A Problem in Modern Ethics/Chapter VII
It can hardly be said that inverted sexuality received a serious and sympathetic treatment until a German jurist, named Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, began his long warfare against what he considered to be prejudice and ignorance upon a topic of the greatest moment to himself. A native of Hanover, and writing at first under the assumed name of Numa Numantius, he kept pouring out a series of polemical, analytical, theoretical, and apologetical pamphlets between the years 1864 and 1870. The most important of these works is a lengthy and comprehensive Essay entitled "Memnon. Die Geschlechtsnatur des mannliebenden Urnings. Eine naturwissenschaftliche Darstellung. Schleiz, 1868." Memnon may be used as the text-book of its author's theories; but it is also necessary to study earlier and later treatises—Inclusa, Formatrix, Vindex, Ara Spei, Gladius Furens, Incubus, Argonauticus, Prometheus, Araxes, Kritische Pfeile—in order to obtain a complete knowledge of his opinions, and to master the whole mass of information he has brought together.
The object of Ulrichs in these miscellaneous writings is twofold. He seeks to establish a theory of sexual inversion upon the basis of natural science, proving that abnormal instincts are inborn and healthy in a considerable percentage of human beings; that they do not owe their origin to bad habits of any kind, to hereditary disease, or to wilful depravity; that they are incapable in the majority of cases of being extirpated or converted into normal channels; and that the men subject to them are neither physically, intellectually, nor morally inferior to normally constituted individuals. Having demonstrated these points to his own satisfaction, and supported his views with a large induction of instances and a respectable show of erudition, he proceeds to argue that the present state of the law in many states of Europe is flagrantly unjust to a class of innocent persons, who may indeed be regarded as unfortunate and inconvenient, but who are guilty of nothing which deserves reprobation and punishment. In this second and polemical branch of his exposition, Ulrichs assumes, for his juristic starting-point, that each human being is born with natural rights which legislation ought not to infringe but protect. He does not attempt to confute the utilitarian theory of jurisprudence, which regards laws as regulations made by the majority in the supposed interests of society. Yet a large amount of his reasoning is designed to invalidate utilitarian arguments in favour of repression, by showing that no social evil ensues in those countries which have placed abnormal sexuality upon the same footing as the normal, and that the toleration of inverted passion threatens no danger to the well-being of nations.
After this prelude, an abstract of Ulrichs' theory and his pleading may be given, deduced from the comparative study of his numerous essays.
The right key to the solution of the problem is to be found in physiology, in that obscure department of natural science which deals with the evolution of sex. The embryo, as we are now aware, contains an undetermined element of sex during the first months of pregnancy. This is gradually worked up into male and female organs of procreation; and these, when the age of puberty arrives, are generally accompanied by corresponding male and female appetites. That is to say, the man in an immense majority of cases desires the woman, and the woman desires the man. Nature, so to speak, aims at differentiating the undecided fœtus into a human being of one or the other sex, the propagation of the species being the main object of life. Still, as Aristotle puts it, and as we observe in many of her operations, "Nature wishes, but has not always the power": ἡ φὑσις Βὁυλεται μἑν ἁλλ' οὑ δὑναται. Consequently in respect of physical structure, there come to light imperfect individuals, so-called hermaphrodites, whose sexual apparatus is so far undetermined that many a real male has passed a portion of his life under a mistake, has worn female clothes, and has cohabited by preference with men. Likewise, in respect of spiritual nature, there appear males who, notwithstanding their marked masculine organisation, feel from the earliest childhood a sexual proclivity toward men, with a corresponding indifference for women. In some of these abnormal, but natural, beings, the appetite for men resembles the normal appetite of men for women; in others it resembles the normal appetite of women for men. That is to say, some prefer effeminate males, dressed in feminine clothes and addicted to female occupations. Others prefer powerful adults of an ultra-masculine stamp. A third class manifest their predilection for healthy young men in the bloom of adolescence, between nineteen and twenty. The attitude of such persons towards women also varies. In genuine cases of inborn sexual inversion a positive horror is felt when the woman has to be carnally known; and this horror is of the same sort as that which normal men experience when they think of cohabitation with a male. In others the disinclination does not amount to repugnance; but the abnormal man finds considerable difficulty in stimulating himself to the sexual act with females, and derives a very imperfect satisfaction from the same. A certain type of man, in the last place, seems to be indifferent, desiring males at one time and females at another.
In order to gain clearness in his exposition, Ulrichs has invented names for these several species. The so-called hermaphrodite he dismisses with the German designation of Zwitter. Imperfect individuals of this type are not to be considered, because it is well known that the male or female organs are never developed in one and the same body. It is also, as we shall presently discover, an essential part of his theory to regard the problem of inversion psychologically.
The normal man he calls Dioning, the abnormal man Urning. Among Urnings, those who prefer effeminate males are christened by the name of Mannling; those who prefer powerful and masculine adults receive the name of Weibling; the Urning who cares for adolescents is styled a Zwischen-Urning. Men who seemed to be indifferently attracted by both sexes, he calls Uranodioninge. A genuine Dioning, who, from lack of women, or under the influence of special circumstances, consorts with persons of his own sex, is denominated Uraniaster. A genuine Urning, who has put restraint upon his inborn impulse, who has forced himself to cohabit with women, or has perhaps contracted marriage, is said to be Virilisirt—a virilised Urning.
These outlandish names, though seemingly pedantic and superfluous, have their technical value, and are necessary to the understanding of Ulrichs' system. He is dealing exclusively with individuals classified by common parlance as males without distinction. Ulrichs believes that he can establish a real natural division between men proper, whom he calls Dioninge, and males of an anomalous sexual development, whom he calls Urninge. Having proceeded so far, he finds the necessity of distinguishing three broad types of the Urning, and of making out the crosses between Urning and Dioning, of which he also find three species. It will appear in the sequel that whatever may be thought about his psychological hypothesis, the nomenclature he has adopted is useful in discussion, and corresponds to well-defined phenomena, of which we have abundant information. The following table will make his analysis sufficiently plain:—
|(1)||Man or Dioning||Uraniaster, when he has acquired the tastes of the Urning.|
Broadly speaking, the male includes two main species: Dioning and Urning, men with normal and men with abnormal instincts. What, then, constitutes the distinction between them? How are we justified in regarding them as radically divergent?
Ulrichs replies that the phenomenon of sexual inversion is to be explained by physiology, and particularly by the evolution of the embryo. Nature fails to complete her work regularly and in every instance. Having succeeded in differentiating a male with full-formed sexual organs from the undecided fœtus, she does not always effect the proper differentiation of that portion of the psychical being in which resides the sexual appetite. There remains a female soul in a male body. Anima muliebris virili corpore inclusa, is the formula adopted by Ulrichs; and he quotes a passage from the "Vestiges of Creation," which suggests that a male is a more advanced product of sexual evolution than the female. The male instinct of sex is a more advanced product than the female instinct. Consequently men appear whose body has been differentiated as masculine, but whose sexual instinct has not progressed beyond the feminine stage.
Ulrichs' own words ought to be cited upon this fundamental part of his hypothesis, since he does not adopt
the opinion that the Urning is a Dioning arrested at a certain point of development; but rather that there is an element of uncertainty attending the simultaneous evolution of physical and psychical factors from the indeterminate ground-stuff. "Sex," says he, "is only an affair of development. Up to a certain stage of embryonic existence all living mammals are hermaphroditic. A certain number of them advance to the condition of what I call man (Doining), others to what I call woman (Dioningin), a third class become what I call Urning (including Urningin). It ensues therefrom that between these three sexes there are no primary, but only secondary differences. And yet true differences, constituting sexual species, exist as facts." Man, Woman, and Urning—the third being either a male or a female in whom we observe a real and inborn, not an acquired or a spurious, inversion of appetite—are consequently regarded by him as the three main divisions of humanity viewed from the point of view of sex. The embryonic ground-stuff in the case of each was homologous; but while the two former, Man and Woman, have been normally differentiated, the Urning's sexual instinct, owing to some imperfection in the process of development, does not correspond to his or her sexual organs.
The line of division between the sexes, even in adult life, is a subtle one; and the physical structure of men and women yields indubitable signs of their emergence from a common ground-stuff. Perfect men have rudimentary breasts. Perfect women carry a rudimentary penis in their clitoris. The raphé of the scrotum shows where the aperture, common at first to masculine and feminine beings, but afterwards only retained in the female vulva, was closed up to form a male. Other anatomical details of the same sort might be adduced. But these will suffice to make thinking persons reflect upon the mysterious dubiety of what we call sex. That gradual development, which ends in normal differentiation, goes on very slowly. It is only at the age of puberty that a boy distinguishes himself abruptly from a girl, by changing his voice and growing hair on parts of the body where it is not usually found in women. This being so, it is surely not surprising that the sexual appetite should sometimes fail to be normally determined, or in other words should be inverted.
Ulrichs maintains that the body of an Urning is masculine, his soul feminine, so far as sex is concerned. Accordingly, though physically unfitted for coition with men, he is imperatively drawn towards them by a natural impulse. Opponents meet him with this objection: "Your position is untenable. Body and soul constitute one inseparable entity." So they do, replies Ulrichs; but the way in which these factors of the person are combined in human beings differs extremely, as I can prove by indisputable facts. The body of a male is visible to the eyes, is mensurable and ponderable, is clearly marked in its specific organs. But what we call his soul—his passions, inclinations, sensibilities, emotional characteristics, sexual desires—eludes the observation of the senses. This second factor, like the first, existed in the undetermined stages of the fœtus. And when I find that the soul, this element of instinct and emotion and desire existing in a male, had been directed in its sexual appetite from earliest boyhood towards persons of the male sex, I have the right to qualify it with the attribute of femininity. You assume that soul-sex is indissolubly connected and inevitably derived from body-sex. The facts contradict you, as I can prove by referring to the veracious autobiographies of Urnings and to known phenomena regarding them.
Such is the theory of Ulrichs; and though we may not incline to his peculiar mode of explaining the want of harmony between sexual organs and sexual appetite in Urnings, there can be no doubt that in some way or other their eccentric diathesis must be referred to the obscure process of sexual differentiation. Perhaps he antedates the moment at which the aberration sometimes takes its origin, not accounting sufficiently for imperative impressions made on the imagination or the senses of boys during the years which precede puberty.
However this may be, the tendency to such inversion is certainly inborn in an extremely large percentage of cases. That can be demonstrated from the reports of persons whose instincts were directed to the male before they knew what sex meant. It is worth extracting passages from these confessions. (1) "As a schoolboy of eight years, I sat near a comrade rather older than myself; and how happy was I, when he touched me. That was the first indefinite perception of an inclination which remained a secret for me till my nineteenth year." (2) "Going back to my seventh year, I had a lively feeling for a schoolfellow, two years older than myself; I was happy when I could be as close as possible to him, and in our games could place my head near to his private parts." (3) "At ten years of age he had a romantic attachment for a comrade; and the passion for people of his own sex became always more and more marked." (4) Another confessed that "already at the age of four he used to dream of handsome grooms." (5) A fifth said: "My passion for people of my own sex awoke at the age of eight. I used to enjoy my brother's nakedness; while bathing with other children, I took no interest at all in girls, but felt the liveliest attraction toward boys." (6) A sixth dates his experience from his sixth or seventh year. (7) A seventh remembers that "while yet a boy, before the age of puberty, sleeping in the company of a male agitated him to such an extent that he lay for hours awake." (8) An eighth relates that "while three years old, I got possession of a fashion book, cut out the pictures of men, and kissed them to tatters. The pictures of women I did not care to look at." (9) A ninth goes back to his thirteenth year, and a school friendship. (10) A tenth records the same about his seventh year. (11) An eleventh says that his inverted instincts awoke in early childhood, and that from his ninth year onward he fell over and over again in love with adult men. (12) A twelfth spoke as follows: "So far back as I can remember, I was always subject to this passion. Quite as a child, young men made deeper impression on me than women or girls. The earliest sensual perturbation of which I have any recollection was excited by a tutor, when I was nine or ten, and my greatest pleasure was to be allowed to ride astride upon his leg." (13) A thirteenth: "From the earliest childhood I have been haunted by visions of men, and only of men; never has a woman exercised the least influence over me. At school I kept these instincts to myself, and lived quite retired." (14) A fourteenth can recollect "receiving a distinctly sensual impression at the age of four, when the man-servants caressed him." (15) A fifteenth says that at the age of thirteen, together with puberty, the inversion of appetite awoke in him. (16) A sixteenth confesses that he felt an unconquerable desire for soldiers in his thirteenth year. (17) A seventeenth remembers having always dreamed only of men; and at school, he says, "when my comrades looked at pretty girls and criticised them during our daily promenades, I could not comprehend how they found anything to admire in such creatures." On the other hand, the sight and touch of soldiers and strong fellows excited him enormously. (18) An eighteenth dates the awakening of passion in him at the age of eleven, when he saw a handsome man in church; and from that time forward his instinct never altered. (19) A nineteenth fell in love with an officer at the age of thirteen, and since then always desired vigorous adult males. (20) A twentieth confessed to have begun to love boys of his own age, sensually, while only eight years of age. (21) A twenty-first records that, when he was eight, he began to crave after the sight of naked men.
In addition to these cases a great many might be culled from the writings of Ulrichs, who has published a full account from his own early experience. "I was fifteen years and ten and a half months old," he says, "when the first erotic dream announced the arrival of puberty. Never before that period had I known sexual gratification of any kind whatever. The occurrence was therefore wholly normal. From a much earlier time, however, I had been subject to emotions, partly romantic, partly sensual, without any definite desire, and never for one and the same young man. These aimless yearnings of the senses plagued me in my solitary hours, and I could not overcome them. During my fifteenth year, while at school at Detmold, the vague longing took a twofold shape. First, I came across Norman's 'Säulenordnungen,' and there I was vehemently attracted by the figure of a Greek god or hero, standing in naked beauty. Secondly, while studying in my little room, or before going to sleep, the thought used suddenly and irresistibly to rise up in my mind—If only a soldier would clamber through the window and come into my room! I then painted in my fancy the picture of a splendid soldier of twenty to twenty-two years old. And yet I had no definite idea of why I wanted him; nor had I ever come in contact with soldiers. About two years after this, I happened to sit next a soldier in a post-carriage. The contact with his thigh excited me to the highest degree." Ulrichs also relates that in his tenth year he conceived an enthusiastic and romantic friendship for a boy two years his senior.
That experiences of the kind are very common, every one who has at all conversed with Urnings knows well. From private sources of unquestionable veracity, these may be added. A relates that, before eight years old, reverie occurred to him during the day, and dreams at night, of naked sailors. When he began to study Latin and Greek, he dreamed of young gods, and at the age of fourteen, became deeply enamoured of the photograph of the Praxitelian Erôs in the Vatican. He had a great dislike for physical contact with girls; and with boys was shy and reserved, indulging in no acts of sense. B says that during his tenderest boyhood, long before the age of puberty, he fell in love with a young shepherd on one of his father's farms, for whom he was so enthusiastic that the man had to be sent to a distant moor. C at the same early age, conceived a violent affection for a footman; D for an officer, who came to stay at his home; Efor the bridegroom of his eldest sister.
In nearly all the cases here cited, the inverted sexual instinct sprang up spontaneously. Only a few of the autobiographies record seduction by an elder man as the origin of the affection. In none of them was it ever wholly overcome. Only five out of the twenty-seven men married. Twenty declare that, tortured by the sense of their dissimilarity to other males, haunted by shame and fear, they forced themselves to frequent public women soon after the age of puberty. Some found themselves impotent. Others succeeded in accomplishing their object with difficulty, or by means of evoking the images of men on whom their affections were set. All, except one, concur in emphatically asserting the superior attraction which men have always exercised for them over women. Women leave them, if not altogether disgusted, yet cold and indifferent. Men rouse their strongest sympathies and instincts. The one exception just alluded to is what Ulrichs would call an Uranodioning. The others are capable of friendship with women, some even of æsthetic admiration, and the tenderest regard for them, but not of genuine sexual desire. Their case is literally an inversion of the ordinary.
Some observations may be made on Ulrichs' theory. It is now recognised by the leading authorities, medical and medico-juristic, in Germany, by writers like Casper-Liman and Krafft-Ebing, that sexual inversion is more often than not innate. So far, without discussing the physiological or metaphysical explanations of this phenomenon, without considering whether Ulrichs is right in his theory of anima muliebris inclusa in corpore virili, or whether heredity, insanity, and similar general conditions are to be held responsible for the fact, it may be taken as admitted on all sides that the sexual diathesis in question is in a very large number of instances congenital. But Ulrichs seems to claim too much for the position he has won. He ignores the frequency of acquired habits. He shuts his eyes to the force of fashion and depravity. He reckons men like Horace and Ovid and Catullus, among the ancients, who were clearly indifferent in their tastes (as indifferent as the modern Turks) to the account of Uranodionings. In one word, he is so enthusiastic for his physiological theory that he overlooks all other aspects of the question. Nevertheless, he has acquired the right to an impartial hearing, while pleading in defence of those who are acknowledged by all investigators of the problem to be the subjects of an inborn misplacement of the sexual appetite.
Let us turn, then, to the consideration of his arguments in favour of freeing Urnings from the terrible legal penalties to which they are at present subject, and, if this were possible, from the no less terrible social condemnation to which they are exposed by the repugnance they engender in the normally constituted majority. Dealing with these exceptions to the kindly race of men and women, these unfortunates who have no family ties knotted by bonds by mutual love, no children to expect, no reciprocity of passion to enjoy, mankind, says Ulrichs, has hitherto acted just in the same way as a herd of deer acts when it drives the sickly and the weakly out to die in solitude; burdened with contumely, and cut off from common sympathy.
From the point of view of morality and law, he argues, it does not signify whether we regard the sexual inversion of an Urning as morbid or as natural. He has become what he is in the dawn and first emergence of emotional existence. You may contend, that he derives perverted instincts from his ancestry, that he is the subject of a psychical disorder, that from the cradle he is predestined by atavism or disease to misery. I maintain that he is one of nature's sports, a creature healthy and well organised, evolved in her superb indifference to aberrations from the normal type. We need not quarrel over our solutions of the problem. The fact that he is there, among us, and that he constitutes an ever-present factor in our social system, has to be faced. How are we to deal with him? Has society the right to punish individuals sent into the world with homosexual instincts? Putting the question at its lowest point, admitting that these persons are the victims of congenital morbidity, ought they to be treated as criminals? It is established that their appetites, being innate, are to them at least natural and undepraved; the common appetites, being excluded from their sexual scheme, are to them unnatural and abhorrent. Ought not such beings, instead of being hunted down and persecuted by legal bloodhounds, to be regarded with pitying solicitude as among the most unfortunate of human beings, doomed as they are to inextinguishable longings and life-long deprivation of that which is the chief prize of man's existence on this planet, a reciprocated love? As your laws at present stand, you include all cases of sexual inversion under the one domination of crime. You make exceptions in some special instances, and treat the men involved as lunatics. But the Urning is neither criminal nor insane. He is only less fortunate than you are, through an accident of birth, which is at present obscure to our imperfect science of sexual determination.
So far Ulrichs is justified in his pleading. When it has been admitted that sexual inversion is usually a fact of congenital diathesis, the criminal law stands in no logical relation to the phenomenon. It is monstrous to punish people as wilfully wicked because, having been born with the same organs and the same appetites as their neighbours, they are doomed to suffer under the frightful disability of not being able to use their organs or to gratify their appetites in the ordinary way.
But here arises a difficulty, which cannot be ignored, since upon it is based the only valid excuse for the position taken up by society in dealing with this matter. Not all men and women possessed by abnormal sexual desires can claim that these are innate. It is certain that the habits of sodomy are frequently acquired under conditions of exclusion from the company of persons of the other sex—as in public schools, barracks, prisons, convents, ships. In some cases they are deliberately adopted by natures tired of normal sexual pleasure. They may even become fashionable and epidemic. Lastly, it is probable that curiosity and imitation communicate them to otherwise normal individuals at a susceptible moment of development. Therefore society has the right to say: Those who are the unfortunate subjects of inborn sexual inversion shall not be allowed to indulge their passions, lest the mischief should spread, and a vicious habit should contaminate our youth. From the utilitarian point of view, society is justified in protecting itself against a minority of exceptional beings whom it regards as pernicious to the general welfare. From any point of view, the majority is strong enough to coerce to inborn instincts and to trample on the anguish of a few unfortunates. But, asks Ulrichs, is this consistent with humanity, is it consistent with the august ideal of impartial equity? Are people, sound in body, vigorous in mind, wholesome in habit, capable of generous affections, good servants of the state, trustworthy in all the ordinary relations of life, to be condemned at law as criminals because they cannot feel sexually as the majority feel, because they find some satisfaction for their inborn want in ways which the majority dislike?
Seeking a solution of the difficulty stated in the foregoing paragraph, Ulrichs finds it in fact and history. His answer is that if society leaves nature to take her course, with the abnormal as well as with the normal subjects of sexual inclination, society will not suffer. In countries where legal penalties have been removed from inverted sexuality, where this is placed upon the same footing as the normal—in France, Bavaria (?), the Netherlands (?)—no inconvenience has hitherto arisen. There has ensued no sudden and flagrant outburst of a depraved habit, no dissemination of a spreading moral poison. On the other hand, in countries where these penalties exist and are enforced—in England, for example, and in the metropolis of England, London—inverted sexuality runs riot, despite of legal prohibitions, despite of threats of prison, dread of exposure, and the intolerable pest of organised chantage. In the eyes of Ulrichs, society is engaged in sitting on a safety-valve, which if nature were allowed to operate unhindered would do society no harm, but rather good. The majority, he thinks, are not going to become Urnings, for the simple reason that they have not the unhappy constitution of the Urning. Cease to persecute Urnings, accept them as inconsiderable, yet real, factors, in the social commonwealth, leave them to themselves, and you will not be the worse for it, and will also not carry on your conscience the burden of intolerant vindictiveness.
Substantiating this position, Ulrichs demonstrates that acquired habits of sexual inversion are almost invariably thrown off by normal natures. Your boys at public schools, he says, behave as though they were Urnings. In the lack of women, at the time when their passions are predominant, they yield themselves up together to mutual indulgences which would bring your laws down with terrible effect upon adults. You are aware of this. You send your sons to Eton and to Harrow, and you know very well what goes on there. Yet you remain untroubled in your minds. And why? Because you feel convinced that they will return to their congenital instincts.
When the school, the barrack, the prison, the ship has been abandoned, the male reverts to the female. This is the truth about Dionings. The large majority of men and women remain normal, simply because they were made normal. They cannot find the satisfaction of their nature in those inverted practices to which they yielded for a time through want of normal outlet. Society risks little by the occasional caprice of the school, the barrack, the prison, and the ship. Some genuine Urnings may, indeed, discover their inborn inclination by means of the process to which you subject them. But you are quite right in supposing that a Dioning, though you have forced him to become for a time an Uraniaster, will never in the long run appear as an Urning. The extensive experience which English people possess regarding such matters, owing to the notorious condition of their public schools, goes to confirm Ulrichs' position. Headmasters know how many Uraniasters they have dealt with, what excellent Dionings they become, and how comparatively rare, and yet how incorrigibly steadfast, are the genuine Urnings in their flock.
The upshot of this matter is that we are continually forcing our young men into conditions under which, if sexual inversion were an acquired attribute, it would become stereotyped in their natures. Yet it does not do so. Provisionally, because they are shut off from girls, because they find no other outlet for their sex at the moment of its most imperious claims, they turn toward males, and treat their younger school-fellows in ways which would consign an adult to penal servitude. They are Uraniasters by necessity and faute de mieux. But no sooner are they let loose upon the world than the majority revert to normal channels. They pick up women in the streets, and form connections, as the phrase goes. Some undoubtedly, in this fiery furnace through which they have been passed, discover their inborn sexual inversion. Then, when they cannot resist the ply of their proclivity, you condemn them as criminals in their later years. Is that just? Would it not be better to revert from our civilisation to the manners of the savage man—to initiate youths into the mysteries of sex, and to give each in his turn the chance of developing a normal instinct by putting him during his time of puberty freely and frankly to the female? If you abhor Urnings, as you surely do, you are at least responsible for their mishap by the extraordinary way in which you bring them up. At all events, when they develop into the eccentric beings which they are, you are the last people in the world who have any right to punish them with legal penalties and social obloquy.
Considering the present state of the law in most countries to be inequitable toward a respectable minority of citizens, Ulrichs proposes that Urnings should be placed upon the same footing as other men. That is to say, sexual relations between males and males should not be treated as criminal, unless they be attended with violence (as in the case of rape), or be carried on in such a way as to offend the public sense of decency (in places of general resort or on the open street), or thirdly be entertained between an adult and a boy under age (the protected age to be decided as in the case of girls). What he demands is that when an adult male, freely and of his own consent, complies with the proposals of an adult person of his own sex, and their intercourse takes place with due regard for public decency, neither party shall be liable to prosecution and punishment at law. In fact he would be satisfied with the same conditions as those prevalent in France, and since June, 1889, in Italy.
If so much were conceded by the majority of normal people to the abnormal minority, continues Ulrichs, an immense amount of misery and furtive vice would be at once abolished. And it is difficult to conceive what evil results would follow. A defender of the present laws of England, Prussia, &c., might indeed reply: "This is opening a free way to the seduction and corruption of young men." But young men are surely at least as capable of defending themselves against seduction and corruption as young women are. Nay, they are far more able, not merely because they are stronger, but because they are not usually weakened by an overpowering sexual instinct on which the seducer plays. Yet the seduction and corruption of young women is tolerated, in spite of the attendant consequences of illegitimate childbirth, and all which that involves. This toleration of the seduction of women by men springs from the assumption that only the normal sexual appetite is natural. The seduction of a man by a male passes for criminal, because the inverted sexual instinct is regarded as unnatural, depraved, and wilfully perverse. On the hypothesis that individuals subject to perverted instincts can suppress them at pleasure or convert them into normal appetite, it is argued that they must be punished. But when the real facts come to be studied, it will be found: first, that these instincts are inborn in Urnings, and are therefore in their case natural; secondly, that the suppression of them is tantamount to life-long abstinence under the constant torture of sexual solicitation; thirdly, that the conversion of them into normal channels is in a large percentage of cases totally impossible, in nearly all where it has been attempted is only partially successful, and where marriage ensues has generally ended in misery for both parties. Ulrichs, it will be noticed, does not distinguish between Urnings, in whom the inversion is admitted to be congenital, and Uraniasters, in whom it has been acquired or deliberately adopted. And it would be very difficult to frame laws which should take cognisance of these two classes. The Code Napoleon legalises the position of both, theoretically at any rate. The English code treats both as criminal, doing thereby, it must be admitted, marked injustice to recognised Urnings, who at the worst are morbid or insane, or sexually deformed, through no fault of their own.
In the present state of things, adds Ulrichs, the men who yield their bodies to abnormal lovers, do not merely do so out of compliance, sympathy, or the desire for reasonable reward. Too often they speculate upon the illegality of the connection, and have their main object in the extortion of money by threats of exposure. Thus the very basest of all trades, that of chantage, is encouraged by the law. Alter the law, and instead of increasing vice, you will diminish it; for a man who should then meet the advances of an Urning, would do so out of compliance, or, as is the case with female prostitutes, upon the expectation of a reasonable gain. The temptation to ply a disgraceful profession with the object of extorting money would be removed. Moreover, as regards individuals alike abnormally constituted, voluntary and mutually satisfying relations, free from degrading risks, and possibly permanent, might be formed between responsible agents. Finally, if it be feared that the removal of legal disabilities would turn the whole male population into Urnings, consider whether London is now so much purer in this respect than Paris?
One serious objection to recognising and tolerating sexual inversion has always been that it tends to check the population. This was a sound political and social argument in the time of Moses, when a small and militant tribe needed to multiply to the full extent of its procreative capacity. It is by no means so valid in our age, when the habitable portions of the globe are rapidly becoming overcrowded. Moreover, we must bear in mind that society, under the existing order, sanctions female prostitution, whereby men and women, the normally procreative, are sterilised to an indefinite extent. Logic, in these circumstances, renders it equitable and ridiculous to deny a sterile exercise of sex to abnormal men and women, who are by instinct and congenital diathesis non-procreative.
As the result of these considerations, Ulrichs concludes that there is no real ground for the persecution of Urnings except as may be found in the repugnance by the vast numerical majority for an insignificant minority. The majority encourages matrimony, condones seduction, sanctions prostitution, legalises divorce in the interests of its own sexual proclivities. It makes temporary or permanent unions illegal for the minority whose inversion of instinct it abhors. And this persecution, in the popular mind at any rate, is justified, like many other inequitable acts of prejudice or ignorance, by theological assumptions and the so-called mandates of revelation.
In the next place it is objected that inversed sexuality is demoralising to the manhood of a nation, that it degrades the dignity of a man, and that it is incapable of moral elevation. Each of these points may be taken separately. They are all of them at once and together contradicted by the history of ancient Greece. There the most warlike sections of the race, the Dorians of Crete and Sparta, and the Thebans, organised the love of male for male because of the social and military advantages they found in it. Their annals abound in eminent instances of heroic enthusiasm, patriotic devotion, and high living, inspired by homosexual passion. The fighting peoples of the world, Kelts in ancient story, Normans, Turks, Afghans, Albanians, Tartars, have been distinguished by the frequency among them of what popular prejudice regards as an effeminate vice.
With regard to the dignity of man, is there, asks Ulrichs, anything more degrading to humanity in sexual acts performed between male and male than in similar acts performed between male and female. In a certain sense all sex has an element of grossness which inspires repugnance. The gods, says Swinburne,
"Have strewed one marriage-bed with tears and fire,
For extreme loathing and supreme desire."
It would not be easy to maintain that a curate begetting his fourteenth baby on the body of a worn-out wife is a more elevating object of mental contemplation than Harmodius in the embrace of Aristogeiton, or that a young man sleeping with a prostitute picked up in the Haymarket is cleaner than his brother sleeping with a soldier picked up in the Park. Much of this talk about the dignity of man, says Ulrichs, proceeds from a vulgar misconception as to the nature of inverted sexual desire. People assume that Urnings seek their pleasure only or mainly in an act of unmentionable indecency. The exact opposite, he assures them, is the truth. The act in question is no commoner between men and men than it is between men and women. Ulrichs, upon this point, may be suspected, perhaps, as an untrustworthy witness. His testimony, however, is confirmed by Krafft-Ebing, who, as we have seen, has studied sexual inversion long and minutely from the point of view of psychical pathology. "As regards the nature of their sexual gratification," he writes, "it must be established at the outset that the majority of them are contented with reciprocal embraces; the act commonly ascribed to them they generally abhor as much as normal men do; and, inasmuch as they always prefer adults, they are in no sense specially dangerous to boys." This author proceeds to draw a distinction between Urnings in whom sexual inversion is congenital, and old debauchees or half-idiotic individuals, who are in the habit of misusing boys. The vulgar have confounded two different classes; and everybody who studies the psychology of Urnings is aware that this involves a grave injustice to the latter.
"But, after all," continues the objector, "you cannot show that inverted sexuality is capable of any moral elevation." Without appealing to antiquity, the records of which confute this objection overwhelmingly, one might refer to the numerous passages in Ulrich's writings where he relates the fidelity, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and romantic enthusiasm which frequently accompany such loves, and raises them above baseness. But, since here again he may be considered a suspicious witness, it will suffice, as before, to translate a brief passage from Krafft-Ebing. "The Urning loves, idolizes his friend, quite as much as the normal man loves and idolizes his girl. He is capable of making for him the greatest sacrifices. He suffers the pangs of unhappy, often unreturned, affection; feels jealousy, mourns under the fear of his friend's infidelity." When the time comes for speaking about Walt Whitman's treatment of this topic, it will appear that the passion of a man for his comrade has been idealised in fact and deed, as well as in poetry. For the present it is enough to remark that a kind of love, however spontaneous and powerful, which is scouted, despised, tabooed, banned, punished, relegated to holes and corners, cannot be expected to show its best side to the world. The sense of sin and crime and danger, the humiliation and repression and distress to which the unfortunate pariahs of inverted sexuality are daily and hourly exposed must inevitably deteriorate the nobler elements in their emotion. Give abnormal love the same chance as normal love, subject it to the wholesome control of public opinion, allow it to be self-respecting, draw it from dark slums into the light of day, strike off its chains and set it free—and I am confident says Ulrichs, that it will exhibit analogous virtues, checkered, of course, by analogous vices, to those with which you are familiar in the mutual love of male and female. The slave has of necessity a slavish soul. The way to elevate is to emancipate him.
"All that may be true," replies the objector: "it is even possible that society will take the hard case of your Urnings into consideration, and listen to their bitter cry. But, in the meanwhile, supposing these inverted instincts to be inborn, supposing them to be irrepressible and inconvertible, supposing them to be less dirty and nasty than they are commonly considered, is it not the plain duty of the individual to suppress them, so long as the law of his country condemns them?" No, rejoins Ulrichs, a thousand times no! It is only the ignorant antipathy of the majority which renders such law as you speak of possible. Go to the best books of medical jurisprudence, go to the best authorities on psychical deviations from the normal type. You will find that these support me in my main contention. These, though hostile in their sentiments and chilled by natural repugnance, have a respect for science, and they agree with me in saying that the Urning came into this world an Urning, and must remain till the end of his life an Urning still. To deal with him according to your code is no less monstrous than if you were to punish the colour-blind, or the deaf and dumb, or albinoes, or crooked-back cripples. "Very well," answers the objector: "But I will quote the words of an eloquent living writer, and appeal to your generous instincts and your patriotism. Professor Dowden observes that 'self-surrender is at times sternly enjoined, and if the egoistic desires are brought into conflict with social duties, the individual life and joy within us, at whatever cost of personal suffering, must be sacrificed to the just claims of our fellows.' What have you to say to that?" In the first place, replies Ulrichs, I demur in this case to the phrases egoistic desires, social duties, just claims of our fellows. I maintain that in trying to rehabilitate men of my own stamp and to justify their natural right to toleration I am not egoistic. It is begging the question to stigmatise their inborn desire as selfish. The social duties of which you speak are not duties, but compliances to law framed in blindness and prejudice. The claims of our fellows, to which you appeal, are not just, but cruelly inequitous. My insurgence against all these things makes me act indeed as an innovator; and I may be condemned, as a consequence of my rashness, to persecution, exile, defamation, proscription. But let me remind you that Christ was crucified, and that he is now regarded as a benefactor. "Stop," breaks in the objector: "We need not bring most sacred names into this discussion. I admit that innovators have done the greatest service to society. But you have not proved that you are working for the salvation of humanity at large. Would it not be better to remain quiet, and to sacrifice your life and joy, the life and joy of an avowed minority, for the sake of the immense majority who cannot tolerate you, and who dread your innovation? The Catholic priesthood is vowed to celibacy; and unquestionably there are some adult men in that order who have trampled out the imperious appetite of the male for the female. What they do for the sake of their vow will not you accomplish, when you have so much of good to gain, of evil to escape?" What good, what evil? rejoins Ulrichs. You are again begging the question; and now you are making appeals to my selfishness, my personal desire for tranquillity, my wish to avoid persecution and shame. I have taken no vow of celibacy. If I have taken any vow at all, it is to fight for the rights of an innocent, harmless, downtrodden group of outraged personalities. The cross of a Crusade is sewn upon the sleeve of my right arm. To expect from me and from my fellows the renouncement voluntarily undertaken by a Catholic priest is an absurdity, when we join no order, have no faith to uphold, no ecclesiastical system to support. We maintain that we have the right to exist after the fashion in which nature made us. And if we cannot alter your laws, we shall go on breaking them. You may condemn us to infamy, exile, prison—as you formerly burned witches. You may degrade our emotional instincts and drive us into vice and misery. But you will not eradicate inverted sexuality. Expel nature with a fork, and you know what happens. "That is enough," says the objector: "We had better close this conversation. I am sorry for you, sorry that you will not yield to sense and force. The Urning must be punished."
- See above, p. 55, note
- The notion that human beings were originally hermaphrodite is both ancient and wide-spread. We find it in the Book of Genesis, unless, indeed, there be a confusion here between two separate theories of creation. God is said to have first made man in his own image, male and female in one body, and to have bidden them multiply. Later on he created the woman out of part of the primitive man. The myth related by Aristophanes in Plato's Symposium has a curious bearing upon Ulrichs' speculations. There were originally human beings of three sexes: men, the children of the sun; women, the children of the earth; and hermaphrodites, the children of the moon. They were round, with two faces, four hands, four feet and two sets of reproductive organs apiece. In the case of the third sex, one set was male, the other female. Zeus, on account of their strength and insolence, sliced them into halves. Since that time the halves of each sort have always striven to unite with their corresponding halves, and have found some satisfaction in carnal congress—males with males, females with females, and males and females with each other: "They who are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, being slices of the original man, they hang about men and embrace them, and they are themselves the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature. And when they reach manhood, they are lovers of youth, and are not naturally inclined to marry or beget children, which they do, if at all, only in obedience to the law, but they are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with one another unwedded; and such a nature is prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which is akin to him." (Symp. 191-2, Jowett's translation.) Then follows a glowing description of Greek Love, the whole reminding us very closely of the confessions made by Urnings in modern times, and preserved by medical or forensic writers on sexual inversion.
- Memnon, section xix.
- See above, p. 36, the suggestion quoted from Dr. Huggard of "a congenital lack of balance between structures themselves healthy." It might be queried whether this "imperfect sexual differentiation," or this "congenital lack of balance between structures themselves healthy," is not the result of an evolutionary process arriving through heredity and casual selection at an abnormal, but not of necessity a morbid, phenomenon in certain individuals.
- The first two from Casper-Liman, Handbuch der gerichtlichen Medicin, vol. i. pp. 166-169. The others from Krafft-Ebing, Psychopathia Sexualis.
- Memnon, section xix.
- Since Ulrichs left off writing, Italy (by the "Nuovo Codice Penale" of 1889) has adopted the principles of the Code Napoleon, and has placed sexual inversion under the same legal limitations as the normal sexual instinct.
- Dr. W. Ogle, on the 18th March, 1890, read a paper before the Statistical Society upon "Marriage Rates and Ages." The conclusion he arrived at, with regard to the rapidly-advancing over-population of England, was that, in order to equalise the death-rate with the birth-rate (or in other words, to maintain the population at its present level), we must look forward either to (1) an increase of emigration which would involve social revolution, or (2) to the advance of the average age at which women marry to the point of thirty years, or (3) to an exclusion of 45 per cent. of those who now marry from matrimony at any period of life. In the face of these calculations, after admitting their possible exaggeration, it seems illogical to punish with severe legal penalties those members of the male sex who do not want to marry, and who can satisfy their natural desires in ways which involve no detriment to the State and no violation of the rights of individuals.
- Psych. Sex., p. 108. I have condensed the sense of four short paragraphs, to translate which in full would have involved a disagreeable use of medical language.
- Psych. Sex., p. 107.
- Studies in Literature, p. 119.