Amorous Emotion in the Homosexual
( Originally Published 1957 )
The main features of amorous attraction between men and women are fully characteristic of attachments among homosexuals, according to a number of students. Edward Carpenter states, "It would be a great mistake to suppose that their attachments are necessarily . . . connected with sexual acts. On the contrary (as abundant evidence shows), they are often purely emotional in their character; and to confuse [them] .. . with libertines having no law but curiosity in self-indulgence is to do them a great wrong." Homosexual love, in the judgment of Loewenfeld, shows the same variations of amorous and sensual components, the same idealizations and disillusions, "ecstasies and heartbreaks," as the normal emotion; it has, likewise, as many degrees of depth and power. The deviation lies, not in the feelings, but in the choice of object. He doubts that the sensual impulse among male homosexuals is stronger than that of normals; in many cases, among both men and women, sensual desires are not at all prominent.
Fere agrees that "There are cases in which the manifestations of the instinct are confined to the psychic sphere . . . in which carnal desires completely disappear. . . . Platonic love may show itself solely in an exalted admiration for the person beloved. In other cases, it is characterized by a desire to touch, to kiss, without any conscious intervention of the genital sense." Similarly, Bloch states: "Ideal love and the gratification of the grossest sensuality are . . . the two poles between which the amatory manifestations of male homosexuals oscillate. Many confine themselves to simple contacts, caresses, kisses and em-braces." Eugene Kahn writes: "With not a few homosexuals it may be a matter only of kissing and caressing and never of sexual activity in the narrowest sense of the word . . ." In the opinion of Hirschfeld, outstanding among European students of homosexuality, "If we turn to the close inspection of the detailed phenomena of this symptom complex, we see that in all cases of true homosexuality, long before the appearance of a homosexual act, the individual has felt strongly attracted, psychically, to certain persons of the same sex. This involuntary, pleasurably toned fixation of the senses and the mind occurs long before its sexual character, as such, enters consciousness."
An illustration of such amorous emotion is seen in one of Moll's examples. The attraction here is of an older man toward a boy.
He fell in love with him at first sight. He did everything in his power to come closer; got in touch with his family, rented a room near the house. . . . [His] greatest pleasure was to hold his . . . hand, sit near him, take walks with him and tell him stories. . . . He loved him without wanting to know to what sex he belonged. In his presence he never felt any reflex in his sex organs. . . . His love for the boy was a great puzzle. . . . He would study the boy attentively to try to discover what there really was in him, but the only answer he got was that he must continue loving him. . . . When circumstances forced him to change his residence, he became so unhappy that he had to return after a very short time. Strange to say, in his relations with persons of like sex, the beloved ones have never affected [his] genitals, but persons that were less familiar to him did.
In the report of a male homosexual, quoted by Edward Carpenter, separation of the two responses again appears.
I was fifteen years . . . old when the first erotic dream announced the arrival of puberty. I had had no previous experience of sex-satisfaction, either in the Urning direction or in any other.... From a much earlier time, however, I had been subject partly to tender yearnings and partly to sensual longing without definite form and purpose — the two emotions being always separate from each other and never experienced for one and the same man.
Carpenter quotes in description of an attachment of a sixteenyear-old:
I would have died for him ten times over. My devices and plannings to meet him (to come across him casually, as it were) were those of a lad for his sweetheart, and when I saw him my heart beat so violently that it caught my breath, and I could not speak. We met in and for the weeks that he stayed there I thought of nothing else . . . thought of him night and day . . . and when he returned to London I used to write him weekly letters, veritable love-letters of many sheets in length.... The passion, violent and extravagant as it was, I believe to have been perfectly free from sex-feeling and perfectly wholesome and good for me.
Comparable examples may be drawn from other sources:
At the age of puberty he dreamed in two ways, but always about males. One species of vision was highly idealistic; a radiant and lovely young man's face with floating hair appeared to him on a background of dim shadows. The other was obscene, being generally the sight of a groom's or carter's genitals in a state of violent erection.
Toward the end of this period of (promiscuous genital play) there was a new and increasing development of another sort, not recognized then as at all sexual in character. He began to feel toward certain boys in a way very different and much keener than he had done thus far toward girls, although at the time he made no comparisons. For instance, there was a boy whom he considered very pretty. They visited each other often and spent long times playing together. In school they looked and looked at each other until delicious, uncontrollable giggling spells came on. Sexual matters were never discussed or thought of. These experiences were, in their way, very sentimental and ideal. "M.O." is sure that with himself the main consideration was always the other boy's beauty.
One of the male homosexuals studied by G. W. Henry reports :
I became conscious of the beauty of men's bodies and a desire to caress them gradually increased. I just wanted to caress an attractive male body . . . caressing men's calves, neck, shoulders and hands caused much more pleasure than mutual masturbation.... I'm not interested except in embracing and caressing.
As earlier suggested, for some persons the fusion of amorous and sensual feelings may be so complete as to make attempts at separation meaningless, in any personal sense. And for some, doubtless, descriptions of a form of sexual attraction not basically sensual may appear as no more than efforts, on moral or aesthetic grounds, to mask the crude "animality" of genital de-sire with appreciations of assumedly greater dignity. But still others may find they have no need of evidence, as in the fore-going materials, of the clear qualitative unlikeness of these experiences.