- Uranismus complicatus:Scientific-Humanitarian Disentanglements of Gender and Age Attractions
In 1891 Berlin psychiatrist and hypnotist Albert Moll alluded to the possibility that in the nineteenth century, Western European male homosexuality underwent a "shift of preference" (Geschmacksveränderung) from youth to mature men.1 How to date such a shift proved problematic, as nonforensic and even forensic data on such preferences were few. Moll cites midcentury reports from the Mediterranean shores to the Far East that suggested that the ancient Greek pattern of age-disparate liaisons involving youths and boys was (still) à la mode, while Claude-François Michéa's 1849 clinical use of the term philopédie, for instance, heavily implied it.2 Where the ancient system of "boy" love (paiderastia) had commonly been approached philologically with inferences of cultural diffusion and significance, a new domestic "urban modality" (grossstädtischen Form, in the words of one commentator, August Krauss) of age parity gave rise to clinical theories of constitutionally "contrary sexual feeling" by pioneer advocate for "man-manly sexual love" Karl Heinrich Ulrichs and by Moll's Berlin colleague Carl Westphal.3 Moll agreed with Ulrichs that the new forms of male same-sex [End Page 101] relationships seen in German cities provided evidence for considerable variety in age preference—"differences of taste" (Geschmacksrichtung) that, from Ulrichs onward, were caught up with the exercises in etiology, demarcation, and subclassification that these emergent theories demanded. If some homosexuality was possibly innate, what about its varieties? As examined below, the increasingly typologizing question of example and seduction ("acquired pederasty"), for instance, rendered age preferences and age differences pivotal challenges to the generations of scientific-humanitarian elucidation of inborn species of sexual orientation to follow.4
At one level, the issue appeared to be a straightforwardly empirical one. On the basis of fifty Urning (male homosexual) cases, the author of an 1882 German pamphlet stated of the two main types he here distinguishes, masculine youth-loving Pädicatoren and feminine man-loving Pathici, that their number was identical.5 Two separate questionnaires on homosexuality of the next decade, one drafted by Georges Saint-Paul and another by Magnus Hirschfeld, were the first to empirically explore the finding, and in 1914 Hirschfeld cited a similarly even (45/45 percent) ratio between what he called ephebophiles and androphiles.6 The terms had reifying, naturalizing potential; but if Hirschfeld's epochal work accomplished "a principled re-inscription of sexual [and even racial] difference in an expansive framework of natural continuity," as J. Edgar Bauer has argued, such a programmatic appreciation of continuity was [End Page 102] hardly extended to gradations in age preference.7 Unlike Moll, Hirschfeld long delayed theorizing ephebophilia, and it is ironic that throughout his oeuvre, he reified and pathologized the contiguous category of pedophilia. Hirschfeld's work also never led to a further nuancing of age preferences, such as seen after his death.8
Moreover, Hirschfeld only gradually tried to resolve the politically charged and forensically critical question of age preferences from within his career-making Zwischenstufenlehre—his theory of intermediate sexual stages. As had Ulrichs and Moll, Hirschfeld eventually attempted to contain the question of erotic age preference within the larger, biomedical scope of sexual constitutions, historically converging with a more general movement toward Konstitutionslehre—the theory of constitutions. But in doing so, he failed to explore the many possible implications. In 1926 Hirschfeld noted that his politically expedient allegiance to the legal status quo, especially the age of consent, made him disinclined to apply his overriding interest in establishing natural continuities to the case of erotic age orientation or to its purported intrapsychic correlate, psychosexual maturity.9 In Germany as elsewhere, debates about the appropriate age for sexual consent raged between activists, the medical community, and policy makers, but they never had a straightforwardly scientific relation to nature's timing of male sexual maturity. From its inception, Hirschfeld's strategy had been to establish a gap between natural and eligible timetables for sexual expression, but he reconsidered this on later occasions and ended up having to strike a precarious balance between entrenching novel reifications ("pedophilia") and normalizing others ("ephebophilia").