Geoffrey Gorer, "Man to Man" (1961), reprinted as Chapter 18 in: The
Danger of Equality and other essays, London: Cresset Press, 1966, pp.
Man to Man
A Minority by Gordon Westwood (published by Longmans) consists of the analysis of interviews with 127 male homosexuals, most of them from London, and is a most detailed and careful piece of research, within its limits superior to anything else which has appeared on this subject.
It is superior in two respects: first, the informants (or contacts, to use Mr. Westwood's phrase) were drawn from the population at large, instead of, as in nearly all previous studies, from prisoners or from psychiatric patients. Mr. Westwood achieved this by persuading his original contacts to introduce friends to be interviewed; over two-thirds of the sample were found in this way, though only three secondary contacts were taken from each original contact, to prevent concentration on a single clique (as seems to have been the case with G. W. Henry's Sex Variants); in this way a good scatter in age, education, social class, and occupation was achieved.
Secondly, a consistent attempt has been made to see the homosexuals
in the setting of English society; their family background is explored
to attempt (on a rather superficial level) to give some statistical backing
to various theories of the 'origin' of homosexuality, and a lot of attention
is paid to their occupations, their religious life, their attempts to get
help and advice, their meeting-places, and their relationship with the
law, both the offences they commit against public decency and their sufferings
at the hands of the police and magistrates, of blackmailers and assailants.
This is a great advance on the taxonomic approach, as used from Krafft-Ebing
to Kinsey, which concentrated on overt sexual behaviour. If I now proceed
to criticize some aspects of Mr.
Westwood's study, these criticisms should not be understood to modify my commendation.
Despite its considerable merits, I think Mr. Westwood's study suffers from his psychological and anthropological naivety; and this naivety, which is by no means peculiar to Mr. Westwood, ultimately rests on a semantic confusion. 'Homosexuality' is a false isolate, a term covering a number of conditions whose only common bond is that some sort of sexual relationship takes place between two people of the same sex. It is a false isolate in much the same way as 'cancer' or 'schizophrenia' are false isolates. Little progress was made while cancer or schizophrenia were looked on as entities, with one 'cause' and one potential 'cure'; advances occurred when these false isolates were treated as clusters, when researchers acted (even if their vocabulary did not entirely reflect their practice) on the assumption that they were dealing with an indefinite number of cancerous or schizophrenic syndromes and studied one at a time 'the cancers' or 'the schizophrenias'.
In a very analogous fashion, I feel sure that one should think about 'the homosexualities'. On the present evidence, there would seem to be three major forms, and one minor one; they probably have different aetiologies, and certainly have different social consequences. To discuss them it is necessary to introduce a vocabulary; and I propose to use the terms pederast (pederasty), homophile (homophilia), and pathic (pathicism). Paedophiliac (paedophilia) is already in the vocabulary for the minor form, the child-molesters; this would appear to be considered a grossly pathological condition in all societies of which we have record and does not call for discussion. (Mr. Westwood probably has three among his contacts.)
According to present evidence, all the homosexualities are socially
produced or induced; and societies have been described in which they do
not occur. All these societies (such as the Arapesh, the Lepcha, the Mundugumor,
the Siriono) are on a very simple level of technical elaboration; and they
all share the common characteristic that they make little contrast between
the concepts of masculinity and femininity, between the ideals of manhood
and womanhood. Boys are not brought up with the
instructions: 'All real men do . . .' or 'No proper man does. . .'; and there is no possibility of confused sexual identification. Male and female are defined by their primary sexual characteristics only, not by temperament, interests, or aptitudes which may be considered incongruous in one sex or the other. Although there may be habitual division of labour between the sexes, a man does not derogate from his masculinity by performing women's tasks.
When on the other hand the roles of the sexes are very strongly contrasted, and particularly when women are secluded, there is a high probability of institutionalized pederasty. This is not a universal; and when there is a very strong contrast between the roles of the sexes and no institutionalized pederasty, a certain number of pathics would seem to occur.
The characteristic feature of pederasty is that there is an age differential (typically a generation, but in some age grade societies an age-group) between the partners, the older being the lover and the younger the beloved; and in many societies only the lover is meant to achieve genital gratification. Behaviour should be governed by age rather than temperament. Typically the adolescent boy is chosen as a beloved by an older man; after the passage of some years whose termination is defined in various ways (shaving of the first beard, moving into the next class of warriors, and the like) the young man marries and produces children; when his own children are reared, he becomes the lover of adolescents.
This pattern is socially viable, and has been found in a considerable
number of societies all over the world, typically warrior societies with
harems or the equivalent, from feudal Japan to classical Greece and very
nearly contemporary Pathans and Albanians. By socially viable, I mean that
it can be followed by all or most of the men of the society without psychological
discomfort or the production of obvious neurosis, and without interfering
with the genital competence and fertility necessary to maintain the population.
In many of these societies pederasty has been the main subject of the arts,
particularly lyrical poetry, and the main source of tender and elevated
emotions. Of all the homosexualities, it is probably the most alien to
our society and
on some levels the most shocking. We tend to feel disapproval, if not disgust, at heterosexual couples when there is a considerable disparity of age between the partners; and we are disturbed at the notion of adolescents having strong emotional attachments to adults, even where there is no overt sexuality.
It is probable that the full sequence is temperamentally congenial to some men in most societies; but it also seems unlikely that the full sequence is often followed in societies where it is not socially approved (an abbreviated version of the sequence, without the heterosexual period, has not been uncommon in all-male boarding-schools and similar institutions). It is impossible to tell whether any of Mr. Westwood's contacts should be described as pederasts; he has not used the concept himself; and owing to the over-riding necessity of protecting his contacts' anonymity, neither quotations nor tabulated experience are connected with identified individuals. Some nineteen of his contacts had their first sexual experience with an adult when they were under seventeen; the same number (but there is nothing to show whether they are the same people) as adults are willing or would like to have sexual relations with boys under seventeen; ten were married at the time of the interview, and seventeen hoped to marry. If these figures refer to the same people in any instances then, it would seem, they could properly be described as pederasts.
I have chosen the term homophilia (which, according to Mr. Westwood,
is current in high-minded homosexual circles in Switzerland and Scandinavia)
to describe the situation where the object of the homosexual's desires
is another homosexual, to a greater or lesser extent a mirror image of
himself. The relationships between homophiles seem to approximate very
closely to the relationships between adult heterosexual men and women (with
the obvious difference that both partners have male genitals) running the
gamut between settled and prolonged monogamous cohabitation and complete
promiscuity. One of Mr. Westwood's contacts said: 'Most of my friends are
in what might be called the young married set of the homosexual world';
and some two-thirds of his contacts have had, or are enjoying, affairs,
which are defined as 'a strong emotional relationship between two men which
has lasted over a year'. It is probably a pair of homophiles
whom most people think of when they refer to 'consenting adults'; and it is the same picture which Brigadier Terence Clark, M.P., of Portsmouth West, boisterously depicted in the House of Commons on June 29, 1961, as 'a couple of hairy old males sitting on each other's knees and liking it ...' Homophiles certainly make up the major portion of Mr. Westwood's sample, at least a half (from the table on page 157), and probably over three-quarters. On this evidence, homophilia is the most prevalent of the homosexualities in England today; and may well be so in other Western countries. The homophile contacts come from a wide scatter of social classes, professions, and occupations; apart from their sexual tastes they seem to represent a good cross-section of adult English males.
In contrast to the pederast and the pathic, it is very hard to find examples or analogues of homophilia in societies outside the Judeo-Christian tradition; and there do not seem to be many examples within it before the last century, as far as the literary evidence goes. There are accounts of some courts where the kings had 'favourites' - James the First of England, Henry the Third of France, and so on; in 19th-century novels there are occasional pairs of men 'chumming' together (for example, Mortimer Lightwood and Eugene Wrayburn in Our Mutual Friend) and emotionally attached to one another; and that, as far as I know, is about all. It is possible, of course, that the subject was surrounded with so much mystery and unholy horror that outsiders knew nothing about it and insiders left no records; but even in the erotic or pornographic books that I know of there are no characters who could be considered homophiles, though sodomites and pathics are relatively frequent. I think it may be a genuinely modern phenomenon.
Although the aetiology of any of the homosexualities is obscure, it
seems likely that among the antecedent conditions of homophilia are castration
anxiety (in the psycho-analytic sense of the term) and the absence of a
model of appropriate male behaviour at significant periods of the young
boy's development. Castration anxiety may be induced directly by threats
against infantile masturbation and possibly analogically, following operations
or other attacks on the body during early childhood.
Adult interference with infantile masturbation does not seem to be widespread in most non-European societies; and the survival of sickly children, through medical or surgical intervention, has very greatly increased in the last century. It may he significant that two-fifths of Mr. Westwood's contacts reported that they had bad health in childhood.
The absence of an appropriate male model becomes much more likely when the typical household is reduced to the nuclear family of a man and wife living alone with their children. This again is a relatively uncommon phenomenon outside the advanced industrial societies in the last hundred years. Although the middle and upper classes lived in isolated dwellings, adult men were numerous as indoor or outdoor servants in these richer households; the poor lived either in composite households or so closely on top of one another that male models were always present. The isolated nuclear family household is not common in non-European societies. In about a fifth of Mr. Westwood's cases there was no man in the home; and over half of his contacts were an only child or an only son.
Pederasts (in the active phase) and homophiles resemble heterosexual men in that the goal of their sexual strivings is a genital orgasm; the objects which produce these orgasms are different but the physiological concomitants are similar. With pathics this is not the case; their pleasure comes from the orgasms they provoke in other men, and they have either abandoned more or less completely the pleasurable employment of their own genitals ('I hate anything to do with my own penis and I hate anyone to touch it' says one of Mr. Westwood's contacts); or else, possibly, use them for heterosexual intercourse only. It seems likely that pathics are more frequently married men than are homophiles.
England is uncommon among modern nations, or languages, in not recognizing
the pathic in common speech or insult. If we wish to impugn the masculinity
of another man, either seriously or metaphorically, we call him a 'bugger',
which suggests a type of genital activity; in similar circumstances an
American calls him a 'cocksucker', a Frenchman 'espèce d'enculé.
(It is a curious point, not without significance, that in common speech
none of these words have reciprocals, to designate the insulted
man's partner.) For a vocabulary we have to go to Latin; imperial Rome appears to have been much preoccupied with the activities of pathics, which are detailed with (surely sanctimonious) disapproval; Juvenal, Martial, and Petronius cannot let the subject alone.
Rather surprisingly, the pathic has been socially recognized and integrated in some societies, as priests in some of the middle-eastern cults (for example, that of Cybele; see Apuleius) and also in some of the Siberian tribes, as shamans. The most remarkable integration was the institution of berdache in some of the warrior tribes among the American Plains Indians. A youth who felt temperamentally incapable of attaining to the highly aggressive ideal of masculinity demanded in these societies could opt for the alternative of becoming a 'social' woman, wearing women's clothes and learning women's crafts, following their taboos and even going through a simulacrum of child-birth. It is said that, while the parents of the berdache were very distressed at such a choice, the berdache himself was socially accepted, but some contempt was felt for his 'husband', chiefly because he had so much easier a life than the men married to weak women who had to support real children. The same point comes up in Mr. Westwood's book (quoting F. J. G. Jefferiss) in the discussion of what he calls 'facultative homosexuals': 'the male consort is less clinging and cheaper, not requiring so much courting and money spent on him . . . and ... there is no risk of making the partner pregnant or being trapped into matrimony'.
The 'facultative homosexuals', in Mr. Westwood's vocabulary, are those men who consider themselves heterosexually 'normal' but engage on occasion in some form of homosexual intercourse. None of Mr. Westwood's contacts can probably be so considered (it is surprising that, in the discussion of this group, Mr. Westwood has not considered narcissism as a major motive for allowing homage from anybody of any sex willing to give it); but they are relevant in this context as the probable partners of the pathic. Almost by definition the pathic does not desire partners who are themselves homophile.
A fifth of Mr. Westwood's sample are 'very interested in non-homosexuals,
would prefer them as sexual partners'; and for
just on the same number (though apparently not predominantly the same people) passive anal intercourse was the most usual and preferred technique. Unfortunately, in his short paragraph on oral-genital techniques (preferred and practised by less than ten per cent of his sample: other cultures would probably produce very different figures) Mr. Westwood does not distinguish between those who perform and those who submit to this; but it seems likely that something more than a tenth of his contacts were wholly or predominantly pathic.
Pathicism is for most people uncanny, since it seeks a sexual
pleasure which is not immediately involved with the primary sexual apparatus.
It is in a way symbolic magic; the pathics are taking 'goodness' or 'strength'
from their 'normal' partners. And it is, I think, this uncanny, magical
aspect which accounts for some of the holy horror which people feel for
the whole subject of homosexuality. In the House of Commons debate on the
Wolfenden report on June 29th, 1961 (already referred to), Mr. Godfrey
Lagden, M.P., of Hornchurch, voiced an almost clinically perfect expression
of this magical fear:
Especially should people be punished if their actions, which I contend are evil, have physical and mental danger to those with whom they come in contact....
In my opinion, in the general run the homosexual is a dirtyminded danger to the virile manhood of this country. The Right Hon. Lady the Member for Warrington (Dr. Summerskill) laughs, but it is important for any country to have a virile manhood and to see that it is not corrupted by such men as these. . . .
I am sure that if many Hon. Members had seen the mental and the physical state to which some young men have been reduced by being corrupted by these homosexuals they would know what was their duty tonight.
[footnote 1:] In the House of Commons debate on the same topic on February 12th, 1966, Mr. William Shepherd of Cheadle, arguing against reform of the law, said: 'The proper way to look at homosexuality is to regard it not as some thing separate but as something to which any of us can succumb if the circumstances of our lives or the weakness of our outlook make us susceptible.'
This plea would scarcely need the alteration of a word to re-
present the fear which is felt in so many cultures (and in our own a few centuries ago) of the effect of malicious witchcraft, of sorcery. Mr. Westwood experienced the prevalence of this fear in the difficulties, which he recounts in the first paragraph of his acknowledgements, in getting funds, co-operation, or facilities for his research.
In this outline of some of the major forms of the homosexualities, I am not suggesting that every man who engages in homosexual activities falls neatly and unambiguously into one of the categories. What I do suggest is that these syndromes form clusters, and that if Mr. Westwood had been aware of them and had tabulated them separately, his analysis of family constellations, work records, community integration and the like might have given more consistent and revealing tables. When all the homo- sexualities are lumped together the results (if my contention is correct, inevitably) become so blurred that there remain practically no generalizations one can make about the group except for the sex of their preferred partners and their unhappy position in relation to the law and (though to a lesser extent) to society at large. On these latter aspects Mr. Westwood is admirably humane and level-headed; A Minority is the best book for the non-specialized reader which has yet appeared on the subject.