Edward Carpenter.

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

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reason) that all affection means sensual practices, and end by doing
their best to discourage it.

Now this state of affairs is really desperate. There is no need to be
puritanical, or to look upon the lapses of boyhood as unpardonable sins;
indeed, it may be allowed, as far as that goes, that a little frivolity
is better than hardness and self-righteousness; yet every one feels, and
must feel, who knows anything about the matter, that the state of our
schools is bad.

And it is so because, after all, purity (in the sense of continence) _is_
of the first importance to boyhood. To prolong the period of continence
in a boy’s life is to prolong the period of _growth_. This is a simple
physiological law, and a very obvious one; and whatever other things
may be said in favour of purity, it remains perhaps the most weighty.
To introduce sensual and sexual habits - and one of the worst of these
is self-abuse - at an early age, is to arrest growth, both physical and

And what is even more, it means to arrest the capacity for affection.
I believe affection, attachment - whether to the one sex or the
other - springs up normally in the youthful mind in a quite diffused,
ideal, emotional form - a kind of longing and amazement as at something
divine - with no definite thought or distinct consciousness of sex in it.
The sentiment expands and fills, as it were like a rising tide, every
cranny of the emotional and moral nature; and the longer (of course
within reasonable limits) its definite outlet towards sex is deferred,
the longer does this period of emotional growth and development continue,
and the greater is the refinement and breadth and strength of character
resulting. All experience shows that a too early outlet towards sex
cheapens and weakens affectional capacity.

Yet this early outlet it is which is the great trouble of our public
schools. And it really does not seem unlikely that the peculiar character
of the middle-class man of to-day, his undeveloped affectional nature and
something of brutishness and woodenness, is largely due to the prevalent
condition of the places of his education. The Greeks, with their
wonderful instinct of fitness, seem to have perceived the right path in
all this matter; and, while encouraging friendship, as we have seen,
made a great point of modesty in early life - the guardians and teachers
of every well-born boy being especially called upon to watch over the
sobriety of his habits and manners.[54]

We have then in education generally, it seems to me (and whether of boys
or of girls), two great currents to deal with, which cannot be ignored,
and which certainly ought to be candidly recognized and given their right
direction. One of these currents is that of friendship. The other is
that of the young thing’s natural curiosity about sex. The latter is of
course, or should be, a perfectly legitimate interest. A boy at puberty
naturally wants to know - and ought to know - what is taking place, and
what the uses and functions of his body are. He does not go very deep
into things; a small amount of information will probably satisfy him; but
the curiosity is there, and it is pretty certain that the boy, if he is
a boy of any sense or character, _will_ in some shape or another get to
satisfy it.

The process is really a _mental_ one. Desire - except in some abnormal
cases - has not manifested itself strongly; and there is often perhaps
generally, an actual repugnance at first to anything like sexual
practices; but the wish for information exists and is, I say, legitimate
enough.[55] In almost all human societies except, curiously, the modern
nations, there have been institutions for the initiation of the youth of
either sex into these matters, and these initiations have generally been
associated, in the opening blossom of the young mind, with inculcation of
the ideals of manhood and womanhood, courage, hardihood, and the duties
of the citizen or the soldier.[56]

But what does the modern school do? It shuts a trap-door down on the
whole matter. There is a hush; a grim silence. Legitimate curiosity soon
becomes illegitimate of its kind; and a furtive desire creeps in, where
there was no desire before. The method of the gutter prevails. In the
absence of any recognition of schoolboy needs, contraband information is
smuggled from one to another; chaff and ‘smut’ take the place of sensible
and decent explanations; unhealthy practices follow; the sacredness
of sex goes its way, never to return, and the school is filled with
premature and morbid talk and thought about a subject which should, by
rights, only just be rising over the mental horizon.

The meeting of these two currents, of ideal attachment and sexual desire,
constitutes a rather critical period, even when it takes place in the
normal way - _i.e._, later on, and at the matrimonial age. Under the most
favorable conditions a certain conflict occurs in the mind at their
first encounter. But in the modern school this conflict, precipitated
far too soon, and accompanied by an artificial suppression of the nobler
current and a premature hastening of the baser one, ends in simple
disaster to the former. Masters wage war against incontinence, and are
right to do so. But how do they wage it? As said, by grim silence and
fury, by driving the abscess deeper, by covering the drain over, _and_ by
confusing when it comes before them - both in their own minds and those of
the boys - a real attachment with that which they condemn.

Not long ago the headmaster of a large public school coming suddenly out
of his study chanced upon two boys embracing each other in the corridor.
Possibly, and even probably, it was the simple and natural expression of
an unsophisticated attachment. Certainly, it was nothing that in itself
could be said to be either right or wrong. What did he do? He haled the
two boys into his study, gave them a long lecture on the nefariousness of
their conduct, with copious hints that he knew _what such things meant_,
and _what they led to_, and ended by punishing both condignly. Could
anything be more foolish? If their friendship was clean and natural,
the master was only trying to make them feel that it was unclean and
unnatural, and that a lovely and honorable thing was disgraceful; if the
act was - which at least is improbable - a mere signal of lust - even then
the best thing would have been to assume that it was honorable, and by
talking to the boys, either together or separately, to try and inspire
them with a better ideal; while if, between these positions, the master
really thought the affection though honorable would lead to things
undesirable, then, plainly, to punish the two was only to cement their
love for each other, to give them a strong reason for concealing it, and
to hasten its onward course. Yet every one knows that this is the _kind_
of way in which the subject is treated in schools. It is the method of
despair. And masters (perhaps not unnaturally) finding that they have
not the time which would be needed for personal dealing with each boy,
nor the forces at their command by which they might hope to introduce
new ideals of life and conduct into their little community, and feeling
thus utterly unable to cope with the situation, allow themselves to drift
into a policy of mere silence with regard to it, tempered by outbreaks of
ungoverned and unreasoning severity.

I venture to think that school-masters will never successfully solve the
difficulty until they boldly recognize the two needs in question, and
proceed candidly to give them their proper satisfaction.

The need of information - the legitimate curiosity - of boys (and girls)
must be met, (1) partly by classes on physiology, (2) partly by private
talks and confidences between elder and younger, based on friendship.
With regard to (1) classes of this kind are already, happily, being
carried on at a few advanced schools, and with good results. And though
such classes can only go rather generally into the facts of motherhood
and generation they cannot fail, if well managed, to impress the young
minds, and give them a far grander and more reverent conception of the
matter than they usually gain.

But (2) although some rudimentary teaching on sex and lessons in
physiology may be given in classes, it is obvious that further
instruction and indeed any real help in the conduct of life and morals
can only come through very close and tender confidences between the
elder and the younger, such as exist where there is a strong friendship
to begin with. It is obvious that effective help _can_ only come in
this way, and that this is the only way in which it is desirable that
it should come. The elder friend in this case would, one might say,
naturally be, and in many instances may be, the parent, mother or
father - who ought certainly to be able to impress on the clinging child
the sacredness of the relation. And it is much to be hoped that parents
will see their way to take this part more freely in the future. But
for some unexplained reason there is certainly often a gulf of reserve
between the (British) parent and child; and the boy who is much at school
comes more under the influence of his elder companions than his parents.
If, therefore, boys and youths cannot be trusted and encouraged to form
decent and loving friendships with each other, and with their elders
or juniors - in which many delicate questions could be discussed and
the tradition of sensible and manly conduct with regard to sex handed
down - we are indeed in a bad plight and involved in a vicious circle from
which escape seems difficult.

And so (we think) the need of attachment must also be met by full
recognition of it, and the granting of it expression within all
reasonable limits; by the dissemination of a good ideal of friendship
and the enlistment of it on the side of manliness and temperance. Is it
too much to hope that schools will in time recognise comradeship as a
regular institution - considerably more important, say, than “fagging” - an
institution having its definite place in the school life, in the games
and in the studies, with its own duties, responsibilities, privileges,
etc., and serving to ramify through the little community, hold it
together, and inspire its members with the two qualities of heroism and
tenderness, which together form the basis of all great character?

But here it must be said that if we are hoping for any great change in
the conduct of our large boys’ schools, the so-called public schools are
not the places in which to look for it - or at any rate for its inception.
In the first place these institutions are hampered by powerful traditions
which naturally make them conservative; and in the second place their
mere size and the number of boys make them difficult to deal with or
to modify. The masters are overwhelmed with work; and the (necessary)
division of so many boys into separate ‘houses’ has this effect that a
master who introduces a better tradition into his own house has always
the prospect before him that his work will be effaced by the continual
and perhaps contaminating contact with the boys from the other houses.
No, it will be in smaller schools, say of from 50 to 100 boys, where
the personal influence of the headmaster will be a real force reaching
each boy, and where he will be really able to mould the tradition of the
school, that we shall alone be able to look for an improved state of

No doubt the first steps in any reform of this kind are difficult; but
masters are greatly hampered by the confusion in the public mind, to
which we have already alluded - which so often persists in setting down
any attachment between two boys, or between a boy and his teacher, to
nothing but sensuality. Many masters quite understand the situation,
but feel themselves helpless in the face of public opinion. Who so fit
(they sometimes feel) to enlighten a young boy and guide his growing mind
as one of themselves, when the bond of attachment exists between the
two? Like the writer of a letter quoted in the early part of this paper
they believe that “a personal affection, almost indescribable, grows
up between pupil and teacher, through which thoughts are shared and an
influence created that could exist in no other way.” Yet when the pupil
comes along of whom all this might be true, who shows by his pleading
looks the sentiment which animates him, and the profound impression which
he is longing, as it were, to receive from his teacher, the latter belies
himself, denies his own instinct and the boy’s great need, and treats
him distantly and with coldness. And why? Simply because he dreads,
even while he desires it, the boy’s confidence. He fears the ingenuous
and perfectly natural expression of the boy’s affection in caress or
embrace, because he knows how a bastard public opinion will interpret,
or misinterpret it; and rather than run such a risk as this he seals the
fountains of the heart, withholds the help which love alone can give, and
deliberately nips the tender bud which is turning to him for light and

The panic terror which prevails in England with regard to the expression
of affection of this kind has its comic aspect. The affection exists,
and is known to exist, on all sides; but we must bury our heads in the
sand and pretend not to see it. And if by any chance we are compelled
to recognize it, we must show our vast discernment by _suspecting_ it.
And thus we fling on the dust-heap one of the noblest and most precious
elements in human nature. Certainly, if the denial and suspicion of
all natural affection were beneficial, we should find this out in our
schools; but seeing how complete is its failure there to clarify their
tone it is sufficiently evident that the method itself is wrong.

* * * * *

The remarks in this paper have chiefly had reference to boys’ schools;
but they apply in the main to girls’ schools, where much the same
troubles prevail - with this difference, that in girls’ schools
friendships instead of being repressed are rather encouraged by public
opinion; only unfortunately they are for the most part friendships of
a weak and sentimental turn, and not very healthy either in themselves
or in the habits they lead to. Here too, in girls’ schools, the whole
subject wants facing out; friendship wants setting on a more solid
and less sentimental basis; and on the subject of sex, so infinitely
important to women, there needs to be sensible and consistent teaching,
both public and private. Possibly the co-education of boys and girls may
be of use in making boys less ashamed of their feelings, and girls more
healthy in the expression of them.

At any rate the more the matter is thought of, the clearer I believe
will it appear that a healthy affection must in the end be the basis of
education, and that the recognition of this will form the only way out
of the modern school-difficulty. It is true that such a change would
revolutionise our school-life; but it will have to come, all the same,
and no doubt will come _pari passu_ with other changes that are taking
place in society at large.


The Place of the Uranian in Society

Whatever differing views there may be on the many problems which the
Intermediate sexes present - and however difficult of solution some of the
questions involved - there is one thing which appears to me incontestable:
namely that a vast number of intermediates do actually perform most
valuable social work, and that they do so partly on account and by reason
of their special temperament.

This fact is not generally recognised as it ought to be, for the simple
reason that the Uranian himself is not recognised, and indeed (as we have
already said) tends to conceal his temperament from the public. There is
no doubt that if it became widely known _who are_ the Uranians, the world
would be astonished to find so many of its great or leading men among

I have thought it might be useful to indicate some of the lines along
which valuable work is being performed, or has been performed, by people
of this disposition; and in doing this I do not of course mean to
disguise or conceal the fact that there are numbers of merely frivolous,
or feeble or even vicious homosexuals, who practically do no useful work
for society at all - _just as there are of normal people_. The existence
of those who do no valuable work does not alter the fact of the existence
of others whose work is of great importance. And I wish also to make
it clearly understood that I use the word Uranians to indicate simply
those whose lives and activities are inspired by a genuine friendship or
love for their own sex, without venturing to specify their individual
and particular habits or relations towards those whom they love (which
relations in most cases we have no means of knowing). Some Intermediates
of light and leading - doubtless not a few - are physically very reserved
and continent; others are sensual in some degree or other. The point
is that they are all men, or women, whose most powerful motive comes
from the dedication to their own kind, and is bound up with it in some
way. And if it seems strange and anomalous that in such cases work
of considerable importance to society is being done by people whose
affections and dispositions society itself would blame, this is after all
no more than has happened a thousand times before in the history of the

As I have already hinted, the Uranian temperament (probably from the
very fact of its dual nature and the swift and constant interaction
between its masculine and feminine elements) is exceedingly sensitive and
emotional; and there is no doubt that, going with this, a large number
of the artist class, musical, literary or pictorial, belong to this
description. That delicate and subtle sympathy with every wave and phase
of feeling which makes the artist possible is also very characteristic of
the Uranian (the male type), and makes it easy or natural for the Uranian
man to become an artist. In the ‘confessions’ and ‘cases’ collected by
Krafft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis and others, it is remarkable what a large
percentage of men of this temperament belong to the artist class. In his
volume on “Sexual Inversion,”[59] speaking of the cases collected by
himself, Ellis says: - “An examination of my cases reveals the interesting
fact that thirty-two of them, or sixty-eight per cent., possess artistic
aptitude in varying degree. Galton found, from the investigation of
nearly one thousand persons, that the general average showing artistic
taste in England is only about thirty per cent. It must also be said that
my figures are probably below the truth, as no special point was made of
investigating the matter, and also that in many of my cases the artistic
aptitudes are of high order. With regard to the special avocations of
my cases, it must of course be said that no occupation furnishes a
safeguard against inversion. There are, however, certain occupations to
which inverts are specially attracted. Acting is certainly one of the
chief of these. Three of my cases belong to the dramatic profession,
and others have marked dramatic ability. Art, again, in its various
forms, and music, exercise much attraction. In my experience, however,
literature is the avocation to which inverts seem to feel chiefly called,
and that moreover in which they may find the highest degree of success
and reputation. At least half-a-dozen of my cases are successful men of

Of Literature in this connection, and of the great writers of the world
whose work has been partly inspired by the Uranian love, I have myself
already spoken.[60] It may further be said that those of the modern
artist-writers and poets who have done the greatest service in the way
of interpreting and reconstructing _Greek_ life and ideals - men like
Winckelmann, Goethe, Addington Symonds, Walter Pater - have had a marked
strain of this temperament in them. And this has been a service of great
value, and one which the world could ill have afforded to lose.

The painters and sculptors, especially of the renaissance period in
Italy, yield not a few examples of men whose work has been similarly
inspired - as in the cases of Michel Angelo, Lionardo, Bazzi, Cellini,
and others. As to music, this is certainly the art which in its subtlety
and tenderness - and perhaps in a certain inclination to _indulge_ in
emotion - lies nearest to the Urning nature. There are few in fact of this
nature who have not some gift in the direction of music - though, unless
we cite Tschaikowsky, it does not appear that any thorough-going Uranian
has attained to the highest eminence in this art.

Another direction along which the temperament very naturally finds an
outlet is the important social work of Education. The capacity that a
man has, in cases, of devoting himself to the welfare of boys or youths,
is clearly a thing which ought not to go wasted - and which may be most
precious and valuable. It is incontestable that a great number of men
(and women) are drawn into the teaching profession by this sentiment - and
the work they do is, in many cases, beyond estimation. Fortunate the boy
who meets with such a helper in early life! I know a man - a rising and
vigorous thinker and writer - who tells me that he owes almost everything
mentally to such a friend of his boyhood, who took the greatest interest
in him, saw him almost every day for many years, and indeed cleared up
for him not only things mental but things moral, giving him the affection
and guidance his young heart needed. And I have myself known and watched
not a few such teachers, in public schools and in private schools, and
seen something of the work and of the real inspiration they have been to
boys under them. Hampered as they have been by the readiness of the world
to misinterpret, they still have been able to do most precious service.
Of course here and there a case occurs in which privilege is abused; but
even then the judgment of the world is often unreasonably severe. A poor
boy once told me with tears in his eyes of the work a man had done for
him. This man had saved the boy from drunken parents, taken him from the
slums, and by means of a club helped him out into the world. Many other
boys he had rescued, it appeared, in the same way - scores and scores of
them. But on some occasion or other he got into trouble, and was accused
of improper familiarities. No excuse, or record of a useful life, was of
the least avail. Every trumpery slander was believed, every mean motive
imputed, and he had to throw up his position and settle elsewhere, his
life-work shattered, never to be resumed.

The capacity for sincere affection which causes an elder man to care so
deeply for the welfare of a youth or boy, is met and responded to by a
similar capacity in the young thing of devotion to an elder man. This
fact is not always recognised; but I have known cases of boys and even
young men who would feel the most romantic attachments to quite mature
men, sometimes as much as forty or fifty years of age, and only for
them - passing by their own contemporaries of either sex, and caring only
to win a return affection from these others. This may seem strange, but
it is true. And the fact not only makes one understand what riddles there
are slumbering in the breasts of our children, but how greatly important
it is that we should try to read them - since here, in such cases as
these, the finding of an answering heart in an elder man would probably
be the younger one’s salvation.

How much of the enormous amount of philanthropic work done in the
present day - by women among needy or destitute girls of all sorts, or
by men among like classes of boys - is inspired by the same feeling, it
would be hard to say; but it must be a very considerable proportion.
I think myself that the best philanthropic work - just because it is
the most personal, the most loving, and the least merely formal and
self-righteous - has a strong fibre of the Uranian heart running through
it; and if it should be said that work of this very personal kind is more
liable to dangers and difficulties on that account, it is only what is
true of the best in almost all departments.

Eros is a great leveler. Perhaps the true Democracy rests, more firmly
than anywhere else, on a sentiment which easily passes the bounds
of class and caste, and unites in the closest affection the most
estranged ranks of society. It is noticeable how often Uranians of good

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Online LibraryEdward CarpenterThe intermediate sex; a study of some transitional types of men and women → online text (page 5 of 9)