Completed the psychological analysis of the sexual invertby@havelock

Completed the psychological analysis of the sexual invert

by Havelock EllisApril 11th, 2023
Read on Terminal Reader
Read this story w/o Javascript
tldt arrow

Too Long; Didn't Read

The Prevention of Homosexuality—The Influence of the School—Coeducation—The Treatment of Sexual Inversion—Castration—Hypnotism—Associational Therapy—Psycho-analysis—Mental and Physical Hygiene—Marriage—The Children of Inverts—The Attitude of Society—The Horror Aroused by Homosexuality—Justinian—The Code Napoléon—The State of the Law in Europe Today—Germany—England—What Should be our Attitude toward Homosexuality? Having now completed the psychological analysis of the sexual invert, so far as I have been able to study him, it only remains to speak briefly of the attitude of society and the law. First, however, a few words as to the medical and hygienic aspects of inversion. The preliminary question of the prevention of homosexuality is in too vague a position at present to be profitably discussed. So far as the really congenital invert is concerned, prevention can have but small influence; but sound social hygiene should render difficult the acquisition of homosexual perversity, or what has been termed pseudo-homosexuality. It is the school which is naturally the chief theater of immature and temporary homosexual manifestations, partly because school life largely coincides with the period during which the sexual impulse frequently tends to be undifferentiated, and partly because in the traditions of large and old schools an artificial homosexuality is often deeply rooted.
featured image - Completed the psychological analysis of the sexual invert
Havelock Ellis HackerNoon profile picture

Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 2 by Havelock Ellis is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. CONCLUSIONS


The Prevention of Homosexuality—The Influence of the School—Coeducation—The Treatment of Sexual Inversion—Castration—Hypnotism—Associational Therapy—Psycho-analysis—Mental and Physical Hygiene—Marriage—The Children of Inverts—The Attitude of Society—The Horror Aroused by Homosexuality—Justinian—The Code Napoléon—The State of the Law in Europe Today—Germany—England—What Should be our Attitude toward Homosexuality?

Having now completed the psychological analysis of the sexual invert, so far as I have been able to study him, it only remains to speak briefly of the attitude of society and the law. First, however, a few words as to the medical and hygienic aspects of inversion. The preliminary question of the prevention of homosexuality is in too vague a position at present to be profitably discussed. So far as the really congenital invert is concerned, prevention can have but small influence; but sound social hygiene should render difficult the acquisition of homosexual perversity, or what has been termed pseudo-homosexuality. It is the school which is naturally the chief theater of immature and temporary homosexual manifestations, partly because school life largely coincides with the period during which the sexual impulse frequently tends to be undifferentiated, and partly because in the traditions of large and old schools an artificial homosexuality is often deeply rooted.

Homosexuality in English schools has already been briefly referred to in chapter iii. As a precise and interesting picture of the phenomena in French schools, I may mention a story by Albert Nortal, Les Adolescents Passionnés (1913), written immediately after the author left college, though not published until more than twenty-five years later, and clearly based on personal observation and experience. As regards German schools, see, e.g., Moll, Untersuchungen über die Libido Sexualis, p. 449 et seq., and for sexual manifestations in early life generally, the same author's Sexual Life of the Child; also Hirschfeld, Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen, vol. v, 1903, p. 47 et seq., and, for references, Hirschfeld, Die Homosexualität, p. 46 et seq.

While much may be done by physical hygiene and other means to prevent the extension of homosexuality in schools,[243] it is impossible, and even undesirable, to repress absolutely the emotional manifestations of sex in either boys or girls who have reached the age of puberty.[244] It must always be remembered that profoundly rooted organic impulses cannot be effectually combated by direct methods. Writing of a period two centuries ago, Casanova, in relating his early life as a seminarist trained to the priesthood, describes the precautions taken to prevent the youths entering each other's beds, and points out the folly of such precautions.[245] As that master of the human heart remarks, such prohibitions intensify the very evil they are intended to prevent by invoking in its aid the impulse to disobedience natural to every child of Adam and Eve, and the observation has often been repeated by teachers since. We probably have to recognize that a way to render such manifestations wholesome, as well as to prepare for the relationships of later life, is the adoption, so far as possible, of the method of coeducation of the sexes,[246]—not, of course, necessarily involving identity of education for both sexes,—since a certain amount of association between the sexes helps to preserve the healthiness of the sexual emotional attitude. Association between the sexes will not, of course, prevent the development of congenital inversion. In this connection it is pointed out by Bethe that it was precisely in Sparta and Lesbos, where homosexuality was most ideally cultivated, that the sexes, so far as we know, associated more freely than in any other Greek State.[247]

The question of the treatment of homosexuality must be approached with discrimination, caution, and skepticism. Nowadays we can have but little sympathy with those who, at all costs, are prepared to "cure" the invert. There is no sound method of cure in radical cases.

At one time the seemingly very radical method of castration was advocated and occasionally carried out, as in a case I have recorded in a previous chapter (History XXVI). Like all methods of treatment, it is sometimes believed to have been successful by those who carried it out. Usually, after a short period, it is found to be unsuccessful, and in some cases the condition, especially the mental condition, is rendered worse. It is not difficult to understand why this should be. Sexual inversion, is not a localized genital condition. It is a diffused condition, and firmly imprinted on the whole psychic state. There may be reasons for castration, or the slighter operation of vasectomy, but, although sexual tension may be thereby diminished, no authority now believes that any such operation will affect the actual inversion. Castration of the body in adult age cannot be expected to produce castration of the mind. Moll, Féré, Näcke, Bloch, Rohleder, Hirschfeld, are all either opposed to castration for inversion, or very doubtful as to any beneficial results.

In a case communicated to me by Dr. Shufeldt, an invert had himself castrated at the age of 26 to diminish sexual desire, make himself more like a woman, and to stop growth of beard. "But the only apparent physical effect," he wrote, "was to increase my weight 10 per cent., and render me a semi-invalid for the rest of my life. After two years my sexuality decreased, but that may have been due to satiety or to advancing years. I was also rendered more easily irritated over trifles and more revengeful. Terrible criminal auto-suggestions came into my head, never experienced before." Féré (Revue de Chirurgie, March 10, 1905) published the case of an invert of English origin who had been castrated. The inverted impulse remained unchanged, as well as sexual desire and the aptitude for erection; but neurasthenic symptoms, which had existed before, were aggravated; he felt less capable to resist his impulses, became migratory in his habits of life, and addicted to the use of laudanum. In a case recorded by C. H. Hughes (Alienist and Neurologist, Aug., 1914) the results were less unsatisfactory; in this case the dorsal nerve of the penis was first excised, without any result (see also Alienist and Neurologist, Feb., 1904, p. 70, as regards worse than useless results of cutting the pudic nerve), and a year or so later the testes were removed and the patient gained tranquillity and satisfaction; his homosexual inclinations appeared to go, and he began to show inclination for asexualized women, being specially anxious to meet with a woman whose ovaries had been removed on account of inversion. (Reference may also be made to Näcke, "Die Ersten Kastrationen aus sozialen Grunden auf europäischen Boden," Neurologisches Centralblatt, 1909, No. 5, and E. Wilhelm in Juristisch-psychiatrische Grenzfragen, vol. viii, Heft 6 and 7, 1911.)

More trust has usually been placed in the psychotherapeutical than the surgical treatment of homosexuality. At one time hypnotic suggestion was carried out very energetically on homosexual subjects. Krafft-Ebing seems to have been the first distinguished advocate of hypnotism for application to the homosexual. Dr. von Schrenck-Notzing displayed special zeal and persistency in this treatment. He undertook to treat even the most pronounced cases of inversion by courses lasting more than a year, and involving, in at least one case, nearly one hundred and fifty hypnotic sittings; he prescribed frequent visits to the brothel, previous to which the patient took large doses of alcohol; by prolonged manipulations a prostitute endeavored to excite erection, a process attended with varying results. It appears that in some cases this course of treatment was attended by a certain sort of success, to which an unlimited good will on the part of the patient, it is needless to say, largely contributed. The treatment was, however, usually interrupted by continual backsliding to homosexual practices, and sometimes, naturally, the cure involved a venereal disorder. The patient was enabled to marry and to beget children.[248] It is a method of treatment which seems to have found few imitators. This we need not regret. The histories I have recorded in previous chapters show that it is not uncommon for even a pronounced invert to be able sometimes to effect coitus. It often becomes easy if at the time he fixes his thoughts on images connected with his own sex. But the perversion remains unaffected; the subject is merely (as one of Moll's inverts expressed it) practising masturbation per vaginam. Such treatment is a training in vice, and, as Raffalovich points out, the invert is simply perverted and brought down to the vicious level which necessarily accompanies perversity.[249]

There can be no doubt that in slight and superficial cases of homosexuality, suggestion may really exert an influence. We can scarcely expect it to exert such influence when the homosexual tendency is deeply rooted in an organic inborn temperament. In such cases indeed the subject may resist suggestion even when in the hypnotic state. This is pointed out by Moll, a great authority on hypnotism, and with much experience of its application to homosexuality, but never inclined to encourage an exaggerated notion of its efficacy in this field. Forel, who was also an authority on hypnotism, was equally doubtful as to its value in relation to inversion, especially in clearly inborn cases. Krafft-Ebing at the end said little about it, and Näcke (who was himself without faith in this method of treating inversion) stated that he had been informed by the last homosexual case treated by Krafft-Ebing by hypnotism that, in spite of all good-will on the patient's side, the treatment had been quite useless. Féré, also, had no belief in the efficacy of suggestive treatment, nor has Merzbach, nor Rohleder. Numa Praetorius states that the homosexual subjects he is acquainted with, who had been so treated, were not cured, and Hirschfeld remarks that the inverts "cured" by hypnotism were either not cured or not inverted.[250]

Moll has shown his doubt as to the wide applicability of suggestive therapeutics in homosexuality by developing in recent years what he terms association-therapy. In nearly all perverse individuals, he points out, there is a bridge,—more or less weak, no doubt,—which leads to the normal sexual life. By developing such links of association with normality, Moll believes, it may be possible to exert a healing influence on the homosexual. Thus a man who is attracted to boys may be brought to love a boyish woman.[251] Indications of this kind have long been observed and utilized, though not developed into a systematic method of treatment. In the case of bisexual individuals, or of youthful subjects whose homosexuality is not fully developed, it is probable that this method is beneficial. It is difficult to believe, however, that it possesses any marked influence on pronounced and developed cases of inversion.[252]

Somewhat the same aim as Moll's association-therapy, though on the basis of a more elaborate theory, is sought by Freud's psychoanalytic method of treating homosexuality. For the psychoanalytic theory (to which reference was made in the previous chapter) the congenital element of inversion is a rare and usually unimportant factor; the chief part is played by perverse psychic mechanisms. It is the business of psychoanalysis to straighten these out, and from the bisexual constitution, which is regarded as common to every one, to bring into the foreground the heterosexual elements, and so to reconstruct a normal personality, developing new sexual ideals from the patient's own latent and subconscious nature. Sadger has especially occupied himself with the psychoanalytic treatment of homosexuality and claims many successes.[253] Sadger admits that there are many limits to the success of this treatment, and that it cannot affect the inborn factors of homosexuality when present. Other psychoanalysts are less sanguine as to the cure of inversion. Stekel appears to have stated that he has never seen a complete cure by psychoanalysis, and Ferenezi is not able to give a good account of the results; especially as regards what he terms obsessional homosexuality, he states that he has never succeeded in effecting a complete cure, although obsessions in general are especially amenable to psychoanalysis.[254]

I have met with at least two homosexual persons who had undergone psychoanalytic treatment and found it beneficial. One, however, was bisexual, so that the difficulties in the way of the success—granting it to be real—were not serious. In the other case, the inversion persisted after treatment, exactly the same as before. The benefit he received was due to the fact that he was enabled to understand himself better and to overcome some of his mental difficulties. The treatment, therefore, in his case, was not a method of cure, but of psychic hygiene, of what Hirschfeld would call "adaptation-therapy." There can be no doubt that—even if we put aside all effort at cure and regard an invert's condition as inborn and permanent—a large and important field of treatment here still remains.

As we have seen in the two previous chapters, sexual inversion cannot be regarded as essentially an insane or psychopathic state.[255] But it is frequently associated with nervous conditions which may be greatly benefited by hygiene and treatment, without any attempt at all to overcome a homosexual attitude which may be too deeply rooted to be changed. The invert is specially liable to suffer from a high degree of neurasthenia, often involving much nervous weakness and irritability, loss of self-control, and genital hyperesthesia.[256] Hirschfeld finds that over 67 per cent. inverts suffer from nervous troubles, and among the cases dealt with in the present Study (as shown in chapter v) slight nervous functional disturbances are very common. These are conditions which may be ameliorated, and they may be treated in much the same way as if no inversion existed, by physical and mental tonics; or, if necessary, sedatives; by regulated gymnastics and out-of-door exercises; and by occupations which employ, without overexerting, the mind. Very great and permanent benefit may be obtained by a prolonged course of such mental and physical hygiene; the associated neurasthenic conditions may be largely removed, with the morbid fears, suspicions, and irritabilities that are usually part of neurasthenia, and the invert may be brought into a fairly wholesome and tonic condition of self-control.

The inversion is not thus removed. But if the patient is still young, and if the perversion does not appear to be deeply rooted in the organism, it is probable that—provided his own good-will is aiding—general hygienic measures, together with removal to a favorable environment, may gradually lead to the development of the normal sexual impulse. If it fails to do so, it becomes necessary to exercise great caution in recommending stronger methods. Purely "Platonic association with the other sex," Moll points out, "leads to better results than any prescribed attempt at coitus." For even when such attempt is successful, it is not usually possible to regard the results with much satisfaction. Not only is the acquisition of the normal instinct by an invert very much on a level with the acquisition of a vice, but probably it seldom succeeds in eradicating the original inverted instinct.[257] What usually happens is that the person becomes capable of experiencing both impulses,—not a specially satisfactory state of things. It may be disastrous, especially if it leads to marriage, as it may do in an inverted man or still more easily in an inverted woman. The apparent change does not turn out to be deep, and the invert's position is more unfortunate than his original position, both for himself and for his wife.[258]

It may be observed in the Histories brought forward in chapter iii that the position of married inverts (we must, of course, put aside the bisexual) is usually more distressing than that of the unmarried. Among my cases 14 per cent. are married. Hirschfeld finds that 16 per cent. of inverts are married and 50 per cent. are impotent; he is unable to find a single cure of homosexuality, and seldom any improvement, due to marriage; nearly always the impulse remains unaffected. The invert's happiness is, however, often affected for the worse, and not least by the feeling that he is depriving his wife of happiness. An invert, who had left his country through fear of arrest and married a rich woman who was in love with him, said to Hirschfeld: "Five years' imprisonment would not have been worse than one year of marriage."[259] In a marriage of this kind the homosexual partner and the normal partner—however ignorant of sexual matters—are both conscious, often with equal pain, that, even in the presence of affection and esteem and the best will in the world, there is something lacking. The instinctive and emotional element, which is the essence of sexual love and springs from the central core of organic personality, cannot voluntarily be created or even assumed.[260]

For the sake of the possible offspring, also, marriage is to be avoided. It is sometimes entirely for the sake of children that the invert desires to marry. But it must be pointed out that homosexuality is undoubtedly in many cases inherited. Often, it is true, the children turn out fairly well, but, in many cases, they bear witness that they belong to a neurotic and failing stock;[261] Hirschfeld goes so far as to say that it is always so, and concludes that from the eugenic standpoint the marriage of a homosexual person is always very risky. In a large number of cases such marriages prove sterile. The tendency to sexual inversion in eccentric and neurotic families seems merely to be nature's merciful method of winding up a concern which, from her point of view, has ceased to be profitable.

As a rule, inverts have no desire to be different from what they are, and, if they have any desire for marriage, it is usually only momentary. Very pathetic appeals for help are, however, sometimes made. I may quote from a letter addressed to me by a gentleman who desired advice on this matter: "In part, I write to you as a moralist and, in part, as to a physician. Dr. Q. has published a book in which, without discussion, hypnotic treatment of such cases was reported as successful. I am eager to know if your opinion remains what it was. This new assurance comes from a man whose moral firmness and delicacy are unquestionable, but you will easily imagine how one might shrink from the implantation of new impulses in the unconscious self, since newly created inclinations might disturb the conditions of life. At any rate, in my ignorance of hypnotism I fear that the effort to give the normal instinct might lead to marriage without the assurance that the normal instinct would be stable. I write, therefore, to explain my present condition and crave your counsel. It is with the greatest reluctance that I reveal the closely guarded secret of my life. I have no other abnormality, and have not hitherto betrayed my abnormal instinct. I have never made any person the victim of passion: moral and religious feelings were too powerful. I have found my reverence for other souls a perfect safeguard against any approach to impurity. I have never had sexual interest in women. Once I had a great friendship with a beautiful and noble woman, without any mixture of sexual feeling on my part. I was ignorant of my condition, and I have the bitter regret of having caused in her a hopeless love—proudly and tragically concealed to her death. My friendships with men, younger men, have been colored by passion, against which I have fought continually. The shame of this has made life a hell, and the horror of this abnormality, since I came to know it as such, has been an enemy to my religious faith. Here there could be no case of a divinely given instinct which I was to learn to use in a rational and chaste fashion, under the control of spiritual loyalty. The power which gave me life seemed to insist on my doing that for which the same power would sting me with remorse. If there is no remedy I must either cry out against the injustice of this life of torment between nature and conscience, or submit to the blind trust of baffled ignorance. If there is a remedy life will not seem to be such an intolerable ordeal. I am not pleading that I must succumb to impulse. I do not doubt that a pure celibate life is possible so far as action is concerned. But I cannot discover that friendship with younger men can go on uncolored by a sensuous admixture which fills me with shame and loathing. The gratification of passion—normal or abnormal—is repulsive to esthetic feeling. I am nearly 42 and I have always diverted myself from personal interests that threatened to become dangerous to me. More than a year ago, however, a new fate seemed to open to my unhappy and lonely life. I became intimate with a young man of 20, of the rarest beauty of form and character. I am confident that he is and always has been pure. He lives an exalted moral and religious life dominated by the idea that he and all men are partners of the divine nature, and able in the strength of that nature to be free from evil. I believe him to be normal. He shows pleasure in the society of attractive young women and in an innocent, light-hearted way refers to the time when he may be able to marry. He is a general favorite, but turned to me as to a friend and teacher. He is poor, and it was possible for me to guarantee him a good education. I began to help him from the longings of a lonely life. I wanted a son and a friend in my inward desolation. I craved the companionship of this pure and happy nature. I felt such a reverence for him that I hoped to find the sensuous element in me purged away by his purity. I am, indeed, utterly incapable of doing him harm; I am not morally weak; nevertheless the sensuous element is there, and it poisons my happiness. He is ardently affectionate and demonstrative. He spends the summers with me in Europe, and the tenderness he feels for me has prompted him at times to embrace and kiss me as he always has done to his father. Of late I have begun to fear that without will or desire I may injure the springs of feeling in him, especially if it is true that the homosexual tendency is latent in most men. The love he shows me is my joy, but a poisoned joy. It is the bread and wine of life to me; but I dare not think what his ardent affection might ripen into. I can go on fighting the battle of good and evil in my attachment to him, but I cannot define my duty to him. To shun him would be cruelty and would belie his trust in human fidelity. Without my friendship he will not take my money—the condition of a large career. I might, indeed, explain to him what I explain to you, but the ordeal and shame are too great, and I cannot see what good it would do. If he has the capacity of homosexual feeling he might be violently stimulated; if he is incapable of it, he would feel repulsion.

"Suppose, then, that I should seek hypnotic treatment, I still do not know what tricks an abnormal nature might play me when diverted by suggestion. I might lose the joy of this friendship without any compensation. I am afraid; I am afraid! Might I not be influenced to shun the only persons who inspire unselfish feeling?

"Bear with this account of my story. Many virtues are easy for me, and my life is spent in pursuits of culture. Alas, that all the culture with which I am credited, all the prayers and aspirations, all the strong will and heroic resolves have not rid my nature of this evil bent! What I long for is the right to love, not for the mere physical gratification, for the right to take another into the arms of my heart and profess all the tenderness I feel, to find my joy in planning his career with him, as one who is rightfully and naturally entitled to do so. I crave this since I cannot have a son. I leave the matter here.

"When I read what I have written I see how pointless it is. It is possible, indeed, that brooding over my personal calamity magnifies in my mind the sense of danger to this friend through me, and that I only need to find the right relation of friendliness coupled with aloofness which will secure him against any too ardent attachment. Certainly I have no fear that I shall forget myself. Yet two things array themselves on the other side: I rebel inwardly against the necessity of isolating myself as if I were a pestilence, and I rebel against the taint of sensuous feeling. The normal man can feel that his instinct is no shame when the spirit is in control. I know that to the consciousness of others my instinct itself would be a shame and a baseness, and I have no tendency to construct a moral system for myself. I have, to be sure, moments when I declare to myself that I will have my sensuous gratification as well as other men, but, the moment I think of the wickedness of it, the rebellion is soon over. The disesteem of self, the sense of taint, the necessity of withdrawing from happiness lest I communicate my taint, that is a spiritual malady which makes the ground-tone of my existence one of pain and melancholy. Should you have only some moral consolation without the promise of medical assistance I should feel grateful."

In such a case as this, one can do little more than advise the sufferer that, however painful his lot may be, it is not without its consolations, and that he would be best advised to pursue, as cheerfully as may be, the path that he has already long since marked out for himself. The invert sometimes fails to realize that for no man with high moral ideals, however normal he may be, is the conduct of life easy, and that if the invert has to be satisfied with affection without passion, and to live a life of chastity, he is doing no more than thousands of normal men have done, voluntarily and contentedly. As to hypnotism in such a case as this, it is altogether unreasonable to expect that suggestion will supplant the deeply rooted organic impulses that have grown up during a lifetime.

We may thus conclude that in the treatment of inversion the most satisfactory result is usually obtained when it is possible by direct and indirect methods to reduce the sexual hyperesthesia which frequently exists, and by psychic methods to refine and spiritualize the inverted impulse, so that the invert's natural perversion may not become a cause of acquired perversity in others. The invert is not only the victim of his own abnormal obsession, he is the victim of social hostility. We must seek to distinguish the part in his sufferings due to these two causes. When I review the cases I have brought forward and the mental history of inverts I have known, I am inclined to say that if we can enable an invert to be healthy, selfrestrained and selfrespecting, we have often done better than to convert him into the mere feeble simulacrum of a normal man. An appeal to the paiderastia of the best Greek days, and the dignity, temperance, even chastity, which it involved, will sometimes find a ready response in the emotional, enthusiastic nature of the congenital invert. Plato's Dialogues have frequently been found a source of great help and consolation by inverts. The "manly love" celebrated by Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass, although it may be of more doubtful value for general use, furnishes a wholesome and robust ideal to the invert who is insensitive to normal ideals.[262]

Among recent books, Ioläus: An Anthology of Friendship, edited by Edward Carpenter, may be recommended. A similar book in German, of a more extended character, is Lieblingminne und Freudesliebe in der Weltliteratur, edited by Elisár von Kupffer. Mention may also be made of the Freundschaft (1912) of Baron von Gleichen-Russwurm, a sort of literary history of friendship, without specific reference to homosexuality, although many writers of inverted tendency are introduced. Platen's Tagebücher are notable as the diary of an invert of high character and ideals. The volumes of the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen contain many studies bearing on the ideal and esthetic aspects of homosexuality.

Various modern poets of high ability have given expression to emotions of exalted or passionate friendship toward individuals of the same sex, whether or not such friendship can properly be termed homosexual. It is scarcely necessary to refer to In Memoriam, in which Tennyson enshrined his affection for his early friend, Arthur Hallam, and developed a picture of the universe on the basis of that affection. The poems of Edward Cracroft Lefroy are notable, and Mr. John Gambril Nicholson has privately issued several volumes of verse (A Chaplet of Southernwood, A Garland of Ladslove, etc.) showing delicate charm combined with high technical skill. Some books mainly or entirely written in prose may fairly be included in the same group. Such are In the Key of Blue, by John Addington Symonds, and the Memoirs of Arthur Hamilton (published anonymously by a well-known author, A. C. Benson), in which on somewhat Platonic lines the idea is worked out that the individual sufferer must pass "from the love of one fair form to the love of abstract beauty" and "from the contemplation of his own suffering to the consideration of the root of all human suffering."

As regards the modern poetic literature of feminine homosexuality there is probably nothing to put beside the various volumes—pathetic in their brave simplicity and sincerity—of "Renée Vivien" (see ante, p. 200). Most other feminine singers of homosexuality have cautiously thrown a veil of heterosexuality over their songs.

Novels of a more or less definitely homosexual tone are now very numerous in English, French, German, and other languages. In English the homosexuality is for the most part veiled and the narrative deals largely with school-life and boys in order that the emotional and romantic character of the relations described may appear more natural. Thus Tim, an anonymously published book by H. O. Sturgis (1891), described the devotion of a boy to an older boy at Eton and his death at an early age. Jaspar Tristram, by A. W. Clarke (1899), again, is a well-written story of a schoolboy friendship of homosexual tone; a boy is represented as feeling attraction to boys who are like girls, and a girl became attractive to the hero because she is like a boy and recalls her brother whom he had formerly loved. The Garden God: A Tale of Two Boys, by Forrest Reid (1905), is another rather similar book, in its way a charming and delicately written idyll. Imre: A Memorandum, (1906), by "Xavier Mayne" (the pseudonym of an American author, who has also written The Intersexes), privately issued at Naples, is a book of a different class; representing the frankly homosexual passion of two mutually attracted men, an Englishman who is supposed to write the story and a Hungarian officer; it embodies a notable narrative of homosexual development which is probably more or less real.

In French there are a number of novels dealing with homosexuality, sometimes sympathetically, sometimes with artistic indifference, sometimes satirically. André Gide (in L'Immoraliste and other books), Rachilde (Madame Vallette), Willy (in the well-known Claudine series) may be mentioned, among other writers of more or less distinction, who have once or oftener dealt with homosexuality. Special reference should be made to the Belgian author George Eekhoud, whose Escal-Vigor (prosecuted at Bruges on its publication) is a book of special power. The homosexual stories of Essebac, of which L'Elu (1902) is considered the best, are of a romantic and sentimental character. Lucien (1910), by Binet-Valmer, is a penetrating and scarcely sympathetic study of inversion. Nortal's Les Adolescents Passionnés (already mentioned, p. 325) is a notably intimate and precise study of homosexuality in French schools. It would be easy to mention many others.

In Germany during recent years many novels of homosexual character have been published. They are not usually, it would seem, of high literary character, but are sometimes notable as being more or less disguised narratives of real fact. Body's Aus Eines Mannes Mädchenjahren is said to be a faithful autobiography. Der Neue Werther: eine Hellenische Passions-geschichte by Narkissos (1902) is also said to be authentic. Another book that may be mentioned is Konradin's Ein Junger Platos: Aus dem Leben eines Entgbeistes (1914). The German belletristic literature of homosexuality, as well as that of other countries, will be found adequately summarized and criticised by Numa Praetorius in the volumes of the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen. See also Hirschfeld's Die Homosexualität, pp. 47 and 1018 et seq.

It is by some such method of self-treatment as this that most of the more highly intelligent men and women whose histories I have already briefly recorded have at last slowly and instinctively reached a condition of relative health and peace, both physical and moral. The method of self-restraint and self-culture, without self-repression, seems to be the most rational method of dealing with sexual inversion when that condition is really organic and deeply rooted. It is better that a man should be enabled to make the best of his own strong natural instincts, with all their disadvantages, than that he should be unsexed and perverted, crushed into a position which he has no natural aptitude to occupy. As both Raffalovich and Féré have insisted, it is the ideal of chastity, rather than of normal sexuality, which the congenital invert should hold before his eyes. He may not have in him the making of l'homme moyen sensuel; he may have in him the making of a saint.[263] What good work in the world the inverted may do is shown by the historical examples of distinguished inverts; and, while it is certainly true that these considerations apply chiefly to the finer-grained natures, the histories I have brought together suffice to show that such natures constitute a considerable proportion of inverts. The helplessly gross sexual appetite cannot thus be influenced; but that remains true whether the appetite is homosexual or heterosexual, and nothing is gained by enabling it to feed on women as well as on men.

A strictly ascetic life, it needs scarcely be said, is with difficulty possible for all persons, either homosexual or heterosexual. It is, however, outside the province of the physician to recommend his inverted patients to live according to their homosexual impulses, even when those impulses seem to be natural to the person displaying them. The most that the physician is entitled to do, it seems to me, is to present the situation clearly, and leave to the patient a decision for which he must himself accept the responsibility. Forel goes so far as to say that he sees no reason why inverts should not build cities of their own and marry each other if they so please, since they can do no harm to normal adults, while children can be protected from them.[264] Such notions are, however, too far removed from our existing social conventions to be worth serious consideration.

The standpoint here taken up, it may be remarked, by no means denies to the invert a right to the fulfillment of his impulses. Numa Praetorius remarks, it would seem justly, that while the invert must properly be warned against unnatural sexual license, and while those who are capable of continence do well to preserve it, to deny all right to sexual activity to the invert merely causes those inverts who are incapable of self-control to throw recklessly aside all restraints (Zeitschrift für sexuelle Zwischenstufen, vol. viii, 1906, p. 726). The invert has the right to sexual indulgence, it may be, but he has also the duty to accept the full responsibility for his own actions, and the necessity to recognize the present attitude of the society he lives in. He cannot be advised to set himself in violent opposition to that society.

The world will not be a tolerable place for pronounced inverts until they are better understood, and that will involve a radical change in general and even medical opinion. An inverted physician, of high character and successful in his profession, writes to me on this point: "The first, and easiest, thing to do, it seems to me, is to convince the medical profession that we unfortunate people are not only as sane, but as moral, as our normal brothers; and that we are even more alive to the supreme necessity of self-control (necessary from every point of view) than they. It is not license we want, but justice; it is the cruelty and prejudice of convention which we wish to abolish—not the proper and just indignation of society with crimes against the social order. We want to make it possible for us to satisfy our inborn instincts (which are not concerned essentially with sexual acts, so called, alone) without thereby becoming criminals. One of us who would, under any circumstances, seduce a person of his own sex of immature age, and particularly one whose sexual complexion was unknown, deserves the severe punishment which would be meted out to a normal person who did the same to a young girl—but no more; while, so long as no public offense is given, there should be no penalty or obloquy whatever attached to sexual acts committed with full consent between mature persons. These acts may or may not be wrong and immoral, just as sexual acts between mature persons of different sexes may or may not be wrong or immoral. But in neither case has the law any concern; and public opinion should make no distinction between the two. It is in the highest degree important that it should be clearly understood that we want no relaxation of moral obligations. At present we suffer an inconceivably cruel wrong."

We have always to remember, and there is, indeed, no possibility of forgetting, that the question of homosexuality is a social question. Within certain limits, the gratification of the normal sexual impulse, even outside marriage, arouses no general or profound indignation; and is regarded as a private matter; rightly or wrongly, the gratification of the homosexual impulse is regarded as a public matter. This attitude is more or less exactly reflected in the law. Thus it happens that whenever a man is openly detected in a homosexual act, however exemplary his life may previously have been, however admirable it may still be in all other relations, every ordinary normal citizen, however licentious and pleasure-loving his own life may be, feels it a moral duty to regard the offender as hopelessly damned and to help in hounding him out of society. At very brief intervals cases occur, and without reaching the newspapers are more or less widely known, in which distinguished men in various fields, not seldom clergymen, suddenly disappear from the country or commit suicide in consequence of some such exposure or the threat of it. It is probable that many obscure tragedies could find their explanation in a homosexual cause.

Some of the various tragic ways in which homosexual passions are revealed to society may be illustrated by the following communication from a correspondent, not himself inverted, who here narrates cases that came under his observation in various parts of the United States. The cases referred to will be known to many, but I have disguised the names of persons and places:—

"At the age of 14 I was a chorister at —— church, whose choirmaster, an Englishman named M. W. M., was an accomplished man, seemingly a perfect gentleman, and a devout churchman. He never seemed to care for the society of ladies, never mingled much with the men, but sought companionship with the choristers of my age. He frequently visited at the homes of his favorites, to tea, and when he asked the parents' consent for George's or Frank's company on an excursion or to the theater, and then to spend the night with him, such request was invariably granted. I shall ever remember my first night with him; he began by fondling and caressing me, quieting my alarm by assurances of not hurting me, and after invoking me to secrecy and with promises of many future pleasures, I consented to his desire or passion, which he seemed to satisfy by an attempt at fellatio. Was this depravity? I would say 'No!' after reading his subsequent confession, found in his room after his death by suicide. This was brought about by his too intimate relations with the rector's son who contracted St. Vitus's dance and in the delirium of a fever that followed from nervous exhaustion told of him and his doings. A thorough investigation took place and M. fled, a broken-hearted and disgraced man, who, as the result of remorse, relentless persecution, and exposure through several years, ended his life by drowning himself. In his confession he spoke of having been raised under a very strong moral restraint and having lived an exemplary life, with the exception of this strange desire that his will-power could not control.

"The next case is that of C. H. He came of an old family of brainy men who have, and do yet, occupy prominent places in the pulpit and the bar, and was himself a gifted young attorney. I knew him intimately, as for six years he was a close neighbor and we were associated in lodge-work. He was an effeminate little fellow: height, 5 feet 2 inches; weight, 105 pounds; very near-sighted; and he had a light voice, not a treble or falsetto, but still a voice that detracted materially from the beautiful rhetoric that flowed from his lips. He had served his country as its representative in the Legislature and had received the nomination for senator, over a hard-fought political battle. The last canvass and speeches were made at a town which was, in consequence, crowded. That night H. had to occupy a room with a stranger, named E., a travelling salesman. There were two beds in this room. Mr. E., on the following day told several people that during the night he was awakened by H., who had come over to his bed and had his mouth on his 'person,' and that he had threatened to kick him out of the room, but that H. pleaded with him and fell on his knees and swore that he had been overcome by a passion that he had heretofore controlled, and begged of him not to expose him. These facts coming to the notice of his opponents, within twenty-four hours, they hastened to take advantage of it by placarding H. as a second Oscar Wilde, and stating the facts as far as decency and the law allowed. H.'s friends came to him and gave him one of two alternatives: if guilty, either to kill himself or leave that section forever; if not guilty, to slay his traducer, E. H. affirmed his innocence, and in company with two friends, C. and J., took the train for ——. Learning there that E. was at a town twelve miles east, they hired a fast livery and drove overland. They found E. at the station, awaiting the arrival of a train. H., with a pistol, strode forward and in his excitement said: 'You exposed me, did you?' Being near-sighted, his aim proved wide of the mark. E. sprang forward and grappled with H. for possession of the pistol, and was fired upon by C. and J., who shot him in the back. He expired in a few minutes, his last statement being to the effect that H. was guilty as accused. H., C., and J. were sentenced to the penitentiary for life. During my six years' acquaintance with H. I knew of nothing derogatory to his character, nor has anyone ever come forward to say that on any other occasion he ever displayed this weakness. I know his early life had a pure atmosphere, as he was an only child and the idol of both his parents, who builded high their hopes of his future success, and who survive this disgrace, but are broken-hearted.

"The next case is that of the Rev. T. W., professor at the University of ——. Mr. W. is a scholarly gentleman, affable in his address, eloquent in his oratory, and a fine classical scholar. He was exposed by some of his students, who, to use a slang phrase, accused him of being a 'head-worker.' At his examination by the faculty he confessed his weakness, and said he could not control his unholy passion. His resignation was accepted both by the church and the college, and he left.

"I know of a few other cases that have their peculiar traits, and am confident that these persons did not become possessed of this habit through the so-called 'indiscretions of youth,' as in every case their early life was freer from contamination than that of 90 per cent. of the boys who, on reaching man's estate, have, like myself, no desire to deviate from the old-fashioned way formulated by our ancient sire, Adam."

It can scarcely be said that the consciousness of this attitude of society is favorable to the invert's attainment of a fairly sane and well-balanced state of mind. This is, indeed, one of the great difficulties in his way, and often causes him to waver between extremes of melancholia and egotistic exaltation. We regard all homosexuality with absolute and unmitigated disgust. We have been taught to venerate Alexander the Great, Epaminondas, Socrates, and other antique heroes; but they are safely buried in the remote past, and do not affect our scorn of homosexuality in the present.

It was in the fourth century, at Rome, that the strong modern opposition to homosexuality was first clearly formulated in law.[265] The Roman race had long been decaying; sexual perversions of all kinds flourished; the population was dwindling. At the same time, Christianity, with its Judaic-Pauline antagonism to homosexuality, was rapidly spreading. The statesmen of the day, anxious to quicken the failing pulses of national life, utilized this powerful Christian feeling. Constantine, Theodosius, and Valentinian all passed laws against homosexuality, the last, at all events, ordaining as penalty the vindices flammæ; but their enactments do not seem to have been strictly carried out. In the year 538, Justinian, professing terror of certain famines, earthquakes, and pestilences in which he saw the mysterious "recompense which was meet" prophesied by St. Paul,[266] issued his edict condemning unnatural offenders to the sword, "lest as the result of these impious acts" (as the preamble to his Novella 77 has it) "whole cities should perish, together with their inhabitants; for we are taught by Holy Scripture that through these acts cities have perished with the men in them."[267] This edict (which Justinian followed up by a fresh ordinance to the same effect) constituted the foundation of legal enactment and social opinion concerning the matter in Europe for thirteen hundred years.[268] In France the vindices flammæ survived to the last; St. Louis had handed over these sacrilegious offenders to the Church to be burned; in 1750 two pederasts were burned in the Place de Grève, and only a few years before the Revolution a Capuchin monk named Pascal was also burned.

After the Revolution, however, began a new movement, which has continued slowly and steadily ever since, though it still divides European nations into two groups. Justinian, Charlemagne, and St. Louis had insisted on the sin and sacrilege of sodomy as the ground for its punishment.[269] It was doubtless largely as a religious offense that the Code Napoléon omitted to punish it. The French law makes a clear and logical distinction between crime on the one hand, vice and irreligion on the other, only concerning itself with the former. Homosexual practices in private, between two consenting adult parties, whether men or women, are absolutely unpunished by the Code Napoléon and by French law of today. Only under three conditions does the homosexual act come under the cognizance of the law as a crime: (1) when there is outrage public à la pudeur,—i.e., when the act is performed in public or with a possibility of witnesses; (2) when there is violence or absence of consent, in whatever degree the act may have been consummated; (3) when one of the parties is under age, or unable to give valid consent; in some cases it appears possible to apply Article 334 of the penal code, directed against habitual excitation to debauch of young persons of either sex under the age of 21.

This method of dealing with unnatural offenses has spread widely, at first because of the political influence of France, and more recently because such an attitude has commended itself on its merits. In Belgium the law is similar to that of the Code Napoléon, as it is also in Italy, Spain, Portugal, Roumania, Japan, and numerous South American lands. In Switzerland the law is a little vague and varies slightly in the different cantons, but it is not severe; in Geneva and some other cantons there is no penalty; the general tendency is to inflict brief imprisonment when serious complaints have been lodged, and cases can sometimes be settled privately by the magistrate.

The only large European countries in which homosexuality per se remains a penal offense appear to be Germany, Austria, Russia, and England. In several of the German States, such as Bavaria and Hanover, simple homosexuality formerly went unpunished, but when the laws of Prussia were in 1871 applied to the new German Empire this ceased to be the case, and unnatural carnality between males became an offense against the law. This article of the German Code (Section 175) has caused great discussion and much practical difficulty, because, although the terms of the law make it necessary to understand by widernatürliche Unzucht other practices besides pædicatio, not every homosexual practice is included; it must be some practice resembling normal coitus. There is a widespread opinion that this article of the code should be abolished; it appears that at one time an authoritative committee pronounced in favor of this step, and their proposition came near adoption. The Austrian law is somewhat similar to the German, but it applies to women as well as to men; this is logical, for there is no reason why homosexuality should be punished in men and left unpunished in women. In Russia the law against homosexual practices appears to be very severe, involving, in some cases, banishment to Siberia and deprivation of civil rights; but it can scarcely be rigorously executed.

The existing law in England is severe, but simple. Carnal knowledge per anum of either a man or a woman or an animal is punishable by a sentence of penal servitude with not less than three years, or of imprisonment with not more than two years. Even "gross indecency" between males, however privately committed, has been since 1885 a penal offense.[270] The clause is open to criticism. With the omission of the words "or private," it would be sound and in harmony with the most enlightened European legislation; but it must be pointed out that an act only becomes indecent when those who perform it or witness it regard it as indecent. The act which brought each of us into the world is not indecent; it would become so if carried on in public. If two male persons, who have reached years of discretion, consent together to perform some act of sexual intimacy in private, no indecency has been committed. If one of the consenting parties subsequently proclaims the act, indecency may doubtless be created, as may happen also in the case of normal sexual intercourse, but it seems contrary to good policy that such proclamation should convert the act itself into a penal offense. Moreover, "gross indecency" between males usually means some form of mutual masturbation; no penal code regards masturbation as an offense, and there seems to be no sufficient reason why mutual masturbation should be so regarded.[271] The main point to be insured is that no boy or girl who has not reached years of discretion should be seduced or abused by an older person, and this point is equally well guaranteed on the basis introduced by the Code Napoléon. However shameful, disgusting, personally immoral, and indirectly antisocial it may be for two adult persons of the same sex, men or women, to consent together to perform an act of sexual intimacy in private, there is no sound or adequate ground for constituting such act a penal offense by law.

One of the most serious objections to the legal recognition of private "gross indecency" is the obvious fact that only in the rarest cases can such indecency become known to the police, and we thus perpetrate what is very much like a legal farce. "The breaking of few laws," as Moll truly observes, regarding the German law, "so often goes unpunished as of this." It is the same in England, as is amply evidenced by the fact that, of the English sexual inverts, whose histories I have obtained, not one, so far as I am aware, has ever appeared in a police-court on this charge.

It may further be pointed out that legislation against homosexuality has no clear effect either in diminishing or increasing its prevalence. This must necessarily be so as regards the kernel of the homosexual group, if we are to regard a considerable proportion of cases as congenital. In France homosexuality per se has been untouched by the law for a century; yet it abounds, chiefly, it seems, among the lowest in the community; although the law is silent, social feeling is strong, and when—as has been the case in one instance—a man of undoubted genius has his name associated with this perversion it becomes difficult or impossible for the admirers of his work to associate with him personally; very few cases of homosexuality have been recorded in France among the more intelligent classes; the literature of homosexuality is there little more than the literature of male prostitution, as described by police-officials, and as carried on largely for the benefit of foreigners. In Germany and Austria, where the law against homosexuality is severe, it abounds also, perhaps to a much greater extent than in France;[272] it certainly asserts itself more vigorously; a far greater number of cases have been recorded than in any other country, and the German literature of homosexuality is very extensive, often issued in popular form, and sometimes enthusiastically eulogistic. In England the law is exceptionally severe; yet, according to the evidence of those who have an international acquaintance with these matters, homosexuality is fully as prevalent as on the Continent; some would say that it is more so. Much the same is true of the United States, though there is less to be seen on the surface. It cannot, therefore, be said that legislative enactments have very much influence on the prevalence of homosexuality. The chief effect seems to be that the attempt at suppression arouses the finer minds among sexual inverts to undertake the enthusiastic defense of homosexuality, while coarser minds are stimulated to cynical bravado.[273]

As regards the prevalence of homosexuality in the United States, I may quote from a well-informed American correspondent:—

"The great prevalence of sexual inversion in American cities is shown by the wide knowledge of its existence. Ninety-nine normal men out of a hundred have been accosted on the streets by inverts, or have among their acquaintances men whom they know to be sexually inverted. Everyone has seen inverts and knows what they are. The public attitude toward them is generally a negative one—indifference, amusement, contempt.

"The world of sexual inverts is, indeed, a large one in any American city, and it is a community distinctly organized—words, customs, traditions of its own; and every city has its numerous meeting-places: certain churches where inverts congregate; certain cafés well known for the inverted character of their patrons; certain streets where, at night, every fifth man is an invert. The inverts have their own 'clubs,' with nightly meetings. These 'clubs' are, really, dance-halls, attached to saloons, and presided over by the proprietor of the saloon, himself almost invariably an invert, as are all the waiters and musicians. The frequenters of these places are male sexual inverts (usually ranging from 17 to 30 years of age); sightseers find no difficulty in gaining entrance; truly, they are welcomed for the drinks they buy for the company—and other reasons. Singing and dancing turns by certain favorite performers are the features of these gatherings, with much gossip and drinking at the small tables ranged along the four walls of the room. The habitués of these places are, generally, inverts of the most pronounced type, i.e., the completely feminine in voice and manners, with the characteristic hip motion in their walk; though I have never seen any approach to feminine dress there, doubtless the desire for it is not wanting and only police regulations relegate it to other occasions and places. You will rightly infer that the police know of these places and endure their existence for a consideration; it is not unusual for the inquiring stranger to be directed there by a policeman."

The Oscar Wilde trial (see ante, p. 48), with its wide publicity, and the fundamental nature of the questions it suggested, appears to have generally contributed to give definiteness and self-consciousness to the manifestations of homosexuality, and to have aroused inverts to take up a definite attitude. I have been assured in several quarters that this is so and that since that case the manifestations of homosexuality have become more pronounced. One correspondent writes:—

"Up to the time of the Oscar Wilde trial I had not known what the condition of the law was. The moral question in itself—its relation to my own life and that of my friends—I reckoned I had solved; but I now had to ask myself how far I was justified in not only breaking the law, but in being the cause of a like breach in others, and others younger than myself. I have never allowed the dictum of the law to interfere with what I deemed to be a moral development in any youth for whom I am responsible. I cannot say that the trial made me alter my course of life, of the rightness of which I was too convincingly persuaded, but it made me much more careful, and it probably sharpened my sense of responsibility for the young. Reviewing the results of the trial as a whole, it doubtless did incalculable harm, and it intensified our national vice of hypocrisy. But I think it also may have done some good in that it made those who, like myself, have thought and experienced deeply in the matter—and these must be no small few—ready to strike a blow, when the time comes, for what we deem to be right, honorable, and clean."

From America a lady writes with reference to the moral position of inverts, though without allusion to the Wilde trial:—

"Inverts should have the courage and independence to be themselves, and to demand an investigation. If one strives to live honorably, and considers the greatest good to the greatest number, it is not a crime nor a disgrace to be an invert. I do not need the law to defend me, neither do I desire to have any concessions made for me, nor do I ask my friends to sacrifice their ideals for me. I too have ideals which I shall always hold. All that I desire—and I claim it as my right—is the freedom to exercise this divine gift of loving, which is not a menace to society nor a disgrace to me. Let it once be understood that the average invert is not a moral degenerate nor a mental degenerate, but simply a man or a woman who is less highly specialized, less completely differentiated, than other men and women, and I believe the prejudice against them will disappear, and if they live uprightly they will surely win the esteem and consideration of all thoughtful people. I know what it means to an invert—who feels himself set apart from the rest of mankind—to find one human heart who trusts him and understands him, and I know how almost impossible this is, and will be, until the world is made aware of these facts."

But, while the law has had no more influence in repressing abnormal sexuality than, wherever it has tried to do so, it has had in repressing the normal sexual instinct, it has served to foster another offense. What is called blackmailing in England, chantage in France, and Erpressung in Germany—in other words, the extortion of money by threats of exposing some real or fictitious offense—finds its chief field of activity in connection with homosexuality.[274] No doubt the removal of the penalty against simple homosexuality does not abolish blackmailing, as the existence of this kind of chantage in France shows, but it renders its success less probable.

On all these grounds, and taking into consideration the fact that the tendency of modern legislation generally, and the consensus of authoritative opinion in all countries, are in this direction, it seems reasonable to conclude that neither "sodomy" (i.e., immissio membri in anum hominis vel mulieris) nor "gross indecency" ought to be penal offenses, except under certain special circumstances. That is to say, that if two persons of either or both sexes, having reached years of discretion,[275] privately consent to practise some perverted mode of sexual relationship, the law cannot be called upon to interfere. It should be the function of the law in this matter to prevent violence, to protect the young, and to preserve public order and decency. Whatever laws are laid down beyond this must be left to the individuals themselves, to the moralists, and to social opinion.

At the same time, and while such a modification in the law seems to be reasonable, the change effected would be less considerable than may appear at first sight. In a very large proportion, indeed, of cases boys are involved. It is instructive to observe that in Legludic's 246 cases (including victims and aggressors together) in France, 127, or more than half, were between the ages of 10 and 20, and 82, or exactly one-third, were between the ages of 10 and 14. A very considerable field of operation is thus still left for the law, whatever proportion of cases may meet with no other penalty than social opinion.

That, however, social opinion—law or no law—will speak with no uncertain voice is very evident. Once homosexuality was primarily a question of population or of religion. Now we hear little either of its economic aspects or of its sacrilegiousness; it is for us primarily a disgusting abomination, i.e., a matter of taste, of esthetics; and, while unspeakably ugly to the majority, it is proclaimed as beautiful by a small minority. I do not know that we need find fault with this esthetic method of judging homosexuality. But it scarcely lends itself to legal purposes. To indulge in violent denunciation of the disgusting nature of homosexuality, and to measure the sentence by the disgust aroused, or to regret, as one English judge is reported to have regretted when giving sentence, that "gross indecency" is not punishable by death, is to import utterly foreign considerations into the matter. The judges who yield to this temptation would certainly never allow themselves to be consciously influenced on the bench by their political opinions. Yet esthetic opinions are quite as foreign to law as political opinions. An act does not become criminal because it is disgusting. To eat excrement, as Moll remarks, is extremely disgusting, but it is not criminal. The confusion which thus exists, even in the legal mind, between the disgusting and the criminal is additional evidence of the undesirability of the legal penalty for simple homosexuality. At the same time it shows that social opinion is amply adequate to deal with the manifestations of inverted sexuality. So much for the legal aspects of sexual inversion.

But while there can be no doubt about the amply adequate character of the existing social reaction to all manifestations of perverted sexuality, the question still remains how far not merely the law, but also the state of public opinion, should be modified in the light of such a psychological study as we have here undertaken. It is clear that this public opinion, molded chiefly or entirely with reference to gross vice, tends to be unduly violent in its reaction. What, then, is the reasonable attitude of society toward the congenital sexual invert? It seems to lie in the avoidance of two extremes. On the one hand, it cannot be expected to tolerate the invert who flouts his perversion in its face, and assumes that, because he would rather take his pleasure with a soldier or a policeman than with their sisters, he is of finer clay than the vulgar herd. On the other, it might well refrain from crushing with undiscerning ignorance beneath a burden of shame the subject of an abnormality which, as we have seen, has not been found incapable of fine uses. Inversion is an aberration from the usual course of nature. But the clash of contending elements which must often mark the history of such a deviation results now and again—by no means infrequently—in nobler activities than those yielded by the vast majority who are born to consume the fruits of the earth. It bears, for the most part, its penalty in the structure of its own organism. We are bound to protect the helpless members of society against the invert. If we go farther, and seek to destroy the invert himself before he has sinned against society, we exceed the warrant of reason, and in so doing we may, perhaps, destroy also those children of the spirit which possess sometimes a greater worth than the children of the flesh.

Here we may leave this question of sexual inversion. In dealing with it I have sought to avoid that attitude of moral superiority which is so common in the literature of this subject, and have refrained from pointing out how loathsome this phenomenon is, or how hideous that. Such an attitude is as much out of place in scientific investigation as it is in judicial investigation, and may well be left to the amateur. The physician who feels nothing but disgust at the sight of disease is unlikely to bring either succor to his patients or instruction to his pupils.

That the investigation we have here pursued is not only profitable to us in succoring the social organism and its members, but also in bringing light into the region of sexual psychology, is now, I hope, clear to every reader who has followed me to this point. There are a multitude of social questions which we cannot face squarely and honestly unless we possess such precise knowledge as has been here brought together concerning the part played by the homosexual tendency in human life. Moreover, the study of this perverted tendency stretches beyond itself;

"O'er that artWhich you say adds to Nature, is an artThat Nature makes."

Pathology is but physiology working under new conditions. The stream of nature still flows into the bent channel of sexual inversion, and still runs according to law. We have not wasted our time in this toilsome excursion. With the knowledge here gained we are the better equipped to enter upon the study of the wider questions of sex.

About HackerNoon Book Series: We bring you the most important technical, scientific, and insightful public domain books.

This book is part of the public domain. Havelock Ellis (2004). Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 2. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved October 2022

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at, located at