Victor/Valerie Barker: Sexology and Challenges to Silencing

  • Caroline DerryEmail author


In 1929, Victor/Valerie Barker was prosecuted and imprisoned as a female husband. The trial came just a year after the Well of Loneliness prosecution, in which the suppression of a lesbian novel ironically brought wider public awareness of sex between women. Barker’s conviction, then, might seem to mark a new visibility and an end to silencing in the criminal courts. In fact, case disrupts any idea of a simple move from female husband prosecutions to a new focus on indecent assault and the age of consent: silencing would prevail into the 1950s and beyond.

The Barker case is also contrasted with its predecessors, exploring legal and social differences in its prosecution and reporting. In particular, the chapter identifies the highly gendered and racialised sexological concept of female inversion, which newly encompassed middle-class women. Its consequences for medical, legal, and societal perceptions of lesbians are analysed.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law SchoolThe Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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