A Problem in Modern Ethics/Chapter III
Sexual inversion can boast a voluminous modern literature, little known to general readers. A considerable part of this is pornographic, and need not arrest our attention. A good deal is descriptive, scientific, historical, anthropological, apologetical and polemical. With a few books in each of these kinds I propose to deal now.
The first which falls under my hand is written by a French official, who was formerly Chief of the Police Department for Morals in Paris. M. Carlier, during ten years, had excellent opportunities for studying the habits of professional male prostitutes and their frequenters. He had condensed the results of his experience in seven very disagreeable chapters, which offer a revolting picture of vice and systematised extortion in the great metropolis.
"In the numerous books," says M. Carlier, "which treat of prostitution, the antiphysical passions have hitherto been always deliberately omitted. Officially, public opinion does not recognise them, the legislature will take no notice of them. The police are left alone to react against them; and the unequal combat may some day cease, since it is supported by no text of the code and no regulation of the state. When that happens, pæderasty will become a calamity far more dangerous, more scandalous, than female prostitution, the organisation of which it shares in full. A magistrate once declared that 'in Paris it is the school where the cleverest and boldest criminals are formed; and as a matter of fact, it produces associations of special scoundrels, who use it as the means of theft and chantage, not stopping short of murder in the execution of their plots."
It will be seen from this exordium that M. Carlier regards the subject wholly from the point of view of prostitution. He has proved abundantly that male prostitution is organised in Paris upon the same system as its female counterpart, and he has demonstrated that this system is attended with the same dangers to society.
A violent animus against antiphysical passions makes him exaggerate these dangers, for it is clear that normal vice is no less free from sordid demoralisation and crimes of violence than its abnormal twin-brother. Both are fornication; and everywhere, in Corinth as in Sodom, the prostitute goes hand in hand with the bully, the robber, and the cut-throat.
With reference to the legal position of these passions in France, he says: "Pæderasty is not punished by our laws. It can only come within the reach of the code by virtue of circumstances under which it may be practised. If the facts take place in the presence of witnesses, or in a place open to public observation, there will be an outrage to decency. If minors are seduced, there may be proof of the habitual incitement of minors to debauch, corruption, or even rape. But the passion itself is not subject to penalty; it is only a vice arising from one of the seven deadly sins. We have no intention of analysing this perverted instinct. Since the law does not regard it, we will do like the law. We will pass in silence all its private details, occupying ourselves only with what meets the eye, with what may be called a veritable prostitution."
M. Carlier proceeds to describe the two main classes, which in France are known as tantes and amateurs. The former are subdivided into minor branches, under the names of jésus, petits jésus, corvettes (naval), soldiers. The latter, called also rivettes, are distinguished by their tastes for different sorts of tantes.
Those who are interested in such matters may turn to M. Carlier's pages for minute information regarding the habits, coteries, houses of debauch, bullies, earnings, methods of extortion, dwellings, balls, banquets, and even wedding-parties of these people. A peculiar world of clandestine vice in a great city is revealed; and the authentic documents, abundantly presented, render the picture vivid in its details. From the official papers which passed through M. Carlier's bureau during ten years (1860-70), he compiles a list of 6,342 pæderasts who came within the cognisance of the police: 2,049 Parisians, 3,709 provincials, 484 foreigners. Of these 3,532, or more than the half, could not be convicted of illegal acts.
While devoting most of his attention to professionals who dress like women, and have become exactly similar to the effeminated youth described in Monsieur Vénus, Carlier gives some curious details about the French army. Soldiers are no less sought after in France than in England or in Germany, and special houses exist for military prostitution both in Paris and the garrison towns. Upon this point it should be remarked that Carlier expresses a very strong opinion regarding the contagiousness of antiphysical passion. And certainly many facts known about the French army go to prove that these habits have been contracted in Algeria, and have spread to a formidable extent through whole regiments.
In conclusion, M. Carlier, though he so strongly deplores the impunity extended by French law to sexual inversion, admits that this has not augmented the evil. Speaking about England, where legal penalties are heavy enough, he says; "Though they call it the nameless crime there, it has in England at least as many votaries as in France, and they are quite as depraved."
- Ancient literature abounds in prose and poetry which are both of them concerned with homosexual love. Only a portion of this can be called pornographic: among the Greeks, the Μοὑσα Παιδικἡ, parts of Lucian, and occasional hints in Athenæus and Aristophanes perhaps deserve the name; among the Romans, the Priapeia, the Satyricon of Petronius, some elegies and satires, certainly do so. Italian literature can show the Rime Burlesche, Beccadelli's Hermaphroditus, the Canti Carnascialeschi, the maccaronic poems of Fidentius, and the remarkably outspoken romance entitled "Alcibiade fanciullo a scolla." Balzac has treated the theme, but with reserve and delicacy. Mirabeau's "Erotika Biblion" is a kind of classic on the subject. In English literature, if we except Shakespeare's Sonnets, George Barnfield's Poems, parts of Marlowe, "Roderick Random," Churchill's Satire "The Times," homosexual passions have been rarely handled, and none of these works are pornographic. In Germany, Count von Platen, Heine's victim, was certainly an Urning; but his homosexual imitations of Persian poetry are pure, though passionate. I am not acquainted with more than the titles of some distinctly pornographic German books. The following appears to be of this sort: "Mannesliebe, oder drei Jahre aus dem Leben eines jungen Mannes."
- Les Deux Prostitutions, par F. Carlier, Ancien Chef du Service actif des Mœurs à la Préfecture de Police. Paris. Dentu. 1889.
- Paris, Brossier, 1889.
- In the recently published military novel "Sous Offs." (by Lucien Descaves, Paris, Tresse et Stock, 1890) some details are given regarding establishments of this nature. See pp. 322, 412, 417, for a description of the drinking-shop called "Aux Amis de l'Armée," where a few maids were kept for show, and also of its frequenters, including in particular the adjutant Laprévotte (cp. 44).
- On the morals of the Foreign Legions, see Ulrichs, Ara Spei, p. 20; Memnon, p. 27. Also General Brossier's report, quoted by Burton, Arabian Nights, vol. x. p. 251.
- P. 459.