käyttöä varten. Käyttö kaupallisiin tarkoituksiin on kielletty.

© Helsingin yliopisto 2006

Viimeksi päivitetty 16.10.2006

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