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  • Bayreuth and Homosexuality:A Reflection
  • Dr. Oskar Panizza

"One man alone can help him."

—Parsifal

On July 21, 1894, shortly before the first of the season's performances of Parsifal in Bayreuth, the morning edition of South Germany's most respected newspaper, an international journal of long standing, carried the following advertisement:

Young (foreign) bicyclist, Christian background, seeks similar companion from v. good household, up to 24 years old, for cycling holiday to Tyrol in month of August. Must be good-looking and have distinguished manners and enthusiastic character. Offers must be accompanied by photograph, which will be returned at once. Write to "Numa 77," poste restante, Bayreuth.

What intellectual undercurrents are circulating in our open and official daily lives whose very existence is utterly unknown to us?! The official order of the day, in matters of eroticism, is for men to sue for the hand of women, and for women to lead men astray. Everything that conforms to this scheme, whether it be in the sphere of art or poetry, law, diplomacy, or business, is legitimate and can be revealed in all its crass brutality; and high seriousness, tragedy, humor, and lyricism in each of their finest nuances are a part of this great copulatory process. This is the scheme of our earthly existence. Not of nature. For in nature what we find is parthenogenesis, hermaphroditism, conjugation, and metamorphosis, and all possible forms of sexual and reproductive concourse. But with us humans it is the great scheme around which all else revolves. Everything?

Not quite everything. Yet all that is not covered by this great formula is stamped on and trampled underfoot, sullied, reviled, and cast into darkness: I mean homosexual intercourse, whether between women or between men. Let us confine ourselves to the latter.

If we consider the worst of all cases in pedophilia—carnal intercourse—we shall see that ultimately what is involved here is nothing more nor less than carnal intercourse between men and women, except that the teleological factor, as this latter relates to reproduction, is lacking. Yet even in the majority of cases of intercourse between men and women this particular factor plays no part in their immediate thoughts. And both natural science and philosophy have long since grown used to ascribing a teleological factor—the concept of functionality—to "nature" in general, if not to deny it entirely. What we are saying is that nature aims to propagate the species by placing libidinous arousal at the very gateway to its mystery. Men and women are therefore wholly innocent with respect to the "purpose" of the exercise, a purpose which is imputed to them by "nature." To [End Page 324] say nothing of irregular forms of heterosexual intercourse such as irrumatio [oral sex], where there can never be any question of "purpose" (in the sense of "natural purpose") except one that is individual and libidinous. Carnal, then, is carnal.

And yet homosexual intercourse between males is looked upon—except by the doctor and philosopher—as the most reprehensible of all actions on earth. A quick and efficient murder is an act of heroism by contrast.

But now: a quite different consideration. We know from Krafft-Ebing's valuable study Psychopathia sexualis, containing as it does anonymous but direct evidence (in the form of biographical accounts on the part of a large number of such lamentable individuals), that carnal intercourse is a great rarity among homosexually inclined men; that the focus of the relationship lies almost solely in the mind, and that the whole tendency towards homosexuality must emphatically be regarded as something predominantly spiritual. It involves a most sublime association between a generally more mature man and a younger one which, as far as the senses are concerned, generally amounts to no more than visual and aural susceptibility. (If Ludwig II was charmed, it was principally by sonorous voices.) Rarely does the relationship go as far as tactile approaches apart from shaking hands, kissing, or hugging, which have a purely symbolic significance. On the whole, such an association assumes the form of an intellectual relationship in which, no matter the physical differences or age-gap involved, the essential features are joy in the meeting...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1476-2870
Print ISSN
0736-0053
Pages
pp. 324-328
Launched on MUSE
2007-11-19
Open Access
No
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