The second great evil of a Tramp’s life – it seems much smaller at first sight, but it is a good second – is that he is entirely cut off from contact with women. This point needs elaborating. Tramps are cut off from women, in the first place, because there are very few women at their level of society.
One might imagine that among the destitute people the sexes would be as equally balanced as elsewhere. But it is not so; in fact, one can almost say that below a certain level society is entirely male. The following figures, publishes by the L.C.C. from a night census taken February 13th, 1931, will show the relative numbers of destitute men and destitute women:
(Figures from shelters, churches, casual wards, and hostels follow)
It will be seen from these figures that at the charity level men outnumber women by something like ten to one. The cause is presumably that unemployment affects women less than men; also that any presentable woman can, in the last resort, attach herself to some man. The result, for a tramp, is that he is condemned to perpetual celibacy.
For of course it goes without saying that if a tramp finds no women at his own level, those above – even a very little above – are as far out of reach as the moon. The reasons are not worth discussing, but there is little doubt that women never, or hardly ever, condescend to men who are much poorer than themselves. A tramp, therefore, is a celibate from the moment when he takes to the road. Having no hope at all of securing a wife, a mistress, or any kind of woman except – very rarely when he can raise a few shillings – a prostitute. It is obvious what the results of this must be: homosexuality, for instance, and the occasional rape cases.
But deeper than these is the degradation worked in a man who knows that he is not even considered fit for marriage. The sexual impulse, not to put it any higher, is a fundamental impulse, and starvation of it can be almost as demoralizing as physical hunger. The evil of poverty is not so much that it makes a man suffer as that it rots him physically and spiritually. And there can be no doubt that sexual starvation contributes to the rotting process. Cut off from the whole race of women, a tramp finds himself degraded to the rank of a cripple or a lunatic. No humiliation could do more damage to a man’s self-respect.
George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London, Chapter 36. (1933)
From George Orwell to Eliot Rodger, and not an inch of space between them. And speaking of Paris…
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, n’est-ce pas?