The Sexual Question - A Scientific, psychological, hygienic and sociological study
by August Forel
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Influenced, no doubt, by general opinion, Westermark tries to believe in some instinctive repulsion of man for consanguineous unions. If in modern society such unions, perpetuated between parents and children, brothers and sisters, were still produced as in animals I should agree that they might be injurious to the species; but, considering how cosmopolitan and mixed is our modern society, I cannot make the concession. On the contrary, I maintain that the isolated unions which still take place between relatives in civilized countries are so exceptional that they do not present the least danger, excepting among the families of degenerates. It is therefore only a question of superstition. What we have to guard against are unions between pathological individuals and blastophthoric influences. We must not forget that many degenerates and idiots have a great pathological tendency to incest, and this is no doubt why the effect has been confounded with the cause.

Westermark himself gives us a striking example. Since the most remote times the inhabitants of the Commune of Bats, composed of 3,300 persons, have intermarried; yet this population is very healthy and vigorous and shows no sign of degeneration. On the other hand, we have seen that contrasts produce a mutual attraction in the domain of love, while strong resemblances rather repel. Bernardin de St. Pierre has said that love is created by contrasts; the greater the contrast the greater the love. Schopenhauer remarks as follows: "Every individual seeks in the opposite sex peculiarities which contrast with his own; the most masculine man seeks the most feminine woman, while small and feeble men love large and strong women; people with short noses prefer long ones, tall and thin men prefer short and stout women. All this increases fecundity." Thus instinct is sufficient to protect humanity against consanguinity, each sex instinctively seeking the contrasts which consanguinity diminishes.


Youth, beauty, health, finery and flirtation excite the sexual appetite. Many other sentiments are accessory, such as admiration, the pleasure of possession, respect, pity, etc. Inclination is an important element, but in no way necessary to sexual union.

In the lower stages of human development, tenderness toward children is much stronger than sexual love. Among many savage races the love of a man for his wife is completely wanting, as well as that of the wife for her husband. In this case marriage depends on reciprocal convenience, on the desire to have children, and profits by personal comfort and the satisfaction of a purely animal sexual appetite. However, among these people the parents have a tender regard for their children. The husband has the right to beat his wife, but the wife is considered as unnatural or even criminal if she beats her children. Among the North American Indians, for example, conjugal love is, so to speak, unknown. On the other hand, in other savage races, such as the Touaregs, the Niam-Niams, the New Caledonians, the Tonganese and Australians, the conjoints have a deep affection for each other, and the husband often commits suicide on the death of his wife. On the whole, the sentiments of affection of the conjoints are the result of a long sexual life in common, and they are especially strengthened by the love of the parents for their children.

As a rule, the mutual attachment of conjoints for each other among cultivated races is developed along with altruism. The tenderness and refinement of love as they exist at the present day among highly civilized races were unknown to most savages and to the older civilizations. In China it is considered good manners to beat the wife, and when a poor Chinaman treats his wife with consideration, it is to avoid having to buy another. What the Arab understands by love is only sexual appetite, and among the ancient Greeks it was nearly the same.

In civilized Europe mental culture progresses in the direction of equality of rights between the two sexes, so that a man regards his wife more as a companion who is his equal and no longer a slave. Community of interests, opinions, sentiments and culture constitute a primary condition for sentiments of mutual sympathy and favors affection. No doubt, excitation of the sexual appetite by contrasts acts here as an antagonistic force. Contrast should not be so great as to exclude sympathy.

Too great difference in age is dangerous for attachment, for it causes too great a divergence in the aims and interests of life. Education and social equality also favors love, and this tends to preserve class distinction. It is rare for a well-educated man to fall in love with a peasant, or a laboring man with an educated woman, except in a sensual way. Men generally avoid marriage with individuals of another race, or of another religion.

Endogamy and exogamy do not form such an absolute contrast as at first sight might appear. Even among exogamous races, there is a limit which must not be passed. These races often prohibit marriage with individuals of another race. Among the Arabs, for example, the instinct of ethnical separation is so strong, that the same Bedouin wife who will prostitute herself for money with Turks or Europeans, would think it dishonorable to marry one of them. In this way custom produces endogamy of caste and class among the same people. The same with the nobility; in ancient Rome it was forbidden for a patrician to marry a plebeian. Sometimes an endogamy of religious origin is met with, among the Jews for example.

Children are treasures for the man of low culture, while they become a burden to the cultivated man. In spite of this the natural man ardently desires children. In Switzerland, two-fifths of the divorces occur in sterile unions, although the latter only form one-fifth of all marriages.

Calculation often smothers sentiment when it becomes the basis of marriage. We live to-day under the sway of Mammon, with the result that the influence of love, strength, beauty, capacity for work, intelligence, skill, character and even health, count for little compared with money in the question of marriage. This sad sign is really a new form of marriage by purchase, hypocritically disguised.


The rape of women is an established custom in some regions. Certain marriage ceremonies prove that rape was formerly much more common than at the present day. Among certain Indian tribes the simulation of rape and abduction of the woman form part of the marriage ceremonies; custom requiring that the woman must feign to resist.

According to Spencer, marriage by rape originated in the prudery of woman, while MacLennan attributes it to the predominance of exogamy; but, in reality, marriage by rape exists in races which are absolutely endogamous. Westermark believes it arose from the repugnance to unions contracted in a narrow circle. The savage has difficulty in procuring a wife without giving the father compensation; besides, his own repugnance to the companions of his childhood and the prejudices against unions between relations, as well as the enmity of other clans, all increase the difficulties to be overcome. This is why he often decides on rape. Marriage by rape has not, however, been the rule at any period, and on the whole, unions concluded by mutual agreement have always predominated.

Marriage by purchase has followed marriage by rape, and forms a slightly higher stage of civilization, developed by exchange of money or other symbols. It first appears, in Australia, for example, as marriage by exchange (exchange of a woman for a sister or a daughter). Afterward young men gain their wives by working as servants for the father. In marriage by purchase the price is based on the beauty, health and social position of the woman. A young girl is generally worth more than a widow or a rejected woman. Skill in female manual labor also increases the price. Among the Indians of British Columbia a wife will cost from twenty to forty pounds sterling, while in Oregon they are exchanged for bisons' skins or blankets. Among the Kaffirs from three to ten cows is a low price, twenty to thirty a high price for a wife. When a wife was given gratis, her parents had a right to the children. Marriage by purchase and by exchange still exists among the lower races as it formerly ruled among civilized peoples. We still possess the rudiments.

Marriage by rape or by purchase has, however, never been in general usage. Certain races in India and Africa considered it a disgrace to pay a price for a wife.

From the historical point of view it is interesting to note that, in the ceremonies of marriage by purchase, a simulated and symbolical rape of the betrothed still recalls the old form of marriage by rape; also, in races where a higher form has replaced marriage by purchase, traces of the latter are still preserved in certain nuptial symbols.


The position of woman has undergone steady improvement in higher civilization by the progress of altruism. This is why culture, in India, China, Greece, Rome and Germany, etc., has gradually discredited marriage by purchase. This was at first replaced by the custom of giving wedding presents to the bride; afterward the opposite custom was introduced of the bride bringing her dot to the bridegroom.

A singular transition between these two systems is constituted by simulated purchase, in which the bridegroom offers presents to the bride's parents, which are afterward returned to him. Among certain savages the bride's parents return the purchase money of their daughter to the bridegroom in another form. Such restitution was often the origin of the dot.

Among the Romans the dot became the property of the husband, and from this is derived the modern custom which usually gives the husband the right to administer his wife's dot, which remains the property of the wife and her family.

Among the Mexicans, where divorce for conjugal discord is frequent, and among certain Mahometans, division of property exists in marriage, and the wife's property is returned to her when she is separated or divorced.

In Europe at the present time, especially under the influence of French customs, there is established a kind of marriage by inverse purchase (which already existed among the Greeks), in the sense that the parents of young girls obtain husbands for them by means of a large dot. Westermark concludes this subject with the following words: "If she does not possess special personal attractions, a young girl without a dot, at the present day, runs a great chance of not getting married. This state of things is quite naturally developed in a society where monogamy is legally enforced; where women are more numerous than men; where many men never marry, and where married women too often lead a life of idleness." If we add to this: "in a society where Mammon rules as absolute master," the picture will not be wanting in accuracy.


In primitive races where the wife is simply bought like merchandise, often after mutual agreement, nuptial ceremonies do not exist. They generally originate later from the symbols of a form of marriage since abandoned. The ceremony being concluded and the marriage recognized as legal, it is followed by feasting. Certain religious ceremonies are generally combined with marriage. The customs of our modern marriages arise from the same source. At the time of early Christianity there were no religious ceremonies and even up till the year 1563, the date of the end of the Council of Trent, religious benediction of marriage was not obligatory. Luther held that marriage should be purely civil, but legal civil marriage was only introduced among us by the French Revolution, while it had existed in remote times among the Peruvians, Nicaraguans and others. Among certain races, marriages concluded without dot, without ceremony, or without purchase, and even those between different castes, are often regarded as concubinage.


Leaving aside hermaphrodites, such as the snails, in which each individual has both kinds of sexual organs and plays the part of both male and female, there are among animals with separate sexes five forms of conjugal union:

(1). Temporary or perpetual monogamy, or marriage between one individual of one sex and one of the other sex. This is the case with most birds and mammals and many races of man.

(2). Polygymy or polygamy, or the marriage of one male with several females. This occurs in ruminants, stags, fowls, and other animals, as well as in some human beings; for example, the Islamites, negroes, American Indians, Mormons, etc.

(3). Polyandry, or the marriage of one female with several males. This is met with chiefly in the ants, in which each female is generally fecundated successively by several males. In most of the higher animals, the jealousy of the males renders polyandry impossible. In man it is rare but exists among certain races.

(4). Marriage in groups, or marriage between several males and several females. This singular custom is rare but exists in the Togas, a tribe of savages. I am not aware of its existence among animals.

(5). Promiscuity, or free sexual intercourse between males and females. This occurs in many animals, especially in the lower animals in which the sexual instinct of the male is not associated with any regard for the female or the progeny. Promiscuity is still more natural when the female does not look after her young after she has laid her eggs. Nevertheless, in most animals the female limits herself to sexual intercourse before each brood, so that real promiscuity is not so frequent as would at first appear. In man, on the contrary, it attains its apogee in prostitution, which is the only absolutely complete form of promiscuity. But the result of prostitution as regards the preservation of the species, which is the proper object of all sexual union, is absolutely destructive.

Polygamy or polygymy were licit among most ancient races, and is so still among most savages and among many civilized nations; but it has several varieties.

In Mexico, Peru, Japan and China a man only possesses one legitimate wife, but has several concubines whose children are considered as legitimate as those of his wife. Polygamy existed legally among the Jews up to the Middle Ages. King Solomon possessed seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. In Islamite countries the Jews are still polygamous. The Koran allows them four wives and as many concubines as they please. The latter do not enjoy the protection of their father, but apart from this they have the same rights as the legitimate wives. The Hindus and Persians are polygamous. The Romans were strictly monogamous, but they also had concubines.

In Christian Europe, polygamy has occasionally been allowed or tolerated: St. Augustus did not condemn it. Luther allowed Philip of Hesse to marry two wives; and after the treaty of Westphalia bigamy was allowed because of the depopulation of Germany. The mistresses of the present princes are a relic of polygamy. Jesus having said nothing concerning polygamy, Luther did not prohibit it.

The Mormons have introduced it into their religion. The negro king of Loango shows us what degree polygamy may reach among princes and chiefs, for he possesses seven thousand wives, while the chiefs of the Fiji Islands are content with twenty to one hundred.

Among savage races we find monogamy in the natives of the Andaman islands, among the Touaregs, the Weddas, the Iroquois, the Wyandottes, and even in some Australian tribes. With others, polygamy is only permitted to the chiefs. But most of the population are monogamous even among polygamous races, and there are very few peoples in which all the men possess several wives. In India, 95 per cent. of the Islamites are monogamous, and in Persia even 98 per cent. Polygamy is nearly everywhere a privilege of princes, chiefs, and rich men.

The two following facts also show a tendency to monogamy among polygamous races:

(1). One of the wives, generally the first, has prerogatives over the others.

(2). In reality, the polygamous man nearly always gives sexual preference to one only, or to a few of his wives. There are, however, some polygamous races in which the husband has sexual intercourse with each of his wives according to a regular programme, taking each of them in turn for several days, weeks or months. With others, on the contrary, a number of married women remain in reality virgins, because the husband does not desire them, and they are nothing more than domestics. Among these people the husband as a rule only takes a second wife when the first has grown old, so that bigamy becomes the ordinary form of marriage.

The Cingalese were polyandrous before the English conquest, and so many as seven men had one wife in common. Polyandry is especially the custom in Thibet. Among polyandrous peoples the husbands are not all on the same footing of equality, some hold an inferior position, corresponding nearly to that of concubines, another sign of the tendency to monogamy.

Among the Togas marriage in groups is constituted as follows: All the brothers are husbands of the wife of the elder brother, and all the sisters of this wife are at the same time wives of their brothers-in-law. If we except prostitution, this is the only case in man which approaches promiscuity. Marriage in groups, however, is extremely restricted promiscuity.

To resume, monogamy is by far the most widespread form of marriage. This is explained by the relative number of men to women. It has often been stated that the number of individuals of the two sexes is nearly the same, and this has been used as an argument in favor of monogamy. But this statement is incorrect; sometimes it is the men, but more often the women, who predominate. Among the natives of Oregon there are seven hundred men to eleven hundred and eighty-five women. Among the Punkas and other races the number of women is two or three times greater than that of the men. In Kotcha-Hamba there is only one man to five women. Among other races there are, on the contrary, more men than women, especially in Australia, Tasmania, and Hayti. In the latter island there is only one woman to five men. In Cashmere there are three men to one woman. Among the negroes, on the contrary, the women predominate, sometimes in the proportion of three to one, but more generally as three to two.

In Europe, more boys than girls are born on the average, but from the age of fifteen to twenty the numbers become equal, and after twenty the women predominate. This is due to the greater mortality among men, owing to war, the greater danger of masculine occupations, and also to alcoholism. In the fifteen largest towns in Switzerland alcoholism is the direct or indirect cause of death in 10.5 per cent. of men above the age of twenty.

Among savages the women often take part in war, for instance the Amazons of Dahomey. Drinking habits are also the same or absent in both sexes, which equalizes matters. When the men predominate in these people, this is often due to infanticide committed on young girls, and also to overwork of the women. With the Cingalese the natality of boys is greater than that of girls, while in Asia Minor two girls, in Arabia even four girls, are born to one boy. The Arab says, "Allah has given us more women than men; it is, therefore, clear that polygamy is a divine commandment."

Production of Sexes at Will.—I will say a few words on the question of the causes of production of the sexes. There is no want of hypotheses, assertions, nor even of experiments on this subject; but, we are obliged to admit that up to the present we know nothing certain. No one has yet succeeded in producing experimentally in animals males or females at will. According to one theory, which has created much impression, overfeeding produces females and underfeeding males. Although this appears to be true in certain cases among some animals, it is in no way proved in a positive manner.

It has also been suggested that selection produces the sex which is deficient in numbers; but here again proofs are wanting. It has been maintained that crossing tends to breed females, while consanguineous marriages produce males; in other words, that mongrel races show an excess of female births, while races in which marriages are very consanguineous, and polyandrous tribes show an excess of males. It is much better to leave this question alone till science has furnished us with conclusive proofs. Certain results obtained with the lower animals give hope that the future may shed some light on this point.

Again, marriage customs are not always in relation to the excess of one of the sexes. Races in which men predominate are not always polyandrous, and those in which women are in excess are not always polygamous; sometimes even the contrary exists. Polygamy is thus not always due to a surplus of female births, or to the death of many men, but often to religious prescripts, as among the Islamites and Mormons. In polyandry, poverty often plays a greater part than consanguineous marriages or surplus of male births. Religious prescription of the husband's continence during his wife's menstrual periods, pregnancy, and even the period of nursing, a period which often lasts from two to four years in savages, is an important cause of polyandry. At Sierra Leone, coitus of the husband with his wife before the last-born child can walk is regarded as a crime.

Although very advantageous to the wife's health this custom is entirely based on religious ideas and superstitions. Many savages consider that every woman is impure and bewitched during her monthly periods, during pregnancy and suckling. If we add to this the fact that, being usually treated as beasts, the women soon grow old, we can easily understand that the men are inclined to polygamy. It is remarkable with what rapidity the savage woman grows old. She is only fresh from thirteen to twenty years; after twenty-five she is old and sterile, and a little later she has the aspect of an old sorceress. This premature senility is not so much due to early sexual intercourse as to the terribly hard work they undergo, and also to the prolonged period of suckling.

Another cause of polygamy is man's natural desire for change. The negroes of Angola exchange wives. The instinct of procreation, love of glory and riches cooperate with the sterility of many women in propagating polygamy. Certain races only tolerate it when the woman is sterile, or has only daughters, which clearly proves that it is based on the fear of remaining without male descendants.

On the whole, savage women are less fecund than civilized, owing to their long continence during the two or four years nursing of each child. If we add to this the high infant mortality, we can understand how polygamy becomes among these people a means of reproduction in the struggle for existence, and even in African races a natural law. A native of Central Africa may have a hundred wives, who also act as servants and retainers. In this case polygamy is the expression of pomp and wealth. It is especially developed in agricultural peoples owing to the value of the woman's labor. On the other hand it is impossible among nomadic tribes. In Dahomey the king had thousands of wives, the nobility hundreds, the simple citizen a dozen and the soldier none at all.

Jealousy and rivalry among the wives is not always the rule in polygamous families. In equatorial Africa the wives themselves incline to polygamy and regard a rich man who restricts the number of his wives as miserly. Livingstone relates that the women of Makololo declared they would not live in monogamous England, for any respectable man should prove his wealth by the number of his wives. We must not forget that among most savages the moral conception of good and evil are confounded with that of riches and poverty. In reality, the supernumerary wives bought by a polygamist are simply slaves. His power and authority do not easily allow jealousy among them; nevertheless suicide sometimes occurs among the old wives who have been passed over in favor of younger ones. Sometimes they kill their children at the same time. Among the Indians of Terra del Fuego a hut containing three or four women often resembles a battlefield. We have already pointed out the way in which jealous Fiji women cut off the noses of their rivals. Among the Islamites and Hindus intrigue and jealousy are common with the women; the same in Abyssinia, among the Hovas of Madagascar and the Zulus. The Hova term for polygamy is rafy, which signifies adversary. To prevent the jealousy of his wives the polygamous man often places them in separate houses; this is common among the South American Indians.

In Colombia I made the acquaintance of a French explorer, Le Comte de Brettes, who has studied closely the Goajires Indians by becoming himself a member of the tribe. The country of the Goajires is a peninsula of Colombia bordering on Venezuela. Polygamy among these people is very interesting. When a young Goajire wishes to marry he has to pay the bride's parents a number of cattle, but the consent of the bride is necessary. Besides this the husband has to clear a certain area of forest, plant vegetables and build a hut. He must then make a present of all this to his wife and add to it the necessary cattle. The wife thus becomes the legal proprietor of the house and land, and it is she who rules over the domain. The husband only has authority over the male children; but the wife is strictly enforced to be faithful. If he wishes to marry a second wife, he is obliged to buy her also and present her with similar property as the first, in another district. The two wives can never dwell together in the same house nor in the same district; each of them is thus a proprietor on her own account. In this manner the different wives of a Goajire are not only independent, but separated from each other and have no communication; this excludes all jealousy, especially as these women have a deep respect for the laws of their country. Under such conditions polygamy can hardly extend to more than two women without exhausting the forces a man requires to cultivate each of the domains. We thus see that certain forms of polygamy, combined with matriarchism, are compatible with high social position of the wife, for among the Goajires and other Indian tribes the man passes from one wife to the other, while it is the wife who is mistress of the house, the children and the domain.

However, we may say that on the whole monogamy reigns where there is more altruism, respect for women and sentiment for family life; for instance, in Nicaragua, among the Dyaks, the Andamanese, etc., in whom the wife is highly esteemed and possesses political influence. The wife is also proprietor of the house among the Santalese and Mounda-Kols.

In the question we are considering the nature of the amorous passions also plays a great part. When they are purely sensual they do not last long as a rule; but when love arises from mental affinities it may be prolonged till old age. Bain remarks that other passions, such as maternal love, hatred, the desire of domination may be extended to many objects, while love has a tendency to concentrate itself on a single one which then takes preeminence over the others and tends to monogamy. We have seen that birds and monkeys generally love only one female. With some conjugal love is so strong that one of the conjoints cannot survive the other; this fact has been observed with certainty, even when the survivor was provided with another mate. Thus, the male of a certain species of monkey (Hapale jacchus) after the death of his mate, covers his eyes with his hands, ceases to eat and remains in the same position till he dies. Suicide for love is not rare among certain savage races; a point to which we shall return later.

Westermark is certainly right in considering this tendency of love to concentrate itself on a single object as one of the most powerful factors in monogamy. Jealousy is no doubt the reverse of such sentiment, but is the profound despair at seeing the sole object of love desert or become unfaithful. On the other hand, this concentration of love, which may be excellent for isolated families living alone after the manner of wild beasts, is in no way adapted to a society of which all the members are responsible. This is a point we must insist upon. There is certainly a real antinomy which is difficult to reconcile between this dual egoism of exclusive and concentrated love and social solidarity or human altruism. The problem is not insoluble, but we must admit that the solution is not easy.

To resume, we first of all observe an evolution from monogamy toward polygamy. The higher apes and the most primitive men are monogamous; among these there are no differences of rank, nor class distinctions, and they live in very small groups. Wealth, civilization, larger communities, agriculture and the domination of castes have gradually given rise to polygamy. Thus, the ancient Hindus were at first monogamous and later on became polygamous. The prerogative of the first wife over the others is only a vestige of monogamy in polygamy.

A higher degree of culture then diminishes warfare, shortens the period of nursing, does away with the prejudices against coitus during pregnancy, and improves the social position of women. Ageing less quickly, and adding to her bodily charms those of her mental development woman restores man to monogamy. As the same time wives and children gradually cease to constitute riches, and this diminishes the instinct of procreation. Finally, machinery replaces the female labor of former times. In this way, with a higher degree of human culture, all the factors tend to restore monogamy.

The instinctive desires of woman are monogamous. The progress of civilization is continually extending her rights, and the more refined sentiments of sympathy among civilized people are less and less compatible with polygamy. As regards polyandry, Westermark shows that it has always been an exception and that it has only been established among phlegmatic races, having a certain degree of civilization and being unacquainted with jealousy.

Spencer believes that monogamy will prevail in the future, while Lubbock inclines to polygamy. Westermark thinks that if the progress of civilization continues as hitherto to become more altruistic, and that if love tends to become more refined, the conjoints having more and more regard for each other, monogamy will always become more strict.

For my part, I think it idle to prophesy. If mental culture ever succeeds in overcoming brutality and barbarism, and if it continues to make real progress, I do not think that any of the old systems of marriage will persist in their primary form. Primitive monogamy adapted to an unsocial savage condition, is incompatible with the social requirements which become more and more imposed upon humanity. Marriage by purchase and Islamite polygamy, which regard woman as merchandise and place her entirely under the dependence of man, are barbarous customs of semi-civilized people, which have already fallen into disuse. Polyandry is contrary to human nature and to the requirements of reproduction, and its implantation is everywhere a sign of decadence. Our present religious monogamy, completed by the shameful promiscuity of prostitution, is both hypocritical and unhealthy. Till the contrary is proved, I consider the most advantageous form of marriage for the future a kind of free monogamy (eventually polygamy), accompanied by obligations relative to the procreation of children and to the children procreated. Polyandry should only have an accessory right to existence in certain pathological or exceptional cases. We shall return to this point later.


Among birds, marriage is generally concluded for life; among mammals rarely for more than a year, with the exception of the anthropoid apes and man.

The duration of marriage varies enormously in man. Among the Andamanese, the Weddas, certain Papous, marriage can only cease with death. Among the North American Indians, on the contrary, it is only concluded for a limited period. Among the Wyandottes the custom exists of trial marriages for several days. In Greenland, divorce often takes place at the end of six months. Among the Creeks marriage does not last more than a year. In this way is constituted a kind of polygamy by succession or limited monogamy, which results in the father not knowing his children.

Among the Botocudos, marriage is performed without ceremonies and only lasts a short time; it can be broken off on the slightest pretext, for the pleasure of changing; divorce then becomes as frequent as marriage. This is also the case in Queensland, Tasmania and the Samoan islands. Among the Dyaks and Cingalese, quite young men and women have already had several wives or husbands; a man often marries and deserts the same woman several times, to take others during the intervals. Among the Mantras there are men who have been married forty or fifty times.

In Persia a woman may marry for periods varying from one hour to ninety-nine years. In Egypt similar customs are met with; a monthly change is allowed, so that a man may marry twenty or thirty times in two years. Among the Maues of Sahara the women consider it fashionable to marry as often as possible, and a long married life is considered by them as vulgar. The Abyssinians, negroes, etc., marry on trial or for limited periods. Among the Greeks, Romans and ancient Germans, divorce was very frequent.

In nearly all savage tribes, and in a number of civilized people the man possesses an unlimited right of rejection. The Hovas compare marriage to a loosely tied knot. Among the ancient Jews, Romans, Greeks and Germans, discontent of the husband was a sufficient reason for rejection. On the contrary, among a number of savage races (Westermark mentions about twenty-five) rejection and divorce are extremely rare and marriage lasts for life.

It is especially where there are children that divorce is rare. With most races, sterility of the wife and adultery constitute the principal causes of legal divorce.

Among civilized races marriage for life is much more common than with savages. This was the case with the Aztecs, etc. Among the Chinese there exist seven reasons for divorce: sterility, unchastity, negligence toward parents-in-law, talkativeness, desertion, ill-temper and chronic disease. In Japan the laws are similar, but in spite of this divorce is rare in China and Japan.

In Christian countries divorce was formerly permitted and was only prohibited by the Council of Trent. The modern Catholic says: "Man must not separate what God has united." Among many savages, on the contrary, divorce is left to the free will of the married couple. Elsewhere it is sometimes the man, sometimes both husband and wife who have the right to exact divorce for divers reasons, such as drunkenness, adultery, prodigality, etc. In Europe, as elsewhere, it is the desire for change which is the most common cause of divorce.

Children constitute the surest cement against conjugal separations. With most savages the rejected wife regains not only her dot, but also part of the common property, or even the whole of it. On the contrary, the purchase value of the wife is only as a rule returned to the husband when sterility, adultery or other grave reasons are the causes of divorce. It results from this that divorce is always very rare among peoples where the women are very dear.

The right of the children after divorce varies a good deal in different races; sometimes they are adjudged to the husband, sometimes to the wife. Divorced women often become prostitutes, for example, among the Chinese and Arabs. As a rule, marriages for love are more lasting than others, especially when the couple were acquainted before marriage.

It is extremely probable that in primitive man marriage only lasted till the birth of a child, or at the most a few years. With civilization the duration of marriage has been prolonged, higher motives having become added to bodily charms, sexual appetite and the instinct of procreation, and tending toward more lasting unions.

Moral reasons have given rise to laws of protection in marriage, but the mania which man possesses of dogmatizing on everything has often caused these laws to degenerate into abuse or religious absurdities. In this way the modern form of our Christian monogamy has been imposed by a tyrannical dogma of the Roman Church; a dogma which no doubt started from an ideal point of view, but fell into disuse in practice, owing to the fact that it did not take sufficient account of the natural conditions and sexual requirements of the race. This explains the present tendency to greater legal liberty, even when the moral causes which tend to render monogamous unions durable multiply with the progress of civilization.


As monogamous marriage exists among the anthropoid apes, we have every reason to believe that it existed with primitive man. In neither case has it been the result of artificial laws, but the result of brute force and congenital instincts inherited by natural evolution. It often happened that one male vanquished another and took possession of the female, or wife, of the vanquished. Others abducted the female by surprise. Later on, marriage by exchange or by purchase, derived from marriage by rape, probably constituted the first stage toward a legal monogamous or polygamous union, as an element in the most primitive human conventional organizations. In this way we can imagine the main points of the prehistoric evolution of marriage.

When the conception of marriage took on a legal character, either that of possession by the male, or that of a more or less equitable contract between the two sexes, we can easily imagine that sexual intercourse apart from marriage resulted as an inevitable complement. Every artificial barrier which the human mind opposes to natural instincts immediately gives rise to a movement of opposition on the part of the latter. The matrimonial laws of primitive or semi-civilized races punished adultery in the most barbarous manner by torture and death, but were unable to prevent the sexual passions pursuing their course in one way or another.

Certain abuses or exceptions had, therefore, to be tolerated, or certain complementary institutions had to be organized. However, these laws generally branded all forms of sexual intercourse apart from marriage, with the stigma of inferiority, or contempt, if not of crime. The woman, being the weaker, was naturally the one to suffer most from this stigma and its consequences.

The great diversity in the customs of different human tribes, makes it necessary, in order to avoid errors, to guard against generalizing without strong reasons. We cannot, however, here enter into details which would lead us too far. We can, however, affirm that among the lower or primitive races brute force played the principal role and was the fundamental support of marriage, while in higher civilizations legal regulation took the upper hand, however absurd or even immoral it might be.

Illegal or extra-conjugal forms of sexual intercourse have always formed two principal groups: prostitution and concubinage. No doubt, these two varieties are insensibly connected by numerous shades of transition, but as their development depends on different principles we must distinguish these two forms.

Prostitution is a trade in which a human being sells her body for money, while concubinage consists in more or less free sexual intercourse apart from marriage, the motive of which is simply the sexual appetite, convenience or love, although sometimes violence plays a part in it. We therefore find in extra-marital sexual intercourse the same motives as in legal unions; legal or religious sanction only is wanting.

It is needless to say that the motives which lead to concubinage may be more or less tainted by interested calculation. In all civilizations concubinage and prostitution constitute the complement of legal marriage. Their regulation has ever produced the singular results of surrounding them with a moral nimbus.

In Babylon, every woman once in her life, had to prostitute herself for money to any stranger at the temple of Venus. Solon founded houses of prostitution for the people and furnished them with slaves, "in order to protect the sanctity of marriage against the passions of youth."

The Romans had also their houses of prostitution or lupanari, public or private, as well as free prostitutes. In the Middle Ages, prostitution developed especially after the Crusades. It is related that the Council of Constance attracted fifteen hundred prostitutes to this town. Prostitutes followed the armies everywhere.

In India, young girls give themselves to the priests, who are the representatives of God and enjoy great honors. Under the name of Temple girls, the girls of the flower boats of China are really prostitutes. It is the same with the puzes of Java, the girls in the Japanese tea-houses, etc. In some civilized states, certain refined and intelligent prostitutes have always obtained great honors and high favors, only charging high prices, and ending by substituting for prostitution the pecuniary exploitation of rich men whom they have seduced.

Concubinage may be more or less free. The concubines were formerly often slaves, possessed by men in high positions, in addition to their wives. At the present day the omnipotence of money produces almost analogous results. Free concubinage, in which sexual intercourse between the two contracting parties is absolutely free and more or less independent of pecuniary questions, is very different and of a higher moral character. It has also existed in antiquity in various forms. The Greek hetairas were concubines of high position, no doubt prostitutes of a kind and giving themselves for money; but they became the friends or companions of great men. Living in luxury, especially at the time of Pericles and later, several of them became celebrated; statues were raised to them and they became the concubines of kings. Phryne served as the model for the statue of Venus, and offered to restore the halls of the Thebeans at her own expense. Thais was the mistress of Alexander and gave heirs to the throne. The neglected education of the Greek wives caused the intellectual accomplishments of the hetairas to shine by contrast.

The whole question regarding the Greek customs is summed up in a few words by Demosthenes: "We marry wives in order to have legitimate children and a faithful guardian for our household; we have concubines for our daily service, and hetairas for the enjoyment of love."

In some countries, such as Japan, the children of concubines are considered by the husbands as legitimate, and have the same rights as those of his wife; this gives concubinage the character of marriage of the second rank.

In modern times hetairas are not wanting. Under the title of courtesans and mistresses, we find them everywhere as the favorites of kings and nobles, as mistresses of men in high positions, and often playing the part of vampires in all classes of society.

On the other hand, women of high position or wealth have also their favorites, whom we may call male hetairas. Certain female members of royal families have at all times furnished examples of this kind.

At all periods in the history of civilized races, pathology has also led to extra-conjugal sexual intercourse. Here, homosexual love in general, and love of boys or pediastry, has always played the principal part. We shall speak of this in Chapter VIII. Among the Hebrews, Persians, Etruscans, and especially the Greeks, it was held in high esteem. The Greek philosophers regarded it as based on an ideal homosexual love, and not as a vile form of prostitution. Solon, Aristides, Sophocles, Phidias, and Socrates were strongly suspected of homosexual practices, and they regarded this form of love as superior to the normal love of woman. Lesbian love, and other sexual aberrations, such as sadism, have also played a historical role, as we shall see.


Primitive human marriage was probably of short duration; when man later on became carnivorous, and had to obtain food for his children by hunting, sexual unions assumed a more constant character. It is not the class or the tribe, but the family which constituted the primitive social condition of man, a condition in which marriage was a heritage from "pithecomorphous" ancestors, i.e., related to monkeys.

Free sexual intercourse before marriage and frequent changes in the latter were then no doubt very common, but true promiscuity has never been the rule in primitive man.

Patriarchism with its disastrous consequences has been the result of the preponderance of male power. In a higher degree of civilization this preponderance has produced marriage by purchase and polygamy. The barbarous form of the latter is now decreasing.

A true higher culture leads gradually to durable love based on altruism and ethics, i.e., a relative and free monogamy.

The development of marriage in civilization has gradually increased the rights of woman, and marriage contracts tend more and more in their modern forms to stipulate for complete equality of rights for both sexes. As Westermark says: "The history of human marriage is the history of a union in which women have gradually triumphed over the passions, prejudices and egoism of men." The term reemancipation of women is historically more correct than the simple term emancipation, for before the institution of marriage, woman was free. Invented by the stronger male when he began to reason, marriage was at first only the servitude of woman. To give her complete liberty, it must be transformed afresh from top to bottom.


Influence of the Race on Sexual Life.—If I were an ethnographer I should attempt to establish whether, and in what way, racial differences affect the sexual life of man; but the question is so delicate that it would require a skilled specialist to settle it. With the exception of the pages dealing with the history of extra-conjugal intercourse, the statements in this chapter are based on the work of Westermark. The chief difficulty consists in separating, in the customs of each race, that which arises from habit and historical tradition from that which depends on more or less specific hereditary peculiarities. It is here very easy to fall into error in formulating false conclusions.

A good deal has been said concerning the hot blood of warm climates, and on the whole it appears true that people who inhabit these climates have a more violent and more precocious sexual temperament than those who live in cold regions. But this is not a racial character. The Jews, who have preserved their race unaltered in all climates and under all possible conditions of existence, furnish an object lesson which is particularly appropriate to decide the question. The traits of their character are reflected in their sexual life. Their sexual appetites are generally strong and their love is distinguished by great family attachment. Their sexual life is also influenced by their mercantile spirit, and we find them everywhere connected with the traffic of women and prostitution. They are not very jealous and are much addicted to concubinage, at the same time remaining affectionate to their wife and family.

The Mongols also lead a very intense sexual life. Among the polyandrous people of Thibet jealousy appears to be completely absent: this may be the result of custom or may be due to phylogenetic instinct. The Mormons, who are descended from monogamous races, confirm the idea that polygamy is not a specific racial character. It would be interesting to study the mixed races of North America from this point of view. At first sight, it seems that the Americanization of customs in the mixture of races of the United States is also extended to sexual life, and that we cannot discover the fundamental differences between the Irish, Scandinavians, French, Germans and Italians who constitute this mixture. But it is possible that this is only a superficial impression, and that a deeper study of the details would lead to another result. One thing appears to be unquestionable in the negro race; that is the violence of its sexual passion combined with its mental inferiority.

A striking trait is furnished by the French race which has remained pure in the eastern provinces of Canada, whose sexual customs are very different from those of the present population of France. The French Canadian is extremely pure and chaste, leads a regular life and has a numerous family. Families of fifteen or twenty are not rare among French Canadians. We can here, therefore, observe the effect of climate and custom on a single race. For reasons mentioned above, I shall content myself with a few remarks, but I am certain that a profound study of the question would discover, in the character of the individuals, specific peculiarities of their race which are only marked externally by customs. It is obvious that such characters will be all the more distinct, the more the race differs from its congeners, and the purer its ethnical separation. As among animals, it is necessary to distinguish between slight variations, and races or sub-species which are more constant and more divergent. Hereditary or phylogenetic individual differences must also be distinguished from those of races or varieties.

Weight of the Brain in Different Races and Sexes.—Bebel has stated that among savages the difference between the brain of the men and women is less than among civilized people. This statement is quite wrong. Prof. Rudolph Martin, of Zurich, has given me statistics of the cranial capacity of the two sexes in different races, drawn from reliable sources. According to Martin the weight of the brain represents about 87 per cent. of the cranial capacity. His table of statistics is given on the opposite page.

These figures show that the difference between the two sexes is always about the same, while the average absolute weight of the brain in the two sexes is lower in the lower races. Reckoning it 87 per cent. of the cranial capacity, it is in the Weddas 1111 grammes for males and 991 grammes for females, which corresponds to the weight of the brains of idiots or general paralytics with us. Martin assures me that in the Malay peninsula he has found as much difference between the men and women as in Europeans.

According to Martin, men living at the present day may be divided into three classes according to their cranial capacity:

MEN. WOMEN. Aristencephalous (large brains) over 1450 gr. over 1300 gr. Euencephalous (medium brains) 1300 to 1450. 1150 to 1300. Oligencephalous (small brains) under 1300. under 1150.


Men Women Difference {Badois { 48 Craniums m. } 1513 1330 183 { { 26 " f. } Civilized { {Bavarian {100 " m. } 1503 1335 168 (11.2 %) { {100 " f. }

{Malay { 26 " m. } 1414 1223 191 { { 2 " f. } Semi-Civilized { {Aino { 87 " m. } 1462 1308 154 { { 64 " f. }

Lowest Race { 22 " m. } 1277 1139 138 (10.8%) Weddas { 10 " m. }



The evolution of every living being is twofold. We must distinguish: (1) its ontogeny, or the entire cycle of development of the individual from its conception till natural death at an advanced age; (2) its phylogeny, or the series of organic forms through which its ancestors passed, by successive transformations, from the primitive cells of the oldest and most obscure geological periods, up to its present organization.

In its chief outlines ontogeny is determined by phylogeny by means of the laws of heredity, even when it is only an abridged recapitulation.

Regarded from this point of view the sexual life of man is also based on phylogenetic conditions, determined by his ancestral lineage. Moreover, it presents an individual or ontogenetic evolution during the life of each person, which in its principal traits is predetermined in the germ, by the phylogenetic or hereditary energies of the species. The phenomena of the hereditary mneme show clearly how ontogeny is the result of engraphia combined with selection, in the series of ancestors. We have already mentioned these points on several occasions, but must now review the whole question.


In Chapter II we have briefly described phylogeny in general or metamorphosis, and in the first part of Chapter IV we have specially considered the phylogeny of the sexual appetite in the phenomenon of cell division and conjugation of nuclei in unicellular organisms, which we have described in Chapter I. In order for animals to reproduce themselves without degenerating, crossing, or the combination of different germs, is necessary, and such combinations are only possible by the mutual attraction of two kinds of germinal cells. But, when the individual becomes multicellular and bears only one kind of germinal cells, the attractive energy which was originally limited to these cells is transmitted to the whole organism, and this necessitates the existence of sensory and motor nerve centers.

The attraction of one kind of germinal cell and its bearer for the other must also be more or less mutual. As a rule the bearer of one of the germinal cells becomes active and penetrating; that of the other passive and receptive. However, the latter, who after copulation (when this occurs) becomes the sole bearer of the future individual, is obliged to desire union with the active bearer of the other germinal cell, so that reproduction may become harmonious. This is the basis on which is founded sexual reproduction, and with it the sexual appetite, in plants (as regards cellular conjugation only) as well as in animals, but especially in the latter, in whom the germinal cells are carried by mobile and independent individuals. On the same basis is developed the difference between the sexual appetite in man and woman, as well as that between love and the other irradiations of this appetite in the mental life of both sexes. (Vide Chapters IV and V.)

The immense complication of human sexual life makes us regard animals with a certain degree of contempt, and flatter our vanity in qualifying the baser part of our sexual appetite by the term animal instinct. But we are really very unjust toward animals. This injustice is partly due to the fact that vocal and written language gives us a means of penetrating into the psychology of our fellow creatures. By the aid of the common symbolism of our thoughts it is easy for us to compare them. Language thus enables us to construct a general human psychology. The absence of language, even in the higher animals, renders it difficult for us to penetrate their mind. Our inductive reasoning in this matter is very uncertain, for we can only judge the mental power of animals by their acts. The brain, and consequently the mind, of the higher mammals being less highly organized than that of man, their sexual psychology is also more primitive, and differs from ours in proportion to the cerebral development of the species. Comparative anatomy confirms this fact in the whole series of organisms which possess a central nervous system. The psychology of the higher apes is thus nearer our own than that of the dog; the psychology of the dog resembles ours more than that of the rabbit, etc.

On the other hand, the highly developed cerebral organization of man, although it has complicated the mental irradiations of his sexual appetite, has not always ennobled them; on the contrary, it has often directed them into pernicious paths. We have seen in Chapter VI numerous and striking proofs of the degeneration, brutality and cruelty of the manifestations of the human sexual appetite, and we shall study them further in Chapter VIII. Comparative biology shows us that the sexual appetite is transformed into love in very different ways. In order to avoid the immensity of detail of comparative biology I shall only give a few examples.

While the female spider often kills and eats the male, monkeys, and parrots give proof of such a great mutual attachment that when one of the conjoints dies the other sinks into complete despair, ceases to eat, and perishes in its turn.

In this domain we find singular adaptations to special conditions of existence. Among the bees and ants, a third class of individuals, or neuters, formed by differentiation of females, do not copulate, and lay at the most a few eggs which are not fecundated and which occasionally develop by parthenogenesis.

Among the termites, another species of social ants, a similar state of things exists, but the neuters, or workers, are derived from the male sex as well as the female and their sexual organs are quite rudimentary. The third sex, or worker, not only has a cerebral development superior to the sexual individuals, but also inherits the social sympathetic irradiations of the sexual appetite, which results in his devotion to a brood which is not his own. Among the social insects the males are little more than flying sexual organs, which after copulation are incapable of leading an independent existence and die of hunger and exhaustion in the case of ants or termites, or are massacred by the workers in the case of bees.

The fecundated females, on their part, become breeding machines whose activity is incessant. Among the ants, however, the females are at first capable of nourishing a few larvae by the aid of a portion of their eggs and their secretions, till the workers are hatched, who henceforth undertake all the work including the maternal care of the brood.

Whoever has observed the fidelity of a pair of swallows and the way in which the male and female nourish and rear their young, must be struck by the analogy to the conjugal and family love of the faithful type of human beings. This is especially remarkable when the same couple return every year to the old nest. This family life of the swallows does not prevent a certain social life, which manifests itself in organized attacks on birds of prey, and in combined emigration in the autumn and spring.

On the other hand, we are instinctively indignant at the want of fidelity in other animals, between conjoints, parents and offspring (dogs and rabbits, for instance), because we involuntarily expect to find in them our own moral sense, which is not at all just.

From the phylogenetic point of view we can only compare ourselves to the higher apes, by their analogies with primitive man. (Vide Chapter VI.) The question which concerns us here is as follows: If we consider the peculiarities of our sexual customs with those of our direct ancestors, what are those which are derived from ancient and profound phylogenetic instincts, those which are derived from less profound ancestral energies (i.e., relatively more recent) and lastly those which depend simply on old customs fixed by tradition, prejudice and habit? If we are careful we shall immediately recognize that it is not only the sexual appetite itself, but also a large part of its correlatives and irradiations, in which the phylogenetic roots are deep. Jealousy, coquetry, instinctive maternal love, fidelity and conjugal love, which are more or less developed in primitive man, are also present in monkeys and birds. We have even seen that the conjugal fidelity of these often exceeds our own. It is, therefore, not true that our animal ancestors are only allied to us by sexual appetite; on the contrary, we must admit that they have much more noble sentiments and instincts, derived it is true from this appetite, but belonging to the domain of a higher social morality. All that we can say in a general way concerning the complex entanglement of our sentiments and instincts is that, the most deeply rooted characters in human nature are at the same time, phylogenetically speaking, the most ancient.

Among the most profound instincts of sexual life, we find moral and intellectual incongruities. Along with excitement of the sexual appetite in the male by the odor of the female genital organs, or by the sight of erotic pictures, we find the most touching conjugal love, and life-long devotion of one conjoint for the other and for the children. Prostitution, marriage by purchase, religious marriage, disgrace attached to illegitimate births, conjugal and family rights of one or the other sex, etc., are, on the contrary, things which do not depend on recent phylogeny, but only on the customs and traditions of certain races. They are partly outgrowths from egoism, the spirit of domination, mysticism and hypocrisy, and partly the shifts of an overheated social life which is becoming more and more complicated.

Westermark's studies are very instructive in this respect. All the absurdities and contradictions, brought to light by the historical and ethnographical study of the customs and matrimonial abuses in man, allow us to clearly distinguish that which is due to fashion or custom, from that which is deeply rooted in our heredity. To avoid repetition I refer my readers to Chapter VI, to examine the differences between heredity and custom.

Between these two extremes there is, however, one important domain, viz., that of recent phylogeny, or in other words variation. The fixed appetites and instincts of the species which are proper to every normal man, and are as we have seen fundamentally connected with many animal forms, belong to ancient and profound phylogeny. But there is another group of very variable peculiarities, strongly developed in some men and little in others, sometimes completely absent, which do not depend on custom but on what is called individual hereditary disposition, or individual character. While some men have monogamous instincts others are polygamous. Some men are by instinct and heredity very egoistic, others more altruistic. This peculiarity is reflected in their sexual life and changes the character of their love (but not that of their sexual instinct). The egoist may love his wife, but this love is interested and very different from that of the altruist. Between the two extremes there is an infinite number of gradations according to the nature of the instincts and dispositions. The same man may be a good and generous father, and a social exploiter with neither shame nor pity. Another will pose as a social benefactor, while at home he is an egoist and a tyrant. The individual dispositions of recent phylogeny are combined in every way with education, customs, habit and social position to produce results which are often paradoxical, and the factors of which are ambition, vanity, temper, etc. Recent phylogeny is reflected also in many of the irradiations of the sexual appetite of which we have spoken in Chapter V. Audacity, jealousy, sexual braggardism, hypocrisy, prudery, pornography, coquetry, exaltation, etc., depend in each particular case, according to their degree of development, on a combination of individual sexual hereditary dispositions with individual dispositions in the other domains of sentiment, intelligence and will. In this way, the sexual individuality of one man is constituted in a very complex and very different way to that of other men, owing to the high development of the human brain, as well as to the infinite variability and adaptability of his aptitudes. It is impossible to give even an incomplete explanation of all the symphonic gradations (often cacophonic) which represent an individuality, or to fix clearly what distinguishes it from others. However, when the principle is understood, it is not difficult to estimate the sexual individuality of each person more or less correctly.

Strong hereditary dispositions of character may be recognized in early infancy. When the ancestry of a man is well known the roots of his recent phylogeny may be traced to his ancestors. Here we observe the effect of crossing between varieties or different races, or on the contrary that of consanguinity. This effect is observed in character and in sexual disposition, as much as in the shape of the nose, or the color of the skin and hair, etc. It is important that men should learn to know themselves, and also study each other from this point of view before marrying. On the whole, we may say that the average civilized man of our race possesses as his "phylogenetic baggage" a strong sexual appetite, very variable sentiments of love, generally somewhat mediocre, (we have seen that conjugal love is more strongly developed in most monkeys than in man), lastly altruistic or social sentiments which are still deplorably weak. The latter, no doubt, form no part of the sexual life, but they must be taken into consideration for they are its most important derivatives, and it is indispensable for our modern social life to develop them in harmony with family and conjugal love.

Hereditary instincts can easily be observed in children. When one of them is good, it gives evidence at an early age of the sentiments of sympathy or altruism, such as pity and affection, as well as an instinctive sentiment of duty, the object of which is not yet social. All these sentiments are at first only applied to human individuals known to the child, domestic animals, or even inanimate objects. On the other hand, the ant, from the beginning of its existence, shows an inherited instinct or sentiment of complete social duty. In man, social sentiments properly so-called, have to be acquired by education, but they require for their expansion a considerable degree of inherited sentiments of sympathy and duty. A person without morals can easily acquire social phraseology but not social sentiment. A few more points require to be considered.

Monogamy is no doubt an old and well-established phylogenetic heritage, while polygamy is on the whole rather an aberration produced by individual power and wealth. But phylogenetic monogamy is by no means identical with the religious or other formality of our present legal monogamy. It assumes first of all an early marriage immediately after puberty, while our civilization has placed between this and marriage, which it only allows later as a rule, the unhealthy swamp of prostitution, which so often sows in the individual the destructive seed for his future legal union, before this has taken place. Again, phylogenetic monogamy imposes no legal constraint; on the contrary, it assumes a free, natural and instinctive inclination in each of the conjoints, when it is not the result of the brute force of the male. Lastly, it by no means excludes a change after a certain time. We are speaking only of man, and not of birds and monkeys, who are more monogamous than ourselves.

Monogamy without children has little reason for its existence and must be considered simply as a means to satisfy the sexual appetite or as a union for convenience. It is the same with certain marriages between individuals of very different ages, especially the marriage of a young man with a woman already old and sterile.

As far as we can ascertain, the majority of sexual perversions, of which we shall speak in Chapter VIII, are a sad pathological acquisition of the human race. We observe, however, especially in the higher mammals, acts of pederasty between males when the female is wanting.

The sexual repulsion which normally exists between animals of different species rests on a selective basis, the hereditary mneme of their reciprocal germs being unable to place itself in homophony, and their blood also having a mutual toxic action. In speaking of sodomy we shall see that this instinctive repulsion may disappear in pathological cases, both in man and in animals, owing to bad habits or unsatisfied sexual appetite. We cannot absolutely demonstrate the phylogenetic existence of an instinctive disgust for consanguineous sexual intercourse.

The sexual advances made by women in civilized countries, show how easily we may be deceived in attributing to a phylogenetic or hereditary origin, certain details which are only due to external circumstances. In man, the bearer of the active germ, the instinct of sexual advance has deep phylogenetic roots. It is quite natural to him and is evident among savage races, where the man risks more by remaining single than the woman. Violent combats between rivals to obtain the woman, who remains passive like most animals, are evidence of this.

Civilization has changed all this, and has developed two castes of women, the old maids and the prostitutes. The latter satisfy the appetites of men in an artificial and unhealthy manner, while marriage and family cares only bring them labor and burdens instead of riches. Owing to the promiscuous polyandry of prostitution, man can always obtain enough women, while woman can with difficulty obtain a suitable husband. These circumstances have more and more developed the art of flirtation, coquetry and advances on the part of girls, and we can now see, especially in the United States, that advances come more and more from the female side, if not in principle, at any rate in fact. This is not a question of a phylogenetic or hereditary transformation of the sexes among civilized peoples, but an unhealthy effect resulting from abnormal circumstances, that is the non-satisfaction of the sexual desires of woman, together with the satiety of those of men. Woman makes advances from the fear of remaining celibate; she will cease to do so when the unnatural causes which have produced this state of things have been done away with.

As a rule, a normal and adaptable man will conduct himself in sexual matters as in others according to the prevailing fashion. He will most often succeed in accommodating his sentiments to those of his conjoint. On the other hand, this average representative of normal mediocrity easily becomes the slave of routine and incapable of new ideas. However normal he may be, he has less faculty of adaptation or mental plasticity and less liberty, than a man of higher nature independent of prejudices.


The first striking fact in the ontogeny of sexual life is the following: All the sexual organs, both external and internal, remain in an embryonic and non-functional state, not only in the embryo but for a long time in the child. The organs and their elements exist, but they are still small, imperfectly developed, and in a state of rest. At the time of puberty, which varies in different individuals, the sexual glands and the other copulatory apparatus enlarge and begin to functionate. In the European races puberty occurs between the age of twelve and seventeen years in girls, and between fourteen and nineteen in boys; it is generally earlier in the South and later in the North. It is curious to note that the correlative irradiations of the sexual appetite in the human mind develop much earlier than the organs, or even the sexual appetite. Again, the sexual appetite often appears before the normal development of the genital organs. In other rare cases the sexual appetite is absent in the adult, even when the corresponding organs are well-developed. (Vide Chapter VIII.) Such irregularities of the sexual appetite belong to the domain of pathology.

On the other hand, it is quite normal for young girls and boys to show early signs of mental differences corresponding to those we have described in Chapter V. In young girls we observe coquetry and jealousy and the desire for finery. Their love of dolls and the care they take of them, is very characteristic of the precocious instinct of their sex. This is an early sign of instinctive maternal love, before the development of any sexual sensation or function. Among boys we observe a tendency to brag and to boast of their strength before girls, to show their contempt for dolls and the coquetry of little girls, and also to pose as protectors, etc.

Sexual jealousy already exists in young children. We see little boys, seeking for the favors of little girls, show violent jealousy when another is preferred to them. All these phenomena depend either on subconscious instincts, or on vague sexual presentiments which play a large part in the infantile exaltation of sentiment. Portraits of pretty women, the sight of certain parts of the body or feminine clothing often provoke exalted sentiments in boys; girls rather admire boldness, an imposing presence and often beauty, in the other sex.

Puberty is produced by certain phenomena which occur in the sexual organs. In the boy erections occur at an early age when the penis is still very small. It is curious to note that certain pathological conditions and friction of the glans penis, especially in the case of phimosis and as a result of bad example, are often sufficient to produce sexual sensations and appetites in very young boys. The same thing is produced in little girls by excitation of the clitoris. All these phenomena lead to onanism or masturbation, of which we shall speak later on. As the testicles of young boys do not secrete semen, masturbation only provokes secretion from the accessory glands, but this is accompanied by orgasm.

More singular still are cases of coitus between little boys and girls whose sexual glands are still undeveloped and produce no germinal cells. Although they are pathological, these phenomena are characteristic, because they clearly show that the brain has acquired by phylogeny a sexual appetite relatively independent of the development of the sexual glands. No doubt the sexual appetite does not develop, or disappears, in eunuchs when they are castrated quite young; but it is preserved together with the secretions and functions of the external genitals when castration is performed after puberty is established.

The important conclusion which results from these facts is that the existence of a sexual excitation or appetite of this nature is not sufficient to prove that they are normal. In Chapter VIII we shall prove that not only the anomalies of the hereditary sexual disposition, but artificial excitations and bad habits may also produce all kinds of misconduct and excesses which should be energetically combated.

We have described in Chapter IV the great individual variations of the sexual appetite in the two sexes, as well as that of the sexual power in man. The sexual power and appetite in man are strongest between the years of twenty and forty. We may even consider this period as the most advantageous for the procreation of strong and healthy offspring and that the procreator is at his best before the age of thirty.

The ontogenetic development of the sexual appetite and love generally produces in man a peculiar phenomenon. While habitual gratification and education of the sexual appetite tends to make it more and more calculating and cynical, love, on the contrary, becomes more elevated and refined with age and less egoistical than in youth. Owing to general mental development, the education of sentiments progresses and becomes refined, while the sexual appetite diminishes in intensity and becomes more imperious and more coarse. We are only speaking here of normal cases.

In youth, the intoxication of love combined with intense sexual appetite triumphs; when the appetite is once satisfied the unbridled and egoistic passions of this age come to the surface and are often antagonistic to love. At a more advanced age, on the contrary, love becomes more constant and more tranquil. The mistake that is so often made is the confusion of love with sexual appetite. The novelists who speculate on the eroticism of the public are no doubt more interested in describing sexual passion and amorous intoxication, with all the catastrophes and conflicts which arise from them, than the tranquil and regular love of a couple more advanced in age, the greatest happiness of which consists in harmony of sentiment and thought, as well as the mutual regard and devotion of the couple for each other.

Sexual appetite and sexual power in man become extinguished between the ages of sixty and eighty; old men of eighty are sometimes still capable, but they are no longer fecund. As a rule sexual power diminishes before sexual appetite, and this sometimes leads old men to use artificial means to revive their power, or to satisfy their sexual desires. This explains why the egoists who have never known true love often become so base in their sexual manifestations when they grow old. Their experience of sexual life makes them experts in the art of seduction. If this fact appears to be antagonistic to the law that true love is refined with advancing age, we must bear in mind that the ontogenetic development of the sexual appetite is not the same as that of love; that in some respects it develops in a contrary direction; and that the result may consequently become inverted according as one or other predominates. It is needless to say that there are a number of intermediate gradations, and that inverse phenomena may be produced concurrently in the same individual.

According to Westermark elderly men generally fall more easily in love with middle-aged women than with young girls. No doubt this is often the case when reason and love predominate, but it is necessary to avoid generalization, and it is curious to observe how often very old men become enamored of quite young girls, as the latter may fall in love with old men. It is common knowledge that young girls do not marry old graybeards solely for their money or their name. No doubt this is not uncommon, but I have often seen girls of eighteen or twenty fall in love with old roues, when money, name and position were theirs and not the man's. However, in such cases it is most often the old man who is amorous. Westermark maintains that this condition is not normal, and we shall see that very often it is a case of commencing senile dementia, a pathological cerebral condition in which the sexual appetite becomes suddenly revived.

The love of a young girl for an old man may be explained by the intellectual superiority of the old man or by the absence of another object for love. It is often also due to hysteria and consequently pathological.

In old age, when the sexual life of two conjoints is extinguished, there remains a purified love which colors the evening of their life with autumn tints. The modern detractors of marriage too often forget this phenomenon. No doubt the evening of conjugal life is often troubled with discord and sorrow, but then it is usually a question of "mariage de convenance," marriage for money or position, mutual misunderstanding, or irreflective amorous intoxication. Quarrels may also arise when pathological conditions become introduced into marriage.

In woman, sexual ontogeny is not the same as in man. She matures earlier and more rapidly. In our race, a woman at eighteen is sexually mature; between eighteen and twenty-five she is in the best condition for sexual life; toward fifty the menopause occurs, and with it cessation of fecundity. Hence the period during which a woman is fecund is much shorter than in man and terminates much earlier.

Owing to this, the development of the intellectual and sentimental irradiations of the sexual appetite in woman is more rapid than in man. A young girl is much more mature and full grown as regards her reproductive power than a young man. These phenomena extend to the whole mental life of woman, who is less capable of an ulterior development in old age than man, because she generally becomes settled and automatic much more rapidly than the latter. No doubt these phenomena are partly due to the defective mental education of women, but this explanation is insufficient. Here again we must distinguish the phylogenetic disposition of woman from the effects of education during her ontogenetic development.

The sexual appetite of woman manifests itself at first in vague desires, in a want of love, and does not as a rule develop locally till after coitus. It often follows that in ontogenetic evolution the sexual appetite of women increases at a more advanced age (between thirty and forty). At this age women often become enamored with young boys, whom they seduce easily. Widows are especially disposed to form unions with men younger than themselves; these unions are rarely happy, for the woman who is older than her husband easily becomes jealous, and the husband soon becomes tired of a woman whose charms have faded. We can therefore affirm that, as a rule, in order to be both normal and lasting, a monogamous union requires that the husband should be from six to twelve years older than his wife, and that the latter should marry as young as possible.

In the sexual ontogeny of normal woman, pregnancies, childbirth, the nursing and education of children play an infinitely greater role than the sexual appetite. These important events in woman's life, together with affection for her husband occupy a great part of the cerebral activity of every woman, and are at the same time the conditions for her true happiness.

We should expect the sexual appetite in woman to diminish or cease at the menopause; but this is not usually the case, and elderly women are sometimes tormented by the sexual appetite, which is all the more painful because men are not attracted by them. Such hyperaesthesia cannot, however, be considered as normal; most often the sexual appetite diminishes with age and is replaced, as in man, by the tranquil love of old age, of which we have spoken.

Old women are often spoken of with contempt. No doubt, unsatisfied passions and wounded feelings of all kinds, want of intellectual culture and high ideals, and especially a pathological condition of the brain, make many old women anything but amiable. I am, however, convinced that the elevation of woman's social position, and greater care in her education, will considerably facilitate the development of her faculties. Education should not develop mundane qualities in women, but depth of sentiment. There are many aged women who can be cited as examples of activity and perseverance, for their sound and clear judgment, as well as for their affability and simplicity of manners. Although their intellectual productiveness ceases earlier than that of man, this in no way excludes an excellent and persevering activity of mind, combined with much judgment and sentimental qualities. A woman who is growing old and has lost the members of her family, especially her husband, requires some object to replace them in her affection. To devote herself to social activity will be the best antidote against the peevish, querulous or sorrowful moods which so easily take possession of the aged woman. It appears that love, which is a phylogenetic derivative of the sexual appetite, and which in middle life is intimately associated with this appetite, becomes afterwards more and more independent of it and then requires more compensation. There is here a great adaptation of love to life, an adaptation which it is necessary to bear in mind.

In infancy the individual is naturally egoistic; his appetites all tend to self-preservation. There are even then, however, great individual differences, and we meet with children who are endowed with a remarkable sentiment of duty and a great sensibility to the troubles of others. After puberty man's sexual desire leads him to love, toward dual egoism, and this desire becomes the principal factor in the reproduction of the species. In old age the individual has no reproductive aims to fulfill; his life is only a burden on society, if it is not directed with a view to benefit others and society in general. By expansion and purification love, at first sexual, is gradually transformed into purely humanitarian love, i.e., altruistic or social. At least this is what it should be, and then the fundamental biogenetic law of Haeckel (ontogeny is an abridged repetition of phylogeny) will receive an ultimate confirmation. Our primitive unicellular animal ancestor lived for itself alone; later on sexual reproduction without love was established; then conjugal and family love appeared (birds, monkeys, mammals, etc.), finally social love or altruism was produced, i.e., the sense of social solidarity based on the sentiment of duty.

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