The University of Wisconsin Press

History / Gay & Lesbian Interest / Politics


The Enemy of the New Man
Homosexuality in Fascist Italy
Lorenzo Benadusi

George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History

The first in-depth history of homosexuality, gender, and Italian morality during the Fascist era in Italy

In this first in-depth historical study of homosexuality in Fascist Italy, Lorenzo Benadusi brings to light immensely important archival documents regarding the sexual politics of the Italian Fascist regime; he adds new insights to the study of the complex relationships of masculinity, sexuality, and Fascism; he explores the connections between new Fascist values and preexisting Italian traditional and Roman Catholic views on morality; he documents both the Fascist regime’s denial of the existence of homosexuality in Italy and its clandestine strategies and motivations for repressing and imprisoning homosexuals; he uncovers the ways that accusations of homosexuality (whether true or false) were used against political and personal enemies; and above all, he shows how homosexuality was deemed the enemy of the Fascist “New Man,” an ideal of a virile warrior and dominating husband vigorously devoted to the “political” function of producing children for the Fascist state.

Benadusi investigates the regulation and regimentation of gender in Fascist Italy, and the extent to which, in uneasy concert with the Catholic Church, the regime engaged in the cultural and legal engineering of masculinity and femininity. He cites a wealth of un-published documents, official speeches, letters, coerced confessions, private letters and diaries, legal documents, and government memos to reveal and analyze how the orders issued by the regime attempted to protect the “integrity of the Italian race.” For the first time, documents from the Vatican archives illuminate how the Catholic Church dealt with issues related to homosexuality during the Fascist period in Italy.

The Enemy of the New Man offers many rare insights into Mussolini’s totalitarian ‘experiment’ in actively shaping the laws and cultural codes that regulated gender and sexuality during the Fascist period in Italy. Benadusi goes well below the surface rhetoric about the virility of the Fascist “New Man,” offering an important new understanding of actual practices of sexual repression during the Fascist period and the specific legal and punitive measures elaborated for the regimentation of the sexual lives of Italians. It is a book that takes many risks and offers significant rewards.”—Patrick Rumble, author of Allegories of Contamination

George L. Mosse logo
George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History

This is the SEPS logo

Lorenzo Benadusi is assistant professor of human sciences at the University of Bergamo in Italy.


“An important book for the insight it yields, not only into the history of homosexuality in modern Italy, but into key aspects of the fascist project: its cult of virility and accompanying misogyny; its obsession with ‘strengthening the race’; its complicated relationship with the Catholic Church and the Italian bourgeoisie; its repressive tendencies; and, above all, the horizons and limits of its totalitarian aspirations.”
Journal of Contemporary History

“This translation of Lorenzo Benadusi's weighty study . . . is a welcome addition to the growing body of scholarship on dissident sexualities in Italy.”
The Historian

“The study is incredibly rich in information thanks to Benadusi's sustained archival research. . . . Its main strengths are the breadth of its scope—both in range of issues tackled and in chronological reach—and the detail provided.”
Historian Journal

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

April 2012
LC: 2011019926 DG
424 pp.   6 x 9    23 b/w illus.

Book icon
Cloth $55.00 s
ISBN 978-0-299-28390-2
Shopping cart ADD TO CART

Home | Books | Journals | Events | Textbooks | Authors | Related | Search | Order | Contact

If you have trouble accessing any page in this web site, contact our web manager.

Updated 9/8/2015

© 2011, The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System