David Trotter, 23 June 2022
On 2 january 1931, Valentine Ackland sent her new lover, Sylvia Townsend Warner, a book about bisexuality. ‘After reading it carefully,’ she reported with evident relief, ‘I discover that you and I are admirably suited to each other.’ Warner was quick to imagine bisexuality as a kind of physiological oscillation. ‘Do we do it in alternate spasms, do you think, like synchronised oysters ... or is one both at once?’ The book’s author, Theodore J. Faithfull, described on the title page as ‘principal of the Priory Gate School’, had something altogether less strenuous in mind. To him, bisexuality did not concern sexual preference. Rather, it was a way to acknowledge the bipolar presence in an individual of the ‘attributes, instincts and desires generally attributed to males and females respectively’. One is bisexual psychologically, Ackland explained. She was the sort of person whose ‘psychological sexual balance’, in Faithfull’s terms, demanded the frequent ‘discharge of libido’. When it came to libido, others might prefer to ‘receive’ and ‘retain’ rather than to discharge. By Ackland’s account, Warner belonged to the second category.