Sexual Inversion – Homosexuality
By Havelock Ellis
Read by Charles Armstrong
16 hours 29 minutes

The seven volumes of Studies in the Psychology of Sex by Havelock Ellis (1859-1939) which appeared between 1900 and 1928 were each a landmark in the more open considerations of sexual impulse in the Western world. And none more so than Volume 2 which appeared in 1900. It examined homosexuality, though Ellis more frequently used the term ‘sexual inversion’ which, at the time, had broader (but not derogatory) implications. Actually, Ellis collaborated on the original text with the poet John Addington Symonds, an acknowledged homosexual; and although Symonds withdrew his name before publication, it is clear that Ellis’s sympathetic attitude towards the practice of homosexuality was influenced by his contact with artists such as Symonds. In fact, in his Preface, Ellis writes unequivocally of the burden born by men and women, who had to conceal their natural instincts because of the prevailing views of society. Of course, over the past century and more, those views – and legal attitudes – have changed considerably. But it is fascinating to think what his original readers thought as they encountered the wide-ranging evidence from anthropologists, historians, doctors and psychologists. He notes homosexual practices among animals as well in human society, from Greeks to Eskimos. He refers to artists such as Michelangelo and Walt Whitman: Ellis titles one section ‘Among Men of Exceptional Talent and Moral Leaders’. He also draws on earlier reports from researchers including Krafft-Ebbing and Freud. Further discussions cover bisexuality and homosexuality in schools, the ‘Importance of the Congenital Element,’ and inversion ‘as a Variation or Sport.’ Chapter IV concentrates on ‘Sexual Inversion in Women’. And two Appendices report unexpectedly on ‘Homosexuality among Tramps’ and ‘The School-friendships of Girls’. In fact, reading this pioneering document in the light of 21st century attitudes gives an important and striking perspective to the changes that have happened since – while at the same time highlighting the prejudice that still remains.

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Available 10 February on audible: £33.29 or subscription.