Great Britain

EM Forster Stopped Writing After Losing His Virginity

Forster Writer E.M. Forster always knew he was gay but didn't have his first sexual experience until later in life - when he was 38 years old - years before he wrote the gay-themed novel Maurice. A new biography reveals that the relationships he forged replaced his desire to write and also reveal the recent discovery of a diary he kept that chronicled his sexual adventures.

The Times reports:

"Now Forster’s papers, including his “sex diary”, which had been locked away at his former lodgings at Cambridge University, indicate his creative drive was curbed after he lost his virginity to a wounded soldier on an Egyptian beach when he was 38 and met his long-term lover — a married policeman — several years later."

"The author felt he could not continue to write about the heterosexual, English middle-class themes with which he had made his name."

“'I should have been a more famous writer if I had written or rather published more, but sex prevented the latter,' Forster wrote."

Forster's diary also reveals that he apparently exclusively dated blue collar men. One entry, in part: “I want to love a strong young man of the lower classes and be loved by him and even hurt by him."

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  1. What would an English novelist/novel be without the class fetishism? I think it's hilarious when people state that they're into rough trade. I mean, it's awfully hard to take anyone seriously ever, but when you deliberately make a clown of yourself...god times.

    Posted by: TANK | Jun 6, 2010 1:45:49 PM

  2. Can't wait to read this. It opens up a whole new level for Forster scholarship.

    It's amazing that someone who had so much trouble living his life has grown to be such a beloved literary figure. Howard's End, A Passage to India, A Room With a View and Maurice have deeply touched zillions.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jun 6, 2010 1:49:11 PM

  3. It's important to consider the context...the 19th-century and pre-WW2 gay aesthetic and fetish for "lower class" men wasn't necessary on a class...but of appearance and attitude. While today it's the better-off gay men who workout, tan and get lots of fresh air exercise, before WW2 it that same bodytype was that of the working-man, outdoors or in the mill.

    Look at pictures of that period and by today's standards guys look 20-30 years older than they were and are mostly pallid and paunchy.

    Posted by: Ted B. (Charging Rhino) | Jun 6, 2010 2:00:28 PM

  4. England's love affair with class is much more ingrained than that explanation-- transcending orientation and time period (not just victorian). It's still very much alive. It just wouldn't be England without class obsession.

    Posted by: TANK | Jun 6, 2010 2:07:20 PM

  5. What an incredible writer. I've read "Maurice" dozens of times (it's short, can be read in 2 hours, perfect for planes and trains) and all the other ones multiple times. So deft at a phrase that describes something with few words. He co-wrote the libretto to Benjamin Britten's glorious opera "Billy Budd" and it's still considered one of the finest opera librettos ever written (I know, thanks to the Italians that's a low bar, but still).

    From here:

    "Perhaps because of his erotic preference for working-class men, Forster was also deeply affected by the belief that homosexuality could serve a positive social function by helping to bridge the barriers that separate the classes"

    Posted by: Henry Holland | Jun 6, 2010 2:31:09 PM

  6. I'm reading this book now and loving it. Considering how much I thought I knew about gay history, I'm pleasantly surprised to be learning more.

    Posted by: Chal | Jun 6, 2010 2:43:04 PM

  7. BLU COLLAR men are HOT!!! Right on, EM!

    Posted by: LovesConstruction | Jun 6, 2010 2:45:02 PM

  8. Forrester's notion that homosexuality could help bridge the differences between classes is reflected and expanded upon in Samuel Delaney's "Time Square Red/Time Square Blue" where he argues that the old porn theaters and sex clubs in Times Square provided a shared ground where men who were looking for a sexual encounter with other men could meet and connect across boundaries of class, race and age. Delaney, who frequented these establishments before they were shuttered by the Giuliani administration's successful effort to transform Times Square into a Big Apple Disneyland outlet, argues that among the regulars long term erotic relations arose between Wall Street financiers and drug addicts, construction workers and business men, that transcended societal distinctions.

    Men who would never have crossed paths, let alone exchanged a word, came together initially through mutual lust which over time and repeated encounters developed into a real, if circumscribed, interest in aspects of one anothers' lives leading to a kind of care and understanding that simply would not happen without the erotically charged environment that brought them together in the first place. Delaney laments the loss of these sexual crossroads to censors and prudes who are threatened by the transgression of their social order.

    You can argue with his position, but Delaney defends Forrester's thesis with passion and gives a thorough, articulate and forceful rebuttal to the forces of prudery that want to eliminate these venues from our society. If you ever need a philosophical excuse to visit a bathhouse or follow a hot guy into the bushes, this is the place to find it.

    Posted by: Smartypants | Jun 6, 2010 3:25:35 PM

  9. Smartypants:

    Bla bla bla, stop inflicting your boring PhD dissertation on us. Keep it in the salons of the Yale English department where they shiver and cream their panties over words like "transgressive"

    Posted by: GrabbinNewscum | Jun 6, 2010 3:38:41 PM

  10. Yeah, Smartypants!

    Open, free form comments regarding gay revelations about a major literary figure is no place to write in full sentences or use words with more than one syllable!

    You need to listen to us stupid queens and be vapid and only listen to dance music all day, that'll learn ya!

    Posted by: CRANK | Jun 6, 2010 3:49:58 PM

  11. @smartypants
    I agree with you (and Samuel Delaney). Samuel Delaney rocks!

    Posted by: elg | Jun 6, 2010 3:59:31 PM

  12. Well put, Smartypants. Delaney is a living gay hero who's standing in the literary world will no doubt eclipse even Forster's as more mainstream academics discover the depth of his philosophy and writing. "Hogg" is a perfect example of a gay 'genre' novel transgressing erotica/sci-fi and becoming a unique literary vision.

    And to Gavin Dumbscum:
    dumb Let dumb fags read bad stupid! Gaga!

    Posted by: Kitty Boots | Jun 6, 2010 4:03:42 PM

  13. Grabbinnewscum: "Blah" has an h on the end of it. Smartypants can spell transgressive and you can't even spell blah right.

    Posted by: Snowlowe | Jun 6, 2010 4:07:03 PM

  14. Oh blah, blah, blah yourself, sweetcheeks.

    First, in my experience transgressive usually equals hot.

    Secondly, I think it's fascinating that two great gay writers, separated by an ocean and a half century of time, both concluded that homosexuality, or better -- love and attraction between men, has the potential to overcome societal distinctions and prejudice that keep us from sharing and learning from one another. It's an idea worth exploring in the literary salon, the gay bar and the bushes of a park.

    Finally, while I didn't go to Yale, I did once bend a Yale Divinity grad over a tree stump in the rain forest and fucked him hard until he recited dirty limericks. It wasn't revelatory, but it was sexy and a hell of a lot of fun -- something that seems to be sadly missing from your life.

    Posted by: Smartypants | Jun 6, 2010 4:09:31 PM

  15. Grabbinnewscum: OMG!! I love Glee too!!! The guys on it are like so super cute!!!! =)

    Posted by: Chal | Jun 6, 2010 4:13:36 PM

  16. Yeah..."love conquers all!" Sorry, but a quick trick doesn't equate to social justice between the classes. Perhaps that was a more relevant hypothesis when homosexuality was criminalized...but even then, the number of actual relationships born of mutual interest in the male body...I'd say pretty low considering the closet rate. I know for a fact that we're still marginalized in society, that creates unusual matchups. But with increased acceptance, we see the decline of places like bathhouses, restrooms, and public space hookups. Those "scenes" just smack of oppression; and oppression can come to be erotic for some of the oppressed. However, with that comes an increase in selectivity, and class rigidity.

    Posted by: TANK | Jun 6, 2010 4:19:42 PM

  17. Agree with @ smartypants. I think the net has done this aswell to a small percentage no?

    I would never hang out or be around someone like Grabbie but tlrd is the only place for good gay news, so you end up bumping into these people.


    Posted by: Rowan | Jun 6, 2010 4:21:25 PM

  18. Bridging the gap between classes and engaging is sexual exploits while doing so is prevalent in many eras all throughout history. The early Greeks and Romans, middle-age English, French and German, the wild west, the west coast during the mid and late 1800s... this type of thing has happened probably since the dawn of time in all cultures. I picture neanderthal men sneaking off to whoop it up with hunky cro-magnons because they were attracted to their massive brow ridge.

    Posted by: johnny | Jun 6, 2010 4:22:36 PM

  19. I'll be happy to read the book, though much of this information is not that new. He certainly had romantic affairs with men (like the one he dedicated Passage to India to) before he "stopped writing" -- and I'm not sure how accurate that is, what about all the Life to Come stories? Were they written before or after? They're much more openly gay.

    As to the class difference, one should also consider that homosexuality and sexuality in general were treated differently by different classes. Working class men were much less restrained by "R for respectability" -- that's a very middle-class concept. See Chauncey's Gay New York.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Jun 6, 2010 4:22:46 PM

  20. "Transgressive!"

    "Nodes of resistance!"

    "Discourse re-inscribed on the locus of the subject!"

    "The panoptical society!"


    "Deconstruction of the essentialized heteronormativied binary!"

    "Bla bla blabbity bla! Can I have my PhD now?"

    Posted by: GrabbinNewscum | Jun 6, 2010 4:28:50 PM

  21. Reading these comments and thinking a bit more about the idea of homosexuality as a connector across social boundaries, led to a headslap moment. What other mechanism gives people the opportunity to meet people from outside their own little corner of the world?

    Stay with me here, fellas...THE INTERNET!

    When I was in college I spent a term living in Vienna. My first day there (a Friday) I went to a gay community center, met several nice men and got invited to brunch the following Sunday. (Apparently brunch and blowjobs are part of the universal gay language). In less than 24 hours I was eating, talking and hanging out with interesting men from the other side of the world.

    Today I am Facebook friends with a writer in Thailand who posts regular updates about the political situation there, a college friend who teaches English at a medical school in Northern Japan, and a dance instructor in Amsterdam. All because of the world wide web and homosexuality.

    It just goes to prove, THE INTERNET IS GAY!

    Posted by: Smartypants | Jun 6, 2010 4:34:02 PM

  22. "Bla bla blabbity bla! Can I have my PhD now?"

    Only if you hang it on the wall of your dungeon and promise to stay there, Grabbin.

    Funny how an intelligent discussion of one of the major gay literary figures of all time can be so threatening to the frustrated few . . .

    Posted by: Ernie | Jun 6, 2010 4:50:16 PM

  23. "Smartypants" is a queen after my own heart.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jun 6, 2010 4:57:44 PM

  24. Tank, I agree with you. "Love conquers all" is a romantic notion that doesn't survive scrutiny. And love usually ain't what going on in the places Delaney writes about.

    But I don't think he's arguing that sex among strangers is a social cureall. But it does bring men together in ways that don't happen in "polite" society. Sometimes this means they also connect on a deeper level where they experience more than just a quick release.

    I've had more than my fair share of sexual adventures in unexpected men in unusual places. It's certainly not something I romanticize, but I'm not ashamed of it either. Sometimes the encounters just left me feeling empty and dirty, but as often as not there were real moments of tenderness, compassion, or a brief moment of connecting across barriers of class, age and language.

    But I'm willing to bet I'm the only person in my extended biological family who has had a long conversation with an illegal immigrant about what it's like trying to get by in America, or discussed the challenges of payload balancing on the space shuttle with a NASA scientist.

    I'm not arguing that cruising dirty bookstores is a social panacea, but it sometimes chips away at the social barriers and can lead to a bit more understanding and compassion around people who are different from oneself. And I that's not a bad start.

    Posted by: Smartypants | Jun 6, 2010 4:57:58 PM

  25. Is this Towleroad's most erudite discussion ever? Bravo to those involved. Forster spoke to me as a younger gay man. "Only connect." That was the theme of Howard's End. Seems appropriate here.

    Posted by: GM | Jun 6, 2010 5:04:56 PM

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