"The Peculiar Anomaly": Same-Sex Infidelity in Postwar Divorce Courts

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


It was a simple tale of betrayal. In 1950, a Pennsylvania husband returned home from a business trip to find his wife - known to us today only by her initials CD - having sex with the female athletic director of a local school. This wife was only one of many women caught having sex with other women in the era following World War II. Although many closeted men and women enjoyed vibrant sexual and social lives in gay and lesbian communities, sometimes commanding officers, bosses, and police officers caught and punished men and women engaging in "deviant" sexual activity. Punishments ranged from arrests during a bar raid to a dismissal from a job. A double life in the public sphere was fragile. Scholars have paid less attention, however, to the insecure closeted lives of husbands and wives such as CD. Although certainly not all men and women who engaged in same-sex encounters entered traditional heterosexual marriages, many did. Their motivations for marrying ranged from the hope that marriage would cure same-sex desire to financial concerns. Sometimes, a husband or wife discovered his or her spouse's homosexual infidelity. A potential punitive outcome for this encounter was not an arrest, pink slip, or a dishonorable discharge; instead a spouse could end up in divorce court. Like the federal government, the military, the local police, and private employers, then, divorce courts also had to devise strategies and philosophies with which to deal with the problem of homosexuality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)665-701
Number of pages37
JournalLaw and History Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 30 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of '"The Peculiar Anomaly": Same-Sex Infidelity in Postwar Divorce Courts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this