oursin: Photograph of James Miranda Barry, c. 1850 (James Miranda Barry)
[personal profile] oursin posting in [community profile] queering_holmes

[personal profile] kindkit expressed an interest in hearing something about the medicalisation of homosexuality in the Victorian era, and I offered to oblige.

Thinking it over, I was not entirely sure that what was happening was medicalisation, because the vast majority of doctors Did Not Want To Know About Icky Sex Stuff of any description (as delineated in an article which is unfortunately not accessible online, L A Hall, '"The English Have Hot Water Bottles": the morganatic marriage between the British medical profession and sexology since William Acton' in Sexual knowledge, sexual science: the history of attitudes to sexuality, edited by Roy Porter and Mikulas Teich, Cambridge University Press, 1994).

True, some of them were approaching the subject of male homosexuality via e.g. forensic medicine, venereology and psychiatric practice. I find that Ivan Crozier's 'The Medical Construction of Homosexuality and its Relation to the Law in Nineteenth-Century England', Medical History, 45, 2001 is freely available via PubMed, and while I do find some of Crozier's work in this area a bit problematic, this is quite a useful contextualisation of the background to Havelock Ellis' work. (Crozier has recently published a critical edition of Ellis's Sexual Inversion. I haven't read the published version.)

However, I think a plausible case can be made that what was going on over the course of the C19th was an endeavour by men who identified as homosexual (or 'inverted' or 'Uranian') to use the resources of science and medicine to construct same-sex desire as a part of nature, a natural thing, rather than 'against nature' or an 'unnatural offence'.

There's a useful website on Karl Ulrichs, the pioneer of this approach.

For more on the thinking that was developing in continental Europe, see Harry Oosterhuis, Stepchildren of Nature: Krafft-Ebing, Psychiatry and the Making of Sexual Identity, University of Chicago Press, 2000. Krafft-Ebing's famous or notorious Psychopathia Sexualis was available in English translation from the early 1890s. I can't recall whether either Watson or Holmes are said to be able to read German (although in Nicholas Meyer's The Seven Per Cent Solution, 1974, movie 1976, Watson takes Holmes to Vienna so that Freud can cure his cocaine habit, I'm not sure of the canonicity of Watson's acquaintance with cutting-edge Continental ideas): there were other works in German e.g. those of Albert Moll. Also some French works.

I would not think it entirely improbable that H&W could have got hold of John Addington Symonds' A Problem in Greek Ethics (1873/1883) and A Problem in Modern Ethics (1891) - although Symonds had these privately printed and disseminated them carefully they were rapidly pirated. Or Edward Carpenter's 1894 Homogenic Love: and its Place in a Free Society (which was left out when the series of essays of which it was part was published as Love's Coming of Age, 1896, though added back into later editions). But these were men of letters/social reformers, even if they were using various scientific studies and theories to support their arguments.

I think H&W might very well have acquired a copy of Havelock Ellis's Sexual Inversion, 1897, possibly even the original edition with Symonds as co-author, which his executors had pulled from sale and destroyed and rewritten to keep Symonds' name out of it out of respect for his widow and children. Ellis was a doctor, but had qualified essentially to give himself cred when researching the psychology of sex, which he considered his life's work. He had a massive knowledge of the contemporary and historical literature on the subject.

What all these were about was toleration and acceptance for the wide diversity of human emotions and affections. I.e not fixing, not curing, but destigmatising and decriminalising. (Krafft-Ebing was a signatory to the petition to repeal the relevant section of the German Penal Code.)

I'm not sure anyone's looked at this in much detail, but my own feeling is that the upsurge of medical attempts to 'cure', whether by hypnosis, hormone treatments, various psychiatric therapies, etc, really only starts manifesting in the C20th, possibly not even until after the Great War (I don't think courts were recommending psychiatric evaluation/treatment until maybe the 1930s, and then only sporadically). It's a while since I've read Forster's Maurice, but as I recollect his family GP totally poohpoohs the idea that a chap like Maurice could be 'an unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort' and tells him to go and have a prostitute (this was certainly one thing that was anecdotally prescribed). Though I think he also sees a hypnotist, without much success?

I hope this is some help.

Date: 2010-05-21 09:53 pm (UTC)
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)
From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid
Watson takes Holmes to Vienna so that Freud can cure his cocaine habit

In my head, this leads to Freud and Holmes doing coke together and discussing the human condition.

Date: 2010-05-21 09:56 pm (UTC)
recessional: bare-footed person in jeans walks on log (film; rebel at stagnation)
From: [personal profile] recessional
+1.

And Freud not really realizing that Holmes finds him EXTREMELY FASCINATING, as a study-subject.

Date: 2010-05-21 09:58 pm (UTC)
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)
From: [personal profile] ironed_orchid
And of course Freud is trying to psychoanalyze Holmes, but he's not quite there with the theory yet.

Not that Holmes needs to be pschoanalyzed, because rational men like Holmes don't have unconcious desires.
Edited (i misread) Date: 2010-05-21 09:59 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-05-21 11:41 pm (UTC)
damned_colonial: Sherlock Holmes holding a small, ineffectual hammer. (holmes)
From: [personal profile] damned_colonial
Holmes reads German, I think, based on the beginning of SCAN:

“What do you make of that?” asked Holmes.

“The name of the maker, no doubt; or his monogram, rather.”

“Not at all. The ‘G’ with the small ‘t’ stands for ‘Gesellschaft,’ which is the German for ‘Company.’ It is a customary contraction like our ‘Co.’ ‘P,’ of course, stands for ‘Papier.’ Now for the ‘Eg.’ Let us glance at our Continental Gazetteer.” He took down a heavy brown volume from his shelves. “Eglow, Eglonitz—here we are, Egria. It is in a German-speaking country—in Bohemia, not far from Carlsbad. ‘Remarkable as being the scene of the death of Wallenstein, and for its numerous glass-factories and paper-mills.’ Ha, ha, my boy, what do you make of that?” His eyes sparkled, and he sent up a great blue triumphant cloud from his cigarette.

“The paper was made in Bohemia,” I said.

“Precisely. And the man who wrote the note is a German. Do you note the peculiar construction of the sentence—‘This account of you we have from all quarters received.’ A Frenchman or Russian could not have written that. It is the German who is so uncourteous to his verbs. It only remains, therefore, to discover what is wanted by this German who writes upon Bohemian paper and prefers wearing a mask to showing his face. And here he comes, if I am not mistaken, to resolve all our doubts.”


(It doesn't mean he's fluent, but it is, as Holmes would say, suggestive.)

ETA: Also, grepping the text, there's the stuff about "Rache" being German for "Revenge" in STUD. Those are the only references I can find to him speaking German.
Edited Date: 2010-05-21 11:45 pm (UTC)

Date: 2010-05-22 01:30 am (UTC)
kindkit: Text: im in ur history emphasizin ur queerz (Fandomless: Queer history)
From: [personal profile] kindkit
as I recollect his family GP totally poohpoohs the idea that a chap like Maurice could be 'an unspeakable of the Oscar Wilde sort' and tells him to go and have a prostitute

Actually, Dr. Barry, being a nice respectable suburban doctor, recommends that Maurice get married.

I can easily imagine a scenario where Watson's marriage is an attempt to cure his own homosexuality or bisexuality, which, like Dr. Barry, he might well consider to be nothing but a morbid fantasy that would go away as soon as he had a regular, acceptable sexual outlet.

Watson repeatedly talks about being behind on his medical reading, so the new theories of sexuality being developed (Foucault claims an 1870 article by neurologist Carl Westphal as the first emergence of "the psychological, psychiatric, medical category of the homosexual") might well have taken a loooong time to trickle down to him. Especially if he couldn't read German. On the other hand, it might well have been a topic of some interest to him, which he would've sought out if he heard about the new scholarship.

I don't think courts were recommending psychiatric evaluation/treatment until maybe the 1930s

One of the books in Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy (I think it was The Ghost Road) includes a mention of a young man arrested for cottaging who's sent to W. R. Rivers for psychiatric treatment in lieu of a prison sentence. But of course that's fiction and Barker may be backdating later practice.

Date: 2010-05-22 03:57 pm (UTC)
kindkit: Text: im in ur history emphasizin ur queerz (Fandomless: Queer history)
From: [personal profile] kindkit
As I recall, the Barker book doesn't explain the legal situation much, but there's a conversation (between either Sassoon or Prior and Rivers) in which S. or P. is angry at Rivers for being willing to try to "cure" the man's homosexuality. And Rivers answers "Would you rather he was sentenced to two years' hard labour?" So shell-shock or not, there was clearly some kind of expectation that Rivers would treat/change the man's sexuality. Whether that reflects actual practice at the time, however, I don't know.

I foolishly made my comment before reading the Crozier article you linked to; I now have a clearer sense of the state of British medical thinking on homosexuality and the extent of Continental influence. (I must say that I'm suspicious of the sharp line Crozier draws between medical and legal discourse, especially since despite their turf war, ultimately the two coincided for much of the twentieth century, with both defining queer sex as harmful and with medical/psychiatric treatment becoming a punishment one could be sentenced to.)

Date: 2010-05-22 07:00 am (UTC)
marshtide: (Default)
From: [personal profile] marshtide
I'm not sure anyone's looked at this in much detail, but my own feeling is that the upsurge of medical attempts to 'cure', whether by hypnosis, hormone treatments, various psychiatric therapies, etc, really only starts manifesting in the C20th, possibly not even until after the Great War (I don't think courts were recommending psychiatric evaluation/treatment until maybe the 1930s, and then only sporadically).

That's kind of the feeling I got as well - Freud wasn't even writing about sexuality until the early 20th century, and it was more the people who got hold of his ideas that were big on 'cures', wasn't it? It wasn't even him himself. & in the 20s people like Hall and her friends were still talking more about the concept of inversion, which, however problematic, was often used to apply a degree of naturalness to the whole idea. In my mind the idea of homosexuality as a treatable sickness belongs largely to the mid 20th century, though I don't know how accurate that is. (It is how books like Out of the Past by Neil Miller tend to talk about it, as far as I remember, and the BBC documentary It's Not Unusual gave the impression that it was something that really picked up steam in the UK after the second world war, though that was a documentary based on individual stories more than anything so their experiences aren't necessarily representative. I'm also not very well-read on this period.)

I wouldn't be surprised at all as, if a doctor & a rather unconventional one at that, Watson could read German, given Germany's reputation for science at the time. I would also be shocked if Holmes hadn't read the specific German texts in question; it seems, at the very least, pretty key to his habit of studying human nature, particularly as fell outside the perceived norms of the time. Also, one has to feel as though he's probably read anything that could conceivably be relevant to anything... *wry*
Edited (brain thinks one word, hands type another) Date: 2010-05-22 07:01 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-05-22 03:59 pm (UTC)
kindkit: Text: im in ur history emphasizin ur queerz (Fandomless: Queer history)
From: [personal profile] kindkit
I associate the hormone treatment that e.g. Alan Turing experienced and aversion therapy with the 50s.

But is that a matter of an altered discourse or simply new technologies? (Not that the demarcation is absolute, but . . .)

Date: 2010-05-22 04:04 pm (UTC)
kindkit: Text: im in ur history emphasizin ur queerz (Fandomless: Queer history)
From: [personal profile] kindkit
Oh, and here's a thought (with no real knowledge to back it up, I'm afraid): Could the nastier treatments like aversion therapy be descendents of the nastier treatments for shell-shock, such as the use of electrical shocks to force mute patients to speak? To the extent that shell-shock was seen as a failure of masculinity, the parallels are especially suggestive.

Date: 2010-05-25 11:49 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] spacefall
Would that be "Her Husband Was A Woman"? That book was such an eye-opener for me in terms of how long those views persisted.

Date: 2010-05-22 08:08 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] spacefall
Erm, I just wanted to say 'too right' re Ulrichs and Carpenter. A lot of sexological texts borrow from things that were already going on with individuals.

Date: 2010-05-25 06:16 pm (UTC)
damned_colonial: Convicts in Sydney, being spoken to by a guard/soldier (Default)
From: [personal profile] damned_colonial
Is that what they're calling it these days? ;)

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