Edward Carpenter.

The intermediate sex; a study of some transitional types of men and women online

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latter view.

The origin of it is not far to seek. Those who have no great gift
themselves for this kind of friendship - who are not in the inner circle
of it, so to speak, and do not understand or appreciate its deep
emotional and romantic character, have nevertheless heard of certain
corruptions and excesses; for these latter leap to publicity. They have
heard of the debaucheries of a Nero or a Tiberius; they have noted the
scandals of the Police Courts; they have had some experience perhaps of
abuses which may be found in Public Schools or Barracks; and they (not
unnaturally) infer that these things, these excesses and sensualities,
are the motive of comrade-attachments, and the object for which they
exist; nor do they easily recognise any more profound and intimate bond.
To such people physical intimacies of _any_ kind (at any rate between
males) seem inexcusable. There is no distinction in their minds between
the simplest or most naive expression of feeling and the gravest abuse
of human rights and decency; there is no distinction between a genuine
heart-attachment and a mere carnal curiosity. They see certain evils
that occur or have occurred, and they think, perfectly candidly, that any
measures are justifiable to prevent such things recurring. But they do
not see the interior love-feeling which when it exists does legitimately
demand _some_ expression. Such folk, in fact, not having the key in
themselves to the real situation hastily assume that the homogenic
attachment has no other motive than, or is simply a veil and a cover for,
sensuality - and suspect or condemn it accordingly.

Thus arises the curious discrepancy of people’s views on this important
subject - a discrepancy depending on the side from which they approach it.

On the one hand we have anathemas and execrations, on the other we have
the lofty enthusiasm of a man like Plato - one of the leaders of the
world’s thought for all time - who puts, for example, into the mouth of
Phædrus (in the “Symposium”) such a passage as this[26]: “I know not any
greater blessing to a young man beginning life than a virtuous lover, or
to the lover than a beloved youth. For the principle which ought to be
the guide of men who would nobly live - that principle, I say, neither
kindred, nor honour, nor wealth, nor any other motive is able to implant
so well as love. Of what am I speaking? Of the sense of honour and
dishonour, without which neither states nor individuals ever do any good
or great work.… For what lover would not choose rather to be seen of all
mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing
away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than
endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of
danger? The veriest coward would become an inspired hero, equal to the
bravest, at such a time; love would inspire him. That courage which, as
Homer says, the god breathes into the soul of heroes, love of his own
nature inspires into the lover.” Or again in the “Phædrus” Plato makes
Socrates say[27]: “In like manner the followers of Apollo and of every
other god, walking in the ways of their god, seek a love who is to be
like their god, and when they have found him, they themselves imitate
their god, and persuade their love to do the same, and bring him into
harmony with the form and ways of the god as far as they can; for they
have no feelings of envy or jealousy towards their beloved, but they do
their utmost to create in him the greatest likeness of themselves and the
god whom they honour. Thus fair and blissful to the beloved when he is
taken, is the desire of the inspired lover, and the initiation of which I
speak into the mysteries of true love, if their purpose is effected.”

* * * * *

With these few preliminary remarks we may pass on to consider some recent
scientific investigations of the matter in hand. In late times - that is,
during the last thirty years or so - a group of scientific and capable men
chiefly in Germany, France, and Italy, have made a special and more or
less impartial study of it. Among these may be mentioned Dr. Albert Moll
of Berlin; R. von Krafft-Ebing, one of the leading medical authorities
of Vienna, whose book on “Sexual Psychopathy” has passed into its
tenth edition; Dr. Paul Moreau (“Des Aberrations du sens génésique”);
Cesare Lombroso, the author of various works on Anthropology; M. A.
Raffalovich (“Uranisme et unisexualité”); Auguste Forel (“Die Sexuelle
Frage”); Mantegazza; K. H. Ulrichs; and last but not least, Dr. Havelock
Ellis, of whose great work on the Psychology of Sex the second volume
is dedicated to the subject of “Sexual Inversion.”[28] The result of
these investigations has been that a very altered complexion has been
given to the subject. For whereas at first it was easily assumed that
the phenomena were of morbid character, and that the leaning of the
love-sentiment towards one of the same sex was always associated with
degeneracy or disease, it is very noticeable that step by step with the
accumulation of reliable information this assumption has been abandoned.
The point of view has changed; and the change has been most marked in the
latest authors, such as A. Moll and Havelock Ellis.

It is not possible here to go into anything like a detailed account of
the works of these various authors, their theories, and the immense
number of interesting cases and observations which they have contributed;
but some of the general conclusions which flow from their researches may
be pointed out. In the first place their labors have established the
fact, known hitherto only to individuals, that _sexual inversion_ - that
is the leaning of desire to one of the same sex - is in a vast number of
cases quite instinctive and congenital, mentally and physically, and
therefore twined in the very roots of individual life and practically
ineradicable. To Men or Women thus affected with an innate homosexual
bias, Ulrichs gave the name of Urning,[29] since pretty widely accepted
by scientists. Some details with regard to “Urnings,” I have given in
the preceding paper, but it should be said here that too much emphasis
cannot be laid on the distinction between these born lovers of their own
kind, and that class of persons, with whom they are so often confused,
who out of mere carnal curiosity or extravagance of desire, or from the
dearth of opportunities for a more normal satisfaction (as in schools,
barracks, etc.) adopt some homosexual practices. It is the latter class
who become chiefly prominent in the public eye, and who excite, naturally
enough, public reprobation. In their case the attraction is felt, by
themselves and all concerned, to be merely sensual and morbid. In the
case of the others, however, the feeling is, as said, so deeply rooted
and twined with the mental and emotional life that the person concerned
has difficulty in imagining himself affected otherwise than he is; and to
him at least his love appears healthy and natural, and indeed a necessary
part of his individuality.

In the second place it has become clear that the number of individuals
affected with ‘sexual inversion’ in some degree or other is very
great - much greater than is generally supposed to be the case. It is
however very difficult or perhaps impossible to arrive at satisfactory
figures on the subject,[30] for the simple reasons that the proportions
vary so greatly among different peoples and even in different sections
of society and in different localities, and because of course there are
all possible grades of sexual inversion to deal with, from that in which
the instinct is _quite exclusively_ directed towards the same sex, to
the other extreme in which it is normally towards the opposite sex but
capable, occasionally and under exceptional attractions, of inversion
towards its own - this last condition being probably among some peoples
very widespread, if not universal.

In the third place, by the tabulation and comparison of a great number
of cases and “confessions,” it has become pretty well established that
the individuals affected with inversion in marked degree do not after all
differ from the rest of mankind, or womankind, in any other physical or
mental particular which can be distinctly indicated.[31] No congenital
association with any particular physical conformation or malformation
has yet been discovered; nor with any distinct disease of body or mind.
Nor does it appear that persons of this class are usually of a gross or
specially low type, but if anything rather the opposite - being mostly
of refined, sensitive nature and including, as Krafft-Ebing points out
(“Psychopathia Sexualis,” seventh ed., p. 227) a great number “highly
gifted in the fine arts, especially music and poetry”; and, as Mantegazza
says,[32] many persons of high literary and social distinction. It is
true that Krafft-Ebing insists on the generally strong sexual equipment
of this class of persons (among men), but he hastens to say that their
emotional love is also “enthusiastic and exalted,”[33] and that, while
bodily congress is desired, the special act with which they are vulgarly
credited is in most cases repugnant to them.[34]

The only distinct characteristic which the scientific writers claim to
have established is a marked tendency to nervous development in the
subject, not infrequently associated with nervous maladies; but - as I
shall presently have occasion to show - there is reason to think that the
validity even of this characteristic has been exaggerated.

Taking the general case of men with a marked exclusive preference for
persons of their own sex, Krafft-Ebing says (“P.S.” p. 256): “The sexual
life of these Homosexuals is _mutatis mutandis_ just the same as in the
case of normal sex-love.… The Urning loves, deifies his male beloved
one, exactly as the woman-wooing man does _his_ beloved. For him, he is
capable of the greatest sacrifice, experiences the torments of unhappy,
often unrequited, love, of faithlessness on his beloved’s part, of
jealousy, and so forth. His attention is enchained only by the male form
… The sight of feminine charms is indifferent to him, if not repugnant.”
Then he goes on to say that many such men, notwithstanding their actual
aversion to intercourse with the female, do ultimately marry - either
from ethical, as sometimes happens, or from social considerations. But
very remarkable - as illustrating the depth and tenacity of the homogenic
instinct[35] - and pathetic too, are the records that he gives of these
cases; for in many of them a real friendship and regard between the
married pair was still of no avail to overcome the distaste on the part
of one to sexual intercourse with the other, or to prevent the experience
of actual physical distress after such intercourse, or to check the
continual flow of affection to some third person of the same sex; and
thus unwillingly, so to speak, this bias remained a cause of suffering to
the end.

I have said that at the outset it was assumed that the Homogenic
emotion was morbid in itself, and probably always associated with
distinct disease, either physical or mental, but that the progress of
the inquiry has served more and more to dissipate this view; and that
it is noticeable that the latest of the purely scientific authorities
are the least disposed to insist upon the theory of morbidity. It is
true that Krafft-Ebing clings to the opinion that there is generally
some _neurosis_, or degeneration of a nerve-centre, or _inherited
tendency in that direction_, associated with the instinct; see p. 190
(seventh ed.), also p. 227, where he speaks, rather vaguely, of “an
hereditary neuropathic or psychopathic tendency” - _neuro(psycho)pathische
Belastung_. But it is an obvious criticism on this that there are few
people in modern life, perhaps none, who could be pronounced absolutely
free from such a _Belastung_! And whether the Dorian Greeks or the
Polynesian Islanders or the Albanian mountaineers, or any of the other
notably hardy races among whom this affection has been developed, were
particularly troubled by nervous degeneration we may well doubt!

As to Moll, though he speaks[36] of the instinct as morbid (feeling
perhaps in duty bound to do so), it is very noticeable that he abandons
the ground of its association with other morbid symptoms - as this
association, he says, is by no means always to be observed; and is fain
to rest his judgment on the _dictum_ that the mere failure of the sexual
instinct to propagate the species is itself pathological - a _dictum_
which in its turn obviously springs from that pre-judgment of scientists
that generation is the sole object of love,[37] and which if pressed
would involve the good doctor in awkward dilemmas, as for instance that
every worker-bee is a pathological specimen.

Finally we find that Havelock Ellis, one of the latest writers of weight
on this subject, in chapter vi. of his “Sexual Inversion,” combats the
idea that this temperament is necessarily morbid; and suggests that the
tendency should rather be called an anomaly than a disease. He says (2nd
edition, p. 186)[38] “Thus in sexual inversion we have what may fairly be
called a ‘sport’ or variation, one of those organic aberrations which we
see throughout living nature in plants and in animals.”[39]

With regard to the nerve-degeneration theory, while it may be allowed
that sexual inversion is not uncommonly found in connection with the
specially nervous temperament, it must be remembered that its occasional
association with nervous troubles or disease is quite another matter;
since such troubles ought perhaps to be looked upon as the results rather
than the causes of the inversion. It is difficult of course for outsiders
not personally experienced in the matter to realise the great strain
and tension of nerves under which those persons grow up from boyhood to
manhood - or from girl to womanhood - who find their deepest and strongest
instincts under the ban of the society around them; who before they
clearly understand the drift of their own natures discover that they are
somehow cut off from the sympathy and understanding of those nearest to
them; and who know that they can never give expression to their tenderest
yearnings of affection without exposing themselves to the possible charge
of actions stigmatised as odious crimes.[40] That such a strain, acting
on one who is perhaps already of a nervous temperament, should tend
to cause nervous prostration or even mental disturbance is of course
obvious; and if such disturbances are really found to be commoner among
homogenic lovers than among ordinary folk we have in these social causes
probably a sufficient explanation of the fact.

Then again in this connexion it must never be forgotten that the
medico-scientific enquirer is bound on the whole to meet with those cases
that _are_ of a morbid character, rather than with those that are healthy
in their manifestation, since indeed it is the former that he lays
himself out for. And since the field of his research is usually a great
modern city, there is little wonder if disease colours his conclusions.
In the case of Dr. Moll, who carried out his researches largely under the
guidance of the Berlin police (whose acquaintance with the subject would
naturally be limited to its least satisfactory sides), the only marvel
is that his verdict is so markedly favorable as it is. As Krafft-Ebing
says in his own preface, “It is the sad privilege of Medicine, and
especially of Psychiatry, to look always on the reverse side of life, on
the weakness and wretchedness of man.”

Having regard then to the direction in which science has been steadily
moving in this matter, it is not difficult to see that the epithet
“morbid” will probably before long be abandoned as descriptive of the
homogenic bias - that is, of the general sentiment of love towards a
person of the same sex. That there are excesses of the passion - cases,
as in ordinary sex-love, where mere physical desire becomes a mania - we
may freely admit; but as it would be unfair to judge of the purity of
marriage by the evidence of the Divorce courts, so it would be monstrous
to measure the truth and beauty of the attachment in question by those
instances which stand most prominently perhaps in the eye of the modern
public; and after all deductions there remains, we contend, the vast
body of cases in which the manifestation of the instinct has on the
whole the character of normality and healthfulness - sufficiently so in
fact to constitute this _a distinct variety of the sexual passion_. The
question, of course, not being whether the instinct is _capable_ of
morbid and extravagant manifestation - for that can easily be proved of
any instinct - but whether it is capable of a healthy and sane expression.
And this, we think, it has abundantly shown itself to be.

Anyhow the work that Science has practically done has been to destroy
the dogmatic attitude of the former current opinion from which itself
started, and to leave the whole subject freed from a great deal of
misunderstanding, and much more open than before. If on the one hand its
results have been chiefly of a negative character, and it admits that it
does not understand the exact place and foundation of this attachment; on
the other hand since it recognises the deeply beneficial influences of
an intimate love-relation of the usual kind on those concerned, it also
allows that there are some persons for whom these necessary reactions can
only come from one of the same sex as themselves.

“Successful love,” says Moll (p. 125) “exercises a helpful influence on
the Urning. His mental and bodily condition improves, and capacity of
work increases - just as it happens in the case of a normal youth with
_his_ love.” And further on (p. 173) in a letter from a man of this kind
occur these words: - “The passion is I suppose so powerful, just because
one looks for everything in the loved man - Love, Friendship, Ideal, and
Sense-satisfaction.… As it is at present I suffer the agonies of a deep
unresponded passion, which wake me like a nightmare from sleep. And I am
conscious of physical pain in the region of the heart.” In such cases the
love, in some degree physically expressed, of another person of the same
sex, is allowed to be as much a necessity and a condition of healthy life
and activity, as in more ordinary cases is the love of a person of the
opposite sex.

If then the physical element which is sometimes present in the love of
which we are speaking is a difficulty and a stumbling-block, it must
be allowed that it is a difficulty that Nature confronts us with, and
which cannot be disposed of by mere anathema and execration. The only
theory - from K. H. Ulrichs to Havelock Ellis - which has at all held its
ground in this matter, is that in congenital cases of sex-inversion
there is a mixture of male and female elements in the same person; so
that for instance in the same embryo the emotional and nervous regions
may develop along feminine lines while the outer body and functions
may determine themselves as distinctly masculine, or _vice versa_.
Such cross-development may take place obviously in a great variety of
ways, and thus possibly explain the remarkable varieties of the Uranian
temperament; but in all such cases, strange as may be the problems thus
arising, these problems are of Nature’s own producing and can hardly
be laid to the door of the individual who has literally to bear their
cross. For such individuals expressions of feeling become natural, which
to others seem out of place and uncalled for; and not only natural,
but needful and inevitable. To deny to such people _all_ expression of
their emotion, is probably in the end to cause it to burst forth with
the greater violence; and it may be suggested that our British code of
manners, by forbidding the lighter marks of affection between youths and
men, acts just contrary to its own purpose, and drives intimacies down
into less open and unexceptionable channels.

With regard to this physical element it must also be remembered that
since the homogenic love - whether between man and man, or between woman
and woman - can from the nature of the case never find expression on
the physical side so freely and completely as is the case with the
ordinary love, it must tend rather more than the latter to run along
_emotional_ channels, and to find its vent in sympathies of social life
and companionship. If one studies carefully the expression of the Greek
statues (see p. 9, supra) and the lesson of the Greek literature, one
sees clearly that the _ideal_ of Greek life was a very continent one: the
trained male, the athlete, the man temperate and restrained, even chaste,
for the sake of bettering his powers. It was round this conception that
the Greeks kindled their finer emotions. And so of their love: a base and
licentious indulgence was not in line with it. They may not have always
kept to their ideal, but there it was. And I am inclined to think that
the homogenic instinct (for the reasons given above) would in the long
run tend to work itself out in this direction. And consonant with this is
the fact that this passion in the past (as pointed out by J. Addington
Symonds in his paper on “Dantesque and Platonic Ideals of Love”[41])
has, as a matter of fact, inspired such a vast amount of heroism and
romance - only paralleled indeed by the loves of Chivalry, which of
course, owing to their special character, were subject to a similar

In all these matters the popular opinion has probably been largely
influenced by the arbitrary notion that the function of love is limited
to child-breeding; and that any love not concerned in the propagation
of the race must necessarily be of dubious character. And in enforcing
this view, no doubt the Hebraic and Christian tradition has exercised a
powerful influence - dating, as it almost certainly does, from far-back
times when the multiplication of the tribe was one of the first duties
of its members, and one of the first necessities of corporate life.[42]
But nowadays when the need has swung round all the other way it is not
unreasonable to suppose that a similar revolution will take place in
people’s views of the place and purpose of the non-child-bearing love.[43]

* * * * *

I have now said enough I think to show that though much in relation to
the homogenic attachment is obscure, and though it may have its special
pitfalls and temptations - making it quite necessary to guard against a
too great latitude on the physical side; yet on its ethical and social
sides it is pregnant with meaning and has received at various times in
history abundant justification. It certainly does not seem impossible
to suppose that as the ordinary love has a special function in the
propagation of the race, so the other has its special function in social
and heroic work, and in the generation - not of bodily children - but of
those children of the mind, the philosophical conceptions and ideals
which transform our lives and those of society. J. Addington Symonds,
in his privately printed pamphlet, “A Problem in Greek Ethics” (now
published in a German translation),[44] endeavours to reconstruct as
it were the genesis of comrade-love among the Dorians in early Greek
times. Thus: - “Without sufficiency of women, without the sanctities of
established domestic life, inspired by the memories of Achilles and
venerating their ancestor Herakles, the Dorian warriors had special
opportunity for elevating comradeship to the rank of an enthusiasm.
The incidents of emigration into a foreign country - perils of the sea,
passages of rivers and mountains, assaults of fortresses and cities,
landings on a hostile shore, night-vigils by the side of blazing
beacons, foragings for food, picquet service in the front of watchful
foes - involved adventures capable of shedding the lustre of romance on
friendship. These circumstances, by bringing the virtues of sympathy
with the weak, tenderness for the beautiful, protection for the young,
together with corresponding qualities of gratitude, self-devotion, and
admiring attachment into play, may have tended to cement unions between
man and man no less firm than that of marriage. On such connections a
wise captain would have relied for giving strength to his battalions, and
for keeping alive the flames of enterprise and daring.” The author then

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Online LibraryEdward CarpenterThe intermediate sex; a study of some transitional types of men and women → online text (page 3 of 9)