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VII: Voyeurism[1]

A voyeur is a human, almost always of the male sex, who does not relish personal coitus but is obsessed with a mania for witnessing the act between others. In the Underworld it is common for genuine voyeurs - - as well as for depraved men who are sexually normal - - to pay for the satisfaction of such mania a price equal to that for which they could have been a “party of the first part.”

I remark incidentally that in the Underworld it is a common thing for patrons to pay high prices to witness a variety of “stunners.” The same people who do not mind parting with a five dollar bill to witness a stunner occupying less than a minute of time would perhaps not be so extravagant as to pay two dollars for an orchestra chair in a theatre; a fifty-center in “Nigger Heaven” being good enough for them![2] Some of the sexual play that men pay to witness in the Underworld is beyond anything that mildly virile men (the kind who have never stepped inside a house of ill fame) can imagine. These indescribable orgies cannot be blamed to Mother Nature. I who have been well acquainted with the type of men and women who stage them attribute them to moral depravity although dense ignorance of the participants is partly to blame. These terrible orgies are common to every Christian nation of the world (I am no authority on the non-Christian). They represent the apotheosis of the sexual organs and are to be deplored. The nobler elements of human nature should be kept on the throne: the universal practice of your author, an instinctive fairie except during his weeks as Bowery outcast.

But genuine voyeurism (i.e., excluding sexually normal men who sometimes stoop to be “Peeking Toms”) is not a matter of moral depravity. Mother Nature is alone to blame. The best evidence is the following case of my most intimate friend from my everyday world subsequent to my undergraduate days. For five years we were closely associated in the same room of a large office and kept up the closest of friendships for eight subsequent years until his lamented death in his intellectual prime before he had accomplished his life's mission. He was the writer of Appendix I to my Autobiography of an Androgyne: "Impressions of the Author, by a Business Associate."

Our two lives were an open book to one another. We confessed our innermost secrets to one another (particularly the sexual) as I have myself done with only one other confidant of my everyday world during the thirty years of my adulthood. Namely: my ultra-virile university classmate whom I tried to win as my lifelong one and only husband before violent instinct (unappeasable in my everyday circle) drove me out to my hecatontandrous [multivarious?] career in New York's Underworld.[3] He was the university associate, extracts of my letter to whom are given on page 207 ff. of my Autobiography.

While I coveted the latter university confidant as a husband (absolutely in vain) my later business associate confidant and myself experienced intense sexual repugnance for one another. While my earlier confidant was a university man he was not of decidedly intellectual tastes. He went to a university because his father sent him, not because he craved knowledge. He was of splendid physique and one of the leading athletes of the university, whereas my business-associate confidant, while not in the least effeminate was ultra-intellectual, an ultra-bookworm, muscularly clumsy and of weak physique. That type of purely intellectual man, almost without exception deficient in physical stamina, has always been intensely repugnant to me from the sexual point of view because I am myself ultra-intellectual. As ordinary friends, I have always much preferred brainy people. But my sexual mates must not be brainy, but brawny. My most intimate non-sexual friend subsequent to my undergraduate days was an extreme type of voyeur. Armed with field glasses he would spend hours gazing at night into rooms brightly lighted which, after long-continued searching, he had discovered to be the stage on which something in his line was transpiring. Of course it could only have been where “the parties of the first and second part” had neglected to draw the shade entirely down in the knowledge that no one could peek in from close by.

I have reason to believe that my friend, though a very busy man, would - - when he happened to hit upon a newly married couple who spent the latter part of the evening in their room foolishly including the oversight of a loophole in their window through which my friend could direct his field glasses - - for such a rare treat I say neglect his numerous more important interests for four or five evenings in succession.

Of course, an evening did not furnish a steady performance. It was a case of my friend’s gazing into blankness fifty-nine minutes out of each hour. But he felt that this terrible loss of his valuable time was fully paid for by the momentary tidbit once an hour or so when the principals happened to move into his field of vision. Here I am moved to say that the life motto of voyeurs is the biblical text: “What is stranger than the way of a man with a maid!” A few moments in life of the enjoyment of such scenes by proxy to them equal the entire balance of even three-score-years-and-ten.

My friend told me how, when a picnic of the uncultured would be held in a grove, particularly of the emotional African race who were numerous in the large city in which we then resided, armed with his field glasses he would hide himself at some vantage point commanding a meadow a few steps from the grove to make a study of the young bucks and wenches who, rendered delirious on the dancing platform would seek a few minutes’ rest for their weary feet in the meadow covered by my friend’s glass. He told me how, with a book and field-glass he would early on a warm Sunday afternoon hide himself in the cleft of a rock in a rough piece of ground contiguous to one of the city’s summer resorts. Which rough piece of ground he had discovered to be a favorite retreat on a Sunday afternoon for youthful lovesick couples of the lower class of Caucasians. Every pleasant Sunday afternoon in summer my friend would thus spend in seeking adventures by proxy. He told his ordinary friends that these frequent trips to this resort were due to his love of the scenery! The true reason he confided to me alone.

While he confided the best tidbits he never realized that he was sexually abnormal. And I would not have hurt his feelings by telling him so. I merely warned him that he was likely to be beaten up badly some day. He would not have put up any fight at all. Anyway he was a physical weakling.

A significant trait was his attending "beauty shows" almost once a week and always sitting in the row nearest the stage. We went repeatedly together to a bathing beach. I have known him to gaze at nearby feminine figures in bathing suits so ill mannerly that a sylph - an entire stranger – once splashed a gallon of water into his face. When not in the water himself, he had the habit of surveying the beach on which hundreds of bathers would be reclining, some in questionable attitudes, with his field glasses for an hour uninterruptedly. (That reminds me that one large bathing beach I have patronized was provided with several conspicuous signs: NO PEEKING TOMS ALLOWED).

My unfortunate and sincerely lamented friend was particularly fond of witnessing dancing, both on the stage and on dancing floors of amusement resorts. But never once in his life did he himself dance. With him everything must be by proxy.

He was also particularly fond of looking at nude photographs and reading salacious books. When I told him how I had in Europe refused to buy indecent pictures that were almost thrust into my hands (he having himself never been abroad), he reproved me for not having bought them for himself.

I gave him the benefit of' my unusual knowledge of the inside of houses of prostitution. I recommended that he visit one himself someday to see the extraordinary "woman show," not at all that he should indulge more than his eyes. But he could not overcome his bashfulness in the presence of filles de joie ever to enter such a house.

In his later thirties he confided to me that he had tried coitus cum femina [intercourse with a woman] only once in his life at about the age of twenty and in the normal way. While able to accomplish it perfectly, he experienced not the least pleasure. In his subsequent nearly a score years of life he never again attempted it. Indeed he said it was to him a loathsome thing.

At almost forty, he expressed his purpose of marrying someday. His main motive was that a wife would prove an intellectual stimulus and would probably be the only efficacious remedy for his mental laziness (for which I often reproved him), enabling him to realize the promise of his rare literary gifts. He, however, remarked that he would not seek to consummate the marriage before a month after the ceremony and that a dozen acts a year would be all he would care for. I told him hardly one young woman would stand for either proposition.

But he died a bachelor at about forty: “a mute, inglorious Milton.” Death came before he had immortalized himself in American Literature. For indeed, this extreme voyeur came the nearest to being a genius of any one with whom I ever associated, with only one exception.[4] He had led his class in scholarship at large university, and later became instructor in English Composition at another university. During the five years of our collaboration, we were both on the staff of a large periodical. He was its brain though not nominally at the head. Besides his large number of unsigned publications, he achieved considerable prominence under his own name. But death overtook him before he had brought forth the masterpiece of which he was capable. The Appendix he wrote for my Autobiography was a hasty piece of work.

Once his voyeurism occasioned his rude handling by a policeman but he never suffered arrest.

He was normally masculine in every respect except his abhorrence for coitus. He was a ravenous feeder on feminine beauty. As to personal good looks he stood near the bottom of the scale.

Never during the five years of our daily collaboration did I learn of his committing the least offence against his fellow man. Apart from his voyeurism and related idiosyncrasies, his entire life had probably been perfect ethically. He was the only child of an ultra-puritan clergyman of weak sexuality. During his university days he became an extreme agnostic. But that religious change never had the least effect on his morality.

These two sexual freaks (and geniuses into the bargain) happened to be professional writers. But they constitute no evidence that such freaks are unusually numerous in that profession. I merely discovered them in that profession because most of my won bread-winning career has been staged there. My own impression, however, is that sexual intermediates occur far more often among the brainy than among the brawny. Moreover, I once read the declaration of a sexologist that “sexual inversion is particularly common among authors.”

But to return to voyeurism: In my thirty years of adult life, I have numbered among intimates of my everyday world no other decided voyeur and only one slightly thus inclined. Of course a person could make such discovery only among close friends who were extremely confidential. The mild voyeur was also highly intellectual, highly literary, and highly moral (outside the sexual sphere), though an agnostic. He was a divorced man under thirty at the time he confided to me the tidbits of his patient observations with a field glass into the chambers of his careless neighbors shortly before "lights out." He was naturally polygamous, but only mildly given to extra-marital relations.

Both these voyeurs confided to me their sexual secrets only because I first confided mine to them. The ultra-voyeur had been my most intimate friend for nearly two years and I had found him to be unusually broad minded and sympathetic before I decided, because of my longing for sympathy to help me bear my terrible fate of being an androgyne, to make him my confidant.

The mild voyeur was also, previously to my confiding in him one of my best non-sexual friends and a co-laborer in the same office for about two years, one of the most magnanimous and most liberal men I ever met. But I had never had any ideal of confiding to him the terrible secret of my life, the most horrible of facts: that I am bisexual. But on occasion when I had to avoid my everyday circle for an entire week on account of a face terribly disfigured by a “husky"[5] with whom I had scraped acquaintance on the street and afterwards sought "A lodge in a vast wilderness," this friend called on me since I had sent word to the office that I was ill. I was compelled to tell him the truth about things. But he proved a sympathetic and reliable confidant.

In my years in the Underworld, I was thrown [in?] with less than a dozen ultra-voyeurs. I had no opportunity to learn their other traits.

In Chapter ?? I have told how New York’s large parks are frequented on warm summer evenings by youthful lovesick couples pining to get away from every strange human eye. But besides such couples male voyeurs spend hours concealed under bushes or in the crevices of rocks on a pleasant moonlight evening in the portions of the park they have ascertained to be frequented by their quarry. For the most part they seek adventures in the parks in pairs. Voyeurs naturally drift together then become chums. For there would be a good chance of a solitary voyeur’s departing with a bloody nose through contact with the fist of the male side of the animal aux deux dos.[6]

But these voyeurs are generally undiscovered, and even unsuspected, by the "parties of the first and second part." Years of practice have given the voyeurs incredible skill in approaching noiselessly even over precipitous rocks, near enough to get a good view without themselves being discovered. Practice also makes vision by moonlight or even by starlight rather keen.

I know because I have had experience with voyeurs in New York’s large parks.

I am in no wise myself inclined to voyeurism. I was however once late in the evening, put under arrest by a park policeman on the charge of being a voyeur. But on the way to the police station I persuaded him that he was mistaken and he released me. Park policeman are charitable toward the lovesick couples sprawling at night on the park lawns. But in their ignorance that voyeurism is not a whit more willful than a normal sexual attraction they usually have no sympathy for the voyeurs.

On my own nocturnal wanderings into the depths of New York’s large parks, depths desolate and at night dangerous; depths which no one would seek at night except a couple panting, with Wordsworth, for “A lodge in some vast wilderness,” together with their pursuing voyeurs, I was always accompanied by a brawny pugnacious young bachelor to whom I was incognito. We were ourselves looking for a grassy hillock on which to rest our won weary limbs far from every human eye.

Of course such affairs were dangerous to me. On almost every occasion I ran the risk of being murdered, as has been the fate of so many cultured androgynies when they have retire to a desolate spot with a “husky.” Sometimes I had my pockets rifled. I had two watches and chains stolen, after which I never carried a timepiece when I expected to take a stroll with a husky whom I should meet by chance. Several times I was beaten up quite badly into the bargain by the Sir Husky who had been instructed by tradition that sissiness in a male is the unpardonable sin and that no treatment is too bad for sissies. But instinct made me take these terrible risks scores of times.

Why did I not take the husky to my room? Because I belonged to the cultured class and always had in my room small objects that would be a temptation to a thief. Several times I had been so insane (for I will admit that I was insane in doing such a rash thing although my bisexuality is not insanity as benighted physicians maintain) as to take the husky to my room and then see him fill his pockets before my eyes with my valuable bric-a-brac in addition to compelling me by threats to fork over a much larger bill than I had promised him for his favors.

Why did I not take the husky to a hotel? A common practice with prosperous and cultured androgynes but I wished to recline not more than ten minutes. I did not feel like paying $2 room-rent for ten minutes occupancy. But a more considerable motive was that I shrank from the shame of having the hotel clerk, who generally has his suspicions in such cases, gaze upon me as a monstrously evil-minded sexual intermediate; and I shrank from the risk of his even having me arrested on the charge of being a bisexual, which condition carries a penalty of ten years in state’s prison.

And I could not have reclined more than ten minutes. I am unfortunately not one of those cultured androgynes who can live without working. I always had the following day an arduous seven hours of intellectual work in an office. Reclining more than ten minutes would have rendered me, all the following day a physical and mental wreck.

The leaders of thought whom instinct alone has saved from such night prowling themselves might care to learn what passes even in Central Park late at night. (New York’s principal park, about a square mile in area, and the city’s only park of at least that size whose entire environs are occupied by a dense population.) At least for a quarter of a century, that is, so far as my personal memory goes back in regard to androgynism as related to Central Park, cultured fellators have resorted at night to that park as being the nearest to the point on the street where they have picked up their adolescent husky.

An episode of my own checkered life was employment in a New York law office and as counsel’s clerk in New York’s criminal courts, by the irony of fate at the very height of my fairie career: at night a fairie; during the day, clerk to a great criminal lawyer. One of his cases before my time was the defense of a cultured and moneyed fellator from the charge of fellatio in Central Park. The lawyer merely recounted it to me on an occasion when I was trying to get him interested in the defense of an androgyne acquaintance who was in difficulties. The great lawyer never evidenced a suspicion that I was myself an androgyne, being himself in the sixties at the time he employed me.[7] All that I distinctly remember about the fellator was that he had been actually guilty with a young husky in Central Park. The latter had discovered his identity and was blackmailing him. The fellator had recourse to the courts along the line of ridding himself of the blackmailer. The lawyer and himself together established a false alibi.[8]

I shall now describe my most remarkable adventure with voyeurs in a large New York park.

On a particularly mild January evening when no snow was on the ground, I entertained a powerfully built youthful private artilleryman in uniform from the neighboring Tenderloin to whom I was incognito by taking him to a theatre facing Central Park and afterward to supper at a neigh boring restaurant. This was common practice of mine. Usually on such occasions I did not wish to spend the following night at a hotel for reasons already given. All I wanted before bidding the artilleryman goodnight, was to be with him for ten minutes without the possibility of any strange human eye lighting upon us.

It was just five minutes before midnight when we left the restaurant. The entrance to the park lay a few feet away, just across Columbus Circle. Only a month before an androgyne had been murdered in that very section of the park after midnight. Consequently the park had been closed to everyone after midnight. The artilleryman and myself just got inside by the skin of our teeth. Three minutes later, by my own observation that night, a policeman took his stand at every park entrance and turned back every soul who sought to enter.

Anyway the reader can imagine the only motive for any one wishing to enter after midnight in midwinter, apart from voyeurism or robbery, as “men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” Strangely, those who entered toward midnight were young couples almost exclusively, and almost always of opposite sex.

I had read full details of the murder in the paper and that the police would close the park at midnight. But the artilleryman knew nothing about it and I refused to enlighten him until we emerged from the park half-an-hour later. As I had feared, he asserted that he would not have entered the park if I had recounted the murder in advance! The recent murder had failed to be much of a deterrent to myself. Particularly because I had hundreds of times run the gauntlet of being murdered.

I repeat: it was three minutes before midnight when we entered the park. I carried a timepiece that night because I had taken such nocturnal rambles with the particular artilleryman a dozen times before and he had never taken a cent off me. Although I was still incognito I had him on trial as my third “adopted son” (for a detailed account of my first and second refer to my Autobiography of an Androgyne).

Again I repeat: It was midwinter, though a balmy evening. A square mile of park lay before our eyes, which one would judge would be practically deserted after midnight in mid-winter. What more natural than the a priori assumption that we could at such an hour, at such a season, find solitude in one of the rocky and at night rather inaccessible nooks, of which there are several within five minutes’ walk from the Columbus Circle entrance? I knew every square foot of the park.

We walked a quarter of a mile into the park’s depths. Knowing that we might be dogged by thugs or voyeurs I always took the trouble on such occasions to look toward the rear once every minute. But no one followed. We passed only four persons during the five minutes: two pairs of lovers on benches. We passed several newspapers spread out suspiciously on the oozy ground where there was grass except during the winter.

I led my companion to the most desolate path in the southerly quarter of the park through a miniature unlighted rocky canyon because I believed every one else would be scared to tread after midnight, this dark, rocky defile where we had to set our foot each time carefully lest we fall headlong. Of course I would never have trusted myself there after dark without a powerful bodyguard and if it had not been for the existence of a blind, irrational urge, fundamentally irresistible, which Nature has instilled in humans to the end that the race may not die out.

We soon halted in a small dark recess in a thirty-foot cliff. Since the trees and bushes were denuded of leaves, we were unable to hide in their shadow. It was a night of overcast sky when the reflection from the cloud blanket, of the city’s tens of thousand of street electric lamps made every square foot of the park outside the shadow of large rocks, as bright as under the full moon. Walkers could be distinguished at a distance of four hundred feet and persons sprawling on the ground at two hundred.

But as I had ascertained that no one had followed us and as we had chosen the most desolate of all the paths in the southerly quarter of the park I felt confident that our few minutes’ solitude in the cleft of the rock would not be disturbed now that the small hours of the morning had supervened. All I had to fear in these small hours was thugs! But they never attack an unusually well built soldier in uniform, realizing that common soldiers in general are terrible fellows for fighting.

But we had made ourselves comfortable for less than two minutes when my companion, who enjoyed a better outlook than I, whispered that he saw a derby hat and a nose peeking at us from behind a large boulder only twenty feet away. I immediately conjectured the eavesdropper to be a voyeur. But the possibility of his being a detective occasioned me not a little alarm. I have known of municipal detectives following up an androgyne and succeeding with their evidence in getting him a sentence of five years in state’s prison.

My companion and I immediately made our exit, passing within three feet of two well dressed men, around thirty years of age in civilian clothes. Neither they nor we addressed a word to one another, my companion and myself, on account of embarrassment over having been surprised in a sacred act that seeks solitude, namely the corporeal flowing into one – transfusion, interfusion, amalgamation of two beings of sexually opposite biochemical composition – the voyeurs, on account of having been detected in what they doubtless regarded as a frailty to be ashamed of. Their attitude proved that they were no detectives. For they had already acquired evidence enough to lodge myself and companion in state a prison for ten years.

Whence came the two voyeurs? They certainly had not followed our path within four hundred feet: the limit of my vision. They could possibly have followed us from our entrance to the park by a course across the lawns and through the bushes two hundred feet to one side. But the probability is that they had passed hours hidden in a recess of that very cliff in order to feast their eyes on any pair of lovesick individuals who might wander into those rocky masses. As I have said, this small cliff was particularly desolate and therefore especially attractive to a pair of lovers as it had attracted me. Moreover, the lawns were oozy and grassless and the leafless bushes afforded no screen. In January, every consideration recommended the recesses of this cliff to lovers as a trysting place.

My companion and myself now tramped a half-mile farther into the depths of the park. Once every minute I glanced behind to make sure we were not being dogged. We came to a pile of large boulders, where alone in winter we could creep into a shadow.

We had again made ourselves comfortable for less than two minutes when my watchful “superman” again whispered that he spied a derby hat a score of feet away trying to get us within range without itself being observed. My companion was a particularly wary young man and possessed a particularly keen night vision. He proved that night that he was able to discern things in the obscurity that escaped myself.

We immediately walked away. Two dark figures likewise walked away, at first in a direction at right angles to our own. We walked a half-mile farther into the depths of the park (i.e., northward). This time we gazed once every minute not only immediately to the rear but sidewise. For the entire ten minutes we could occasionally discern, slipping along as much as possible behind bushes and trees, the two voyeurs paralleling our course at a distance of about three hundred feet. They evidently thought they had a rare treat in store. We had to relinquish our own plan as hopeless and retired to the city’s streets.

In our ramble of more than a mile, we had not encountered a single policeman: besides the voyeurs only several pairs of lovers.

I estimate that the incidence of congenital ultra-voyeurism is about the same as ultra-androgynism. That is: one in about three hundred adult physical males. The phenomenon is far more common than generally supposed by sexologists.

Notes

  1. Manuscript pp. numbered [1]-15.
  2. Term, "Nigger Heaven": in 2010 extremely disparaging and offensive. In the late-19th and early-20th centuries it referred to "the top gallery in a (segregated) theater", first attested 1878. Data from: Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition.
  3. In Greek mythology, `Hecaton` was the father of Calyce . . . . This character Hecaton (meaning `hundred`) is otherwise unknown, but the name may be connected with the Hecatonnesoi (`hundred islands`), in the Adramyttian Gulf. Found 9-5-2010 on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hecaton.
  4. [Note by the author Lind/Werther/June]: This exception was also hardly normal sexually. He was editor-in-chief of a large publication for which I worked subsequently to my collaboration with the voyeur. For years my desk was several feet from his own. He was chummy with me and had me to dinner at his house repeatedly. He confided to me that he was naturally polygamous, but was blind to my own androgynism, and I never even hinted at it. It was in another large office where I have been employed that some of the staff expressed their suspicions that I was an androgyne. He was the type of man who maintains two separate families in different parts of the New York metropolitan district. His wife had left him because of his generally erratic character, sexually in particular. He was unconscientious, and guilty of the meanest tricks behind the backs of people he disliked. As to good looks he stood rather low in the scale. But he could write articles for publication more readily than anyone else I ever met. One of my tasks was to edit articles dashed off in a jiffy by his colossal intellect. His first draft required very little editing before publication. But the de facto polygamy referred to should be condoned. These men are not responsible for being polygamous. It is born in them and not in the generality of men. Their polygamy causes not the least detriment to a single soul. They are always men financially able to support more than one ménage. The poorer men of this same stripe have to be satisfied with occasional visits to filles de joie.
  5. [Note by the author:] American slang meaning a powerfully built “beefy” young blood. The word is a favorite in cultured androgynes to denote their chance-met sweethearts.
  6. [Note by the author Lind/Werther/June:] I have once read in the paper, however, that in the environs of New York an eavesdropper -- more likely motived by robbery than by voyeurism -- murdered a male side. I also read in the paper how a pugilistic eavesdropper on couples passing part of a summer’s night sprawling on one of the city’s beaches made it a practice of palming himself off on the uncultured and probably immigrant coupes as a city detective and demanded as the price of freedom from arrest for their “disorderly conduct” the bestowal on himself of the young woman’s favors. One of the more intelligent male victims being suspicious finally complained to the police. Immediately two detectives -- one attired as a soubrette -- started the practice of spending the first hours of darkness every evening sprawling on the particular beach at night deserted except by the love sick and their pursuers. The pugilistic eavesdropper came along and, as usual, demanded his rights from the supposed young woman.
  7. [Note by author Lind/Werther/June:] Note to publisher: I was employed by Clark Bell, LLD, founder and for many years, editor of Medico-Legal Journal. I once gave Dr. Herzog, its present editor, indisputable proof that I had been in the employ of Clark Bell. I refer to Dr. Herzog on this point. He once remarked that criminal lawyers knew “absolutely nothing about inverts.” I attended the criminal courts on Centre Street with Clark Bell as his clerk when he was defending criminals. His identity is known to the editor of the Medico-Legal Journal and the editor. I will get Dr. Herzog’s permission for this note.
  8. OutHistory.org would appreciate any further evidence of this New York City law case in which Clark Bell was the lawyer for the defendant.