In an excellent article titled "Homosexuality in America," in their issue of June 26, 1964, Life comments on the current get-tough attitude of officials in California and Florida: "As part of its antihomosexual drive the Los Angeles police force has compiled an 'educational' pamphlet for law-enforcement officers entitled Some Characteristics of the Homosexual. The strongly opinionated pamphlet includes the warning that what the homosexuals really want is 'a fruit world.'
"In their unrelenting crackdown on homosexuals the Los Angeles police used two approaches: One is an effort to deter homosexual activity in public, and the other is an arrest effort.... To arrest homosexuals the police have an undercover operation in which officers dressed to look like homosexuals—tight pants, sneakers, sweaters or jackets—prowl the streets and bars. The officers are instructed to never make an overt advance: They can only provide an opportunity for the homosexual to proposition them. Arrests are made after the officer has received a specific proposition."
Life mentions that the legislators of some states, including New York and California, are currently considering penal code revisions similar to Illinois', which would remove the restrictions on homosexual acts between consenting adults. "But in Florida," the article continues, "early this year the Legislative Investigation Committee's consideration of homosexuality produced an inflammatory report, calling for tougher laws to support the conclusion that 'the problem today is one of control, and that established procedures and stern penalties will serve both as encouragement to law-enforcement officials and as a deterrent to the homosexual [who is] hungry for youth.' Its recommendations would make psychiatric examination of offenders mandatory and create a control file on homosexuals which would be available to public employment agencies throughout the state. The report, which included an opening-page picture of two men kissing and photographs of nude men and boys, was so irresponsible that it brought attacks from the Dade County state's attorney and the Miami Herald, which described it as an 'official obscenity.'"
Some authorities have suggested that homosexuality is itself increasing, but Kinsey's statistics tend to refute this assumption; he found little difference in the incidence of this and other forms of sexual activity among persons growing up in each of the decades since the turn of the century. He concludes that, in general, human sexual behavior changes from generation to generation; what changes greatly, however, is society's attitude toward the behavior. There is no question but that the new openness and permissiveness toward sex in contemporary society has produced a greater awareness of homosexual activity, creating the impression that the behavior itself is more prevalent.
We tend to think of ourselves as a heterosexual society; and to view homosexuality as relatively uncommon and a symptom of sickness. Neither assumption is valid.
Katherine B. Davis studied 1200 unmarried female college graduates who averaged 37 years of age; she found that half of them had experienced intense emotional relationships with other women and over 300, or one fourth of the total, engaged in sexual acts with members of their own sex. Of 100 married women studied by G.V. Hamilton, one fourth admitted homosexual episodes of a physical nature. Kinsey's research was far more extensive and must be considered the most authoritative available; he found that 20 percent of the total female population has some overt homosexual experience prior to the age of 45, and 13 percent has homosexual activity resulting in orgasm. Among women who are still unmarried at the age of 45, the incidence of overt homosexual experience rises to 26 percent.
Kinsey's research on male homosexual activity also confirmed the findings of previous, less extensive U.S. studies by G.V. Hamilton (1929), G.V. Ramsey (1943) and F.W. Finger (1947); Kinsey and his associates found that no less than 37 percent of the total male population has some homosexual relations resulting in orgasm between puberty and 45 years of age. Among males who are still unmarried at the age of 35, the percentage increases to "almost exactly 50 percent."
Ex-judge Ploscowe comments, "Obviously, the notion that sodomy and crimes against nature are loathsome perversions which occur only in rare instances and must be severely repressed because of their very abnormality is erroneous."
Even those who oppose the criminal prosecution of homosexuality as unjust and inhumane often consider it the result of an emotional abnormality; they believe it is simply a problem for the psychiatrist rather than the police. But you cannot call behavior abnormal when it involves 37 percent of the male population—not if you want the word to retain any semblance of its scientific meaning.
Most analysts, psychiatrists and psychologists consider the confirmed homosexual emotionally disturbed; and the majority of those with whom they come in contact undoubtedly are. Analyst Ernest van den Haag was once told by a colleague, "All my homosexual patients, you know, are quite sick." "Ah, yes," said Dr. van den Haag, "but so are all of my heterosexual patients."
Freud did not believe that homosexuals were necessarily neurotic; in a letter to a mother of a homosexual, who had asked him for help, he wrote, "Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of—no vice, no degradation, it cannot be classified as an illness." Neither did Kinsey, who was certainly no Freudian; he concluded that homosexual conduct was simply too widespread, in our own society and others, to be considered a sickness.
Kinsey points out the error in thinking of the homosexual and the heterosexual as two distinct classifications or types; there are only individuals who respond to various kinds of sexual stimulation in various ways; the nature of the response is dependent upon the taboos of a particular society and the extent to which the individual has accepted them. All mammals, human beings included, are born with the innate capacity to respond to homosexual as well as heterosexual stimuli. Zoologists have observed homosexual behavior in nearly every species of animal; anthropologists find it in human societies the world over; and historians find records of it in the civilizations of the past.
It may help our understanding of the matter if we make a distinction between the person for whom homosexual activity is but a part of the total sex experience; and the true invert, who may emotionally disturbed, and for whom homosexuality represents an escape from relations with the opposite sex. (Only 4 percent of the males interviewed by Kinsey were exclusively homosexual throughout their lifetimes; the other 33 percent had varying proportions of both homosexual and heterosexual activity in their histories.)
But it must be remembered that the law does not prohibit being a homosexual; it prosecutes a person for the performance of a homosexual act (or, as in the example of Los Angeles law enforcement, the individual who simply suggests such an act). Thus the full 37 percent of all U.S. males could be arrested for this part of their sexual experience; and undoubtedly would be, if they happened to be caught.
Even though homosexual activity is prosecuted far more aggressively than illegal heterosexual activity, it is obvious that the arrests represent only a minute percentage of the total behavior. Ploscowe states, "When the number of arrests and convictions are compared...with the estimates of homosexuality, and with reports on the incidence of unconventional methods of sexual satisfaction, it is obvious that the legal prohibitions against sodomy, homosexuality and crimes against nature are practically unenforceable. One study estimated that six million homosexual acts of sodomy, fellatio, and mutual masturbation take place each year for every 20 convictions."
Even if it could be justified, the most vigorous law enforcement would neither curb nor cure homosexual activity. Life reports, "Law officials and psychiatrists who have tried to make international comparisons do not believe that homosexuality is any more widespread in places like France, the Netherlands and Sweden, where it is not punishable under the law, than in other nations like ours where it is considered a crime.
"Most people who have studied homosexuality believe that the laws against it are what Freud once called them, 'a great injustice' and 'cruelty'—unjustly penalizing the few who are unlucky enough to be caught. Indeed some observers think that the legal penalties and social stigma which threaten the homosexual's life may cause him more emotional disturbance than homosexuality itself—and that even some defiant and thrill-seeking men may take up homosexuality for the very reason that it is illegal, just as some people who had never drunk before began drinking during Prohibition."
Society actually combines with nature to perpetuate homosexuality. The sexual patterns established at an early age tend to continue for a lifetime. And precisely at that period in his development when a young man's sexual desires are greatest, society forbids him to find release through heterosexual contacts. It is not surprising, therefore, that the most sexually precocious males are the ones most apt to be drawn into early homosexual experiences.
Says Life, displaying rare insight regarding sex for an American mass-circulation magazine: "Some well-meaning people feel that homosexuality could be reduced if our society were not so blatantly sexual in general—that is, if we protected our growing boys from the stimulation of sexy movies, books, magazines and outright pornography. But this theory ignores the urgency of the adolescent's sexual drive. 'When a boy reaches puberty,' says Dr. Gebhard [head of the Institute for Sex Research], 'his hormones keep him far more stimulated from the inside than he could possibly be stimulated by anything he sees or hears.' About the only effective way to discourage homosexuality at that crucial age, Dr. Gebhard believes, would be 'to encourage heterosexuality.'" That simple statement has significant implications for all of our social and legal restrictions on sex, including censorship, and the rest. If the legislator, judge, police official and common citizen understood the truth in those words, and their full significance, we might at last have an end to our society's continuing attempts at sex suppression.
Nothing but a healthier emphasis on the heterosexual will ever reduce the homosexual element in society. And not even that, it must be added, will ever eliminate it entirely—for it is one of the natural variations on the human sexual theme. We must agree on this with the author of the article in Life, who concluded: "Many optimistic students of our society believe that we may someday eliminate poverty, slums and even the common cold—but the problem of homosexuality seems to be more akin to death and taxes. Even if every present-day American with the slightest trace of homosexuality could be deported tomorrow and forever banished, Dr. Gebhard believes, there would probably be just as many homosexual men in the U.S. a few generations hence as there are now."