On the other hand, two egoists calculating coldly, even if they have strong sexual appetites and trouble themselves very little with reflections on their intellect, may contract a comparatively happy marriage, based simply on reciprocal convenience and interest; a marriage in which amorous intoxication only plays a very small part, or none at all.
The latter case is of great frequency. The novel which delights in the description of admirable or ignoble sentiments, and which shows a special preference for bizarre and sensational situations, often of a pathological nature, makes us forget that the majority of mediocre and normal men are little susceptible to the suggestions of amorous intoxication, and that they give vent to their sexual desires in a more or less reflective and calculating frame of mind, like a gourmand. This is not poetical, I admit, but it is much more human. Many women also become gourmands in sexual matters.
In all this sexual commerce there are only vestiges or caricatures of the poetry of amorous intoxication. It is no longer a question of deep love, but of essentially commonplace sexual enjoyment, wisely and prudently adapted to other objects of concupiscence, such as money, social position, titles, business, etc.
If the poets and the preachers of morality apostrophize me with indignation saying that this is the prostitution of love, I shall be obliged to protest. So long as sexual enjoyment is not bought, there is no prostitution. Man has as much right to a certain agreeable satisfaction of his sexual appetite, even without exalted sentiments, as he has to satisfy his hunger and thirst, as long as he does no harm to anyone. But, I repeat, this question has nothing to do with amorous intoxication. The latter is a powerful shock to the whole mind, to the principal spheres of cerebral activity, by a suggestive effect, usually with the aid of the sexual appetite, but sometimes without it.
Amorous intoxication naturally differs in quality and in intensity in different individuals. In a person with ideal tendencies it may awaken the finest harmonies of the symphony of human sentiments, while brutal and debased persons may wallow in the mud.
Suggestion in Art.—Suggestion does not act only in the sexual sphere, but on the whole mental life. In aesthetics and in art it has an immense and irresistible influence, which gives rise to all the capricious exaltations of fashion. The average artist is more or less the slave of the aesthetic suggestions which are in fashion, but the average members of the public are absolutely dominated by them. Originating in a correct idea of certain effects of light, the most absurd exaggerations may become accepted as beautiful and natural by an imitative public devoid of personal judgment, by the aid of suggestion. These deplorable effects of suggestion may last a long time till their nullity or their absurdity causes them gradually to disappear. But they are usually replaced by other absurdities.
Suggestive Action in Sexual Anomalies.—In very suggestible persons the sexual appetite may be easily led astray by sensory impressions created by perverse images. In this way the erotic imagination of a very suggestible boy, excited indirectly by another boy, may even make the latter the object of his sexual desire. This is how homosexual inclinations may be formed by suggestion and maintained by mutual masturbation, pederasty, etc. The duration of a perversion of this kind often depends on the power of the erotic image which suggested sexual desire. This is also the case with onanism, sodomy, etc.; and in the inverse direction with impotence.
These facts explain at the same time why and how suggestion may cure or ameliorate the anomalies of sexual life. Just as suggestion may excite or pervert the sexual appetite, so may it calm it and put it in the right direction, unless there is a deeply rooted hereditary perversion. We can nearly always considerably attenuate too-frequent emissions, masturbation and perversions by suggestion, and often entirely cure their acquired forms.
I must here point out that when we have succeeded in removing by suggestion a perversion based in whole or in part on organic or hereditary causes, this result is always more or less precarious, and does not give the physician the right to give his sanction to marriage. The following case shows us what prudence on the part of the hypnotizer can do with patients of this kind:
A young girl, of good education, was troubled with intense sexual desire. She was incapable of resisting masturbation and dreamed at night that men and animals were in contact with her vulva. These dreams caused intense excitement and were accompanied by orgasms. The treatment of a patient of this kind by suggestion was no easy matter. However, with the aid of a local sedative, the action of which it is needless to say was purely suggestive and was combined with appropriate verbal suggestions, I succeeded not only in suppressing the onanism, but also in almost completely curing the nervous exhaustion of this young girl, so that she was afterwards able to resume work.
I may add that the patient was hypnotized in the presence of others, which can always be done in such cases with a little tact. This is a rule from which the physician should never depart.
I cannot enter into more details on this subject, but what I have said will suffice to draw the attention of my readers to the action of suggestion in the sexual appetite and in love.
THE SEXUAL QUESTION IN RELATION TO MONEY AND PROPERTY PROSTITUTION, PROXENETISM AND VENAL CONCUBINAGE
In Chapter VI we have studied the historical development of human marriage as a continuation of the phylogeny of our species, and we have shown that marriage by purchase and different forms of polygamy constitute a kind of intermediate stage and at the same time an aberration of civilization, which has resulted from the association of men, combined with the birth of individual property.
When we consider a being of high mentality and deeply rooted individualism such as man, in whom the instinct of love and family are so strong, led by the inevitable force of circumstances to live in the society of his fellows, we can easily understand that certain individuals of a higher mentality than the others will endeavor to dominate the weaker and less intelligent, and exploit them for their own profit and that of their family.
Analogous tendencies are seen in certain animals. Among the bees the old workers appropriate the produce of the work of others. Certain ants practice a form of slavery, based, it is true on instinct, in stealing the pupae of weaker species which, after hatching, become the servants of the idle robbers.
In incomplete animal societies, such as those of the ruminants, certain monkeys, etc., the old males, sometimes also the more courageous females (cows, for example) direct the herd and become recognized as chiefs by the others. But in these cases the personal property of objects or even living beings takes no part, because the animals have not yet learned its value.
Other animals living isolated show the first tendencies toward personal property; for example, the nest where they hoard their provisions, while others, such as the ants, bees, wasps, etc., have the sentiment of collective property well developed. For instance, a swarm of ants regards plants with grubs as its property, and defends them in consequence.
As soon as he has attained a primitive degree of culture, man comprehends that the possession, not only of land and the produce of work, but also the persons of other men, may profit him; and this leads to slavery. The male being the stronger soon combines the satisfaction of his sexual appetite with the advantage of property, by placing the woman more and more under his dependence and exploiting her. In this way woman becomes an object for sale and exchange, which will procure the purchaser, besides satisfaction for his sexual appetite, a docile slave and worker and a procreator of children, a source of other workers.
This motive, so clearly revealed by ethnography and history, sufficiently explains the ignoble traffic that man has made of love, or rather of sexual appetite. We have seen in Chapter VI the profit made by polygamous barbarians by the possession of many wives and children, which led more and more to the buying and selling of the latter. These customs are instinctively related to the traffic of slaves. Our modern civilization has happily abolished these taints, but money still influences our sexual life by measures which are hardly any better. The complication and refinement of civilized life have made women and children objects of luxury, and not a source of wealth as in former times. This is due to two causes. On the one hand, a wider and more humane conception of the social position of women and children has extended their rights. Man cannot now exploit them to the same extent as in the time of patriarchism, while the father of the family has, on the contrary, the duty of maintaining his wife and family, and of giving the latter a proper education. Among the poor, the exploitation of the wife and children still exists; but in the case of the rich and cultured the inverse phenomenon is produced. With the intention of making his family happy and distinguished, the father brings it up in luxury and idleness, and this produces a very harmful result. The increasing refinement of modern life and its pleasures leads to effeminacy. It bears upon the whole of society and degenerates into an artificial desire for brilliancy and show, which makes it increasingly difficult to obtain a simple and sober education for the family. Men and women, especially the latter, do their best to eclipse each other in their table, their toilet, the comfort and luxury of their apartments, their pleasures and distractions, their banquets and fetes. An enormous mass of the produce of human labor is thus dissipated in futilities, for the benefit of unbridled frivolity and luxury. It is owing to this that a civilization which, thanks to science and progress, far surpasses all those which have preceded it in the richness of its means of production for the wants of humanity, not only shows more and more rich with superfluous wealth, but also more and more poor who vegetate from the want of it.
What is still more grave is that, for reasons of economy, the intelligent, educated and cultured marry less often and procreate fewer children. Again, our descendants degenerate more and more, owing to the consumption of alcohol or other narcotics, and the unhealthy life they lead. This degeneration is dissimulated by their well-nourished appearance, but is revealed in their increasing neuropathic tendency. They become accustomed to a number of artificial wants, which make them increasingly difficult to satisfy. This results in their exacting from society much more than they give to it by their work; whereas each ought to give to society more than he receives from it. As evil omens, I must mention the idleness of many women with regard to household and manual work. What are the effects of this state of things on the sexual life of modern society? They are of three kinds:
(1) Marriage for money; (2) prostitution, exploited by proxenetism, and between the two (3) venal concubinage.
MARRIAGE FOR MONEY
Marriage for money is the modern form or derivative of marriage by purchase. Formerly one bought a wife and sold a daughter; to-day one is sold to a wife and buys a son-in-law. The improvement consists in the fact that the buyer and the bought are no longer in the positions of proprietor and object possessed, respectively. Nevertheless, marriage at the present day gives rise to much traffic, speculation and exploitation of an evil nature.
These things are so well known that I need not dwell upon them. In place of love, force of character, capacity, harmony of sentiments, intellectual and bodily health, money is the alpha et omega of marriage. Money dazzles most men so that they are blind to everything else. They no longer understand that the health and the physical and moral worth of a woman constitute a capital which is far preferable to all the title-deeds deposited in the coffers of the future father-in-law, which are rapidly squandered by children tainted with bad physical or mental heredity. In this way ignorance of the laws of heredity and the rapacity of pecuniary interests perpetually tend toward the antisocial procreation of a degenerate posterity.
Inversely, a number of capable and healthy men and women remain celibate and sterile for want of money. Capital exploits them as workers and prevents them from reproducing their race; or else their own foresight induces them to avoid procreation.
A characteristic sign is observed in military circles, especially in the German army where officers who are not well-to-do are forbidden to marry a woman unless she has a certain income. The officer must bring up his family in accordance with his position. This system, which it is sought to justify by all kinds of reasons, shows how the worship of the golden calf and class prejudices may degenerate our manners and customs. Without fortune one cannot serve the country as an officer, or marry, except by selling oneself to a rich woman. In other terms, an officer cannot marry according to his own inclination unless he possesses a certain fortune. No doubt there are officers who marry for love; nevertheless, they are not only obliged to have a certain fortune, but the woman they marry must have a certain social position and have been well educated. The wife of an officer has to take part in balls and official gatherings. She is forbidden to carry on openly any business, and her parents must not even be shopkeepers! In a German town, one of my relatives heard a rich mother say to her daughter, who could not make up her mind to marry a gentleman who proposed to her: "If you do not want him, let him go; we do not wish to persuade you. We have plenty of money, and if you want to marry later on we can easily buy you an officer!"
In the tyranny of class marriages, it is money which almost always decides the question. Formerly birth and nobility were everything, and it was these which brought power and fortune; nowadays money has replaced them, and has monopolized universal power. If an energetic and intelligent man revolts, by returning to modest and primitive customs, if he dresses simply, performs manual labor, takes his meals at the same table as his servants, etc., he is despised and is not received into what is called good society.
It is only up to a certain point, and with the exercise of great prudence, that any attempt can be made to react against the whirlwind of our unbridled luxury, and it is in marriage that this becomes most delicate and most difficult. A well-brought-up and well-educated man with no money, who wishes to marry while he is a student, so as to avoid prostitution or other evils; who is content to live in humble quarters with his wife, each doing their own work, will have great difficulty in finding a well-nurtured girl to consent to such an arrangement. Everything has to be regulated according to the fashion, customs and prejudices of the class in which he lives, and this usually renders marriage impossible, as long as he has not what is called a position. But no one will blame the same student for living in concubinage with a grisette. Why cannot the same means of existence which allow concubinage suffice for marriage? With this question I only touch on a problem to which we shall return, at the same time pointing out the canker which corrupts our modern sexual life.
By marriage for money we understand marriage which is based on interest and not on love. It is not always a question of money; for position, name, titles and convenience often complicate the question. Sometimes a ruined aristocrat marries a rich tradesman's daughter, in order to repair his fortune, while the vanity of his fiancee makes a title a desirable acquisition. Sometimes a coquette, by clever flirtation, will simulate a love which she does not feel, to catch a rich man in her net. But more commonly there is calculation on both sides and both are duped.
Marriage for money is not confined to the rich but also occurs among peasants and working people. Everywhere it constitutes one of the principal corrupting elements of sexual intercourse and procreation. Hard-working servants who have succeeded in saving a few hundred dollars are often married for the sake of this small sum, and then abandoned as soon as the husband has squandered it. I do not pretend that a marriage for money can never be happy; it may happen that the contract is an honest one and that love follows it more or less haltingly, especially when the calculators have taken into account character and health, etc., as well as money.
There is no need for me to continue this theme any further, and I shall conclude by stating that this system opens the door to hypocrisy, deceit and abuse of all kinds. It is not without reason that marriage for money has been branded with the name of fashionable prostitution.
PROSTITUTION AND PROXENETISM
Prostitution is a very ancient institution and a sign of degeneration which is found more or less among all nations. When woman is an article for sale it is not surprising that those whose moral worth is weak take the traffic into their own hands when they can, and sell themselves to men to satisfy their sexual appetites, instead of allowing themselves to be passively exploited as articles of commerce. Man being the stronger finds it advantageous in the lower and barbarous states of civilization to monopolize this traffic for his own profit, and deliver the women under his domination to prostitution. We have seen that fathers give their daughters, and husbands their wives to prostitution.
For the same reason, the woman who prostitutes herself in our modern civilization, always runs the risk of being abused without payment; which is not to be wondered at considering the doubtful quality of the usual clients of the prostitute. It is therefore natural that she should seek for a means of protection. She thus takes a male protector, or "bully," whom she pays; or else she joins the service of those who make a business of prostitution—or proxenetism. Proxenetism and protectors are thus the parasites of prostitution.
Prostitution flourished amongst the ancients and also in the Middle Ages, especially after the Crusades (Chapter VI). I do not propose to write the history of prostitution; it is sufficient to be acquainted with that of the present day. I may, however, remark that among a number of primitive races, and in young and progressive nations, whose sexual life is still comparatively pure, prostitution is only feebly developed. It is especially to Napoleon I that we owe the present form of regulation and organization of prostitutes. Like all his legislation on marriage and sexual intercourse, this regulation is the living expression of his sentiments toward woman; oppression of the female sex, contempt of its rights, and degradation of its individuals to the state of articles of pleasure for men, and machines for reproduction.
Organization and Regulation of Prostitution.—We have just seen the social conditions under which prostitution becomes quite naturally organized, with its protectors and its proxenetism. There is another factor to be added—that of venereal disease. The infectious germs of syphilis and gonorrhea are usually met with in the genital organs of man and woman; so that every coitus between a healthy and an infected individual may infect the former. Hence the danger of the spread of infection increases with the number of mutations in sexual intercourse. If a woman offers herself systematically to all the men who wish for her, the probability that she will be infected by one of them increases in proportion to the number of clients.
In the second place, as soon as she is infected, the danger is increased by the number of men who have connection with her, for she will probably infect a large proportion of them.
While paying much attention to venereal diseases and their consequences, medicine has shown itself inconceivably blind in not comprehending the bearing of this elementary arithmetic. We must take into account the fact that the complete cure of syphilis is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove; that this disease is extremely infectious, at least during the first two years of its course; and that it extends to the blood and the whole organism, so that it may be communicated, not only by large visible sores, but by small excoriations hidden in the mucous membrane of the vagina or the mouth, etc.
We must also remember that gonorrhea is less painful in woman than in man, and that, even in the latter, it ceases to be painful when it becomes chronic. We may add that the microbes (the gonococci) are very difficult to reach in all the recesses of the mucous membrane of the sexual organs in which they are hidden, and that in women they penetrate as far as the womb, when a cure becomes almost impossible.
If we consider that the sexual organs of woman form deep and hidden cavities which it is very difficult to examine thoroughly, in spite of all the apparatus of modern surgery, and that the mouth in prostitutes is also frequently contaminated by unnatural manipulations; lastly, that no part of their body is absolutely indemnified, it is easy to understand the great danger of infection in public prostitution.
Recognizing the danger of venereal disease, the regulation of prostitution was instituted by medical men with the good intention of eliminating or of diminishing its danger, since they regarded its suppression as impossible. This system consists in the official supervision and inscription of every woman who prostitutes herself. She is given an official form which obliges her to submit to medical examination once a week or once a fortnight, under the penalty of being arrested and punished.
To facilitate medical control, regulation generally endeavors to lodge prostitutes in brothels or lupanars, under the direction of a proxenet. In theory, the brothel is not exactly considered as a State institution of public health; the word toleration being used in this connection, signifying that it is regarded as a tolerated evil. Nevertheless, this distinction only rests on uncertain and subtle characters. To tolerate, to license, to organize, to recognize and favor, to protect and recommend are notions which merge into one another insensibly. As soon as the State tolerates prostitution and brothels, it is obliged to enter into official contracts with prostitutes and proxenetism; therefore, it recognizes them. Moreover, the services which it renders must be paid for. It is therefore necessary that prostitutes and proxenets should pay their tribute to the State and to the doctors: but "the one who pays commands."
No doubt this proverb must not be taken to the letter, nevertheless the one who pays always exerts a certain pressure on the one who receives, and for this reason proxenets and inscribed prostitutes have some idea that they form part of an official institution, which raises their position not only in their own eyes but in those of the irreflective masses. I will cite two examples which show how effectively the public organization of a vicious social anomaly confuses ideas in persons of limited intelligence.
One of my friends was engaged in combating the official regulation of prostitution. A woman, who misunderstood his object, came to him complaining bitterly of the loose life her daughter was leading, and asked him if he could not help her by placing her in a brothel licensed by the State; she would then be under the care of a paternal government!
An old proxenet in Paris requested the authorities to transfer the management of her brothel to her daughter, aged nineteen. Her house, she said, was honest and managed in a loyal and religious spirit; her daughter was capable and initiated into the business and would carry it on in the same irreproachable manner as hitherto.
These two examples of ingenuousness are sufficiently characteristic of the morality of the system. In La Maison Tellier Guy de Maupassant has depicted with his masterly pen the psychology of the prostitute, the proxenet, and their clients.
For reasons previously mentioned no real confidence can be placed in periodical medical examination of prostitutes; on the contrary it gives the male public a false security. The object of these medical visits is to eliminate diseased women from circulation and compel them to submit to hospital treatment. But any one acquainted with the facts knows that the treatment is illusory. In a short time every woman in a brothel is infected, with very few exceptions. But, on the one hand, the proxenets and the prostitutes have every interest in shortening the time in hospital; and, on the other hand, the visiting doctor, who often lives partly by their fees, is obliged to treat them with respect. [In Paris, the doctors in charge of the inspection of prostitutes are paid by the State, and do not depend on fees from the women.] The treatment of venereal disease being of long duration and very uncertain in its effects, a vicious circle is formed.
A conscientious Dutch doctor, Chanfleury van Issjelstein, who attempted to eliminate all infected prostitutes from the brothels, succeeded in almost emptying them, by subjecting the infected women to prolonged treatment in hospital. This led to a revolt which endangered his life, and he had to abandon his scheme.
In ordinary hospital practice only visible sores are treated, and gonorrheal discharges as long as they are apparent; the prostitutes are then allowed to return to their brothels. Moreover, inspection is made too rapidly; for, if every woman was examined carefully from head to foot every week, neither the brothels, the prostitutes nor the doctors could exist.
Certain persons have made the proposition, as ridiculous as it is radical, of submitting every man who visits a prostitute to medical inspection! This would indeed be the only means of preventing the infection of prostitutes. But I ask my readers to imagine such a measure put in practice. Is it likely that the habitues of brothels, some of whom visit prostitutes nearly every day or oftener, would make this known to a doctor in their town, and submit, before each coitus, to a medical examination which would cost them more time and money than their pleasure! Can one imagine doctors examining whole queues of clients waiting their turn in brothels when business is brisk!
Whilst an independent prostitute still possesses some human sentiment and a vestige of modesty which cause her to choose as far as possible a limited number of clients, the police certificate of regulation officially places the woman who receives it in the class of the pariahs of society, and this leads to her losing the little that remains of her womanly nature. In brothels, the last vestige of her human nature is trampled under foot.
Degrees of Prostitution. Protectors.—Several degrees can be recognized in private prostitution. A variety of prostitute rather less low than others, looks for clients at public balls, certain cafes and other doubtful localities, and hires herself to a certain number of temporary acquaintances. The lowest and most common form of private prostitution is that of the streets. Generally at night, but sometimes in the daytime, these prostitutes, dressed so as to attract attention, promenade in certain well-known and frequented streets, and solicit passers-by. This is the common method employed in nearly all towns. This solicitation is supervised by the police in countries where prostitution is regulated, and is only permitted to women who possess their certificate of inscription.
Here the "protector" (bully) intervenes, and keeps an eye on the clients at the prostitute's house, or sometimes in the street. If they do not pay up, or pay too little, or if they threaten or ill-treat the woman, the protector administers a drubbing, and sometimes relieves them of their purse or clothes.
At the same time the protector spies on the police for the benefit of the prostitute. Sometimes he assumes the position of legitimate husband, so as to facilitate taking rooms. A "husband" of this kind, with a citizen's rights, is very useful to foreign prostitutes, for without him they would risk expulsion. The protector is generally a scamp of the worst kind, an absolutely depraved and idle vagabond who is entirely maintained by his "wife."
Some protectors shine by their sexual power, and are at the same time the real lovers of the prostitutes, who keep them, and are plundered by them. While they submit to coitus with their clients without any pleasure, and only simulate voluptuous sensations, they abandon themselves to their protectors or lovers with ardor. It is needless to add that the protectors are often criminals, or of the criminal type. Those who are well acquainted with prostitution declare that it would be impossible without the protector, who is at the same time the friend, protector and exploiter of the prostitute, while the brothel keeper is only concerned with her wholesale systematic exploitation.
Brothels and Proxenets.—Under the pretext of avoiding the dangers of prostitution in the streets, brothels were organized. These are generally managed by an elderly female profligate, often in partnership with a "husband," who is only a superior kind of protector. Officially, the prostitutes are free lodgers in the brothel, but in reality they are often prisoners or slaves. They are well fed and dressed in a way to attract the clients as much as possible. Clothes, food, etc., are placed to their account and the crafty brothel keeper generally manages to get them into debt so as to always remain their creditor. In this way these miserable outcasts of society, who are generally incapable of claiming their legal rights, are more or less reduced to slavery. Apparently they are free, but in reality they can hardly leave the house without paying their debts, and the brothel keeper who wishes to keep them arranges so that they cannot pay it.
It is not always easy to distinguish between the different classes of prostitutes: the prostitute of the brothel, the street prostitute under inscription or not, the private prostitute and lorette or grisette. Sometimes a woman may rise from one class to another; but more often she falls lower and lower.
We may mention here one of the dangers of brothels. Their good organization, their medical supervision, etc., are extolled; but the great danger of the arithmetical progression of mutations in sexual intercourse is ignored. While a private prostitute rarely receives more than one client in an evening, and is not absolutely obliged to receive more, every prostitute in a brothel is forced to receive as many as present themselves. A girl may thus have connection with men twenty or thirty times in the same night.
Under certain circumstances, for instance at the time of conscription for recruits at Brussels, the brothels are besieged to such a point that one man has hardly time to finish coitus before another comes to take his place. It is obvious that such "file firing" greatly increases the danger of venereal infection, since a single infected person is sufficient to contaminate innumerable clients (even without the woman herself becoming infected).
It is often denied that the brothel is a prison, yet this fact has been often demonstrated. When, as in France, the police can arrest a prostitute at pleasure—often a virtuous young girl who is taken for such—and put her on the inscription list, the thing is obvious. I have treated a girl who became the mistress of a police agent in Paris under the threat of being inscribed as a prostitute.
Again, besides the debts we have spoken of, the proxenets have many other ways of keeping prostitutes under their dependence. It is very difficult for ignorant girls, placed under the ban of society, to return to a free and virtuous life. But if a girl shows signs of wishing to leave a brothel, heroic measures are adopted, in the form of international exchange. A girl who is unacquainted with the language of the country is naturally more incapable of gaining her freedom than one who does. This is one of the reasons why the brothels of different countries exchange their women.
This expedient, which also satisfies clients who desire a change, leads to the exportation of women from one country to another, under false pretenses, such as the promise of lucrative and easy situations. In this way young Swiss girls are exported to Hungary, Hungarians to Switzerland, Germans to France, French to England, Europeans to Buenos-Ayres, creoles to Europe, etc. For example, if a young French girl has been exported to Buda-Pest or Buenos-Ayres, we may be certain that she will lose all inclination to run away; for what can she do—a stranger without a cent, with her ignorance and want of character, alone in the streets, when she does not understand a word of the language?
White Slavery.—The modern commerce in female slaves of civilized Europe destined for prostitution is closely connected with the facts we have just described. The manner in which brothels exchange their merchandise only concerns one side of the question. The principal art consists in obtaining young girls, of twelve to seventeen years of age, for the brothels. This traffic is formally prohibited by most laws; but what are laws made for, if not to be broken? There are so many means of training children under some pretext or other, before they are independent enough to escape this life of infamy. There are so many depraved or hungry parents who are ready to sell their children if, in hypocritical but transparent language, a good situation is promised them with payment in advance.
During a railway journey, I was myself a witness of the manner in which a young girl of twelve was sold in this way and sent to Pressburg. I was also simple enough to try and appeal for the intervention of a consul and an ambassador to prevent the perpetration of the crime. They only replied by shrugging their shoulders. How could I prove the matter before a tribunal? The child was accompanied by a woman who admitted to me that there could hardly be any other question than the sale of the child for prostitution. She had only been ordered to take the child to Vienna, where they would come and take her. This shows the impotence of any person who tries to prevent such infamies.
During the last few years an international organization has at last been formed to combat white slavery; but so far it has not obtained much result. By the aid of depraved parents and all their criminal system of seduction, the proxenets always find a way of attaining their object. Moreover, it is difficult to see how the State can prevent proxenetism from obtaining its merchandise, so long as it tolerates and licenses it. We must remember that very young girls, almost children, are the most easy to seduce and the most sought after.
The Training of Prostitutes.—The most repugnant aspect of proxenetism is the seduction and systematic training of the girls. The desire for money and fine dresses, the promise of good situations, and especially alcoholic intoxication, all play their part in the diabolical art of proxenetism. Many young girls, frivolous and fond of pleasure, but not wishing to go any further, are easily seduced under the influence of wine. As soon as some protector has succeeded in seducing a girl, he trades on her shame and fear of discovery, adding threats and blackmail. When she has become sufficiently accustomed to sexual intercourse, she is initiated into the high-school of vice, and systematically instructed in exciting the sexual appetites of men by all possible means, natural or otherwise. She is first of all taught how to simulate the venereal orgasm by her movements, breathing, etc.; to practice coitus ab ore, etc.; to conform to the pathological requirements of masochists, sadists, etc., (Chapter VIII). Girls who have been seduced and abandoned, and those who have had illegitimate children, are the most suitable objects for exploitation by the jackals of proxenetism. If it is objected that the majority of prostitutes have a bad hereditary taint, and that their frivolity and idleness incline them from the first to their trade, I reply that frivolity and love of pleasure are not at all the same thing as the ignoble slavery and disgusting life of a prostitute in a brothel.
The part played by alcohol in prostitution has not been estimated at its true value. The coarser and more degraded forms of prostitution would not be possible without it. It is by the aid of alcoholic orgies that most girls are seduced, and by chronic drunkenness that they sustain themselves in their degradation.
Localized Prostitution.—In certain towns, Hamburg for instance, an attempt has been made to establish an organization intermediate between the brothel and private prostitution, by compelling all prostitutes to inhabit certain special streets which are reserved for them, at the same time being inscribed by the police. The result has been deplorable, and these streets have become uninhabitable. It must be borne in mind that the owners or managers of these houses become from this fact more or less analogous to proxenets. Whoever lets his house for such an object must possess very little sentiment of modesty and duty, for he lives indirectly on the produce of prostitution.
Clandestine Brothels.—Besides the official brothels, of which we have spoken, there are a number of secret organizations of all kinds, which the State is the less able to prevent as it organizes and tolerates prostitution and proxenetism on its own account. A number of taverns possess secret chambers which are only small brothels, in which the servants act at the same time as prostitutes.
It is the same with many small shops (gloves, perfumes, etc.), whose innocent appearance only serves as a blind. A number of cafes chantants are also connected with prostitution and proxenetism. Certain tobacco shops, etc., sell obscene objects such as pornographic pictures. All these things act especially on youth and become disseminated in colleges.
The Number of Prostitutes.—The number of prostitutes has been estimated at 30,000 in Berlin, 40,000 in Paris, and 60,000 in London. It can hardly be assumed that all these women have a pathological heredity. As soon as the State recognizes the right of existence of this dung-heap, by its toleration and organization, corruption hitherto hidden and ashamed raises its head and becomes more and more bold, even dragging public organs into its sink. It is the public especially, but also the authorities and the doctors who become corrupted by contact with official proxenetism, which confuses the ideas of morality in every one's head (vide La Maison Tellier, de Maupassant). They shut their eyes to the haunts of vice. The proxenets feel that they are important personages, and the more enterprising of them very often enjoy secret favors and receive visits from State officials, and even married persons of high position. It is not difficult for any one who reflects a little to see what this state of things leads to.
Prostitution and the Police.—The police know very well that in certain brothels prostitution is not only associated with alcoholic excess, but that certain houses become the haunts of criminals. They even regard certain low-class brothels and taverns frequented by prostitutes as very useful for the discovery of criminals. Spies of all kinds are met with in these places, from the secret agent who tracks a criminal and flirts at the same time with the prostitutes, to the counter-spy employed by the proxenets to watch the secret agent. It is here that the criminal world acquires its rakish manners, but its weakness for women and alcohol cause it to fall early into the traps of the secret police. It is here also, as well as in the salons of high-class proxenetism, that we meet with those indefinable individuals who are to-day secret agents of the government, to-morrow false noblemen or criminals, and the day after proxenets, and whom a former minister of the German Empire designated by the euphemistic term of "non-gentleman."
The Psychology of Prostitutes and the Cause of Prostitution.—The psychology of prostitutes is a difficult and complicated subject. According to the point of view of those who judge them, they are considered as women of evil and incorrigible instincts, or as the victims of our bad social organizations. These two assertions are by their exclusiveness equally false. Urged by Christian charity, many societies for the improvement of morality have attempted to rescue fallen women; but, as might be expected, the results have not been satisfactory. In fact, the mind of woman is quite differently dominated by sexual ideas and their irradiations than that of man. It is also less plastic, and becomes more easily the slave of habit and routine. If, therefore, a woman has been systematically trained in sexual aberrations from her youth upward, all her ideas are concentrated on debauch and sexual intercourse, so that it becomes impossible later on to restore her to a life of serious social duty. Rare exceptions confirm this rule. Moreover, sexual excitation in women awakens sexual desire, which becomes exalted by repetition and habit.
On the other hand, it is necessary to recognize that girls who are idle, of weak character, hysterical, easily suggestible, coquettes or nymphomaniacs, are subjects specially disposed to become seduced. Lastly, poverty is one of the most powerful auxiliaries of prostitution. I do not wish to be sentimental, nor to give too much weight to the well-known statement that a poor woman prostitutes herself to appease her children's hunger, or her own. No doubt this happens among the oriental Jews and among the proletariat of large towns, but it is, on the whole, exceptional.
Poverty acts indirectly in a much more intense and efficacious manner. First of all it compels the proletariat to live in the most disgusting promiscuity. Not only do the father, the mother and the children occupy the same room, but they sleep there, often in the same bed. The children are witnesses of their parents' coitus and become initiated in sexual intercourse, often in its most bestial form, under the influence of alcohol, for example. Neglected and herded together with other children, most of them as badly brought up as themselves, from their early youth they become acquainted not only with the most gross and filthy things, but also with the most pathological and deformed excrescences of the unhealthy life of towns. In the proletariat of certain towns there are few girls of fourteen years of age who are still virgins.
Again, poverty urges parents to exploit their children, for it is easy to deliver them into the hands of proxenetism. But this is not confined to the poorest classes; among small tradespeople, poverty is also an indirect agent of prostitution. Here again the effect of pitiless exploitation is seen; in certain occupations which leave the girls free evenings, and also in certain shops, the proprietor only pays his employes an absurdly small salary, because they can add to it by prostitution. For this reason, many saleswomen, dressmakers, etc., are obliged to content themselves with a minimum wage. When they complain, and especially when they are good looking, they are often given to understand that with their attractive appearance it is very easy for them to increase their income, for many a young man would be glad to "befriend them," to say nothing of other insinuations of the same kind. I have already pointed out how waitresses are utilized as bait in certain taverns, etc. Let us cite a few figures:
About 80 per cent. of the prostitutes in Paris have some occupation besides prostitution.
In factories, shops, etc., the average wage of men is 4 francs 20. per day; that of women 2 francs 20.; but in domestic service it is only 2 francs 10. for men and 1 franc 10., or even 90 centimes for women, even where the latter do the same work! Is it to be wondered that they have recourse to prostitution?
High-class Brothels.—In these establishments the life of the prostitute is much more agreeable: the goods of superior quality demanded by rich and fastidious clients requires better treatment and special care. I will cite a case published in the annual report of the Societe de Pestalozzi (for cruelty to children) at Vienna:
"In October, 1904, the Tyrolean Society for Abandoned Infancy sent us the papers of a young Tyrolean girl of eighteen, who was found at Venice under police control. Our attention was drawn to the youth of this girl and the incapacity of the father to induce her to reform. We were requested to restore her, if possible, to an honest life.
We made the usual inquiries. Having many brothers and sisters, this girl, at the age of fourteen, obtained a situation at Innsbruck, where she was badly treated. She went away and gave herself gradually to prostitution, latterly at Vienna.
We had an interview with her at our office and ascertained that she had experienced ill-treatment at Innsbruck. She had a modest demeanor and made a good impression. She regarded her future with equanimity, admitting that she was excluded from society, but speaking of her trade as seriously as if it was licit and officially recognized.
She assured us that her parents, having great difficulty in gaining a livelihood, agreed with her in her choice of a "business." She was on very good terms with them and sent them money.
To obtain a certificate from the police, the consent of her parents was necessary. Her mother had told her that if she remained pious and honest no one could reproach her. She held "Madame" (the proprietress of the brothel) in high esteem, on account of her kind treatment of her "boarders." The house in which she was located was first-class, both as regards clients and treatment. There were about a dozen young girls there, most of them younger than herself, all with their parents' consent; and many of them sent home what they earned.
She said that her companions were very happy, being well fed and clothed, and earning from 120 to 240 crowns a month. With much ingenuousness she told us how Madame, whom she greatly respected, had looked after two old "boarders," who no longer had any clients. She also had a protector.
We tried to induce her to commence another life, promising her a situation, but she refused, saying that even if she wished to do so Madame would not let her go; besides, she would always be reproached for her past life, and she did not wish to live with people who would always despise her. She had already suffered enough trouble and did not wish to launch on the unknown. Moreover, she had lost her former habits and had never learnt anything seriously. In short, she did not wish to give up her pleasant and comfortable life!
This conversation led us to the conclusion that the case in question was not of a nature to justify any action on the part of our society for the rescue of young women.
In spite of her tender age, this girl gave us the impression of mature judgment. It appeared already much too late to attempt to recommence her education. She also showed signs of great anxiety when we spoke to her of leaving her brothel.
This case requires no comment; it gives a good idea of our social condition. The religious piety of this girl, and her profound veneration for "Madame," are typical of the deviation of moral sense by the suggestion of environment.
Varieties in Prostitutes.—We thus see that prostitutes constitute a collection of very different individuals. Although it may be true that, on the average, their ranks are recruited from girls who are coarse, shameless, depraved and alcoholic, it is no less false to conclude that all are of bad heredity. A considerable number are pathological individuals, including hysterical subjects, nymphomaniacs and other psychopaths. Others again are naturally amoral, stupid, idle and deceitful, or have been accustomed to vicious surroundings from infancy; or else they are of an absolutely indifferent and apathetic nature, or very suggestible and yielding to every seduction and external impulse. The latter perhaps form the largest contingent, because they most easily become the prey of proxenetism.
Many of them have fallen by seduction. Ashamed of their first error, and not having the courage to bear the consequences, they gradually sink into the swamp of prostitution. Illegitimate births play a great part here.
A certain class of prostitutes ply their trade simply from poverty and want, being ashamed of it but profiting by it to maintain their family. But poverty acts chiefly in combination with other causes.
There still remains a very limited group formed by individuals who give themselves up to prostitution for love of it. These are generally women with a morbid and violent sexual appetite, joined to want of moral sense. Rich women, even countesses and princesses have been known to become prostitutes.
This diversity among prostitutes explains why there are different degrees in prostitution. Although its depravity is often more or less masked by fine clothes and good cheer, the lowest level is represented by the girl of the brothels, who is little more than an instrument for coitus in the hands of proxenetism (with the exception of certain high-class brothels). It is the prostitutes of low-class brothels for soldiers who lead the most miserable life. Such houses only keep refuse merchandise, i.e., old prostitutes who are no good for anything else. There is no sadder sight than a soldiers' brothel.
The prostitution in cafes, scent shops, glove shops, etc., constitutes a slightly higher grade. As regards danger of venereal infection this is as great as anywhere, but the girls are rather more independent and lead a more natural life. It is precisely because these places are not under legal protection, that the patrons or protectors of prostitutes cannot employ the terrorism of licensed proxenets.
The free prostitutes of the streets are about on the same level. They are not dependent on proxenetism, but only on their protector and proprietor, which is a trifle less degrading. What degrades them most of all is police inscription, obligatory medical inspection, and the miserable system of solicitation on the pavement. It is necessary to have lost all feeling of modesty, and to possess a cynical audacity to become a street prostitute.
Prostitutes who only practice occasionally and have not the courage to solicit, nor to be inscribed by the police, belong to a higher level. But in countries where regulation is in force they always run the risk of being arrested by the police and put on the inscription list. These private prostitutes constitute the intermediate stage between prostitution properly so-called, and venal concubinage, which we shall speak of later.
The army of prostitutes is partly composed of pathological individuals. Alcohol and vicious habits increase their abnormal tendencies, so that their behavior leaves nothing wanting in the way of temper, impulsiveness, cynicism and insolence. This is seen every day in hospitals for venereal disease. As soon as a prostitute finds her physical condition improve after a few days in hospital, sexual abstinence arouses her appetite to such an extent that she indulges in lesbian love with her companions, or shows herself naked at the windows, etc. Some prostitutes of better quality suffer at first from the scandalous tone of the brothel, but they generally become used to it, and end with adopting it themselves. Honest women, infected accidentally or by their husbands, suffer martyrdom when they are sent to the venereal divisions of hospitals.
The Fate of Prostitutes.—What becomes of prostitutes in the course of time? They cannot remain very long in the brothels for they only accept young and fine-looking girls. It would be interesting to follow the fate of all these women. At all events nothing is more absurd than the common saying that the suppression of brothels increases prostitution in the streets, and that their introduction suppresses it. It is obvious that, as the women in brothels have to be continually renewed, they must be continually thrown onto the streets. No doubt many prostitutes die at an early age from the results of alcohol and syphilis. The only resource left to many, when they are ejected from the brothels, is to solicit in the streets or to join clandestine brothels or taverns of the same nature.
The most profligate, those who look upon their profession from the artistic or the commercial points of view, know how to advance themselves and become "Madames"; but these are comparatively few in number. Some end in suicide or lunatic asylums.
As a last resource, when no man will have anything to do with them, many of them take to the lowest occupations, such as cleaning lavatories, etc. At Munich it used to be proverbial that the class of "Radiweiber" and "Nussweiber" (old women selling nuts etc., at the street corners) were mostly recruited from old prostitutes. Occasionally a better class prostitute succeeds in getting married.
If we consider without prejudice the miserable life of a prostitute, we cannot hear the term "fille de joie" without a feeling of sadness and indignation, for it conveys such bitter and tragic irony. If we could ourselves experience the true state of mind which is hidden behind the smiles and songs of so many miserable singers at cafe concerts, and behind the brazen artifices of many prostitutes; if we could learn their past life and the cause of their fall, no man with a spark of pity or sympathy for his fellows could relish with a light heart a "joy" bought at such a price. For those who read German, I recommend on this subject: Tagebuch einer Verlornen, by Marguerite Boehme. (Berlin: Fontane, 1905.)
Prostitution and Sexual Perversion.—If it is true that many prostitutes have a pathological heredity, it is still more sure that they often have to submit to the fancies of pathological clients. The numerous sexual anomalies, of which we have spoken in Chapter VIII, are closely connected with prostitution. The refinement of modern civilization is so complete that it supplies localities and women for the special use of each pathological form of the sexual appetite.
So far we have only spoken of female prostitutes, and we have seen how they conform to the customs of sadists, masochists, etc. They allow themselves to be maltreated by the former, and maltreat the latter; or else they play at exhibitions symbolical of cruelty or humiliation.
For male inverts, on the other hand, there exist male brothels, in which young boys practice pederasty for money. For certain rich roues, or for those affected with pederosis, children are kept. This last class of goods is very dear, for there is always a risk of the law intervening. Young virgins also fetch a high price; and they even try to sew up the hymen after their defloration, so as to offer them several times as virgins!
With what we have said in Chapter VIII, these indications will suffice to show that modern prostitution and proxenetism constitute a public disgrace, intended to exploit the unbridled desires of men for profit. This system has been defended on the grounds of hygiene and the protection of virtuous women against the assaults of men, etc. In reality, it has resulted in corrupting and effeminating men; in restricting the normal sexual intercourse of youth in its natural association with an inconsiderate love; in degrading love itself; in debarring a great number of capable and virtuous women from marriage, from love, and from sexual intercourse in general; lastly, in causing complete aberration of the whole sexual life of modern society.
Contemporary literature has begun to consider the psychology of prostitution. We have already mentioned La Maison Tellier by de Maupassant; Zola's Nana is the history of a high-class prostitute related in the well-known realistic manner of the celebrated novelist, in which he describes the sexual depravity existing in certain Parisian circles of the Second Empire.
I will now make a few remarks concerning a social movement organized against the regulation of prostitution, called abolitionism.
Abolitionism and Regulation.—An Englishwoman, Mrs. Josephine Butler, undertook, in the name of liberty, a campaign against proxenetism, white slavery and the State regulation of prostitution. She also attacked the injustice of the Code Napoleon toward women, especially the prohibition of inquiry into paternity, which throws girls who have been seduced into the arms of prostitution. The abolitionists contest the right of police inscription of prostitutes under the pretext of hygiene, of submitting them against their will to medical inspection, and of keeping them in brothels. They claim severe laws against proxenetism and oppose toleration.
In medical circles the system of regulation has generally been defended. It is urged that society has the right to protect itself against dangerous infection, and that, with this object, it has as much right to treat infected prostitutes compulsorily, as those affected with smallpox or cholera. Owing to their shameful trade, they maintain that these women have lost all claim to special consideration.
This argument appears very reasonable at first sight, but it takes quite a different aspect when the facts are examined more thoroughly.
First of all the comparison with smallpox and cholera is illogical, for these diseases endanger the innocent public, while the man who makes use of prostitution is quite aware of the danger he runs. Society is under no obligation to provide healthy prostitutes for the use of Don Juan.
Against this it is stated that innocent wives are often infected and made to suffer for the sins of their husbands. But such an extensive blending of the State with family life does not appear to be admissible, and would lead to crying abuses. Society has neither the right nor the duty to facilitate the dangerous or injurious acts of certain individuals at the expense of others, by rendering them less dangerous, so that certain third parties may be less liable to suffer. This is an absurd sophism. The duty of society is to make responsible the one who has committed the dangerous or injurious act, and to punish him if he has done harm. Here, on the contrary, one only of the culprits (the prostitute) is compelled to keep to her vile trade, while the man who makes use of her, and often infects her, is free from any responsibility. Moreover, the State has no right to act against responsible persons under the pretext that their future sentiments or actions would have dangerous consequences for others; this would lead to arbitrary abuse of power. The insane, and habitual criminals make the only exceptions, for their abnormal and irresponsible cerebral organization is a perpetual danger to society.
There is one question, however, which arises: Can prostitution in itself be regarded as a misdemeanor punishable by law? If this were the case, the client would have to be punished as well as the prostitute; or both of them be sent to reformatories. This is the only logical consequence, for in such cases the two contractors are equally guilty, and also equally dangerous as regards infection.
How, therefore, can the system be justified which brands and inscribes the prostitute only; which is not content with tolerating her vile trade instead of punishing it, but gives it official sanction, causing her to fall lower and lower; which finally, to crown the work, licenses the proxenetism which exploits her vice? It is difficult to imagine more complete hypocrisy, or a more contradictory system.
In former times when slavery was allowed, men's will and pleasure were sufficient to justify such measures, which created for their profit a class of female pariahs; and this was frankly and openly admitted. Nowadays, the equal rights of women which are officially recognized in civilized countries no longer allow it, and hygienic arguments only can give such modern barbarity the hypocritical appearance of justification. Lunatics and criminals are only locked up as a measure of safety, and to attempt to improve them; but their bodies are not allowed to become an object of commerce for the pleasure of other members of society.
But the results of honestly interpreted statistics contradict the apparent justification of the regulation of prostitution, in the name of hygiene. It is intended to furnish men with a means of coitus free from danger; but the facts prove that venereal disease has not been diminished by this means. The false security given to men officially by regulation makes them all the more careless. The multiplication of the sexual connections of each prostitute increases the danger of infection at least as much as the elimination of a few diseased persons diminishes it.
The corruption of the State and its officials, especially the police and the medical inspectors of brothels, the general depravity which results from official toleration, and the perversion of ideas of morality among the public, increase habits of prostitution, and with it the danger of infection. Assured of impunity the pimps and their acolytes become more and more audacious and extend their business, while the prostitutes, whose number is increased by this system, seek to escape the police and practice their trade clandestinely. It is no wonder that the swamp to be purified becomes more and more infectious. Can it be conscientiously said that hygiene has benefited? This is well seen in Geneva and in France. It is enough to compare the number of cases of venereal disease and of prostitutes in countries where regulation is in force, with those which do not employ it, to show the complete fiasco of the system from the hygienic point of view. On the average, the number of infectious cases is nearly the same with or without regulation and depends on many other causes. I cannot enter into the details here and must refer to the statistics and to the works published by the Abolitionist Federation (6 Rue St. Leger, Geneva).
Of all that has been published, nothing appears to me more conclusive than the masterly statistics of Mounier, for Holland, in 1889. Even among medical men, the originators of regulation, the abolitionist point of view is steadily gaining ground. It is beginning to be understood that the toleration of proxenetism, and even the inscription and medical inspection of prostitutes, are vicious methods of social sanitation against venereal infection.
But by the suppression of official toleration and regulation, the question of prostitution is in no way settled. This has only a negative action, important for the tactics of those who wish to upset a scandalous abuse, but which does not respond to the higher task of extirpating the root of the evil. The positive work will only begin when the State is relieved of its shameful compact with proxenetism and prostitution.
In the following chapters we shall examine the remedies which must be applied to our sexual anarchy, the result of masculine autocracy, as Russian anarchy is the result of Tsarism. I will first make a few observations from the medical and hygienic point of view, to the partisans of regulation. They exclaim that the abolitionists are fanatics, who, from their absence of scientific spirit, will deluge society with venereal disease. This bogy has no sound foundation. The State regulation of prostitution applied to certain women has not diminished the amount of venereal disease, because it does not reach it. The State concession of an unnatural vice cannot be hygienic. Moreover, it is impossible to completely disinfect prostitutes, this disinfection is quite illusory, unless it is also applied to their clients, which is impracticable.
In France, where the system of regulation has existed for a long time in its strictest form, venereal diseases are extremely prevalent; while in Switzerland, where it only exists at Geneva, having been suppressed for some years in the Canton of Zurich, they are less frequent. Geneva is not less contaminated than other towns in Switzerland, in spite of its model brothels, and Zurich has lately, by popular vote, confirmed abolition by a crushing majority, in opposition to a few interested persons who wished to reestablish the brothels under futile and fallacious pretexts. Some clandestine brothels still exist in towns where the authorities shut their eyes.
It has also been maintained that the number of sexual misdemeanors would increase with the suppression of brothels. This is another illusion. The majority of sexual misdemeanors are due to psychic anomalies (Chapter VIII) or to the effects of alcoholic intoxication. If they have any relation to prostitution, it is rather that of being favored by its orgies.
Remedies for the Evil.—What is wanted first of all are severe laws against proxenetism. It is indisputable that commerce made with the body of one's neighbor is illegal, even when the latter gives consent. It is a crime or misdemeanor which should be prosecuted like negro slavery or usury. We should not wait for a complaint to be lodged, but prosecute proxenetism officially, for the victims are hindered by shame from coming forward. The pimps of proxenetism are recruited from the dregs of society. In this domain, as in the others, penal law should not be put in force; the object should be the protection of society and the improvement of the criminal.
As regards prostitution itself, it cannot be made a misdemeanor without opening the door too widely to complete arbitrariness. The State cannot prevent a responsible adult from disposing of his own body, without introducing religion and metaphysics into legislation; but the State can require those who practice prostitution not to molest the public. It has, therefore, the right to punish solicitation in the streets by fine or imprisonment, especially in often repeated offenses. It can also give persons of both sexes, who are victims of venereal disease, the right of claiming damages by civil law. The legality of this right of indemnity has been much contested. In my opinion it is legitimate when the State no longer tolerates or regulates prostitution; but so long as it does this, and submits prostitutes to obligatory medical treatment, the States takes the responsibility of their health. Under the regime of regulation, an infected person could logically claim damages from the State, or, at any rate from the pimps of licensed proxenetism.
The question of responsibility is quite different when prostitution is free. The sexual intercourse of a free prostitute with a man may be regarded as a private contract in which each party has the same rights and obligations. If one of the two contractors deceives the other by concealing venereal disease, the latter has the right to claim damages, if there is sufficient proof of infection from this source.
The right of indemnity does not, however, constitute the principal point. In order to successfully combat prostitution and venereal disease, fundamental social reforms are necessary.
(1). First of all the system of exploitation of the poor by the rich should be put an end to, the work of the poor being remunerated at its true value. This requires a social transformation of the relations between capital and labor.
(2). The use of narcotics, and especially alcohol, should be suppressed.
(3). The false modesty concerning sexual intercourse should be done away with.
(4). The public should be instructed in the dangers of venereal disease and in the means of preventing contamination. The only certain means of curing them consists in not contracting them.
(5). Cleanliness should be universally encouraged, especially in sexual intercourse.
(6). Preventive measures should be employed in every coitus, the object of which is not procreation.
(7). The treatment of venereal diseases in hospitals should be carried out in a decent and humane manner, so as not to shock the modesty of either sex, especially women, and so that patients need not be ashamed of submitting to medical treatment. Nowadays the venereal divisions of hospitals often more resemble brothels. This state of things makes it impossible for any woman with a particle of modesty to stay in these places. It is evident that women who are more or less virtuous, and even the better class of prostitutes, will avoid such hospital treatment as much as possible, and will thereby become the worst sources of infection.
By treating venereal disease in hospital with more regard for decency and modesty, by abolishing the brand of shame, and by separating patients according to their behavior, we might succeed in improving a state of things which is often unbearable. Patients with venereal diseases would then more willingly submit to hospital treatment and would be more easily cured. In Italy much progress has already been made in this direction.
In conclusion, I am convinced that if we should be contented for the present with damming up prostitution and suppressing the causes which render prostitutes more and more abject, without yet being able to abolish the whole evil, a transformation of our social life, and especially the suppression of the reign of capital as a means of exploitation of the work of others, and suppression of the use of alcoholic drinks, would eventually succeed in the gradual extinction of prostitution and the substitution of concubinage, which has much less evil results.
Venal concubinage occupies an intermediate position between prostitution and concubinage. It is distinguished from the latter by the fact that it is remunerated; but the distinction is very fine.
Lorettes.—This is an old term which may be applied to paid women who are not regular prostitutes. It is hardly possible to distinguish them from clandestine prostitutes (not on the police inscription). They are women who do not practice solicitation or sell themselves to the first comer, but generally keep to one man for a time.
Grisettes.—The Parisian grisette, whose type has become classic, is a higher class of woman who, at any rate in her primitive simplicity, was not wanting in romance. Relations with a grisette may be compared to limited and free marriage, in which there is comparative fidelity.
Like some of the free prostitutes, the grisette does not live only on the support of her lover. She is often a dressmaker or a shop-girl, and makes arrangements with a lover so as to live more comfortably.
When the grisette acts as her lover's housekeeper and lives with him on terms of the closest intimacy, the liaison takes a more serious character and there is a certain degree of affection or even love. However, all these concubinages are generally limited to a few weeks or months, so that the natural love of the woman becomes blunted by successive polyandry. It is always more or less a question of "an accessory business."
There are all kinds of lorettes and grisettes, but as a rule they are generally attached to small tradesmen, students, workingmen, etc., rather than to rich men. It is a kind of contract for a limited period. This system is very widespread in large towns, where the inhabitants do not interfere with each other's affairs; but is difficult to manage in small towns, where every one knows everybody.
Mistresses.—These may be called the aristocrats of the species. Here we see more distinctly the transition from venal love to free concubinage based on mutual love. The hetaira of the ancient Greeks (vide Chapter VI) corresponded more or less to the modern mistresses, especially to the intelligent mistresses of men in high positions. In certain respects we may say that George Sand, for example, was a hetaira from pure love, while among the Greek hetaira money played a great part. Some mistresses are paid; others live on terms of equality with their lovers; others again maintain their lovers. We must also distinguish between mistresses who live with married men, and those who live with bachelors.
The most typical case is that where a bachelor who wishes to remain free takes a mistress, whom he also makes mistress of his house, and who thus becomes an illegitimate wife who may separate from him when it pleases her. Some women contract this kind of union without being actually paid, simply for their maintenance, in return for which they do the housework. Here there is no actual sale of the body. The contract may be indefinite or limited. In such cases the effect of money on the attitude of the man toward his mistress is evident; his tone is generally less respectful toward paid mistresses than toward those who are not paid. The love of the paid mistress is little more durable or more intense than that of the grisette, the situation being almost the same.
Zola's Nana prostituted herself regularly with rich men: secondly, she was the mistress of Fontan, who plays the part of a high-class protector; thirdly, she fell in love with Georges in quite an idyllic fashion. Bordenave, the manager, had good reason in wishing his theater to be called a brothel, as he was more of a pimp than a theatrical manager. This example, a little far-fetched, shows how ideas pass from one to another in this elastic domain.
There are also married mistresses. The position of mistress to a married man is, on the whole, more delicate than that of mistress to a bachelor. We are only concerned here with paid mistresses. They seldom give themselves to married men except when the home life of the latter is more or less disorganized; when the husband is separated from the wife, or when he lives in open warfare with her. A married man, on the contrary, may secretly visit brothels or private prostitutes, often even with his wife's knowledge, because the prostitute can have no influence in family affairs. This reason has even been used for the defense of prostitution. It is true that married men often have connection with other women, and the term mistress has been applied to the women who take part in this intercourse, whether they or their lover, or both of them, are already married. But in this case money is usually only a secondary consideration, when the households concerned are not broken up. It is often only the maneuver of an intriguer who tries to separate a husband from his wife to marry him herself and monopolize his fortune. It is sufficient to show how difficult it often is to distinguish the paid mistress from the woman who does not give herself from interest but from passion, or from the intriguing adventuress who tries to make a good catch.
Lorettes, grisettes and paid mistresses seldom have children. These women are more rarely infected with venereal diseases than prostitutes, but they are better acquainted with the methods of preventing conception.
The fate of the children of venal concubines is generally very sad. They are not the fruits of love but of a sexual union based on idleness and lewdness. If conception occurs in spite of all precautions, artificial abortion is attempted, or if this fails the child is sent to the "baby farmer," who gets rid of it. The women who dispose of their children in this way are often of the better class; common prostitutes often love and take care of their children, while the young ladies of society generally try and get rid of their illegitimate children, because they are much more compromised. Some married women even do not hesitate to perform abortion when a child inconveniences them.
We have only mentioned the fourth group of women with which we are concerned, because of its mercantile nature. Every union in which a human being gives love for money is unnatural. Venal love is not true love, but an improper contract between man and woman, with the object of satisfying the sexual appetite, without any regard to the higher object intended by nature. It sometimes happens that similar contracts are made in the inverse direction, when a nymphomaniacal woman purchases a fine young man, under some pretext or other. Inverts also pay boys to satisfy their perverted appetites.
However unsavory may be the contents of the present chapter, it was necessary to write it in order to give a clear idea of the subject. Under the pretense of virtue venal love has too long been covered with a veil of hypocrisy. Prostitution, marriage for money and venal concubinage are, each in its way, elements of corruption and decadence which, combined with alcohol, gambling, speculation, the greed for money and pleasure in general, threaten our modern culture with ruin. Among these anomalies, the State organization of prostitution being the most monstrous, it is necessary to begin with its suppression.
Among the ancients, the goddess Venus or Aphrodite was the symbol of beauty and love. Although somewhat sly, she was fecund, full of desire and charm, and embodied not only the natural aspirations of man, but also his artistic ideal. Nowadays, she is dragged in the mire by two false gods—Bacchus, who makes a gross and vulgar brute of her, and Mammon, who transforms her into a venal prostitute—while a hypocritical religious asceticism, endeavors in vain to confine her in a strait-waistcoat. May the progress of science and culture find the power to deliver her from the tyranny of her two infamous companions, deified by human ignorance and bestiality. Then only will the goddess of love appear in all her glory!
THE INFLUENCE OF ENVIRONMENT ON SEXUAL LIFE
However strong may be the hereditary sexual instincts which an individual has inherited by phylogeny from his ancestors, and however violent their internal outbreaks in his ontogeny, it is necessary to recognize that an organism so complicated as that of man is capable of adapting itself to its environment to a remarkable and varied degree, and that consequently external influences react strongly on the sexual appetite. We will now examine these influences, so far as they are not dealt with in other chapters.
Influence of Climate.—Warm climates appear to excite the intensity of sexual life; man matures more quickly and is more disposed to sexual excess. I am not aware of other influences that can be attributed to climate. It is, moreover, possible that the direct influence of heat has been confounded with the indirect action it exerts in the conditions of human existence. In cold countries life is more laborious, and this diminishes the intensity of the sexual appetite. In warm countries man has not so much concern with dwellings, clothes and heating; life is greatly simplified, and this freedom from anxiety inclines him to greater sexual activity.
Town and Country. Isolation. Sociability. Life in Factories.—The social relations of man exert a great influence on sexual life. Hermits and those who live on isolated farms are interesting in this respect. Solitude generally leads man to chronic melancholia and to abnormal peculiarities, unless he has a library in his hermitage, when he may live in the spirit of the intellectual sociability derived from the study of books.
It is quite otherwise with one who has no intellectual occupation, or one who has lived in solitude from infancy. In this case the hermit becomes a kind of savage, without any intellectual development, and reverts more or less to the state of primitive man.
An adult who establishes himself in solitude without providing himself with intellectual capital becomes strongly inclined to depressing psychoses. This is observed among the isolated farmers, according to Professor Seguin, of New York. The man who lives alone, or surrounded only by the members of his family becomes disposed to certain sexual anomalies, such as incest, sodomy and masturbation.
It is among the agricultural population that we meet with the most normal sexual relations and the best hygiene. The French Canadians form a good example, and it is the same generally where agriculture is practiced by independent peasants, not alcoholized, and having divided property. Agricultural families generally procreate more children and healthier ones than urban families. No doubt modern medical hygiene, both public and private, has made so much progress in towns that there may be, at a certain age, proportionally more living children than in the country; but the country children are of stronger constitution and more healthy in every way.
I had the opportunity of confirming this opinion while I was superintendent of a lunatic asylum for many years. I found it was impossible to recruit from the town a good staff of nurses of either sex.
The inhabitant of towns, it is true, learns his work more quickly, but he lacks patience, perseverance and character, and soon shows himself wanting in the accomplishment of his physical and moral duties. The countryman, on the contrary, is at first slow and clumsy, but soon becomes more capable and careful, and more amenable to education. This shows that, on the average, the hereditary dispositions of the country-bred child are better than those of the town-bred child. The latter develops more rapidly and more completely his natural dispositions, owing to social intercourse, while the country-bred child, although he appears at first sight less intelligent, is really better endowed on the average than the town child. The superficial observer is easily deceived, but country life accumulates more reserve force in the organism than urban life.
Sexual excesses in the country are more conformable to nature. Apart from marriage, we meet with concubinage, infidelity, and sometimes prostitution, but these excesses are never widely spread in small places where every one knows each other. An extensive study of the alcohol question has shown me that hereditary degenerations and sexual evils in the country are principally due to alcoholism and its blastophthoria (vide Chapter I). But when factories, mining industries, etc., create unhealthy conditions in the country, the evil influences of urban life are implanted there, often in a still higher degree.
The society of large towns is made up of many different circles, who have little or no relations with each other, do not know each other, and seldom concern themselves about each other. The individual is only known in his own circle. This circumstance favors the increase of vice and depravity. In addition to this, the insanitary dwellings, the life of excitement and innumerable pleasures, all tend to produce a restless and unnatural existence. The best conditions of existence for man are contact with nature, air and light, sufficient physical exercise combined with steady work for the brain, which requires exercise as much as the other organs; this is just what is wanting among the poor, in the town and in the factory. Instead of this they are offered unhealthy nocturnal pleasures and a prostitution which spreads itself everywhere with all the dangerous effects we have described. The result is that they become incapable of nourishing and raising their children properly, often even of procreating them in healthy and natural love.
Such are the conditions of the lower classes in large towns. Along with prostitution, venereal disease and alcohol, the wretched dwellings in many places lead to infamous promiscuity. In factories and mines things are still worse. In these places there is a swarm of people continually engaged in most unhealthy occupations, and only leaving their work to indulge in the most repugnant sexual excesses. The rapacity, frivolity and luxury of society lead to alcoholism, poverty, promiscuity and prostitution among the lower classes and cause complete degeneration of entire industrial populations.
In the Canton of Zurich I have had the opportunity of closely observing the physical and moral effects of this degeneration. The individuals most incapable as hospital attendants were always factory hands. These wretched beings were generally so atrophied in body and mind that they were no use for anything except the weaving of silk and cotton. In the large English towns, such as Liverpool, and among the population of certain mining districts in Belgium, I have met with even worse degeneration of the human species. Modesty, morality and health are destroyed in this swarming human mass—dirty, anaemic, tuberculous, rickety, imbecile, or hysterical—and there is no distinction between the factory girl and the prostitute. In certain Belgian districts which are a prey to alcoholism, one sometimes sees human beings copulating in the streets like animals, or like the drunken Kaffirs in South Africa. What can we expect from the descendants of a population so completely degenerate? Marriage and even concubinage among peasants is golden in comparison!
I will now draw attention to a contemporary phenomenon of the greatest interest. The immense development of means of transport, combined with progress in the sanitation of dwellings, favors the transportation of town to country and country to town. This brings together the two modes of human life, and in this I see the dawn of salvation in the future. The modern towns of North America, thanks to the great extension of their territory, already resemble the country to a great extent, each house being surrounded by a garden. The electric tramways shorten distances and facilitate this manner of building towns. As means of communication become still more simplified and cheapened, the advantages of country life will be joined to those of the town without suffering from the promiscuity of the latter. The disadvantages of country life consist in atrophy of the intellectual dispositions from want of contact; improvement in means of transport will bring this contact to the country. The result of such distribution of the territory of a civilized state, such as I have in view, might be called an Agropolis—an urbanized country or a countrified town. It would then be possible to live a life more ideal in human sentiments, and healthier as regards material and sexual matters.
The state of the countryman or peasant is advantageous for marriage, not only because it does not offer such a suitable soil for prostitution, but because the danger of venereal disease is diminished, and the procreation of healthy offspring favors conjugal happiness and constancy in sexual union. From the religious point of view, the freedom in sexual intercourse which prevails among country people before marriage is looked upon as immoral; but this is a natural phenomenon similar to the "marriage by trial" of certain savage races, or the "hand-fasting" of the Scotch people, of which we have spoken in Chapter VI. People who tolerate and defend prostitution should be ashamed of their hypocrisy and of the manner in which they distort morality, when in the same breath they reproach peasants with their natural but illegitimate unions.
It is needless to say that other causes of degeneration may exist in the country as well as in towns; for instance, certain endemic diseases, such as myxoedema and malaria, the brutish life of certain tribes, perpetuation of degeneracy by consanguineous unions, etc.
The worst state is certainly that of the proletariat of large towns, which is generally associated with crime. In the community of pimps, criminals and decadents in general, is constituted a special social outlook, which regards the greatest scamp in the light of a hero. When a child shows a precocious criminal disposition it is looked upon in these circles as a child of much promise. Honest and virtuous children are considered in this society as imbeciles, or even as traitors and spies, and are consequently despised, hated and ill-treated. The deleterious influences we have mentioned do not act alone, but are often associated with other factors in causing degeneration of the sexual life. When other influences preponderate, we may sometimes observe depravity in the country, and on the contrary, healthy and normal conditions in certain towns. We must always avoid exaggerating the importance of a single factor in making generalizations. Certain country villages, the inhabitants of which have become alcoholized and degraded, may present a much more unhealthy sexual life than certain sober and well-governed towns.
Vagabondage.—In the Archiv fuer Rassen und Gesellschafts biologie of 1905 (Archives of the biology of races and of society), Doctor Joerger relates the history of the descendants of a couple of vagabonds, which he carefully studied for several generations. Nearly all the members of this family became vagabonds, thieves, prostitutes, and other society pests. Vain attempts were made to give a good education to some of them, but they ran away from school to lead the lives of vagabonds or criminals. In a few of them only, education gave some results, but not at all brilliant. In this family, alcoholism and its blastophthoria played a considerable part.
We can hardly admit that the mnemic phenomena explained in Chapter I could have acted appreciably in two or three hundred years, a period much too short for the human species. No doubt the common ancestor of the above family of vagabonds descended from a family of vagabonds. I do not, however, think I am wrong in attributing to blastophthoria, superposed on the disastrous combinations of germs which is inevitable in the life of vagabonds, the principal cause of this typical degeneration of the family, a degeneration in which sexual degradation strongly predominates. I recommend Doctor Joerger's work to any one interested in this question. It would be useful to draw up genealogical tables, with the medical and psychological descriptions of the whole population of a small town.
Americanism.—By this term I designate an unhealthy feature of sexual life, common among the educated classes of the United States, and apparently originating in the greed for dollars, which is more prevalent in North America than anywhere else. I refer to the unnatural life which Americans lead, and more especially to its sexual aspect.
The true American citizen despises agricultural work and manual labor in general, especially for women. His aim is to centralize labor by means of machinery and commerce, so as to concern himself only with business, intellectual occupations and sport. American women consider muscular work and labor in the country as degrading to their sex. This is a relic of the days of slavery, when all manual labor was left to negroes, and is so to a great extent at the present day.
Desirous of remaining young and fresh as long as possible, fearing the dangers and troubles of childbirth and the bringing-up of children, the American woman has an increasing aversion to pregnancy, childbirth, suckling and the rearing of large families.
Since the emancipation of negroes has caused domestic servants in the United States to become expensive luxuries, family life has been to a great extent replaced by life in hotels and boarding-houses, and this has furnished another reason for avoiding conception and large families.
It is evident that this form of emancipation of women is absolutely deleterious and that it leads to degeneration, if not to extinction of the race. The mixed Aryan (European) race of North America will diminish and become gradually extinguished, even without emigration, and will soon be replaced by Chinese or negroes. It is necessary for woman to labor as well as man, and she ought not to avoid the fulfillment of her natural position. Every race which does not understand this necessity ends in extinction. A woman's ideal ought not to consist in reading novels and lolling in rocking chairs, nor in working only in offices and shops, so as to preserve her delicate skin and graceful figure. She ought to develop herself strongly and healthily by working along with man in body and mind, and by procreating numerous children, when she is strong, robust and intelligent. But this does not nullify the advantage that may accrue from limiting the number of conceptions, when the bodily and mental qualities are wanting in the procreators.
Saloons and Alcohol.—I desire to draw attention once more to the evil influence of saloons and bars. The drink habit corrupts the whole of sexual life. It is the origin of the most hideous forms of prostitution and proxenetism, and leads to the seduction of girls. I must mention again the barmaids whose business it is to attract customers by exciting their sexual desire, at the same time exploiting themselves by prostitution. These saloons are dens of iniquity in which alcohol and prostitution are inextricably confounded. In Germany they have become a veritable social plague.
Drink makes men and women not only gross and sensual, but also negligent, imprudent and irreflective. The saloon takes men from their homes, and drink directly diminishes the population. This is seen in Russia by comparing the abstainers with the drinkers, the former being much more fecund. The statistics of Doctor Bezzola show that a single drinking bout may have a blastophthoric effect. From this and from other causes result the deplorable consequences of coitus which takes place during drunkenness.
Wealth and Poverty.—While in former civilizations the rich man regarded a multiplicity of wives and children as a condition or cause of his wealth and also as its result, in our modern civilization the number of children diminishes with the increase of prosperity. Children have ceased to be as formerly a source of wealth; on the contrary, they occasion much expense for their education. Again, the higher the social position of woman the more she fears pregnancy. Her life of ease makes her weaker and more delicate, so that she becomes less fit for the procreation of children. This phenomenon is an unhealthy product of culture and reaches a truly pathological degree in America.
We have mentioned marriage for money, which is the prostitution of the rich, and poverty, which is one of the causes of common prostitution, and we have seen how money influences sexual intercourse. We may now state the general principle that a mediocrity living in comfortable circumstances without immediate daily wants, under good hygienic conditions, but requiring a man to work for his living, constitutes the best condition both for a healthy sexual life and for health and happiness in general. This is the aurea mediocritas, or modest competence, the excellence of which was recognized by the ancients.
The sexuality of the rich man degenerates by luxury, comfort, excess and idleness, and by the fact that he is already satiated in his youth. That of the poor man is no less degenerate, owing to bad food, unhealthy dwellings, neglected education, and by vicious example which at the opposite extreme, resembles in many points that of the rich man; the exploiter and the exploited meeting in the dens of vice. Such is the case with gambling hells, with dens for prostitution and sexual anomalies, where the poor blackmail the rich, while the latter in their capacity as social exploiters help to maintain poverty and prostitution.