Edward Carpenter.

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

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goes on to suggest that though in such relations as those indicated the
physical probably had some share, yet it did not at that time overbalance
the emotional and spiritual elements, or lead to the corruption and
effeminacy of a later age.

At Sparta the lover was called _Eispnêlos_, the inspirer, and the younger
beloved _Aïtes_, the hearer. This alone would show the partly educational
aspects in which comradeship was conceived; and a hundred passages from
classic literature might be quoted to prove how deeply it had entered
into the Greek mind that this love was the cradle of social chivalry and
heroic life. Finally it seems to have been Plato’s favorite doctrine
that the relation if properly conducted led up to the disclosure of
true philosophy in the mind, to the divine vision or mania, and to the
remembrance or rekindling within the soul of all the forms of celestial
beauty. He speaks of this kind of love as causing a “generation in the
beautiful”[45] within the souls of the lovers. The image of the beloved
one passing into the mind of the lover and upward through its deepest
recesses reaches and unites itself to the essential forms of divine
beauty there long hidden - the originals as it were of all creation - and
stirring them to life excites a kind of generative descent of noble
thoughts and impulses, which henceforward modify the whole cast of
thought and life of the one so affected.

If there is any truth - even only a grain or two - in these speculations,
it is easy to see that the love with which we are specially dealing
is a very important factor in society, and that its neglect, or its
repression, or its vulgar misapprehension, may be matters of considerable
danger or damage to the common-weal. It is easy to see that while
on the one hand marriage is of indispensable importance to the State
as providing the workshop as it were for the breeding and rearing of
children, another form of union is almost equally indispensable to
supply the basis for social activities of other kinds. Every one is
conscious that without a close affectional tie of some kind his life is
not complete, his powers are crippled, and his energies are inadequately
spent. Yet it is not to be expected (though it may of course happen)
that the man or woman who have dedicated themselves to each other and
to family life should leave the care of their children and the work
they have to do at home in order to perform social duties of a remote
and less obvious, though may be more arduous, character. Nor is it to
be expected that a man or woman single-handed, without the counsel of a
helpmate in the hour of difficulty, or his or her love in the hour of
need, should feel equal to these wider activities. If - to refer once more
to classic story - the love of Harmodius had been for a wife and children
at home, he would probably not have cared, and it would hardly have been
his business, to slay the tyrant. And unless on the other hand each of
the friends had had the love of his comrade to support him, the two
could hardly have nerved themselves to this audacious and ever-memorable
exploit. So it is difficult to believe that anything can supply the force
and liberate the energies required for social and mental activities of
the most necessary kind so well as a comrade-union which yet leaves the
two lovers free from the responsibilities and impedimenta of family life.

For if the slaughter of tyrants is not the chief social duty nowadays,
we have with us hydra-headed monsters at least as numerous as the
tyrants of old, and more difficult to deal with, and requiring no little
courage to encounter. And beyond the extirpation of evils we have solid
work waiting to be done in the patient and life-long building up of new
forms of society, new orders of thought, and new institutions of human
solidarity - all of which in their genesis must meet with opposition,
ridicule, hatred, and even violence. Such campaigns as these - though
different in kind from those of the Dorian mountaineers described
above - will call for equal hardihood and courage, and will stand in
need of a comradeship as true and valiant. And it may indeed be doubted
whether the higher heroic and spiritual life of a nation is ever quite
possible without the sanction of this attachment in its institutions,
adding a new range and scope to the possibilities of love.[46]

Walt Whitman, the inaugurator, it may almost be said, of a new world
of democratic ideals and literature, and - as one of the best of our
critics has remarked - the most Greek in spirit and in performance of
modern writers, insists continually on this social function of “intense
and loving comradeship, the personal and passionate attachment of man
to man.” “I will make,” he says, “the most splendid race the sun ever
shone upon, I will make divine magnetic lands.… I will make inseparable
cities with their arms about each others’ necks, by the love of
comrades.” And again, in “Democratic Vistas,” “It is to the development,
identification, and general prevalence of that fervid comradeship (the
adhesive love at least rivaling the amative love hitherto possessing
imaginative literature, if not going beyond it), that I look for the
counterbalance and offset of materialistic and vulgar American Democracy,
and for the spiritualisation thereof.… I say Democracy infers such loving
comradeship, as its most inevitable twin or counterpart, without which it
will be incomplete, in vain, and incapable of perpetuating itself.”

Yet Whitman could not have spoken, as he did, with a kind of authority
on this subject, if he had not been fully aware that through the masses
of the people this attachment was already alive and working - though
doubtless in a somewhat suppressed and un-self-conscious form - and if
he had not had ample knowledge of its effects and influence in himself
and others around him. Like all great artists he could but give form
and light to that which already existed dim and inchoate in the heart
of the people. To those who have dived at all below the surface in this
direction it will be familiar enough that the homogenic passion ramifies
widely through all modern society, and that among the masses of the
people as among the classes, even below the stolid surface and reserve
of British manners, letters pass and enduring attachments are formed,
differing in no very obvious respect from those correspondences which
persons of opposite sex knit with each other under similar circumstances;
but that hitherto while this relation has occasionally, in its grosser
forms and abuses, come into public notice through the police reports,
etc., its more sane and spiritual manifestations - though really a moving
force in the body politic - have remained unrecognised.

It is hardly needful in these days when social questions loom so
large upon us to emphasise the importance of a bond which by the most
passionate and lasting compulsion may draw members of the different
classes together, and (as it often seems to do) none the less strongly
because they are members of different classes. A moment’s consideration
must convince us that such a comradeship may, as Whitman says, have
“deepest relations to general politics.” It is noticeable, too, in this
deepest relation to politics that the movement among women towards
their own liberation and emancipation, which is taking place all over
the civilised world, has been accompanied by a marked development of
the homogenic passion among the female sex. It may be said that a
certain strain in the relations between the opposite sexes which has
come about owing to a growing consciousness among women that they have
been oppressed and unfairly treated by men, and a growing unwillingness
to ally themselves unequally in marriage - that this strain has caused
the womenkind to draw more closely together and to cement alliances of
their own. But whatever the cause may be it is pretty certain that such
comrade-alliances - and of quite devoted kind - are becoming increasingly
common, and especially perhaps among the more cultured classes of women,
who are working out the great cause of their sex’s liberation; nor is it
difficult to see the importance of such alliances in such a campaign. In
the United States where the battle of women’s independence is also being
fought, the tendency mentioned is as strongly marked.

A few words may here be said about the legal aspect of this important
question. It has to be remarked that the present state of the Law,
both in Germany and Britain - arising as it does partly out of some of
the misapprehensions above alluded to, and partly out of the sheer
unwillingness of legislators to discuss the question - is really
impracticable. While the Law rightly seeks to prevent acts of violence
or public scandal, it may be argued that it is going beyond its province
when it attempts to regulate the private and voluntary relations of
adult persons to each other. The homogenic affection is a valuable
social force, and in some cases a necessary element of noble human
character - yet the Act of 1885 makes almost any familiarity in such
cases the possible basis of a criminal charge. The Law has no doubt had
substantial ground for previous statutes on this subject - dealing with a
certain gross act; but in so severely condemning the least familiarity
between male persons[47] we think it has gone too far. It has undertaken
a censorship over private morals (entirely apart from social results)
which is beyond its province, and which - even if it were its province - it
could not possibly fulfil;[48] it has opened wider than ever before the
door to a real, most serious social evil and crime - that of blackmailing;
and it has thrown a shadow over even the simplest and most ordinary
expressions of an attachment which may, as we have seen, be of great
value in the national life.

That the homosexual feeling, like the heterosexual, may lead to public
abuses of liberty and decency; that it needs a strict self-control;
and that much teaching and instruction on the subject is needed; we of
course do not deny. But as, in the case of persons of opposite sex, the
law limits itself on the whole to a maintenance of public order, the
protection of the weak from violence and insult,[49] and of the young
from their inexperience; so we think it should be here. The much-needed
teaching and the true morality on the subject must be given - as it can
only be given - by the spread of proper education and ideas, and not by
the clumsy bludgeon of the statute-book.[50]

Having thus shown the importance of the homogenic or comrade-attachment,
in some form, in national life, it would seem high time now that the
modern peoples should recognise this in their institutions, and endeavour
at least in their public opinion and systems of education to understand
this factor and give it its proper place. The undoubted evils which exist
in relation to it, for instance in our public schools as well as in our
public life, owe their existence largely to the fact that the whole
subject is left in the gutter so to speak - in darkness and concealment.
No one offers a clue of better things, nor to point a way out of the
wilderness; and by this very non-recognition the passion is perverted
into its least satisfactory channels. All love, one would say, must have
its responsibilities, else it is liable to degenerate, and to dissipate
itself in mere sentiment or sensuality. The normal marriage between man
and woman leads up to the foundation of the household and the family;
the love between parents and children implies duties and cares on both
sides. The homogenic attachment left unrecognised, easily loses some
of its best quality and becomes an ephemeral or corrupt thing. Yet,
as we have seen, and as I am pointing out in the following chapter,
it may, when occurring between an elder and younger, prove to be an
immense educational force; while, as between equals, it may be turned
to social and heroic uses, such as can hardly be demanded or expected
from the ordinary marriage. It would seem high time, I say, that public
opinion should recognise these facts; and so give to this attachment the
sanction and dignity which arise from public recognition, as well as
the definite form and outline which would flow from the existence of an
accepted ideal or standard in the matter. It is often said how necessary
for the morality of the ordinary marriage is some public recognition of
the relation, and some accepted standard of conduct in it. May not, to
a lesser degree, something of the same kind (as suggested in the next
chapter) be true of the homogenic attachment? It has had its place as
a recognised and guarded institution in the elder and more primitive
societies; and it seems quite probable that a similar place will be
accorded to it in the societies of the future.


Affection in Education

The place of Affection, and the need of it, as an educative force in
school-life, is a subject which is beginning to attract a good deal of
attention. Hitherto Education has been concentred on intellectual (and
physical) development; but the affections have been left to take care of
themselves. Now it is beginning to be seen that the affections have an
immense deal to say in the building up of the brain and the body. Their
evolution and organisation in some degree is probably going to become an
important part of school management.

School friendships of course exist; and almost every one remembers that
they filled a large place in the outlook of his early years; but he
remembers, too, that they were not recognised in any way, and that in
consequence the main part of their force and value was wasted. Yet it is
evident that the first unfolding of a strong attachment in boyhood or
girlhood must have a profound influence; while if it occurs between an
elder and a younger school-mate, or - as sometimes happens - between the
young thing and its teacher, its importance in the educational sense can
hardly be overrated.

That such feelings sometimes take quite intense and romantic forms few
will deny. I have before me a letter, in which the author, speaking of
an attachment he experienced when a boy of sixteen for a youth somewhat
older than himself, says: -

“I would have died for him ten times over. My devices and plannings
to meet him (to come across him casually, as it were) were those
of a lad for his sweetheart, and when I saw him my heart beat so
violently that it caught my breath, and I could not speak. We met
in - - , and for the weeks that he stayed there I thought of nothing
else - thought of him night and day - and when he returned to London
I used to write him weekly letters, veritable love-letters of many
sheets in length. Yet I never felt one particle of jealousy, though
our friendship lasted for some years. The passion, violent and
extravagant as it was, I believe to have been perfectly free from
sex-feeling and perfectly wholesome and good for me. It distinctly
contributed to my growth. Looking back upon it and analysing it as
well as I can, I seem to see as the chief element in it an escape
from the extremely narrow Puritanism in which I was reared, into
a large sunny ingenuous nature which knew nothing at all of the
bondage of which I was beginning to be acutely conscious.”

Shelley in his fragmentary “Essay on Friendship” speaks in the most
glowing terms of an attachment he formed at school, and so does Leigh
Hunt in his “Autobiography.” Says the latter: -

“If I had reaped no other benefit from Christ Hospital, the school
would be ever dear to me from the recollection of the friendships
I formed in it, and of the first heavenly taste it gave me of
that most spiritual of the affections.… I shall never forget the
impression it made on me. I loved my friend for his gentleness, his
candour, his truth, his good repute, his freedom even from my own
livelier manner, his calm and reasonable kindness.… I doubt whether
he ever had a conception of a tithe of the regard and respect
I entertained for him, and I smile to think of the perplexity
(though he never showed it) which he probably felt sometimes at my
enthusiastic expressions; for I thought him a kind of angel.”

It is not necessary, however, to quote authorities on such a subject as
this.[51] Any one who has had experience of schoolboys knows well enough
that they are capable of forming these romantic and devoted attachments,
and that their alliances are often of the kind especially referred to as
having a bearing on education - _i.e._, between an elder and a younger.
They are genuine attractions, free as a rule, and at their inception,
from secondary motives. They are not formed by the elder one for any
personal ends. More often, indeed, I think they are begun by the younger,
who naively allows his admiration of the elder one to become visible. But
they are absorbing and intense, and on either side their influence is
deeply felt and long remembered.

That such attachments _may_ be of the very greatest value is
self-evident. The younger boy looks on the other as a hero, loves to
be with him, thrills with pleasure at his words of praise or kindness,
imitates, and makes him his pattern and standard, learns exercises and
games, contracts habits, or picks up information from him. The elder one,
touched, becomes protector and helper; the unselfish side of his nature
is drawn out, and he develops a real affection and tenderness towards
the younger. He takes all sorts of trouble to initiate his _protégé_ in
field sports or studies; is proud of the latter’s success; and leads him
on perhaps later to share his own ideals of life and thought and work.

Sometimes the alliance will begin, in a corresponding way, from the side
of the elder boy. Sometimes, as said, between a boy and a master such an
attachment, or the germ of it, is found; and indeed it is difficult to
say what gulf, or difference of age, or culture, or class in society, is
so great that affection of this kind will not on occasion overpass it.
I have by me a letter which was written by a boy of eleven or twelve to
a young man of twenty-four or twenty-five. The boy was rather a wild,
“naughty” boy, and had given his parents (working-class folk) a good deal
of trouble. He attended, however, some sort of night-school or evening
class and there conceived the strongest affection (evidenced by this
letter) for his teacher, the young man in question, quite spontaneously,
and without any attempt on the part of the latter to elicit it; and
(which was equally important) without any attempt on his part to _deny_
it. The result was most favorable; the one force which could really reach
the boy had, as it were, been found; and he developed rapidly and well.

The following extract is from a letter written by an elderly man who has
had large experience as a teacher. He says -

“It has always seemed to me that the _rapport_ that exists between
two human beings, whether of the same or of different sexes, is
a force not sufficiently recognised, and capable of producing
great results. Plato fully understood its importance, and aimed
at giving what to his countrymen was more or less sensual, a
noble and exalted direction.… As one who has had much to do in
instructing boys and starting them in life, I am convinced that the
great secret of being a good teacher consists in the possibility
of that _rapport_; not only of a merely intellectual nature, but
involving a certain physical element, a personal affection, almost
indescribable, that grows up between pupil and teacher, and through
which thoughts are shared and an influence created that could exist
in no other way.”

And it must be evident to every one that to the expanding mind of a small
boy to have a relation of real affection with some sensible and helpful
elder of his own sex must be a priceless boon. At that age love to the
other sex has hardly declared itself, and indeed is not exactly what
is wanted. The unformed mind requires an ideal of itself, as it were,
to which it can cling or towards which it can grow. Yet it is equally
evident that the relation and the success of it, will depend immensely on
the character of the elder one, on the self-restraint and tenderness of
which he is capable, and on the ideal of life which he has in his mind.
That, possibly, is the reason why Greek custom, at least in the early
days of Hellas, not only recognised friendships between elder and younger
youths as a national institution of great importance, but laid down very
distinct laws or rules concerning the conduct of them, so as to be a
guide and a help to the elder in what was acknowledged to be a position
of responsibility.

In Crete, for instance,[52] the friendship was entered into in quite a
formal and public way, with the understanding and consent of relatives;
the position of the elder was clearly defined, and it became his business
to train and exercise the younger in skill of arms, the chase, etc.;
while the latter could obtain redress at law if the elder subjected
him to insult or injury of any kind. At the end of a certain period
of probation, if the younger desired it he could leave his comrade; if
not, he became his squire or henchman - the elder being bound to furnish
his military equipments - and they fought thenceforward side by side in
battle, “inspired with double valor, according to the notions of the
Cretans, by the gods of war and love.”[53] Similar customs prevailed in
Sparta, and, in a less defined way, in other Greek states; as, indeed,
they have prevailed among many semi-barbaric races on the threshold of

When, however, we turn to modern life and the actual situation, as for
instance in the public schools of to-day, it may well be objected that
we find very little of the suggested ideal, but rather an appalling
descent into the most uninspiring conditions. So far from friendship
being an institution whose value is recognised and understood, it is at
best scantily acknowledged, and is often actually discountenanced and
misunderstood. And though attachments such as we have portrayed exist,
they exist underground, as it were, at their peril, and half-stifled in
an atmosphere which can only be described as that of the gutter. Somehow
the disease of premature sexuality seems to have got possession of our
centres of education; wretched practices and habits abound, and (what is
perhaps their worst feature) cloud and degrade the boys’ conception of
what true love or friendship may be.

To those who are familiar with large public schools the state of affairs
does not need describing. A friend (who has placed some notes at my
disposal) says that in his time a certain well-known public school was a
mass of uncleanness, incontinence, and dirty conversation, while at the
same time a great deal of genuine affection, even to heroism, was shown
among the boys in their relations with one another. But “all these things
were treated by masters and boys alike as more or less unholy, with
the result that they were either sought after or flung aside according
to the sexual or emotional instinct of the boy. No attempt was made
at discrimination. A kiss was by comparison as unclean as the act of
_fellatio_, and no one had any gauge or principle whatever on which to
guide the cravings of boyhood.” The writer then goes into details which
it is not necessary to reproduce here. He (and others) were initiated
in the mysteries of sex by the dormitory servant; and the boys thus
corrupted mishandled each other.

Naturally in any such atmosphere as this the chances _against_ the
formation of a decent and healthy attachment are very large. If the elder
youth happen to be given to sensuality he has here his opportunity; if on
the other hand he is _not_ given to it, the ideas current around probably
have the effect of making him suspect his own affection, and he ends by
smothering and disowning the best part of his nature. In both ways harm
is done. The big boys in such places become either coarse and licentious
or hard and self-righteous; the small boys, instead of being educated and
strengthened by the elder ones, become effeminate little wretches, the
favorites, the petted boys, and the “spoons” of the school. As time goes
on the public opinion of the school ceases to believe in the possibility
of a healthy friendship; the masters begin to presume (and not without

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Online LibraryEdward CarpenterThe intermediate sex; a study of some transitional types of men and women → online text (page 4 of 9)