The English term buggery is very close in meaning to the term sodomy, and is often used interchangeably in law and popular speech. It is also a specific criminal offence under the English common law.

In law

Under most common law legal systems, the term buggery is a criminal offence with a specific legal meaning. In English law, "buggery" was first used in the Buggery Act 1533, while Section 61 of the Offences Against The Person Act 1861, entitled "Sodomy and Bestiality", defined punishments for "the abominable Crime of Buggery, committed either with Mankind or with any Animal". Neither Act defined what constituted buggery. Over the years the courts have defined buggery as including either:
# anal intercourse by a man with a man or woman, ["R v Wiseman" (1718) Fortes Rep 91] or
# vaginal intercourse by either a man or a woman with an animal, ["R v Bourne" (1952) 36 Cr App R 135; Sir Edward Coke also reports "... a great lady had committed buggery with a baboon and conceived by it..." at 3 Inst 59] but not any other form of "unnatural intercourse". ["R v Jacobs" (1817) Russ & Ry 331] [The implication being that anal sex with an animal would not constitute buggery. Such a case has not, to date, come before the courts of a common law jurisdiction in any reported decision. However, it seems highly improbable that a person would be exculpated of a crime associated with sex with animals only by reason of the fact that penetration involved the anus rather than the vagina.]

At common law consent was not a defence; [Because consent was not required, in sentencing it meant that lack of consent had to be proved to impose the more serious sentences - see "R v Sandhu" [1997] Crim LR 288; "R v Davies" [1998] 1 Cr App Rep (S) 252] nor was the fact that the parties were married. ["R v Jellyman" (1838) 8 C&P 604] As with the crime of rape, buggery required that penetration must have occurred, but ejaculation is not necessary. ["R v Reekspear" (1832) 1 Mood CC 342; "R v Cozins" (1834) 6 C&P 351; Offences Against The Person Act 1861 §63.]

Most common law countries have now modified the law to permit anal sex between consenting adults. [For example, in the United Kingdom homosexual anal sex was legalised under the Sexual Offences Act 1967. Heterosexual anal sex was not subsequently legalised until the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994.]


The word "bugger" and "buggery" are still commonly used in modern English as a profanity, and "buggery" is also synonymous with anal sex.

The word "bugger" was derived, via the French "bougre", from "Bulgar", that is, "Bulgarian", meaning the medieval Bulgarian heretical sect of the Bogomils, which spread into Western Europe and was claimed by the established church to be devoted to the practice of sodomy, [cite book |last= |first= |authorlink= |coauthors= |title= New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd edition |year= 2005|publisher= Oxford University Press|location= |id= ISBN 0-19-517077-6|editor=Erin McKean] . "Buggery" first appears in English in 1330, though "bugger" in a sexual sense is not recorded until 1555. [OED 1st edn]



* Smith & Hogan, "Criminal Law" (10th ed), ISBN 0 406 94801 1

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