What have been called perversions are deviations from the customary or normal sex act, ranging all the way from simple variations of sexual technic to actual cruelty and murder. Such individuals have been known from the earliest times, and were common in antiquity. It was not frowned upon in those days as it is now, when stringent laws against it are in force. As in so many fields, it is only relatively recently that doctors and psychiatrists have studied it as they should, with the result that, today, we tend to regard such individuals as cases needing treatment, mainly along psychological lines.
One form of perversion is known as sadism, so-called because of the writings of Count deSade, who dealt with it extensively. In this, pleasure of a sexual nature is derived from inflicting pain upon others, either by whipping them or torturing them in other ways. Those who like to have pain inflicted upon themselves, on the other hand, are known as masochists, and the type of perversion itself as masochism. Naturally, sadists and masochists are often found in each other’s company, though many professional prostitutes will consent to have pain inflicted upon them for the sake of the money they are paid for under-going such treatment.
Sadists often carry their love of cruelty to extremes, even going so far as to mutilate and kill their victims, in their abnormal excitement. Such individuals are true sex-maniacs, and as such are a terrible menace to society, since their victims, too often, are mere children. As such, they should be imprisoned, like any other potential murderer. Treatment is rarely successful in these extreme cases, though some progress has been made in this direction. Usually these insane impulses are so deep-seated that they last for life.
Another form of perversion is known as exhibitionism, in which the subject has an overwhelming desire to exhibit his sex organs in public. Exhibitionists are almost always men, who will exhibit themselves without shame in public places.
Some perverts, usually those who are impotent, derive pleasure from seeing others perform the sexual act, though they themselves cannot do so. Another curious form of perversion is known as fetishism; and in these cases, the subject derives sexual satisfaction from various objects of feminine attire shoes, underwear, hair, etc. These objects are stroked, kissed and fondled.
The most common form of perversion, however, is homosexuality. This occurs in both men and women, and has been known from the earliest times. In these cases, the object of affection is one of their own sex where a man loves a man and a woman loves a woman. Some authorities place the number of homosexuals as high as five percent of the population.
Homosexuality is both congenital and acquired. Every man and every woman has a certain percentage of the opposite sex latent within them. No man is 100 percent masculine, and no woman 100 percent feminine. Let us say that the normal is somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 percent. In some men and women, this percentage is far greater: it may be 70-30, or 60-40, or any other proportionate percentage. If this passes the 50 percent mark, then the individual is definitely homosexual. Men of this type delight in dressing in women’s clothes, looking at feminine underwear and affecting feminine mannerisms of speech and action. Women, on the other hand, usually cut their hair short, dress in mannish garb, and act as nearly as they can as a man would act. While their bodies are unchanged, their whole mental viewpoint is altered. Having so much of the opposite sex in them, they are naturally drawn to their own sex, because this then represents to them the complement of their own nature. They have, so to say, a feminine mind in a masculine body, and vice versa.
It is possible that many cases of homosexuality are due to alterations in the body chemistry and the secretions of the ductless glands. The hormones secreted by these glands are not normal in character, but partake to a great extent of the composition of the opposite sex. On the other hand, many homosexuals have undoubtedly become such because of their environment and associations. They have been led into homosexuality because of the influence of some person whom they have met. Indications of this tendency often appear very early in life, from four years of age and upwards. The majority of them develop, however, after puberty.
Male homosexuals are often extremely masculine in appearance, being muscular and athletic. No one would image that they possessed this tendency. In female homosexuals, the characteristics are usually far more obvious.
When men and women are separated from one another over long periods of time, a certain amount of homosexuality is almost bound to develop. During the late war, for example, thousands of young men turned either to masturbation or to homosexuality. On the other hand, when girls are thrown together, as they are in seminaries, finishing-schools, etc., they develop crushes, which may take on a definitely erotic character. In the absence of attractive members of the opposite sex, they compensate by loving members of their own sex; and this temporary shift of their emotions may become a habit, so that they no longer care for their natural complements, but continue as they are. Again, many girls and young women who have been disillusioned or shocked by the relatively coarse and brutal approach of some man, turn homosexual many of them developing into genuine man haters. They are then ripe to fall under the influence of some homosexual woman; and once they have developed this tendency, it is hard, indeed, to break them of it.
Homosexuality is not primarily a moral question, but physical and psychological. Sympathy, understanding and treatment are necessary, if any change in their outlook is to be expected. All sorts of therapeutic measures have been tried: hypnotic suggestion, psychoanalysis, diet, athletics, treatment by association, re-education, etc. None of these methods has thus far proved very successful. Glandular treatments, coupled with suitable psychological advice, offers the most promising possibility. But the most important thing for parents and teachers to recognize is that homosexual tendencies must not be looked upon as a sin, but rather as a peculiarity, requiring sympathetic understanding and psychological help. This minority represents a specialized group, much as those who are bom left-handed. The majority of boys and girls outgrow their homosexual tendencies when they become older, and begin to indulge in regular sexual intercourse. Others remain homosexuals throughout life and these individuals must be prevented, if possible, from spreading their ideas and desires to others, who would otherwise grow up normal or heterosexual. Mating of the opposite sexes is the law of nature, and this ideal must be fostered and maintained.