The Daily Agenda for Friday, January 4
January 4th, 2013
THIS MONTH IN HISTORY:
The Bicycle in the Treatment of Homosexuality: 1892. In the late 1800s, the entire country was swept up in a massive bicycling craze. We tend to think of bicycling today as a hobby or recreation, but in the late 1800s, it was an amazingly practical, efficient, cheap and speedy way of getting around. Before the bike came along, transportation was either by horse (cumbersome and expensive) or by foot (slow). By 1885, over 400 bicycle factories were working non-stop to keep up with demand. That year alone, Americans bought 2 million bikes, one for every 27 people in the country.
Bicycling also had the added benefit of being healthy exercise. And so it should come as no surprise that it would inspire doctors to find novel prescriptions for their patients’ ailments. Dr. Graeme M. Hammond of New York City wrote to the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease about the new contraption’s ability to calm his patient’s nervous disorders. He presented thirteen cases, which included “one of sexual perversion, and the thirteenth case was one of abnormally developed sexual appetite”:
CASES XII. and XIII. both suffered from abnormal sexual appetites. Case XII. a young man, twenty-four years of age, had observed for the past year a gradually increasing desire for members of his own sex. He had been able to control his appetite so far, but was fearful lest it should finally overcome him and lead him to perpetrate acts which were naturally abhorrent to him. Case XIII. was a man, thirty years of age, whose naturally vigorous sexual appetite had been fed by indulgence, till it seemed as if the gratification of his desires was his only object in life.
I have observed during my twenty years experience among athletes, that physical fatigue is antagonistic to the sexual appetite, and that men who devote their lives to the cultivation of their physical strength are seldom, if ever, immoderate sexually, and during the periods of active training are often abstemious simply from lack of desire. Energy, which, in others might be expended sexually, is in them consumed by hard physical work. It has, therefore, been my custom in those cases, in whom I have considered it advisable to diminish or to abolish the sexual appetite, to prescribe severe and fatiguing exercise in conjunction with suitable medicinal treatment. I have found nothing more serviceable than the bicycle to accomplish this object. It should be used daily, preferably in the afternoon, and the patient should be directed to ride long distances at a rapid rate of speed, not carrying it to such an extent as to produce exhaustion, yet sufficiently so to induce well-marked fatigue.
Both of these patients have repeatedly told me that a hard ride would invariably abolish all sexual desire, even if the appetite was at its strongest just before the ride was taken. Of course, medicinal treatment was administered in both instances; but there can be no doubt that their recovery was hastened and facilitated by the hard physical labor they were subjected to by the use of the bicycle.
[Source: Graeme Hammond. “The bicycle in the treatment of nervous diseases.” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 17, no. 1 ( January 1892): 36-46.]
Michael Stipe: 1960. Stipe met bandmate Peter Buck at a record store in Athens, Georgia, that Peter managed. “He was a striking-looking guy and he also bought weird records, which not everyone in the store did.” Buck later recalled. They formed R.E.M. with Bill Berry and Mike Mills, and with Stipe as lead singer. The band’s first album, Murmer (1983), found critical success, even though critics couldn’t make out the lyrics due to Stipe’s mumbling. His vocal styling continued on their second album Reckoning (1984), by which time Stipe’s mumbling became fodder for parodies. Stipe answered his critics: “It’s just the way I sing. If I tried to control it, it would be pretty false.”
In 1985, R.E.M. finally began to hit their musical stride when Stipe decided to enunciate more clearly for Fables of the Reconstruction. The clearer singing began to reveal an earnest, albeit nonlinear, writing style in his lyrics. That nonlinearity extends to his personal life as well: he doesn’t consider himself gay. “I don’t,” he reiterated in 2005. “I think there’s a line drawn between gay and queer, and for me, queer describes something that’s more inclusive of the grey areas.” In a 2011 interview, Stipe said that he was “around 80-20” gay, but still prefers to identify as queer. “A lot of younger people have a much more it-is-what-it-is approach to sexuality. The black and white binary approach just does not work. So you find the terms that make you most comfortable.” R.E.M announced their retirement as a band in September 2011.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?