Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 December 2012
1 It will be argued that the homosexual was temporally rendered a “social problem” before subsequently being cast in more value-neutral terms as a member of a minority, enjoying a distinctive way of life, to borrow from the title of Peter Wildeblood’s study of “the underworld in our midst” (A Way of Life [London, 1956], quote on dust jacket).
2 Many questions addressed in this article are crystallized in Tom Ford’s 2009 film version of Christopher Isherwood’s 1962 novel, A Single Man (New York, 1978 ). In the film there is a scene in which the protagonist, George Falconer, a university professor who has recently experienced the death of his same-sex partner, Jim, enjoys a drunken evening with his good friend, Charley. What is most striking about this scene is Charley’s wholesale inability to understand that George could have shared such a meaningful existence with another man; while she could accept him sympathetically as an individual homosexual, she remained unable to imagine him as part of a larger, social world, sharing a life with another man—indeed, with other men. It was, in short, George’s social world that remained off-limits and unintelligible to her, as it still was to many outsiders in the early 1960s on both sides of the Atlantic. This particular scene is played out rather differently in the novel (23–24). There it is George’s neighbors, the Strunks, who fear “the unspeakable that insists, despite all their shushing, on speaking its name.” There it is Mrs. Strunk, in particular, who, armed with “her psychology book,” sympathetically appreciates George, albeit merely as a solitary individual, a case of “arrested development,” a “misfit, debarred forever from the best things of life, to be pitied, not blamed.” Her own narrow understanding of George’s psychological selfhood would have been shared widely at the time in a society that understood homosexuality primarily as a psychological aberration and not as a social fact.
3 Good histories of sociological practice in Britain are still surprisingly rare, but see the essays in Bulmer, Martin, ed., Essays on the History of British Sociological Research (Cambridge, 1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and especially in the context of this article, the first chapter, “The Development of Sociology and of Empirical Social Research in Britain.”
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10 Sagarin, Edward, “Sex Research and Sociology: Retrospective and Prospective,” in Studies in the Sociology of Sex, ed. Henslin, J. M. (New York, 1971), 377–408Google Scholar. For more recent histories of sociological investigations of sexuality, some of which dispute Sagarin’s claims and map a much more dynamic set of investigative practices in the United States, see the articles in “Sex and Sociology: Sociological Studies of Sexuality, 1910–1978,” a special issue of Qualitative Sociology 26, no. 4 (December 2003): 429–555. Writing under the pseudonym Cory, Donald Webster, Sagarin had himself published a hugely important work that in part offered a pioneering study of the social dimensions of homosexuality, The Homosexual in America: A Subjective Approach (New York, 1951)Google Scholar. See below for Cory’s work in Britain.
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28 Sybil Neville Rolfe, “Biological Aspects of Prostitution,” in Blacker, A Social Problem Group? 120.
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37 “Anomaly,” The Invert and His Social Adjustment, 138–39.
38 Bennett, “Discussion on the Social Aspects of Homosexuality,” 585.
40 Editorial, Observer, 8 November 1953, 6. For a discussion of the battle between the tabloids and the experts over the “ownership” of the “social problem of homosexuality” in the 1950s, see Waters, “Disorders of the Mind, Disorders of the Body Social,” esp. 136–40. For the impact of the Kinsey reports in Britain, see Bingham, “‘The K-Bomb’,” esp. 160–63, 171–76.
41 “A Social Problem,” The Sunday Times, 1 November 1953, 6.
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52 Kempe, “Homophiles in Society,” 217.
53 For a discussion of the “race relations” paradigm in Britain in the 1950s, see Waters, Chris, “‘Dark Strangers’ in Our Midst: Discourses of Race and Nation in Britain, 1947–1963,” Journal of British Studies 36, no. 2 (April 1997): 207–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Michael Schofield admitted his own debts to that paradigm in A Minority: A Report on the Life of the Male Homosexual in Great Britain (London, 1960), esp. 189–91. For the Chicago School and American sociological investigations into homosexuality, see Heap, Chad, “The City as a Sexual Laboratory: The Queer Heritage of the Chicago School,” Qualitative Sociology 26, no. 4 (December 2003): 457–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a comprehensive set of foundational texts in the sociology of homosexuality, see Plummer, Ken, ed., Sexualities: Critical Concepts in Sociology, vol. 1, Making a Sociology of Sexualities (London, 2002), espGoogle Scholar. chap. 7, E. W. Burgess, “The Sociologic Theory of Psychosexual Behavior.” Burgess was also the author of the opening statement of principles in the inaugural issue of Social Problems, quoted above.
54 Kempe, “Homophiles in Society,” 219.
55 Antony Grey, letter to The Sunday Times, 2 April 1954; reprinted in Grey, Quest for Justice, 279–82.
56 Chesser, Eustace, “Society and the Homosexual,” International Journal of Sexology 7, no. 4 (May 1954): 214Google Scholar. Later in the decade, in response to the publication of the Wolfenden Report, Chesser would develop these ideas in Live and Let Live: The Moral of the Wolfenden Report (London, 1958). During the Second World War, Chesser had published his classic study, Love without Fear: A Plain Guide to Sex Technique for Every Married Man (London, 1940).
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74 British Journal of Sociology 7, no. 2 (June 1956): 164. Birnbaum’s was one of the few brief discussions of homosexuality in the journal, which devoted no research article to the topic in the 1950s or 1960s.
75 Westwood [Schofield], Society and the Homosexual, 136.
76 See Mort, Capital Affairs, 172–87, on homosexuals’ testimony before the Wolfenden Committee.
77 Hornsey, The Spiv and the Architect, 28; see also 117–19, 131–35. Harry Oosterhuis has also demonstrated the complex ways in which Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s psychology of the individual homosexual in the late nineteenth century was itself shaped in dialogue with his subjects: Ooosterhuis, , Stepchildren of Nature: Krafft-Ebing, Psychiatry, and the Making of Sexual Identity (Chicago, 2000)Google Scholar.
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