Before the Stonewall riots in 1969, LGBTQ individuals had generally not broadcast their sexual orientation or identity, It's refreshing to come across memoirs and true stories of people who lived before that time, who lived life to its fullest being sexually expressive.
I read this book, Out of this Century: Confessions of an Art Addict. It's the autobiography of Marguerite "Peggy" Guggenheim, who was an American art collector, bohemian and socialite. According to both Guggenheim and other historians, she had a voracious sexual appetite and it was believed that, while living in Europe, she slept with 1,000 men. She claimed to have had affairs with numerous artists and writers, and in return many artists and others have claimed affairs with her. What is so intriguing about this is that her sexual escapades are documented prior to World War II.
In her autobiography Ms. Guggenheim explains that, when she was young, her many boyfriends were too respectable to have sex with her; but she discovered (at age 23) some sexually explicit photographs. “They depicted people making love in various positions, and of course I was very curious and wanted to try them all out myself.” Laurence (her boyfriend at the time) was startled by her forwardness. He visited her at home in Paris, when her mother was out. He made a sexual pass and was shocked by how readily she acquiesced. He quickly changed his mind, saying that it might be better if Peggy came to his hotel sometime. She grabbed her hat and asked: “How about right now?” She lost her virginity that night. They married two years later and had two children, but the marriage was a disaster. Peggy wasn't above throwing it in Lawrence's face that she held the purse strings because of her wealth. (When she had turned 21 in 1919, Peggy Guggenheim inherited $2.5 million, which is about $34.5 million in today's currency.)
Other articles put Ms. Guggenheim on the list of famous bisexual people; the way her autobiography reads, it suggests that she did have an attraction to women from the very beginning. When she was young, she attended a private school for Jewish girls, and described a crush she had on another girl. The attraction was mutual. Later on in the autobiography, she describes close relationships with women, and she seems to be more descriptive and artistic when she talks about the beauty of her female friends
Many of the historians tend to look at Peggy's bohemian lifestyle and and sexual 'promiscuity' as something that occurred for clinical reasons. For example, it is believed that she had many lovers because she was trying to replace her father after his death; she had attractions for people who had "messy personal lives"; she had self-image issues because of her crooked nose and used sex to boost her confidence. I disagree with these clinical assessments. All of these incidents are part of life's journey that people experience (death, relationship conflicts, self-image issues). Based on all of the information I read, Ms. Guggenheim just seemed to be an extrovert who had what we now call an 'alternative lifestyle' of sorts, and she loved sex. I believe that her wealth played a role more than anything clinical. I believe that during that time period, her wealth allowed her to be eccentric, and it paid for secrecy, because sexual expressiveness, and anything nontraditional was very taboo. At any rate, I admire her openness and forwardness.
During her lifetime, she published her memoirs and was quite candid about her many love affairs with both men and women. In the end, everyone agrees that the great love of Peggy's life was never a man or a woman but her art collection.