Decorated initial J

ust as was the case with inversion, so it was with use of the term Bisexuality, first in the hands of general academic disciplines, before arriving for the purposes here under especial consideration: biology, human physiology, sexuality, and psychopathology. The Shorter English Dictionary (hereafter SOED) gives E19 for adjectival use of bisexual; M19 for Bisexuality, and E20 for nounal use of bisexual.

Precedence once more largely lay with German-speaking researchers, and in particular Wilhelm Fliess (1858-1928), a Berlin nose and throat specialist, who Freud’s biographer Ernest Jones described, perhaps a little sarcastically owing to Fliess’s known excesses, as author of “the great theory of bisexuality”, (Jones, 1953, Bk.1, Chap. 13). Fliess had met Freud on a study-visit to Vienna in 1887, when physician Josef Breuer directed him to Freud’s university lecture on the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system. Freud had been appointed University of Vienna Lecturer in Neuropathology in 1885, after years of laboratory-microscope work on nervous-systems and physiology, conducted in the department of the great Ernst Brucke, 1819-1892. Freud was already of some note as a neurologist, with technical papers appearing in the journal Neurologisches Centralblatt and elsewhere. He also had a further post in the neurological department of the Kassowitz Children’s Institute, and when the two men thus met there was an immediate and mutual rapport, followed by an extensive correspondence over the following decade and more. Between these two, Fliess and Freud, together with Krafft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis and a very few others, the present scientific founding of Bisexuality Theory was securely grounded.

Whilst Fliess regrettably clouded his surer conception of a universal human biological bisexuality with further complications of ‘periodicity’, and with the even more nebulous and forced application of ‘numerology’, Freud maintained closer ties to the psychosexual developments he was best able to describe in terms of bisexuality as the new parameter. Already in his 1901 case of “Dora” he had asserted “our predisposition to bisexuality”, whilst in the first of his “Three Essays” of 1905 he highlighted a whole sub-section on Bisexuality: “in every normal male or female…traces are found of the apparatus of the opposite sex.” One thinks immediately of the redundant male breast nipples, whilst from the plentiful data of modern endocrinology we may note that the important female hormones oestrogen and progesterone are also found, in much reduced concentration, in men, while the male hormone testosterone is similarly present in the adult female. Freud’s Late-Victorian position is thus amply confirmed, namely that “an originally bisexual physical disposition has, in the course of evolution, become modified into a unisexual one”, op. cit. He goes on to quote “a spokesman of the male inverts” who had described bisexuality as “a female brain in a masculine body”, and corrects that with the statement by the influential Krafft-Ebing (1886-1893) that “every individual’s bisexual disposition endows…masculine and feminine brain centres as well as somatic organs of sex.” Freud the neurologist cannot help but correct this also, noting that the evidence was not yet available for the setting aside in the brain of specific “centres” for the function of sex. He himself had earlier been able to clarify and establish just such a brain centre, for speech and loss of speech function, in his elegant monograph On Aphasia in 1891.

In a field such as Gender Matters the construct of Bisexuality will thus provide a valuable analytical tool to help further clarify relations, transformations and confusions between differing though psych-sexually related individual states and their past, present and possible future choices of persons/object-choices, either as our social environment changes, or as ageing processes or an unseen (unconscious) combination of these continues to modify and influence our internal and/or external gender preferences and resultant behaviours. The example of Charlotte Mew was above given just such a (brief) treatment. The case of Oscar Wilde - nominally a notorious invert or homosexual in his day - has also in a recent article been questioned by Professor Landow, who correctly suggests that Wilde could be considered a bisexual.

Such a notion may be developed as follows. Wilde as a young man had already suffered tragic losses, of two female cousins burned to death, and of his adored younger sister Isola. His further heterosexual object-choices would always henceforth be deeply tinged with melancholy and pain. Once suitably married, however, he produced two adored sons and wrote and published two volumes of children’s fairy-stories for them. His increasing affairs with males/rent boys only gradually morph from apparent heterosexual to bisexual to homosexual as his married life deteriorates, and he is actively led by one long-standing young male-lover in particular. This latter, as noted by Wilde’s major biographer (Ellmann, 1987), introduced the married man to passive oral-sex or ‘fellatio’. We may here note that this would permit Wilde’s amorous anatomy to continue to furnish the essentially masculine intromittent-organ. Truly, a multi-complex bisexual reality, with the older struggling man now a passive/feminine male, and the younger partner providing an active/masculine ‘false female’ orifice. As with Charlotte Mew though now in reverse mirror-image, Wilde’s typical extravagances of blue china, button-hole flowers and attire may be seen as presenting a softer/effeminate man, in keeping with his internal and modified psychological state - a passive bisexual moving along a life-continuum, and adjusting his sexual orientation and gender-object-choices as part of his life changes.

A final word or guess at the orientations of Freud and Ellis, who never met but who read each others relevant studies, and maintained a lifetime correspondence. Freud was on the surface more strongly masculine-heterosexual and traditional of his time and culture, though forced by family into a more flamboyant Jewish wedding ritual, when he himself preferred a quiet affair. Ellis as noted was a far less dominant marriage partner, closely allied to J.A.Symonds who, though married and a father, was a strong and controversial advocate of bisexuality and homosexuality. Both these latter men emphasised the ‘Sexual Inversion’ corpus of their work, and like Freud would leave “no stone unturned” in the field of psychosexual pathology. In his early and controversial study of sexual development in childhood Freud (1905, II, ‘Infantile Sexuality’) had pointed to the amorphous, wide-spread nature of the child’s early biology, and coined the phrase “polymorphously perverse” as involving all bodily orifices and skin surfaces. Children in development then, were seen not merely as residually bisexual, but as potentially ‘poly-sexual’. Adults, Freud wryly noted, became heterosexual and ‘normal’ via these developmental processes, whereas neurotics and perverts did not “become” perverse, but rather “remained” polymorphous and perverse, (ibid, I, (7), “Intimations of the Infantile Character of Sexuality”).

Last Modified 10 February 2021