GREEK LOVE IN FRENCH GUIANA, 1870s
The following information about pederastic practices in the South American colony of French Guiana comes from the expanded English edition of Untrodden Fields of Anthropology: Observations on the Esoteric Manners and Customs of Semi-civilised Peoples, Being a Record by a French-Army Surgeon of Thirty Years’ Experience in Asia, Africa, America and Oceania, published by Charles Carrington, “Publisher of Medical, Folk-lore and Historical Works”, in Paris in 1898.
The unknown author, described in the original French edition as “le Docteur Jacobus X…”, served as a surgeon in Guiana between about 1872 and 1875. His book has been described as containing the sort of information everybody wants to know, but no one will admit wanting to know. It is mostly about sexual anatomy and behaviour, and much of it is interestingly lurid.
Guiana was then best known as a penal colony. To understand the circumstances of much of the disparate population described by Dr. Jacobus X., it may be helpful to quote all that Chambers’s Encyclopaedia of 1878 had to say about the people:
In accordance with an imperial decree of 1854, Guiana has been made the principal seat of the penal settlements of the mother-country, which are maintained at Cayenne at the national charge. All persons sentenced to eight years’ hard labour are condemned, on the extirpation of their sentence to reside for the remainder of their lives in the colony, unless they are specially pardoned in which case they are seldom allowed to return to France. Grants of land, with the restitution of civil rights, may be accorded by the local authorities as a recompense for good conduct; but the discipline is in all cases severe, and the labour heavy and continuous. The mortality among the prisoners is believed to be very great, but the French government does not include the death-rate of G. in its otherwise very full tables of mortality.
Besides the natives in the interior, other 19th-century inhabitants were descended from African slaves and imported Indian, Malay and Chinese labourers.
Presented here is everything on Greek love in “Part the Second – America” of Untrodden Fields.
A Short Stay at Martinique. After having taken part, as an ambulance surgeon, in the campaign of 1870-71, I was sent, a year or two after that terrible war, to Guiana.
On arriving at Martinique, I heard that yellow fever had broken out at Guiana, which place was then in quarantine. The military detachment, of which I formed part, received orders to disembark at Fort de France. I was thus able to spend three weeks at Martinique, and I also stopped there a fortnight three years later, on my return from Guiana.
To Martinique I shall devote a separate chapter.
Arrival at Guiana. The number of medical men at Guiana being barely sufficient, I was sent to reinforce the medical staff there.
Perversions of Sexual Passions in the Negro and Coloured Races. There only remains for me to give some details concerning the perversions of sexual passions. On this point, I shall be very brief, having very little to say. The Negresses, and Creole women of colour, are pure, as are also their brothers, in this sense, that pederasty and sodomy—those two vices so common in the Extreme East—are almost unknown to them.
Women are so easily obtained in this pleasant country, that this result is not astonishing. I have, however, attended medically a young Mulatto, who had contracted a gonorrhoea in unnatural copulation with an individual whose social position he refused to reveal.
Another case of unnatural offence, I found in a Negro boy of fifteen, who had accepted the immodest offers of a freed Arab. This latter kept a little liquor store, for the sale of tafia and other spirits. He first made the boy drunk, by offering him a lot of spirits, and, the money not being forthcoming, paid himself on the lad's body. As a natural consequence of the great disproportion in the size of the two parts, there was occasioned a rectal fissure, with acute inflammation of the anus. The mother of the boy, a washerwoman, came to me, and related the story which the young scoundrel had devised. He stated that a young goat had run after him, and had pushed its horn up his rectum! The young blackguard was, no doubt, accustomed to commit the act, for there was a well-marked infundibulum in his anus, and on my threatening not to cure him unless he told me the truth, he confessed everything. The case was cured by appropriate treatment, which cicatrised the rectal fissure, but the boy's anus remained sufficiently dilated to admit the finger easily.
These two cases are the only ones that I met with amongst the coloured races, during a stay of three years: but on the other hand, amongst the Hindoos engaged as coolies, and the Arabs released from the hulks, I found plenty of others.
The Hindoo race in Guiana.—[…]—The hired Hindoo.—[…]—Perversions of the sexual passion.
The Hired Hindoo. To cultivate the large estates recourse is had to Hindoos, hired with the consent of the English Government. For a small daily pay, his food, clothes, and lodging, the Hindoo must give five years' work. Practically, he is worse off than if he were a slave for life, for his master gets the greatest possible amount of work out of him, without caring if the poor wretch's strength is worn out at the end of the time. […]
I was able to study this race closely, having obtained from the Colonial Government, one of these hired coolies, to employ as my boy. I was lucky enough to meet with a lad of eighteen, almost a Caucasian in form and features, who was active, and intelligent; he spoke a little English, and quickly learned French, and served as an interpreter between me and my Hindoo patients.
The Want of Morality, and Sexual Perversions amongst the Hindoos. The coolie, it should be remarked, is a pariah, and the pariah in India, as Jacolliot has well pointed out, has no morality. Badly fed and badly paid, the hired coolies try to make money by any means they can,—the men that they may procure tafia, and the women that they may buy suitable clothes and jewels. Hence there is a complete want of morality amongst these poor people. […]
The youth, of from fifteen to twenty years of age, gives himself up to pederasty, and finds customers amongst the Arabs and Europeans released from the hulks. […]
A depraved man can therefore easily satisfy his passions in Guiana. If natural copulation with the Negress, or the coloured woman, have no attractions for him, he has the Hindoo woman or boy to fall back on. But I should remark here, that there is one remarkable difference between this last and the Annamite boy. The latter takes delight in unnatural acts, and will become an active agent if required; the Hindoo, on the contrary, is passive, and nothing but passive. In no case does he try to reverse the rôles. Besides which, the Arab (or the White man) who is an active pederast, would not permit this; he obliges the boy to suffer his attacks without giving him any compensation of the same nature.
The Penitentiary and its occupants— Transported criminals, or old convicts.—[…]—The Arab as an active pederast.—Pederasty is primarily a question of race.—The organ of generation in the Arab.
Transported Criminals, or Old Convicts. Formerly there were sent to the hulks, under the name of convicts, those condemned to hard labour. In the present day, they are sent to the penal colonies, and are said to be "transported". The hulks is called "a penitentiary",—a mere change of name, for the institution is exactly the same. […]
On Guiana after Guinea was largely abandoned for French convicts around 1864:
Foreign criminals continued to be sent there (from the Antilles, Reunion, India, and even some Annamites) for crimes against civil law, and especially the Arabs, who alone formed a great part of the population of the Penitentiary.
Active Pederasty of the Arab. The Arab is, almost exclusively, an active pederast. The youths and boys, who, in Arabia and all Mussulman countries, prostitute themselves for money, are, in the beginning, passive agents. I do not know whether, when they have become men, they change their part and become active agents, but at Guiana, amongst the Arab convicts, who are all addicted to this vice, I never met any but active agents. For "patients" they take,—if they cannot find women who will lend themselves to these disgusting practices,—Hindoo coolies, or white criminals either undergoing their sentence, or released, but very rarely Negroes, except a few depraved lads. I have mentioned an instance of this a few pages earlier. Some Arabs have demanded, and legally married before the Mayor, a female prisoner from the Penitentiary, but they have never tried to get any children by her, and only use anal copulation with her. These Arabs also leave their wives free to gain their living as they think best, on condition that they bring the money to their Mussulman husbands. The Governors of the Penitentiaries at last discovered these goings on, and ended by refusing permission to these worthy followers of Mahomet to take a lawful wife, and so the Arab in Guiana, both by taste and necessity, remains a pederast.
Pederasty is principally a Question of Race. A strange fact is, that the Arab, an active pederast, is provided with a genital organ, which, for size and length, rivals that of the Negro. It is even larger than that of the Negro of Guiana, but is surpassed in turn by that of the Negro of Senegal. But, whilst this last is rarely addicted to unnatural acts, with the Semitic Arab it is almost a general rule. A physical cause might be understood, as for instance a very small penis, as in the Annamite, who is almost as great a pederast as the Arab. It is certain, that the friction of the penis against the sphincter, which possesses, as we know, great contractile power, is greater than it would be in a vagina, dilated and relaxed by the heat of the climate, especially if affected by the "flowers".
The Organ of Generation of the Arab. If the Annamite can plead such an excuse, the Arab cannot. We are, therefore, compelled to acknowledge, that it is a question of the peculiar moral sense of each race. The Arabs I examined, and who for the most part had been sentenced for rapes, or sodomy, committed upon children of either sex, in the proportions of their genital members considerably surpassed the fair average of the Negroes.
 L’amour aux colonies. Singularités physiologiques et passionnelles observes Durant trente années de séjour dans les Colonies françaises Cochin-Chine, Tonkin et Cambodge—Guyane et Martinique—Sénégal et Bivières du Sud—Nouvelle Galédonie, Nouvelles-Hébrides et Tahiti par le Docteur Jacobus X…, Isidore Liseux, Paris, 1893.
 The author said he was sent to Guiana “a year or two” after “the campaign of 1870-1” (presumably meaning the Franco-Prussian War, which ended in January 1871) and spent three years there.
 Article on “Guiana, French” in Chambers’s Encyclopaedia, vol. V (London, 1878) p.185.
 The reader will recollect, that the author is in direct conflict with the view held by Sir Richard Burton, regarding the origin and prevalence of homosexual passion. But on the other hand it is proper to point out that J. A. Symonds, in his Problem in Modern Ethics, contests Burton's position, and maintains that Burton's knowledge of the subject was incomplete. "We quote from page 77: "Though he (Burton) possesses a copious store of anthropological details, he is not at the proper point of view for discussing the topic philosophically. For example, he takes for granted that 'Pederasty' as he calls it, is everywhere and always what the vulgar think it. He seems to have no notion of the complicated psychology of Urnings, revealed to us by their recently published confessions in French and German medical and legal works."
In a foot-note, Symonds further adds: "Burton's acquaintance with what he called 'Le Vice' was principally confined to Oriental nations. He started on his enquiries imbued with vulgar errors; and he never weighed the psychical theories examined by me in the foregoing section of this essay. Nevertheless, he was led to surmise a crasis of the two sexes in persons subject to sexual inversion. Thus he came to speak of the 'third sex'. During a conversation I had with him less than three months before his death, he told me that he had begun a general history of "Le Vice"; and at my suggestion he studied Ulrichs and Krafft-Ebing, It is to be lamented that life failed before he could supply his virile and candid criticism to those theories, and compare them with the facts and conversation he had independently collected." [Author’s note]. The differences in opinion between Burton on the one hand, and Symonds and the author on the other hand, might well be regarded as broadly the difference between the old (pre-17th century in Europe, much more recent elsewhere) view of pederasty as a general temptation for men and the new view of it as the perversion of a small minority, Burton and Symonds’s knowledge being drawn from two very different cultural spheres. [Webpage editor’s note].