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SEXUAL INVERSION IN WOMEN.
Prevalence of Sexual Inversion Among Women--Among Women of
Ability--Among the Lower Races--Temporary Homosexuality in Schools,
etc.--Histories--Physical and Psychic Characteristics of Inverted
Women--The Modern Development of Homosexuality Among Women.
Homosexuality is not less common in women than in men. In the seriocomic
theory of sex set forth by Aristophanes in Plato's _Symposium_, males and
females are placed on a footing of complete equality, and, however
fantastic, the theory suffices to indicate that to the Greek mind, so
familiar with homosexuality, its manifestations seemed just as likely to
occur in women as in men. That is undoubtedly the case. Like other
anomalies, indeed, in its more pronounced forms it may be less frequently
met with in women; in its less pronounced forms, almost certainly, it is
more frequently found. A Catholic confessor, a friend tells me, informed
him that for one man who acknowledges homosexual practices there are three
women. For the most part feminine homosexuality runs everywhere a parallel
course to masculine homosexuality and is found under the same conditions.
It is as common in girls as in boys; it has been found, under certain
conditions, to abound among women in colleges and convents and prisons, as
well as under the ordinary conditions of society. Perhaps the earliest
case of homosexuality recorded in detail occurred in a woman, and it
was with the investigation of such a case in a woman that Westphal may be
said to have inaugurated the scientific study of inversion.
Moreover, inversion is as likely to be accompanied by high intellectual
ability in a woman as in a man. The importance of a clear conception of
inversion is indeed in some respects, under present social conditions,
really even greater in the case of women than of men. For if, as has
sometimes been said of our civilization, "this is a man's world," the
large proportion of able women inverts, whose masculine qualities render
it comparatively easy for them to adopt masculine avocations, becomes a
highly significant fact.
It has been noted of distinguished women in all ages and in all fields of
activity that they have frequently displayed some masculine traits.
Even "the first great woman in history," as she has been called by a
historian of Egypt, Queen Hatschepsu, was clearly of markedly virile
temperament, and always had herself represented on her monuments in
masculine costume, and even with a false beard. Other famous queens
have on more or less satisfactory grounds been suspected of a homosexual
temperament, such as Catherine II of Russia, who appears to have been
bisexual, and Queen Christina of Sweden, whose very marked masculine
traits and high intelligence seem to have been combined with a definitely
homosexual or bisexual temperament.
Great religious and moral leaders, like Madame Blavatsky and Louise
Michel, have been either homosexual or bisexual or, at least, of
pronounced masculine temperament. Great actresses from the eighteenth
century onward have frequently been more or less correctly identified with
homosexuality, as also many women distinguished in other arts. Above
all, Sappho, the greatest of women poets, the peer of the greatest poets
of the other sex in the supreme power of uniting art and passion, has left
a name which is permanently associated with homosexuality.
It can scarcely be said that opinion is unanimous in regard to
Sappho, and the reliable information about her, outside the
evidence of the fragments of her poems which have reached us, is
scanty. Her fame has always been great; in classic times her name
was coupled with Homer's. But even to antiquity she was somewhat
of an enigma, and many legends grew up around her name, such as
the familiar story that she threw herself into the sea for the
love of Phaon. What remains clear is that she was regarded with
great respect and admiration by her contemporaries, that she was
of aristocratic family, that she was probably married and had a
daughter, that at one time she had to take her part in political
exile, and that she addressed her girl friends in precisely
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