What was the punishment for male adultery committed by white men in Colonial Spanish America and how did this compare to the punishment of female adultery committed by white women? Any notable...

What was the punishment for male adultery committed by white men in Colonial Spanish America and how did this compare to the punishment of female adultery committed by white women? Any notable cases.....

Asked on by isabel17

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coachingcorner's profile pic

coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Punishment for white men committing adultery in Colonial Spanish America is not well documented, showing yet again the double standards common at the time. There are only sparse accounts showing areas in which adulterous men could be punished through the use of imprisonment, fines, sanctions, loss of status and office, and even exile. Sadly, these punishments often hurt the economic fortunes of the wives and families but the authorities still went ahead even where forgiving and loving wives had changed their minds or were swayed by the thought of the loss of the breadwinner and the rapid descent into destitution that might ensue. Sanctions against husbands for adultery however, were by no means common and in other states the attitude was to turn a blind eye.

White women however depended upon their reputation of purity for their 'social value' and suffered greatly if they transgressed outside of marriage. Even their own families could turn against them as family units often depended on positive public opinion for their success. These families believed that moral virtue, once lost, could not be regained and that the fallen women would forever be damaged goods in the eyes of the community. Adulterous white women were considered to have no shame and the loss to family honour was often considered so great that wives and daughters could be killed by their male relatives. At the very least they could be driven from their homes and sustenance to become, effectively, outlaws with no legal legal protection or identity.

It seems that, as usual, outside a few states, there was one code for women and one for men. The general opinion often seemed to be that male adultery was not condoned publicly but tolerated by community officials as long as it was 'discreet.' Female adulterers on the other hand could expect public vilification, rejection, humiliation and destitution.

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rachellopez's profile pic

rachellopez | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

Colonial punishments for sexual crimes were pretty severe. Things like adultery were outlawed and if you were caught you would most likely be hanged or executed. Other ways of punishment were things like the ducking stool, whipping post, stocks, and pillory, which I can imagine were all very painful. For women, they were not treated equally to men when it came to crimes. "A woman could be whipped or publicly shamed for the same crime for which a man would only receive a fine." 

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