Havelock Ellis, Lolita, & The Sexual Child (Occult Yorkshire 3)

“Once again, you need to remember we aren’t conspiracy hunting but tracking an idea, like microchipping an eel to see what holes it swims into in case we want to catch it later on.”
— John Taylor Gatto, Underground History of American Education

Ellis-Vagina

The link between the Fabian Society and the Pedophile Information Exchange, while unmistakable, was also inconclusive. It was necessary to go further back, to the founding Fabians, to get a better sense of the philosophy which my grandfather embraced.

As far as I can trace it, the Fabian Society (originally the Fellowship of New Life) began with the sexologist Henry Havelock Ellis (some accounts have spiritualist Frank Podmore as the originator). The son of a sea captain, born in Croydon in 1859, Ellis travelled widely in Australia and South America before studying medicine at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. In 1883, he joined a socialist debating group established by Edith Nesbit and Hubert Bland, and in 1884 the group became known as the Fabian Society. At these meetings, Ellis met Annie Besant, Graham Wallas, George Bernard Shaw, Edward Carpenter, Walter Crane, H. G. Wells, and Sidney and Beatrice Webb.

Havelock Ellis is attributed with coining the word “homosexual” and was one of the first people in history to show an academic interest in pedophilia. (The term did not become widespread until the 1950s.)[1] This is hardly surprising, since Ellis compiled a six-volume work entitled Studies In The Psychology Of Sex, between 1897 and 1928. Ellis was reputedly a sexual experimenter as well as a drug user, and allegedly even combined the two (hallucinogens and private group sex sessions). The writings of Ellis were among the key texts that formed the basis for sex education in British colleges and, later, schools. Ellis is sometimes known today as “the father of social psychology.” From Science in the Bedroom: A History of Sexual Research, by Vern L. Bullough (Basic Books, 1995, p. 76):

“Essentially, Ellis’ work was a plea for tolerance and for accepting the idea that deviations from the norm were harmless and occasionally perhaps even valuable. He, like Hirshfield, was a reformer who encouraged society to recognize and accept sexual manifestations in infants and realize that sexual experimentation was part of adolescence. Ellis held that it was important to repeal bans on contraception as well as laws prohibiting sexual activity between consenting activities in private.”

This sounds reasonable enough, and it was entirely in accord with the value-set I was raised with, and to some extent still adhere to. Yet, in the context of other less openly-discussed areas of “sexual exploration” which seemed to sprout quite organically from the Fabian tree (such as PIE), it also reads like a recipe for disaster.

One of Ellis’ best known followers appears to have been the famous economist, John Maynard Keynes. Keynes, the attentive reader may recall, backed my grandfather’s friend and future Bilderberger, Eric Roll, as Professor at Hull University. One of Alec’s other associates was the psychologist Nick Humphrey, who was Keynes’ grand-nephew. Keynes is known to have a been a pederast and probably a pedophile too. Unfortunately, the most explicit source of information for Keynes’ sexual proclivities, his adherence to Ellis’ teachings, and his Fabian associations, “Keynes at Harvard: Economic Deception as a Political Credo,” is written by Zygmund Dobbs, and I presume Dobbs is a Christian right-winger, since he writes what is essentially a hysterical and moralistic rant against all things Fabian, generously lavished with words such as “depravity” and “perverts.” This makes all of his information questionable, and even while the piece is fully referenced and appears to adhere to strict academic requirements, I cite it with caution. According to Dobbs, however, “The Fabian perverts used the areas mentioned by Ellis [in his Studies in the Psychology of Sex] practically as a guide book. Keynes visited all of the Mediterranean areas mentioned, usually in the company of another English homosexual. (Tunis, Algeria, Constantinople, Sicily, Capri, Cairo, Greece and Salerno.)[Areas] where little boys were sold by their parents to bordellos catering to homosexual appetites.”

Ellis’ influence extended beyond his fellow Fabians, however, all the way to Freud, and later, to Vladimir Nabokov. For Nabokov, Havelock Ellis was reputedly the only tolerable psychiatrist.[2] In Dear Bunny, Dear Volodya: The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, 1940-1971, a collection of letters between the novelist and social critic Edmund Wilson edited by Simon Karlinsky, Karlinsky makes it clear that Ellis’ research was a direct inspiration for Lolita. In 1948, Wilson sent Nabokov a copy of “Havelock Ellis’s Russian sex masterpiece,” and nine days later, Nabokov responded by writing: “I enjoyed the Russian’s love-life hugely. It is wonderfully funny.” In the footnotes, Karlinsky describes the 106-page “sex masterpiece” as an account of a young man, sexually initiated at the age of twelve, who in his thirties begins to seek out the favors of child prostitutes (from age eleven on up) in the Ukraine. Karlinsky quotes Nabokov’s memoir Speak, Memory:

“Our innocence seems to me almost monstrous in the light of various confessions dating from the same years and cited by Havelock Ellis, which speak of tiny tots of every imaginable sex, who practice every Graeco-Roman sin, constantly and everywhere, from the Anglo-Saxon industrial centers to the Ukraine (from where an especially lascivious report by a land-owner is available).” (Karlinsky, University of California Press, 2001, p. 229.)

One thing of note about Nabokov’s Lolita, in the context of Ellis, PIE, and the steady propagation of the idea of children as sexual beings, is that Lolita was the sexual aggressor in the relationship, and Humbert Humbert, for all his unpleasantness, more of a hapless victim of her seductions than an actual predator.

lolita

To get a sense of how far-reaching Ellis’ influence is—not apart from but congruent with his influence on literature—there was a syllabus in the 1990s at Cornell University called “The Sexual Child,” described as follows:

With respect to children, the American imagination today is defined by what we might call pedophile gothic. The sexual child, as a volatile emblem of trauma, has become the focus of moral panics from every point on the political spectrum–panics about cultural phenomena as various as pornography, psychotherapy, day care, parenting, the women’s movement, the Roman Catholic priesthood, access to the Internet, and every level of school curricula. But what do we think a child is or ought to be? What does it mean to love or desire a child? Who promotes the idea of child sexuality and why? How has it been constructed through theory, literature, and visual imagery? How do psychoanalysis, queer theory, and other theoretical approaches to sexuality reinscribe or challenge the dominant paradigm of trauma? This is an interdisciplinary course in American Studies and queer theory in which we will pursue a political, historical, and rhetorical analysis of the gothic language of trauma that has developed around the sexual child, especially in the United States in the past century. Theoretical readings for the course will include literary, psychological, and anthropological studies of child sexuality, child sexual abuse, trauma, moral panic, and the debate over ‘recovered memory’ (Sigmund Freud, Bruno Bettelheim, Gilbert Herdt, Gayle Rubin, James Kincaid, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Lee Edelman, and Judith Lewis Herman, among others); we will also do close readings of fiction by Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov, among others, as well as controversial cinematic, theatrical, and photographic texts.” (link)

Though not mentioned here, Havelock Ellis was included in the course. Lectures had titles such as “The Child as Sexual Object and Sexual Subject,” “Big Bad Wolves,” “Loving Children,” and “Having Children” (for which one of the readings was Nabokov’s Lolita). English Professor Ellis Hanson, the course instructor, defended the course’s content by stating, “The erotic fascination with children is ubiquitous. One could hardly read a newspaper or turn on a television without feeling obliged to accept, study, and celebrate it.” In his own words, the course was designed to “undermine preconceived notions about what a child is, what sexuality is, and what it means to love or desire a child.” (link)

The bisexual trans man Pat Califa also contributed to the course. In a piece included in the course, Carifa wrote:

“Culturally induced schizophrenia allows parents to make sentimental speeches about the fleeting innocence of childhood and the happiness of years unbroken by carnal lust—and exhaust themselves policing the sex lives of their children. Children are celibate because their parents prevent them from playing with other little kids or adults. . . . They are not innocent; they are ignorant, and that ignorance is deliberately created and maintained by parents. . . Even though many prominent sex researchers have documented the existence of sexual capacity in children (for instance Kinsey verified the occurrence of orgasm in girls and boys at less than six months of age), our society is fanatically determined to deny it.”

As I’ll get to in a later chapter, Kinsey’s “researches” didn’t verify anything because he used child sexual abusers to get his data; oblivious or indifferent to the children’s suffering, they almost certainly misrepresented it as pleasure. Carifa’s piece cites how “very often, these children are consenting partners in the sexual activity [and even] initiate the sexual activity with direct propositions or with seductive behavior.” S/he argues that “the claim that sex with a parent is more damaging than being beaten [is] ludicrous”—though without saying why this is the case. In reference to the sexual exploitation of children for profit, Carifa writes: “Closing down this industry without providing alternative employment is equivalent to sentencing young people to frustration, abuse, or suicide in cozy little suburban ranch-style prisons.”

Carifa was somewhat ahead of his/her time with such arguments; or perhaps, considering that they formed a central part of the Cornell University course in the 1990s, s/he was instrumental (like my brother) in normalizing prostitution, child or otherwise? In March 2015, the Daily Telegraph ran a piece about how British university students are now making extra money in the sex industry. The piece reads more like an advertisement:

“Researchers surveyed 6,750 students, of whom 5 per cent said they’d worked in the sex industry. Almost a quarter admitted they had considered it. The reasons they gave were to fund their lifestyle, pay basic living costs, reduce debt at the end of university, sexual pleasure and curiosity. One in 20 sounds like a lot, hence a general shock at the findings. But frankly, given the relative ease of sex work—and the fact that it’s so lucrative—I’m surprised more undergrads aren’t giving it a go. . . There are, of course, less than pleasurable elements of sex work. But aren’t there in every job? . . . Student sex workers aren’t victims; they’re making a choice. And after all: they’re running a business; handling the accounts, branding, marketing and sales. How many other undergraduates can claim that?”

My brother did his own stint as a sex worker, and in Dandy in the Underworld (p. 197-9) he called prostitutes “the most open and honest creatures on God’s earth.” “The whore fuck,” he wrote,” is the purest fuck of them all.” I am sure he would have applauded the Telegraph’s view of sexual self-exploitation as social liberation, though he might have been disturbed and disappointed to discover how much less subversive his own views were than he’d once imagined them to be.

sexworkers

****

[1] “Richard von Krafft-Ebbing first coined the term paedophilia erotica in his 1886 work, Psychopathia Sexualis, although he regarded it as being extremely rare. Of the hundreds of case histories that he discussed in his work, only one actually dealt with a case of pedophilia. Other early sexual pioneers including Havelock Ellis and Magnus Hirschfeld touched on pedophilia briefly but the term did not appear much in the clinical literature prior to 1950.” “What Is A Pedophile?” http://drvitelli.typepad.com/providentia/2008/11/what-is-a-pedophile.html

[2] “The only psychiatrist Nabokov could tolerate was Havelock Ellis, for whom ‘the individuality of each case is respected and catalogued in the same way that butterflies are carefully classified,’ as one of Nabokov’s biographers has explained. (Nabokov was a famous lepidopterist.) Conversely, Nabokov detested ‘Freudian voodooism,’ as he once put it, because he saw in Freud an attempt by psychiatry to corner, appropriate, and submit to generalized principles people’s inner lives. And submitting one’s inner life—the unique hazard of one’s personality, the camera obscura of one’s own personal store of memories—to a set of deterministic explanations was for Nabokov an indignity on par with the expropriations of the Bolsheviks.” From “Lolita at 50: Is Nabokov’s masterpiece still shocking?” by Stephen Metcalf: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2005/12/lolita_at_50.html

10 thoughts on “Havelock Ellis, Lolita, & The Sexual Child (Occult Yorkshire 3)

  1. Great to see “creative writing” included in your explorations of this octopus

    It’s interesting to speculate about the left and right hand working together – after all the Christian fundamentalist movement was subsidized by interests such as the Rockefellers, just as the Fabians were

  2. I don’t what you mean by “relevant” so here’s the previous article in the series: http://postflaviana.org/freemason-rye/

    I know you won’t like it either.

    I went on a little Salinger binge last year. Watched the documentary (I think it’s called Salinger) and realized I was a degree or two of separation closer to him than I thought. That it, Rona Maynard was the sister of Joyce Maynard who lived with JDS – Rona was an editor of Flare magazine and had mentioned this to me. Salinger was never a hero of mine since I only ever read Frannie and Zooey – recommended by the same older girl (British intelligence father, or many indications of) who took charge of my reading at age and had lent me The Diary of Anne Frank. Holocaust pedophilia?

    I finally downloaded Catcher in the Rye last year and read it in one sitting. It’s not a great book. Sometimes when a novel isn’t quite working for me I explore the motives behind writing it that way. Allegedly he started it while serving in Europe. It ends ambiguously with a mental breakdown and the odd reference to a Scottish folk song which he misquotes for some reason. And that’s when the Catcher shows up and he’s a child catcher coming through the rye. I think this is ending is not just deliberately ambiguous – it’s a frantic confession tossed in at the end.

    And for this mediocre first novel, Salinger shoots to the cover of LIFE and TIME. Catcher becomes a classic. Everyone wonders how he did it and attempts to repeat his stellar success. Every young writer pens an autobiographical novel featuring mental institutions – eg Leonard Cohen (Ballet of Lepers, which becomes The Favourite Game)… Sylvia Plath writes The Bell Jar admitting she wanted it to be about a female Holden Caulfield. It’s published (to mixed reviews) in 1963 not long before she killed herself… in part for having married a Yorkshire man

    Anything relevant here?

  3. It resonates for me; Atwill & co are theorizing in a way that’s meant to persuade the reader that something is WRONG and the facts are in service to that. I guess I do the same but the balance is different, more facts, less theory, and above all the personal journey is emphasized, as in in your accounts. Then, hopefully, it all becomes relevant because it’s all clues to one’s own mystery and that of the collective. Still it’s ironic because I know the same misgivings i have about those linked essays, others have and are expressing about me, albeit apparently with hostile intent, or at least a hidden agenda. Paranoid, moi?

    I read Catcher in my 40th year at Mark Lawn’s, his copy. He likes it a lot. I thought it was OK. Kept my attention. I wouldn’t call it a mediocre novel but beyond doubt there are better works that didn’t even make the cultural radar. There’s a lot to be explored here. By relevant I meant, substantial, strong, i.e., the highlights in those pieces.

    • OK not exactly “mediocre” because Catcher stays deep inside the character and sticks with the central conflict , otherwise I coudn t have read it in one sitting. I thought the language could have been a little less repetitive and “slangy” — he could have searched for more creative turns of phrase (as Plath did in The Bell Jar which, by the way, has some MKULTRA subplot that nobody talks about – ) Catcher held me and I’m sure kids see themselves in it.

      Excuse me – people are talking about you somewhere with hostile intent? Atwill and co. That goes over my head. Links pls?

      I realized i haven’t read a lot of the writers you reference: Ellis, Priestly, Clarke. Not even Nabokov. I did see Lolita with Jeremy Irons on TV with Greek subtitles and I liked it a lot. I couldnt read the novel because certain male professors who worshipped VN really set off my inner alarms. I’m now sure some were pedophiles with intelligence connections

      Let’s be paranoid. It’s therapeutic.

      I avoid the English, especially the men. I mean in literature. It started in high school with a Jewish boy who was reading Camus and Sartre.

      • Havelock Ellis’ Wikipedia page makes him sound like a total idiot and crank, by the way. Why was he tolerated at all, unless his ideas were a front for powerful secretive organizations seeking a means of becoming more mainstream and influential?

  4. Jasun Horsley your blog is exceptional. I am older than you or your brother, and came from a somewhat similar background. I have come to many of the same conclusions that you have. Thank you so much for your work. I know a fair amount about many of the things that you write about, and it’s just wonderful to see you string all this together. I enjoyed anndiamond’s writing, too. Thanks so much!

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