While reading Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers I developed a fascination for old sexology and sexual inverts. Today I had a day off and I spent it in the library looking for old sexology books. I read a very entertaining book called Studies in the Psychology of Sex by Havelock Ellis from 1919. It comes in several volumes and volume II is entirely about sexual inversion (homosexuality).
This wasn’t a reprint, it was actually from 1919, and the pages were very fragile and crumbling as I read it. It was from a special storage area where you have to ask the librarian to see it. I felt like Hermione going to the Restricted section of the library. Yes, that was a Harry Potter reference. I can’t sign this book out so I sat and read it for several hours. My idea of a good time is spending the day in the library reading about ancient homophobia! 😀 I am such a nerd.
I had so much fun with this book I can’t even tell you. Okay, but I’m going to tell you. The funniest thing in this book was the entire page written about how homosexuals like the colour green. Apparently, it is common knowledge that all normal people like the colours red or blue. The colour green is for sexual perverts only! Also, did you know that gay men can’t whistle? I swear, that’s what it said. I was laughing to myself out loud in the library.
There are tons and tons and tons of theories about how people are homosexual and all of them are absurd. At this time it was all Freudian stuff like, if certain things happened in your childhood development that would turn you gay. I was shaking my head about all the time and energy people spent trying to figure out what makes people gay. Who cares? We are, and that’s that. It’s not a problem, so it doesn’t need a solution.
There were several case histories of lesbians, and some of them were several pages long and these women were pretty badass. I really loved the stories of women who dressed as men and took female lovers and when their female lovers got married to men, they killed their husbands. I wonder if that’s why lesbians used to have a reputation for being violent and unstable—because we were probably invisible until we killed someone’s husband in a fit of jealous rage, and only then were we noticed by the establishment.
One of the causes of homosexuality is purported to be occupations where women are stuck together for long periods of time without any men around. There was a story in the book about a garment factory where girls worked in intense summer heat and would take off their clothes because it was so hot. Then there was an afternoon nap time and they all slept together on the sofa, nude, and ended up “masturbating themselves.” The language is so dramatic and over-the-top and detailed that I realized— this is actually erotica. This guy who wrote this book was totally having a wank over these garment factory girls and their supposed naked afternoon orgies (which I suspect never actually happened.)
The main reason I was reading this book was because I wanted to look for early claims of “man trapped in a woman’s body.” In fact, I did find that, which I will talk about in a later post, and I also found a reference to what is apparently the first instance of the term “sexual inversion” being used in English and it was in a book on Greek ethics. I found that book too, and I scanned through it but there was no actual definition of sexual inversion, just a lot of discussion of ancient Greeks and their homosexuality. I found a gem of a paragraph though in the tiny little section on female homosexuality.
Some dude from the 19th century was whining about the horrors that would occur if we allowed homosexuality to happen. He wrote the following warning:
“If you concede homosexual love to males, you must in justice grant the same to females; you will have to sanction carnal intercourse between them; monstrous instruments of lust will have to be permitted, in order that their sexual congress may be carried out; that obscene vocable, tribad, which so rarely offends our ears—I blush to utter it—will become rampant, and Philaenis will spread androgynous orgies throughout our harems.”
The book does refer to another book where one can read about the “monstrous instruments of lust” in detail, (sorry, no quote—I didn’t read that one!) and it also explains that Philaenis is the author of an obscene book and also a designation for a lesbian lover, or “tribad.” I don’t even know how people come up with this over-the-top, dramatic stuff. It really is a figment of their imaginations. I’m not nearly as interesting as they think I am. Generally, what I do every day is get up, take a shower, go to work, come home, eat dinner, do some regular stuff like blogging or visiting friends, and go to bed. I can’t say I’ve ever participated in an “androgynous orgy” with “monstrous instruments of lust,” and I don’t think it would have ever occurred to me to do so.
I carefully photocopied about 30 pages from the section on female inverts and I’m going to go through it again and decide what to write about here. I think I’ll type out some of the case stories of lesbians, they’re really interesting. And of course, the “man trapped in a woman’s body” stuff. People have been saying that for over 100 years now!
Okay, I’m off to a harem to have an androgynous orgy! *cough* Okay, fine, I’m getting pizza and going to a friend’s place to watch TV.