On Homosexuality, Plato's Inappropriateness
& Sex at the Level of "Mutual Masturbation"
(from "Eros and the Mysteries of Love")
Homosexuality is so widespread a practice that it cannot be overlooked in a doctrine of sex. Goethe wrote that "it is as old as mankind and therefore can be said to be a part of nature although it is contrary to nature." If it is "an enigma which appears more mysterious the more we attempt to analyze it scientifically" (Ivan Bloch), it also forms a complex problem from the point of view of the metaphysics of sex as formulated in the foregoing pages.
We have already mentioned that in his theory of eros Plato often referred not only to heterosexual love but also to love for epheboi and male paramours. Now let us consider "eros" in those of its exalted forms that are linked to the aesthetic factor, according to the Platonic sequence already mentioned. We should pass gradually from beauty as seen by a given being to rapture that can be aroused by incorporeal beauty not linked to any particular person: divine beauty in an abstract sense. There is no real problem if the accidental starting point is a being of the same sex. The word "uranism," which some use to mean homosexuality, springs from Plato's distinction between Aphrodite Urania and Aphrodite Pandemia; Aphrodite Urania is the goddess of a noble love which is not carnal and unconcerned with procreation, as is the love which has woman as its object. It may be that pederasty (paidon eros, or love of boys) had in the beginning and to a certain degree a noble character when it was honored by ancient writers and poets and practiced by important personages. But it is now enough to read the last pages of theSymposium and the speech of Alcibiades in order to realize how little this eros remained "Platonic" in Hellas and how it also led increasingly to carnal developments as the ancient customs in Greece and Rome declined.
If, therefore, we assume homosexuality to conform to these carnal conditions or to correspond to ordinary sexual relations between man and woman, then we may well describe it as a deviation, not from a conventional or ethical point of view, but precisely from the standpoint of the metaphysics of sex.
It is inappropriate to apply, as Plato does, the metaphysical meaning made evident by the myth of the hermaphrodite to homosexual love or to love as practiced between pederasts or lesbians. In fact, in the case of such love, it is no longer allowable to speak of the impulse of the male or female principle, as present in the primordial being, to be reunited. The mythical being of our origin would, in such a case,have to be not hermaphroditic but homogeneous and of one sex only,either all man (in the case of pederasts) or all woman (in the case of lesbians), and the two lovers would seek to unite themselves as simple parts of one and the same substance. Thus the essential,which gives each myth its whole value, loses its meaning, namely, the idea of the polarity and the complementary nature of the two sexes asthe basis of the magnetism of love and of a "transcendency" in eros,and of the blinding and destructive revelation of the One.
To find an explanation it is necessary to descend to a lower level and examine various empirical possibilities. Normally two forms of homosexuality are distinguished in sexology: One has an inborn,natural character, whereas the other has an acquired character and is conditioned by psychological and sociological factors influenced by a person's environment. But in the second of these forms it is necessary to give a proper value to the distinction between forms having a vicious nature and forms that presuppose a latent predisposition which is aroused under given circumstances. It is necessary to set forth this condition because, given the same situation, different types behave in different ways and may not become homosexual. It is important, however, not to consider the inborn form of homosexuality in a rigid way but to allow a certain possibility of variation.
In natural homosexuality or in the predisposition to it, the most straightforward explanation is provided by what we said earlier about the differing levels of sexual development and about the fact that the process of sexual development in its physical and, even more so, in its psychic aspects can be incomplete. In that way, the original bisexual nature is surpassed to a lesser extent than in a "normal" human being, the characteristics of one sex not being predominant over those of the other sex to the same extent (see chapter 1). Next we must deal with what M. Hirschfeld called the "intermediate sexual forms." In cases of this kind (for instance, when a person who is nominally a man is only 60 percent male), it is impossible that the erotic attraction based on the polarity of the sexes in heterosexuality -which is much stronger the more the man is male and the woman is female- can also be born between individuals who,according to the birth registry and as regards only the so-called primary sexual characteristics, belong to the same sex, because in actual fact they are "intermediate forms." In the case of pederasts, Ulrichs said rightly that it is possible to find "the soul of a woman born in the body of a man."
But it is necessary to take into account the possibility of constitutional mutations, a possibility that has been given little consideration by sexologists; that is, we must also bear in mind cases of regression. It may be that the governing power on which the sexual nature of a given individual depends (a nature that is truly male or truly female)may grow weak through neutralization, atrophy, or reduction of the latent state of the characteristics of the other sex, and this may lead to the activation and emergence of these recessive characteristics. And here the surroundings and the general atmosphere of society can play a not unimportant part. In a civilization where equality is the standard, where differences are not linked, where promiscuity is in favor, where the ancient idea of "being true to oneself" means nothing anymore -in such a splintered and materialistic society, it is clear that this phenomenon of regression and homosexuality should be particularly welcome, and therefore it is in no way a surprise to seethe alarming increase in homosexuality and the "third sex" in the latest "democratic" period, or an increase in sex changes to an extent unparalleled in other eras.
But the reference to "intermediate sexual forms," to an incomplete process of the development of sex or to a regression, does not explain all the varieties of homosexuality. In fact, there have been male homosexuals who have not been effeminate or "intermediate forms"but even men of war, individuals decidedly manly in their appearance and behavior, powerful men who have had or could have had the most beautiful women at their disposal. Such homosexuality is hard to explain, and we have the right here to speak of deviation and perversion, or "vice" linked, perhaps, to a fashion. Indeed, it is hard to understand what can drive a man who is truly a man sexually toward an individual of the same sex. If appropriate material for the realization of the zenith of the orgasm of heterosexual love is almost nonexistent, this is even more the case in the embraces of homosexual love. However, there is reason to suppose that it is merely a matter of "mutual masturbation" and that the conditioned reflexes are exploited for "pleasure" since not only the metaphysical but also the physical premises for a whole and destructive union are lacking.
On the other hand, classical antiquity bears witness not so much to a homosexuality having sole rights and being the foe of women and wedlock, but rather to a bisexual attitude in which both women and young men were used (as a counterpart, there are generally many cases of very highly sexed and also very feminine women who are at the same time lesbians, with bisexual practices). Here it seems that the governing motivation was simply the desire to try everything. However, not even this point is very clear because, apart from the fact that there was femininity in the epheboi and youths who were the favorite object of those pederasts, we may also refer to the crude saying, taken by Goethe from a Greek writer, that if one has had enough from a girl as a girl, she can always play the part of a boy ("Habe ich als Mädchen sie satt, dient es als Knabe noch").
As to the claim for an ideal nature of hermaphroditic wholeness in the pederast who acts both as man and as woman sexually, that is obvious fallacious beyond the level of straightforward sensations;hermaphroditic wholeness can only be "sufficiency," for it has no need of another being and is to be sought at the level of a spiritual realization that excludes the nuances that the "magic of the two" can offer in heterosexual unions.
Even the rationale sometimes found in countries such as Turkey and Japan, that homosexual possession gives a feeling of power, is not convincing. The pleasure of domination can also be felt with women and with other beings in situations free of sexual intercourse. Besides, such a pleasure could be involved only in a completely pathological context where it would develop into a true orgasm.
Thus overall, when homosexuality is not "natural" or else cannot be explained in terms of incomplete inborn forms of sexual development, it must have the character of a deviation, a vice, or a perversion. And if some instances of extreme erotic intensity in relations between homosexuals should be adduced, the explanation is to besought in the possibility of the displacement of eros. Indeed, it is enough to go through any treatise on sexual psychopathology to see in how many unthinkable situations the erotic potential of a human being can be aroused, sometimes to the level of orgiastic frenzy (from fetishism even to animal sodomy and necrophilia). The same anomalous background could include the case of homosexuality,although the latter is much more frequent: a displaced eros for which a being of the same sex can serve as a simple, occasional cause or support, as in so many cases of psychopathy, although it must wholly lack every profound dimension and every meaning higher than experience because of the absence of the necessary ontological and metaphysical premises. As we shall see in certain aspects of sadism and masochism, it is possible to find elements that can be included in the deepest structures of heterosexual erotics and that become perversions only when freed from limitations. No similar recognition can be given in respect to homosexuality.