In a previous book, The Intermediate Sex, Mr. Edward Carpenter set forth the claim for recognition of persons of homosexual and bisexual constitution, as entitled to a fitting place and sphere of usefulness in the general scheme of society. It cannot be said that such a plea is without justification, for careful investigation in various countries has shown that nearly everywhere homosexual persons constitute over 1 per cent. of the population, and bisexual persons at least 4 per cent.; so that in our own country alone the number of persons of this type probably run into millions. Moreover, they are found in all social and intellectual classes, not only in the lowest, but also in the highest.
In the present volume Mr. Carpenter takes up a special aspect of the same subject, and deals with it in detail, which was not possible in the more comprehensive earlier book. He seeks to investigate the part played in religion and in warfare by the "Intermediate" types of "Primitive" days.
A verbal criticism intrudes itself, indeed, as the author himself admits, at the outset. The vague term "Intermediate,” while it may fairly be applied to many sexual inverts, will not satisfactorily cover them all, for not all male inverts approximate to the feminine type, nor all female inverts to the masculine; some even, Carpenter himself remarks, might be termed "super-virile" and "ultra-feminine." The generally accepted term "homosexual," although not altogether unobjectionable, seems more definite, accurate, and comprehensive than "intermediate." In a similar manner it may be said that the term "primitive " cannot be applied to any races known to history, or even to ethnography, and least of all to the Greeks and Japanese, who are dealt with at length in the present volume.
Such criticism, which is fairly obvious, cannot, however, affect the substance of the book. It falls into two parts: "The Intermediate in the Service of Religion" and "The Intermediate as Warrior." The subject of the second part may be regarded as the more familiar. It is fairly well known that military comradeship on a homosexual basis existed among the Greeks, and was regarded as a stimulus to warlike prowess. That similar attachments existed among the Japanese Samurai warriors is less well known. Both these manifestations of military comradeship are here luminously discussed. An interesting chapter is devoted to Dorian comradeship in relation to the status of women. It has frequently been asserted that Greek paiderastia was connected, whether as cause or effect, with the inferior status of women in Greece. There is no question that during a considerable period the position of women in Greece was by no means high. But Carpenter well shows that there was no parallelism between the high estimation of "manly love" and the low estimation of women. Thus it was in Sparta that paiderastia was most practised and esteemed, and it was in Sparta that women enjoyed most power and freedom, and were least shut apart from the men by custom.
It is in the first part of this book, however— the discussion of homosexuality in the service of religion—that most readers will find novelty. Elie Reclus, indeed, in his sympathetic and penetrating study of savage life, Primitive Folk, had realized this function of abnormal sexuality in early culture, and it has been further developed by later writers (notably Horneffer in his work on priesthood, not referred to in the book before us), but the connection still seems to most people somewhat of a paradox. It is frequently regarded as, at most, a piece of superstition. Edward Carpenter argues, however, that there really is an organic connection between the homosexual temperament and unusual psychic or divinatory powers, and that this connection is exaggerated in popular view by the fact that ideas of sorcery and witchcraft become especially associated with the ceremonials of an old religion which is being superseded by a new religion. There are four ways in which the homosexual man or woman tends to become a force in primitive culture: (1) not being a complete man or a complete woman, the invert is impelled to create a new sphere of activity; (2) being different from others, and sometimes an object of contempt, sometimes of admiration, his mind is turned in on himself, and he is forced to think; (3) frequently combining masculine and feminine qualities, he would sometimes be greatly superior in ability to the rest of the tribe; (4) the blending of the masculine and feminine temperaments would sometimes produce persons whose perceptions were so subtle, complex, and rapid that they would be diviners and prophets in a very real sense, and acquire a strange reputation for sanctity and divinity. These four processes seem to run into each other, but the general outcome is that in primitive culture "variations of sex-temperament from the normal have not been negligible freaks, but have played an important part in the evolution and expansion of human society."
These are some of the topics discussed by the light of the most recent literature in Mr. Edward Carpenter's volume. It is a valuable contribution to the solution of an interesting problem.
This review is reprinted from; Views and Reviews: A Selection of Uncollected Articles, 1884-1932 by Havelock Ellis, First Series: 1884-1919, London, Desmond Harmsworth, 1932.
The introductory note is by Ellis.