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The Third Sex

The Third Sex

Translated and with an Introduction and Notes by Lawrence R. Schehr
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    The Third Sex
    Book Description:

    Thirty-two years before Simone de Beauvoir's classic The Second Sex, popular French novelist Willy published The Third Sex, a vivid description of the world of European homosexuals in France, Italy, and Germany during the late 1920s. Stepping directly into the heart of gay men's culture, Willy follows homosexual nightlife into music halls, nightclubs, casinos, bars, and saunas. While he finds drug and alcohol use, he also discovers homosexual publishers, scientific societies, group rivalries, and opinions--both medical and political--about the nature of homosexuality. _x000B__x000B_This first-ever English edition of The Third Sex provides a goldmine of information about a hidden gay culture and an unrivaled personal record of European mores between the world wars. In describing some of the most conspicuous homosexual personalities of the era, including the champion for tolerance Dr. Magnus Hirschfield and the transvestite American trapeze artist Barbette, Willy is notoriously free from prudery. An introduction and copious notes by translator Lawrence R. Schehr supply important background information on these colorful personalities and point out vital references throughout the text. In guiding readers through Willy's breezy and witty narrative, Schehr unpacks the fascinating allusions and delightful puns buried in this first-hand account of gay men's culture. _x000B__x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09290-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Translator’s Introduction
    (pp. vii-xii)

    Toward the end of a long life on the Parisian literary scene, Willy turned his sights to a topic that was new to him, a seeming radical departure from his usual interests in the demimonde, in Montmartre, in potboilers about women with modern morals, and in tales about the Parisian stage and Parisian nightlife: he turned to male homosexuality. Though an unapologetic, rather sexist heterosexual who had occasionally engaged lesbianism as a titillating figure in the male heterosexual imaginary, Willy seemed at this point to be looking at a subject that was foreign to him in more ways than one....

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)
    Louis Estève

    Recently, I found the following statement whose banality leads to troubling concern. It was written by one of our fellow authors, whom Willy will undoubtedly relegate to the category of pompous critics of moral values: “There are eras of veritable social hermaphroditism in history during which men become effeminate and women become manly. When these fusions against nature are produced, it is always to upset the normal order of life. The female absorbs the male, until there are no longer any males or females present, but some unknown sort of neuter individuals.”¹

    I think it is a disciple of Galen²...

  5. Preface
    (pp. 11-14)
  6. 1 Looking across the Borders
    (pp. 15-31)

    How can we speak of pederasty without making people think immediately of Germany and its extraordinary organization of the “vice,” more widespread there than in any other country in Europe?*,¹ Already before the war, Germany put up with it, if I dare express myself that way, and everyone still remembers the joyous scandals of Sodom-on-the-Spree, as Octave Mirbeau² said so well. For more complete documentation on the imperial era, I refer my readers toErsatz Love, a pathetic autobiography of the painter F. V., that I tried to write in correct French (for the good V. was a native of...

  7. 2 A Bit of Psychology
    (pp. 32-40)

    I have already pointed out about the unique Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, grand master of Germanic homosexuality, the important difference, if not to sayfundamental, that separates the concepts of the old apostle from the more “advanced” theories of the dissident extremist Adolf Brand.

    I should like to be able, without being accused of pornography by Philistines and perverts, who do not hesitate to curse ideologues that they cannot or will not understand—I should like to elucidate in a summary fashion howuranism, of which Hirschfeld has shown himself to be the modern champion, is different from completepederasty, extolled...

  8. 3 Some Leaders
    (pp. 41-55)

    Among all the well-known inverts of antiquity, the case of the dashing Alcibiades has been particularly commented on, especially because of his “Socratic” relations that sent the slanderers of the fourth century bce gossiping; and that relentlessness over the years has spread to the erudite scandalmongers today.

    Let us admit it impartially: in his relations with the seductive ephebe, Socrates demonstrated a rashness that would have been judged with the utmost severity in a contemporary philosopher. No metaphysics works here. It is difficult to understand that, always smiling, he put up with multiple passes—useless to boot—made at him...

  9. 4 The Tour for the “Curious”
    (pp. 56-69)

    If the “men-women” do not have the official and quasi-military organization in which Germany takes pride, they still have found the means of having rather interesting, small corporate groupings. Are you willing to follow me on a tour of recognition as rich with picturesque details, I guarantee you, as that ofLa Curieuseof Péladan,¹ led by Ného?

    Let us first enter among the . . . “Cavemen,” whose president is a medical doctor, if you please: a specialist, it goes without saying, in the little infirmities of those whom masculine Eros has wounded.² His wife, who is a notorious...

  10. 5 Varied Opinions
    (pp. 70-80)

    “So our era is thus infamous!” exclaimed one of my friends, a virtuous man, who makes eloquent speeches at the Ligue des Pères de Famille, singing vespers every Sunday in his parish; he canceled his subscription toL’Illustrationbecause the issue devoted to the Salon had a nude by Calbet—and places all his investments in foreign capital when the parties of the Left hold the reins of power.¹ He had found several leaves of the manuscript of the present pages on my table, and, although he had the habit of deploring the license of my pen, this time, he...

  11. 6 Androgynous Literature
    (pp. 81-94)

    As L. Estève tells us,

    An anthology of the tales and short stories on Greek love, written, if not published, over the last three-quarters of a century would be quite copious! What writer with a lively imagination, nourished by Helleno-Latin culture, in exhuming the papers of his youth would not find the draft of some eclogue? A hermit, suddenly smitten with a Daphnis from the mountains—and who, already provided for by his Chloe, moreover disdains his advances; a forty-year-old tutor, chaste for too long, falling madly in love with the gracious adolescent who is his only student; a “Spiessian”...

  12. Epilogue
    (pp. 95-98)

    As the readers of these pages have been able to realize, “average Frenchmen,” and even a number of men of letters, often mix two questions that should remain radically distinct: the brazen impudence of inversion and the abuse of a certain publicity.

    The fault lies with the “confusionist” moralizers, who wrongly claim thatallhomosexuals exhibit their vice to advertise themselves.* Starting from these false premises—since they have been generalized to the point of absurdity—they naturally wind up repudiating all circulation and even fighting against literary publicity . . . , which is inept (Tisserand Survey:Marges147...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 99-130)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 131-132)
  15. Index
    (pp. 133-138)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 139-141)