19th century homophobic dickheads trying to explain homosexuality

More from The Psychology of Sex, vol. 2, Sexual Inversion, by Havelock Ellis, 1919, which, I have just discovered, is available online!

Ellis speaks with the tone of a scientist studying cases of abnormal specimens of humanity; he refers to them as “cases” sometimes; he studies them physically and asks for any family history of illness. There is a chapter called The Nature of Sexual Inversion in which he attempts to provide measurable differences between “inverts” and “normal people” and to suggest reasons for the inversion, but he falls short. In fact, it is clear from what he wrote that he found out absolutely nothing about the nature of “inversion.”

He studied what appears to be only a handful of people. He doesn’t give the precise number. There is no universal physical difference apparent among homosexual women or homosexual men. He does write about some observations he’s made but they don’t add up to anything, and they often contradict each other.

For example, inverted women might be unusually hairy, or they might not be:

“There seems little doubt that inverted women frequently tend to show minor anomalies of the piliferous system, and especially slight hypertrichosis and a masculine distribution of hair.” p253

“A woman physician in the United States who knows many female inverts similarly tells me that she has observed the tendency to growth of hair on the legs.” p 254

“Someone I know told me that the homosexuals she knows have hair on their legs.” Okay, yeah, that’s really good research there. “My friend told me so” is totally a conclusive proof of a scientific fact. Newsflash: straight women have hair on their legs too.

“While inverted women frequently, though not always, convey an impression of mannishness or boyishness, there are no invariable anatomical characteristics associated with this impression. There is, for instance, no uniform tendency to a masculine distribution of hair. Nor must it be supposed that the presence of a beard in a woman indicates a homosexual tendency.” p251

So we’ve established that homosexual women might be hairy, or they might not be, and they might have hair on their legs, but women with beards aren’t necessarily gay. Okay then!

He also made observations that homosexual women tend to be muscular and have lower voices. The evidence is entirely subjective.

“Apart from the complicated problem presented by the hair, there are genuine approximations to the masculine type. The muscles tend to be everywhere firm, with a comparative absence of soft connective tissue; so that an inverted woman may give an unfeminine impression to the sense of touch. A certain tonicity of the muscles has indeed often been observed in homosexual women. Hirschfield found that two-thirds of inverted women are more muscular than normal women, while, on the other hand, he found that among inverted men the musculature was often weak.

Not only is the tone of the voice often different, but there is reason to suppose that this rests on a basis of anatomical modification. At Moll’s suggestion, Flatau examined the larynx in a large number of inverted women, and found in several a very decidedly masculine type of larynx, or an approach to it, especially in cases of distinctly congenital origin. Hirschfield has confirmed Flatau’s observations on this point. It may be added that inverted women are very often good whistlers; Hirschfield even knows two who are public performers in whistling. It is scarcely necessary to remark that while the old proverb associates whistling in a woman with crowing in a hen, whistling in a woman is no evidence of any general physical or psychic inversion.” p255–256

There is no measure of what “more muscular” even means. Can inverted women lift more weights than straight women? I don’t see any numbers here. If the women he studied were indeed “more muscular” than usual, it could be because they were doing more manual labour. Didn’t he observe that these women tended to dress as men and take on men’s jobs? Their muscle development isn’t from being gay, it’s from exercising the muscles. Also, he believed that “several” of them had a masculine larynx, or an “approach to a masculine larynx.” This is very, very subjective. Did he measure somehow how low a pitch their voices could go to? Why not test them out using a piano or tuning fork and give us a pitch? Nope. Just his subjective observation that their larynxes were “masculine.” He observed earlier that female inverts liked to smoke. Couldn’t their voices be lower from smoking?

He seems to have studied the genitals of his “case studies,” which I find thoroughly disturbing. He found that inverted women’s genitals are either small or big:

“As regards the sexual organs it seems possible, so far as my observations go, to speak more definitely of inverted women than of inverted men. In all three of the cases concerning whom I have precise information, among those whose histories are recorded in the present chapter, there is more or less arrested development and infantilism. In one a somewhat small vagina and prominent nymphaea [labia minora], with local sensitiveness, are associated with oligotrichosis [less than normal amount of hair]. In another the sexual parts are in some respects rather small, while there is no trace of ovary on one side.” p256

He keeps trying to make a case that sexual inverts have arrested development or infantilism. He also talks about our youthful faces. But here, even though he claims she has a “small vagina” (I shudder to think how he measured it), he also reports “prominent” labia on the same woman. So how is he even concluding that her genitals are “small” if her labia are “prominent?” Does only the vagina count?

“An enlarged clitoris is but rarely found in inversion and plays a very small part in the gratification of feminine homosexuality. Kiernan refers to a case, occurring in America, in which an inverted woman, married and a mother, possessed a clitoris which measured 2 ½ inches when erect. Casanova described an inverted Swiss woman, otherwise feminine in development, whose clitoris in excitement was longer than his little finger, and capable of penetration. The older literature contains many similar cases.” p258

These are probably cases of intersex, and he knows this, but this disproves his point that female sexual inverts have small genitals, doesn’t it? He said the same thing about homosexual men. Their genitals are either big or small:

“The circumstances under which many of my cases were investigated often made information under this head difficult to obtain, or to verify. In at least 4 cases the penis is very large, while in at least 3 it is small and undeveloped, with small and flabby testes. It seems probably that variations in these two directions are both common, but it is doubtful whether they possess as much significance as the tendency to infantilism of the sexual organs in inverted women seems to possess. Hirschfield considers that the genital organs of inverts resemble those of normal people. He finds, however, that phimosis is rather common.” p289

This is hilariously absurd. He examined only 7 people, and observed that their genitals were either large or small, and then says that it seems probable that male homosexuals vary in their penis size. Duh! Kinda like all other males! And I loved the comment about how homosexuals resemble “normal people.” Nice.

Also, male homosexuals may or may not be able to whistle:

“The frequent inability of male inverts to whistle was first pointed out by Ulrichs, and Hirschfield has found it in 23 per cent. Many of my cases confess to this inability, while some of the women inverts can whistle admirably. Although this inability of male inverts is only found among a minority, I am quite satisfied that it is well marked among a considerable minority.” p291

He then goes on to prove that the inability to whistle doesn’t automatically make you gay. No need for non-whistling straight guys to panic.

By the end of the chapter it is evident that he is making subjective speculations based on very little actual research and that he is generally full of shit. When you’re trying to find physical differences between homosexuals and “normal people” and you’re going on about “23 per cent can’t whistle” you know you’ve lost your case. There isn’t any physical difference between gay and straight people.

When he attempts to explain how people become gay, he is hilariously clueless again. He believes the condition is “congenital,” in other words, that we are “born this way,” but he is unable to provide any evidence of a biological basis for sexual orientation. So, naturally, he starts making shit up.

“The rational way of regarding the normal sexual instinct is as an inborn organic impulse, reaching full development about the time of puberty. During the period of development suggestion and association may come in to play a part in defining the object of the emotion; the soil is now ready, but the variety of seeds likely to thrive in it is limited. That there is a greater indefiniteness in the aim of the sexual impulse at this period we may well believe. This is shown not only by occasional tentative signs of sexual emotion directed toward the same sex in childhood, but by the frequently ideal and unlocalized character of the normal passion even at puberty. But the channel of sexual emotion is not thereby turned into an abnormal path. Whenever this happens we are bound to believe—and we have many grounds for believing—that we are dealing with an organism which from the beginning is abnormal. The same seed of suggestion is sown in various soils; in the many it dies out; in the few it flourishes. The cause can only be a difference in the soil.” p309–310

This is a lot of words that don’t say anything. Homosexuals have different “soil.” Okay. He goes on like this:

“If, then, we must postulate a congenital abnormality in order to account satisfactorily for at least a large proportion of sexual inverts, wherein does that abnormality consist? Ulrichs explained the matter by saying that in sexual inverts a male body coexists with a female soul: anima muliebris in corpore virile inclusa. Even writers of scientific eminence, like Magnan and Gley, have adopted this phrase in a modified form, considering that in inversion a female brain is combined with a male body or male glands. This is, however, not an explanation. It merely crystallizes into an epigram the superficial impression of the matter.” p310

So there it is! After trying to describe homosexuals as having “different soil,” he then rolls out the “female brain in a male body” thing. You know what I see here? I see a bunch of overhyped and inadequate researchers trying to figure out what makes people gay, and since they have absolutely no idea, they are pulling theories out of their asses. The only true thing here is that last sentence, which is a fancy way of saying “that’s just an oversimplification of what people tend to think.”

He also has a cute theory about “male germs” and “female germs” that are present around the developing fetus.

“Putting the matter in a purely speculative shape, it may be said that at conception the organism is provided with about 50 per cent of male germs and about 50 per cent of female germs, and that as development proceeds, either the male or the female germs assume the upper hand, until in the maturely developed individual only a few aborted germs of the opposite sex are left. In the homosexual, however, and in the bisexual, we may imagine that the process has not proceeded normally, on account of some peculiarity in the number or character of either the original male germs or female germs, or both, the result being that we have a person who is organically twisted into a shape that is more fitted for the exercise of the inverted than of the normal sexual impulse, or else equally fitted for both.” p311

I’m kind of amazed at how beautiful a disaster that paragraph is.

Ellis has a tendency to quote his “correspondents” in this book. His one “correspondent,” called “M.N.,” had this to say about homosexual men:

“To me it appears that the female element must, of necessity, exist in the body that desires the male, and that nature keeps her law in the spirit, though she breaks it in the form. The rest is all a matter of individual temperament and environment. The female nature of the invert, hampered though it is by its disguise of flesh, is still able to exert an extraordinary influence, and calls insistently upon the male.” p284.

This guy M.N. is a really homophobic dickface. He’s implying here that it’s a natural law that only a female can desire a male. Nope. On the same page, he argues that homosexuals are always unfulfilled:

“There is, however, one terrible reality for the invert to face, no matter how much he may wish to avoid it and seek to deceive himself. There exists for him an almost absolute lack of any genuine satisfaction either in the way of the affections or desires. His whole life is passed in vainly seeking and desiring the male, the antithesis of his nature, and in consorting with inverts he must perforce be content with the male in form only, the shadow without substance.” p284.

Read that paragraph a few times. Seriously. He’s saying that gay men are really women, and they’ll never be fulfilled because the gay men they’re with are women too, which means they’ll never be with the “real” men they really want. A gay man is apparently the shadow of a man, without the substance, due to his feminine nature.

The whole “woman’s brain in a man’s body” thing was made popular by 19th century sexologists who were trying to figured out what caused homosexuality, and this was one of the theories they pulled out of their asses because they didn’t have any concrete facts to present. We still don’t know what causes homosexuality, but I would argue that we don’t need to know what causes it. We don’t need to know what causes some people to prefer red over blue, or why some people enjoy music more than visual art, or why some people put ketchup on their fries while others don’t. We don’t scrutinize behaviors unless we think they’re a problem. Homosexuality isn’t a problem.

I wonder if it ever occurred to these homophobic windbags to ask a gay person why they are attracted to the same sex?

Here’s why I’m attracted to women:

  • Because women are fucking hot
  • Because women are capable of deep, fulfilling relationships (men are about as useful as lumps of clay in that regard)
  • Because the sex I have with women is AMAZING

That’s why. Actually, I think what really requires an explanation is why any women are attracted to men. I don’t get it. And don’t give me the “to continue the species” thing. Homosexuals can have babies. We are fertile! And we do reproduce!

These 19th century homophobic weirdos are really entertaining, but what really puzzles me is why we are still promoting their dumb ideas like they have any merit. Homosexuals aren’t born in the wrong body and we don’t have the soul of the opposite sex. It is normal female behavior to love other females. Being attracted to women doesn’t make us men. In each generation, around 5–10% of women love other women. Sometimes we even wear trousers and drink and smoke! These are things that women do.

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16 thoughts on “19th century homophobic dickheads trying to explain homosexuality

  1. I find it annoying how people dress up prejudice these days. People are just as narrow minded as they’ve always been except now it’s worse to call someone bigoted than it is to actually be bigoted. I’d much rather deal with an out and out bigot than a self-righteous self-proclaimed progressive/liberal/whatever who is deeply prejudiced. I can only hope that one day we’ll look back on some of the crap that’s happening now and say, “what were they thinking?”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. P.S. I just did a quick scan of this guy’s biography—very interesting. He was married to an out lesbian for years. Was this a marriage of convenience? He also reportedly struggled with impotence until he was 60. He was also part of the eugenics movement. Might he have been closeted himself? Hmmmm….

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I read that this Havelock guy was into courting and marrying women he diagnosed as being Inverts then encouraging his girlfriends and wives to bring women over to the house and have sex with them so he could observe for purely scientific purposes, also was a piss fetishist in the name of science.

    I swear if women studied men the way men do, we’d have women sado doctors repeatedly kicking men in the balls and then declaring them impontent prudes with daddy issues because they experienced pain instead of pleasure

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The obsession with clitoris size, labia extension, and the difficult to measure vagina depth is just like how some folks today try to confound sexual orientation and the supposed “gender identity” with intersex conditions.

    Seriously, I doubt anyone in 1905 had ever done a general survey of labia and clitoris size. Penis size would be even harder to measure as we wilt like tomato plants in the July Texas sun, and Havelock did take an interest in penis sizes IIRC. Thank you Planned Parenthood for giving me that worksheet with vulvae and very small penises in multiple perspectives that I could mark with little X’s where the issue was. And Yes, Planned Parenthood has ALWAYS provided the kind of male reproductive health care I needed since the very beginning. Perhaps I can remind men that Planned Parenthood has historically stood by men, and that caring so much about men who are supposedly “women” is depriving MEN of needed low cost care. No one seems to give much a shit what’s happening to women. Perhaps this could work.

    But Havelock Ellis is mostly full of shit. I think you quoted him a few posts back saying that some lesbian had “infantile” genitals because her labia minora projected strongly? WTF yall, I have almost zero experience here, and no personal experience cuz I’m a dude who is not a pedo, but I’m pretty sure that labia minora growth much beyond the labia majora happens in puberty under the influence of large amounts of estrogen and a small amount of adrenal testosterone. Again, I have NO personal experience of any of this before late adolescence, and this was when I myself was in late adolescence, but I’m pretty sure projecting labia minora is perfectly consistent with being an adult woman.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. “In one a somewhat small vagina and prominent nymphaea [labia minora], with local sensitiveness”

    So, women who are able to feel sensation in their labia are lesbians?

    …Maybe you just weren’t very good in bed, sir.

    Liked by 3 people

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