One of the most influential historians of same-sex sexuality in eighteenth-century France, Michel Rey, has argued that the police were instrumental in constructing a new understanding of same-sex sexuality as crime. Established in 1667 in order to preserve the peace and prevent public disorders, the lieutenant-generalcy of police in Paris very quickly identified several groups of people as highly suspicious, including men who had sex with other men in public. However, instead of trying to strictly enforce the laws, the police began, to a certain extent, to tolerate this group, since they realized that they could not ultimately eliminate their behavior. Therefore, they began to watch this group closely and to gather as much information about it as possible. In this manner, they developed a policy of surveillance and harassment that existed outside of the laws. This policy and its rationale remained in effect throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As Rey has put it:

In the eighteenth century, sodomy was no longer considered a sin by the police, but an offense against the social order because of the furtive rendezvous, the social slippages that it seemed to allow, and also because of the long-term trend toward a revalorizing of the familial milieu and its enclosure within private space. It therefore became necessary to confine all deviant sexualities and to eliminate all situations which posed dangers in this regard.1