Analyzing the sexual impulseby@havelock

Analyzing the sexual impulse

by Havelock EllisApril 10th, 2023
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The Psychological Significance of Detumescence—The Testis and the Ovary—Sperm Cell and Germ Cell—Development of the Embryo—The External Sexual Organs—Their Wide Range of Variation—Their Nervous Supply—The Penis—Its Racial Variations—The Influence of Exercise—The Scrotum and Testicles—The Mons Veneris—The Vulva—The Labia Majora and their Varieties—The Pubic Hair and Its Characters—The Clitoris and Its Functions—The Anus as an Erogenous Zone—The Nymphæ and their Function—The Vagina—The Hymen—Virginity—The Biological Significance of the Hymen. In analyzing the sexual impulse we have seen that the process whereby the conjunction of the sexes is achieved falls naturally into two phases: the first phase, of tumescence, during which force is generated in the organism, and the second phase, of detumescence, in which that force is discharged during conjugation. Hitherto we have been occupied mainly with the first phase, that of tumescence, and with its associated psychic phenomena. It was inevitable that this should be so, for it is during the slow process of tumescence that sexual selection is decided, the crystallizations of love elaborated, and, to a large extent, the individual erotic symbols determined. But we can by no means altogether pass over the final phase of detumescence. Its consideration, it is true, brings us directly into the field of anatomy and physiology; while tumescence is largely under control of the will, when the moment of detumescence arrives the reins slip from the control of the will; the more fundamental and uncontrollable impulses of the organism gallop on unchecked; the chariot of Phaëthon dashes blindly down into a sea of emotion.
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Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 5 by Havelock Ellis is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. The Mechanism of Detumscence - I

The Mechanism of Detumscence - I

The Psychological Significance of Detumescence—The Testis and the Ovary—Sperm Cell and Germ Cell—Development of the Embryo—The External Sexual Organs—Their Wide Range of Variation—Their Nervous Supply—The Penis—Its Racial Variations—The Influence of Exercise—The Scrotum and Testicles—The Mons Veneris—The Vulva—The Labia Majora and their Varieties—The Pubic Hair and Its Characters—The Clitoris and Its Functions—The Anus as an Erogenous Zone—The Nymphæ and their Function—The Vagina—The Hymen—Virginity—The Biological Significance of the Hymen.

In analyzing the sexual impulse we have seen that the process whereby the conjunction of the sexes is achieved falls naturally into two phases: the first phase, of tumescence, during which force is generated in the organism, and the second phase, of detumescence, in which that force is discharged during conjugation. Hitherto we have been occupied mainly with the first phase, that of tumescence, and with its associated psychic phenomena. It was inevitable that this should be so, for it is during the slow process of tumescence that sexual selection is decided, the crystallizations of love elaborated, and, to a large extent, the individual erotic symbols determined. But we can by no means altogether pass over the final phase of detumescence. Its consideration, it is true, brings us directly into the field of anatomy and physiology; while tumescence is largely under control of the will, when the moment of detumescence arrives the reins slip from the control of the will; the more fundamental and uncontrollable impulses of the organism gallop on unchecked; the chariot of Phaëthon dashes blindly down into a sea of emotion.

Yet detumescence is the end and climax of the whole drama; it is an anatomico-physiological process, certainly, but one that inevitably touches psychology at every point. It is, indeed, the very key to the process of tumescence, and unless we understand and realize very precisely what it is that happens during detumescence, our psychological analysis of the sexual impulse must remain vague and inadequate.

From the point of view we now occupy, a man and a woman are no longer two highly sensitive organisms vibrating, voluptuously it may indeed be, but vaguely and indefinitely, to all kinds of influences and with fluctuating impulses capable of being directed into any channel, even in the highest degree divergent from the proper ends of procreation. They are now two genital organisms who exist to propagate the race, and whatever else they may be, they must be adequately constituted to effect the act by which the future of the race is ensured. We have to consider what are the material conditions which ensure the most satisfactory and complete fulfillment of this act, and how those conditions may be correlated with other circumstances in the organism. In thus approaching the subject we shall find that we have not really abandoned the study of the psychic aspects of sex.

The two most primary sexual organs are the testis and the ovary; it is the object of conjugation to bring into contact the sperm from the testis with the germ from the ovary. There is no reason to suppose that the germ-cell and the sperm-cell are essentially different from each other. Sexual conjugation thus remains a process which is radically the same as the non-sexual mode of propagation which preceded it. The fusion of the nuclei of the two cells was regarded by Van Beneden, who in 1875 first accurately described it, as a process of conjugation comparable to that of the protozoa and the protophyta. Boveri, who has further extended our knowledge of the process, considers that the spermatozoon removes an inhibitory influence preventing the commencement of development in the ovum; the spermatozoon replaces a portion of the ovum which has already undergone degeneration, so that the object of conjugation is chiefly to effect the union of the properties of two cells in one, sexual fertilization achieving a division of labor with reciprocal inhibition; the two cells have renounced their original faculty of separate development in order to attain a fusion of qualities and thus render possible that production of new forms and qualities which has involved the progress of the organized world.

While in fishes this conjugation of the male and female elements is usually ensured by the female casting her spawn into an artificial nest outside the body, on to which the male sheds his milt, in all animals (and, to some extent, birds, who occupy an intermediate position) there is an organic nest, or incubation chamber as Bland Sutton terms it, the womb, in the female body, wherein the fertilized egg may develop to a high degree of maturity sheltered from those manifold risks of the external world which make it necessary for the spawn of fishes to be so enormous in amount. Since, however, men and women have descended from remote ancestors who, in the manner of aquatic creatures, exercised functions of sperm-extrusion and germ-extrusion that were exactly analogous in the two sexes, without any specialized female uterine organization, the early stages of human male and female fœtal development still display the comparatively undifferentiated sexual organization of those remote ancestors, and during the first months of fœtal life it is practically impossible to tell by the inspection of the genital regions whether the embryo would have developed into a man or into a woman. If we examine the embryo at an early stage of development we see that the hind end is the body stalk, this stalk in later stages becoming part of the umbilical cord. The urogenital region, formed by the rapid extension of the hind end beyond its original limit, which corresponds to what is later the umbilicus, develops mainly by the gradual differentiation of structures (the Wolffian and Müllerian bodies) which originally exist identically in both sexes. This process of sexual differentiation is highly complex, so that it cannot yet be said that there is complete agreement among investigators as to its details. When some irregularity or arrest of development occurs in the process we have one or other of the numerous malformations which may affect this region. If the arrest occurs at a very early stage we may even find a condition of things which seems to approximate to that which normally exists in the adult reptilia. Owing to the fact that both male and female organs develop from more primitive structures which were sexually undifferentiated, a fundamental analogy in the sexual organs of the sexes always remains; the developed organs of one sex exist as rudiments in the other sex; the testicles correspond to the ovaries; the female clitoris is the homologue of the male penis; the scrotum of one sex is the labia majora in the other sex, and so throughout, although it is not always possible at present to be quite certain in regard to these homologics.

Since the object to be attained by the sexual organs in the human species is identical with that which they subserve in their pre-human ancestors, it is not surprising to find that these structures have a clear resemblance to the corresponding structures in the apes, although on the whole there would appear to be in man a higher degree of sexual differentiation. Thus the uterus of various species of semnopithecus seems to show a noteworthy correspondence with the same organ in woman. The somewhat less degree of sexual differentiation is well shown in the gorilla; in the male the external organs are in the passive state covered by the wrinkled skin of the abdomen, while in the female, on the contrary, they are very apparent, and in sexual excitement the large clitoris and nymphæ become markedly prominent. The penis of the gorilla, however, more nearly resembles that of man, according to Hartmann, than does that of the other anthropoid apes, which diverge from the human type in this respect more than do the cynocephalic apes and some species of baboon.

From the psychological point of view we are less interested in the internal sexual organs, which are most fundamentally concerned with the production and reception of the sexual elements, than with the more external parts of the genital apparatus which serve as the instruments of sexual excitation, and the channels for the intromission and passage of the seminal fluid. It is these only which can play any part at all in sexual selection; they are the only part of the sexual apparatus which can enter into the formation of either normal or abnormal erotic conceptions; they are the organs most prominently concerned with detumescence; they alone enter normally into the conscious process of sex at any time. It seems desirable, therefore, to discuss them briefly at this point.

Our knowledge of the individual and racial variations of the external sexual organs is still extremely imperfect. A few monographs and collections of data on isolated points may be found in more or less inaccessible publications. As regards women, Ploss and Bartels have devoted a chapter to the sexual organs of women which extends to a hundred pages, but remains scanty and fragmentary. (Das Weib, vol. i, Chapter VI.) The most systematic series of observations have been made in the case of the various kinds of degenerates—idiots, the insane, criminals, etc.—but it would be obviously unsafe to rely too absolutely on such investigations for our knowledge of the sexual organs of the ordinary population.

There can be no doubt, however, that the external sexual organs in normal men and women exhibit a peculiarly wide range of variation. This is indicated not only by the unsystematic results attained by experienced observers, but also by more systematic studies. Thus Herman has shown by detailed measurements that there are great normal variations in the conformation of the parts that form the floor of the female pelvis. He found that the projection of the pelvic floor varied from nothing to as much as two inches, and that in healthy women who had borne no children the distance between the coccyx and anus, the length of the perineum, the distance between the fourchette and the symphysis pubis, and the length of the vagina are subject to wide variations. (Lancet, October 12, 1889.) Even the female urethral opening varies very greatly, as has been shown by Bergh, who investigated it in nearly 700 women and reproduces the various shapes found; while most usually (in about a third of the cases observed), a longitudinal slit, it may be cross-shaped, star-shaped, crescentic, etc.; and while sometimes very small, in about 6 per cent. of the cases it admitted the tip of the little finger. (Bergh, Monatsheft für Praktische Dermatologie, 15 Sept., 1897.)

As regards both sexes, Stanley Hall states that "Dr. F. N. Seerley, who has examined over 2000 normal young men as well as many young women, tells me that in his opinion individual variations in these parts are much greater even than those of face and form, and that the range of adult and apparently normal size and proportion, as well as function, and of both the age and order of development, not only of each of the several parts themselves, but of all their immediate annexes, and in females as well as males, is far greater than has been recognized by any writer. This fact is the basis of the anxieties and fears of morphological abnormality so frequent during adolescence." (G. S. Hall, Adolescence, vol. i, p. 414).

In accordance with the supreme importance of the part they play, and the intimately psychic nature of that part, the sexual organs, both internal and external, are very richly supplied with nerves. While the internal organs are very abundantly furnished with sympathetic nerves and ganglia, the external organs show the highest possible degree of specialization of the various peripheral nervous devices which the organism has developed for receiving, accumulating, and transmitting stimuli to the brain.

"The number of conducting cords which attach the genitals to the nervous centers is simply enormous," writes Bryan Robinson; "the pudic nerve is composed of nearly all the third sacral and branches from the second and fourth sacral. As one examines this nerve he is forced to the conclusion that it is an enormous supply for a small organ. The periphery of the pudic nerve spreads itself like a fan over the genitals." The lesser sciatic nerve supplies only one muscle—the gluteus maximus—and then sends the large pudendal branch to the side of the penis, and hence the friction of coitus induces active contraction of the gluteus maximus, "the main muscle of coition." The large pudic and the pudendal constitute the main supply of the external genitals. In women the pudic nerve is equally large, but the pudendal much smaller, possibly, Bryan Robinson suggests, because women take a less active part in coitus. The nerve supply of the clitoris, however, is three or four times as large as that of the penis in proportion to size. (F. B. Robinson, "The Intimate Nervous Connection of the Genito-Urinary Organs With the Cerebro-Spinal and Sympathetic Systems," New York Medical Journal, March 11, 1893; id., The Abdominal Brain, 1899.)

Of all the sexual organs the penis is without doubt that which has most powerfully impressed the human imagination. It is the very emblem of generation, and everywhere men have contemplated it with a mixture of reverence and shuddering awe that has sometimes, even among civilized peoples, amounted to horror and disgust. Its image is worn as an amulet to ward off evil and invoked as a charm to call forth blessing. The sexual organs were once the most sacred object on which a man could place his hands to swear an inviolate oath, just as now he takes up the Testament. Even in the traditions of the great classic civilization which we inherit the penis is fascinus, the symbol of all fascination. In the history of human culture it has had far more than a merely human significance; it has been the symbol of all the generative force of Nature, the embodiment of creative energy in the animal and vegetable worlds alike, an image to be held aloft for worship, the sign of all unconscious ecstasy. As a symbol, the sacred phallus, it has been woven in and out of all the highest and deepest human conceptions, so intimately that it is possible to see it everywhere, that it is possible to fail to see it anywhere.

In correspondence with the importance of the penis is the large number of names which men have everywhere bestowed upon it. In French literature many hundred synonyms may be found. They were also numerous in Latin. In English the literary terms for the penis seem to be comparatively few, but a large number of non-literary synonyms exist in colloquial and perhaps merely local usage. The Latin term penis, which has established itself among us as the most correct designation, is generally considered to be associated with pendere and to be connected therefore with the usually pendent position of the organ. In the middle ages the general literary term throughout Europe was coles (or colis) from caulis, a stalk, and virga, a rod. The only serious English literary term, yard (exactly equivalent to virga), as used by Chaucer—almost the last great English writer whose vocabulary was adequate to the central facts of life—has now fallen out of literary and even colloquial usage.

Pierer and Chaulant, in their anatomical and physiological Real-Lexicon (vol. vi, p. 134), give nearly a hundred synonyms for the penis. Hyrtl (Topographisches Anatomie, seventh edition, vol. ii, pp. 67-69), adds others. Schurig, in his Spermatologia (1720, pp. 89-91), also presents a number of names for the penis; in Chapter III (pp. 189-192) of the same book he discusses the penis generally with more fullness than most authors. Louis de Landes, in his Glossaire Erotique of the French language (pp. 239-242), enumerates several hundred literary synonyms for the penis, though many of them probably only occur once.

There is no thorough and comprehensive modern study of the penis on an anthropological basis (though I should mention a valuable and fully illustrated study of anthropological and pathological variations of the penis in a series of articles by Marandon de Montyel, "Des Anomalies des Organs Génitaux Externes Chez les Aliénées," etc., Archives d'Anthropologie Criminelle, 1895), and it would be out of place here to attempt to collect the scattered notices regarding racial and other variations. It may suffice to note some of the evidence showing that such variations seem to be numerous and important. The Arab penis (according to Kocher) is slender and long (a third longer than the average European penis) and with a club-shaped glans. It undergoes little change when it enters the erect state. The clothes leaves it quite free, and the Arab practices manual excitement at an early age to favor its development.

Among the Fuegians, also, according to Hyades and Deniker (Cap Horn, vol. vii, p. 153), the average length of the penis is 77 millimeters, which is longer than in Europeans.

In men of black race, also, the penis is decidedly large. Thus Sir H. H. Johnston (British Central Africa, p. 399) states this to be a universal rule. Among the Wankenda of Northern Nyassa, for instance, he remarks that, while the body is of medium size, the penis is generally large. He gives the usual length as about six inches, reaching nine or ten in erection. The prepuce, it is added, is often very long, and circumcision is practiced by many tribes.

Among the American negroes Hrdlicka has found, also (Proceedings American Association for the Advancement of Science, vol. xlvii, p. 475), that the penis in black boys is larger than in white boys.

The passages cited above suggest the question whether the penis becomes larger by exercise of its generative functions. Most old authors assert that frequent erection makes the penis large and long (Schurig, Spermatologia, p. 107). Galen noted that in singers and athletes, who were chaste in order to preserve their strength, the sexual parts were small and rugrose, like those of old men, and that exercise of the organs from youth develops them; Roubaud, quoting this observation (Traité de l'Impuissance, p. 373), agrees with the statement. It seems probable that there is an element of truth in this ancient belief. At the same time it must be remembered that the penis is only to small extent a muscular organ, and that the increase of size produced by frequent congestion of erectile tissues cannot be either rapid or pronounced. Variations in the size of the sexual organs are probably on the whole mainly inherited, though it is impossible to speak decisively on this point until more systematic observations become customary.

The scrotum has usually, in the human imagination, been regarded merely as an appendage of the penis, of secondary importance, although it is the garment of the primary and essential organs of sex, and the fact that it is not the seat of any voluptuous sensation has doubtless helped to confirm this position. Even the name is merely a mediæval perversion of scortum, skin or hide. In classic times it was usually called the pouch or purse. The importance of the testicles has not, however, been altogether ignored, as the very word testis itself shows, for the testis is simply the witness of virility.

It is easy to understand why the penis should occupy this special place in man's thoughts as the supreme sexual organ. It is the one conspicuous and prominent portion of the sexual apparatus, while its aptitude for swelling and erecting itself involuntarily, under the influence of sexual emotion, gives it a peculiar and almost unique position in the body. At the same time it is the point at which, in the male body, all voluptuous sensation is concentrated, the only normal masculine center of sex.

It is not easy to find any correspondingly conspicuous symbol of sex in the sexual region of women. In the normal position nothing is visible but the peculiarly human cushion of fat picturesquely termed the Mons Veneris (because, as Palfyn said, all those who enroll themselves under the banner of Venus must necessarily scale it), and even that is veiled from view in the adult by the more or less bushy plantation of hair which grows upon it. A triangle of varyingly precise definition is thus formed at the lower apex of the trunk, and this would sometimes appear to have been regarded as a feminine symbol. But the more usual and typical symbol of femininity is the idealized ring (by some savages drawn as a lozenge) of the vulvar opening—the yoni corresponding to the masculine lingam—which is normally closed from view by the larger lips arising from beneath the shadow of the mons. It is a symbol that, like the masculine phallus, has a double meaning among primitive peoples and is sometimes used to call down a blessing and sometimes to invoke a curse.

This external opening of the feminine genital passage with its two enclosing lips is now generally called the vulva. It would appear that originally (as by Celsus and Pliny) this term included the womb, also, but when the term "uterus" came into use "vulva" was confined (as its sense of folding doors suggests that it should be) to the external entrance. The classic term cunnus for the external genitals was chiefly used by the poets; it has been the etymological source of various European names for this region, such as the old French con, which has now, however, disappeared from literature while even in popular usage it has given place to lapin and similar terms. But there is always a tendency, marked in most parts of the world, for the names of the external female parts to become indecorous. Even in classic antiquity this part was the pudendum, the part to be ashamed of, and among ourselves the mass of the population, still preserving the traditions of primitive times, continue to cherish the same notion.

The anatomy, anthropology, folk-lore, and terminology of the external and to some extent the internal feminine sexual region may be studied in the following publications, among others: Ploss, Das Weib, vol. i, Chapter VI; Hyrtl, Topographisches Anatomie, vol. ii, and other publications by the same scholarly anatomist; W. J. Stewart Mackay, History of Ancient Gynæcology, especially pp. 244-250; R. Bergh, "Symbolæ ad Cognitionem Genitalium Externorum Fœminearum" (in Danish), Hospitalstidende, August, 1894; and also in Monatshefte für Praktische Dermatologie, 1897. D. S. Lamb, "The Female External Genital Organs," New York Journal of Gynæcology, August, 1894; R. L. Dickinson, "Hypertrophies of the Labia Minora and Their Significance," American Gynecology, September, 1902; Κρυπτάδια (in various languages), vol. viii, pp. 3-11, 11-13, and many other passages. Several of Schurig's works (especially Gynæcologia, Muliebria, and Parthenologia) contain full summaries of the statements of the early writers.

The external or larger lips, like the mons veneris, are specifically human in their full development, for in the anthropoid apes they are small as is the mons, and in the lower apes absent altogether; they are, moreover, larger in the white than in the other human races. Thus in the negro, and to a less degree in the Japanese (Wernich) and the Javanese (Scherzer) they are less developed than in women of white race. The greater lips develop in the fœtus later than the lesser lips, which are thus at first uncovered; this condition thus constitutes an infantile state which occasionally (in less than 2 per cent. of cases, according to Bergh) persists in the adult. Their generally accepted name, labia majora, is comparatively modern.

The outer sides of the labia majora are covered with hair, and on the inner sides, which are smooth and moist, but are not true mucous membrane, there are a few sweat glands and numerous large sebaceous glands. Bergh considers that there is little or no hair on the inner sides of the labia majora, but Lamb states that careful examination shows that from one- to two-thirds of the inner surface in adult women show hairs like those of the external surface. In brunettes and women of dark races this surface is pigmented; in dark races it is usually a slate gray. From an examination of 2200 young Danish prostitutes Bergh has found that there are two main varieties in the shape of the labia majora, with transitional forms. In the first and most frequent form the labia tend to be less marked and more effaced and separated at the upper and anterior part, often being lost in the sides of the mons and presenting a fissure which is broader in its upper part and showing the inner lips more or less bare. In the second form the labia are thicker and more outstanding and the inner edges lie in contact throughout their whole length, showing the rima pudendi as a long narrow fissure. Whatever the form, the labia close more tightly together in virgins and in young individuals generally than in the deflowered and the elderly. In children, as Martineau pointed out, the vulva appears to look directly forward and the clitoris and urinary meatus easily appear, while in adult women, and especially after attempts at coitus have been made, the vulva appears directed more below and behind, and the clitoris and meatus more covered by the labia majora; so that the child urinates forward, while the adult woman is usually able to urinate almost directly downwards in the erect position, though in some cases (as may occasionally be observed in the street) she can only do so when bending slightly forwards. This difference in the direction of the stream formerly furnished one of the methods of diagnosing virginity, an uncertain one, since the difference is largely due to age and individual variation. The main factor in the position and aspect of the vulva is pelvic inclination. (See Havelock Ellis, Man and Woman, fourth edition, p. 64; Stratz, Die Schönheit des Weiblichen Körpers, Chapter XII.) In the European woman, according to Stratz, a considerable degree of pelvic inclination is essential to beauty, concealing all but the anterior third of the vulva. In negresses and other women of lower race the vulva, however, usually lies further back, being more conspicuous from behind than in European women; in this respect lower races resemble the apes. Those women of dark race, therefore, whose modesty is focused behind rather than in front thus have sound anatomical considerations on their side.

As Ploss and Bartels remark, a very common variation among European women consists in an unusually posterior position of the vulva and vaginal entrance, so that unless a cushion is placed under the buttocks it is difficult for the man to effect coitus in the usual position without giving much pain to the woman. They add that another anomaly, less easy to remedy, consists in an abnormally anterior position of the vaginal entrance close beneath the pelvic bone, so that, although intromission is easy, the spasmodic contraction of the vagina at the culmination of orgasm presses the penis against the bone and causes intolerable pain to the man.

The mons veneris and the labia majora are, after the age of puberty, always normally covered by a more or less profuse growth of hair. It is notable that the apes, notwithstanding their general tendency to hairiness, show no such special development of hair in this region. We thus see that all the external and more conspicuous portions of the sexual sphere in woman—the mons veneris, the labia majora, and the hair—represent not so much an animal inheritance, such as we commonly misrepresent them to be, but a higher and genuinely human development. As none of these structures subserve any clear practical use, it would appear that they must have developed by sexual selection to satisfy the æsthetic demands of the eye.

The character and arrangement of the pubic hair, investigated by Eschricht and Voigt more than half a century ago, have been more recently studied by Bergh. As these observers have pointed out, there are various converging hair streams from above and below, the clitoris seeming to be the center towards which they are directed. The hair-covering thus formed is usually ample and, as a rule, is more so in brunettes than in blondes. It is nearly always bent, curly and more or less spirally twisted. There are frequently one or two curls at the commencement of the fissure, rolled outwards, and occasionally a well marked tuft in the middle line. In abundance the pubic hair corresponds with the axillary hair; when one region is defective in hair the other is usually so also. Strong eyebrows also usually indicate a strong development of pubic hair. But the hair of the head usually varies independently, and Bergh found that of 154 women with spare pubic hair 72 had good and often profuse hair on the head. Complete or almost complete absence of pubic hair is in Bergh's experience only found in about 3 per cent. of women; these were all young and blonde.

Rothe, in his investigation of the pubic hair of 1000 Berlin women, found that no two women were really alike in this respect, but there was a tendency to two main types of arrangement, with minor subdivisions, according as the hair tended to grow chiefly in the middle line extending laterally from that line, or to grow equally over the whole extent of the pubic region; these two groups included half the cases investigated.

In men the pubic hair normally ascends anteriorly in a faint line up to the navel, with tendency to form a triangle with the apex above, and posteriorly extends backwards to the anus. In women these anterior and posterior extensions are comparatively rare, or at all events are only represented by a few stray hairs. Rothe found this variation in 4 per cent. of North German women, though a triangle of hair was only found in 2 per cent.; Lombroso found it in 5 per cent, of Italian women; Bergh found it in only 1.6 per cent. among 1000 Danish prostitutes, all sixteen of whom with three exceptions were brunettes. In Vienna, among 600 women, Coe found only 1 per cent, with this distribution of hair, and states that they were women of decidedly masculine type, though Ploss and Bartels, as well as Rothe, find, however, that heterogeny, as they term the masculine distribution, is more common in blondes. The anterior extension of hair is usually accompanied by the posterior extension around the anus, usually very slight, but occasionally as pronounce as in men. (According to Rothe, however, anterior heterogeny comparatively rare.) These masculine variations in the extension of the pubic hair appear to be not uncommonly associated with other physical and psychic anomalies; it is on this account that they have sometimes been regarded as indications of a vicious or a criminal temperament; they are, however, found in quite normal women.

The pubic hair of women is usually shorter than that of men, but thick, and the individual hairs stronger and larger in diameter than those of men, as Pfaff first showed; dark hair is usually stronger than light. In both length and size the individual variations are considerable. The usual length is about 2 inches, or 3-5 centimeters, occasionally reaching about 4 inches, or 9-10 centimeters, in the larger curls. In a series of 100 women attended during confinement in London and the north of England I have only once (in a rather blonde Lancashire woman) found the hair on labia reaching a conspicuous length of several inches and forming an obstruction to the manipulations involved in delivery. But Jahn delivered a woman whose pubic hair was longer than that of her head, reaching below her knee; Paulini also knew a woman whose pubic hair nearly reached her knees and was sold to make wigs; Bartholin mentions a soldier's wife who plaited her pubic hair behind her back; while Brantôme has several references to abnormally long hair in ladies of the French court during the sixteenth century. In 8 cases out of 2200 Bergh found the pubic hair forming a large curly wig extending to the iliac spines. The individual hairs have occasionally been found so stiff and brush-like as to render coitus difficult.

In color the pubic hair, while generally approximating to that of the head, is sometimes (according to Rothe, in Germany, in one-third cases) lighter, and sometimes somewhat darker, as is found to be the case by Coe, especially in brunettes, and also by Bergh, in Denmark. Bergh remarks that it is generally intermediate in color between the eyebrows and the axillary hair, the latter being more or less decolorized by sweat, and that, owing to the influence of the urine and vaginal discharges, the labial hair is paler than that on the mons; blondes with dark eyebrows usually have dark hair on the mons. The hair on this spot, as Aristotle observed, is usually the last to turn gray.

The key to the genital apparatus in women from the psychic point of view, and, indeed, to some extent, its anatomical center, is to be found in the clitoris. Anatomically and developmentally the clitoris is the rudimentary analogue of the masculine penis. Functionally, however, its scope is very much smaller. While the penis both receives and imparts specific voluptuous sensations, and is at the same time both the intromittent organ for the semen and the conduit for the urine, the sole function of the clitoris is to enter into erection under the stress of sexual emotion and receive and transmit the stimulatory voluptuous sensations imparted to it by friction with the masculine genital apparatus. It is so insignificant an organ that it is only within recent times that its homology with the penis has been realized. In 1844 Kobelt wrote in his important book, Die Mannlichen und Weiblichen Wollust-Organe, that in his attempt to show that the female organs are exactly analogous to the male the reader will probably be unable to follow him, while even Johannes Müller, the father of scientific physiology, declared at about the same period that the clitoris is essentially different from the penis. It is indeed but three centuries since the clitoris was so little known that (in 1593) Realdus Columbus actually claimed the honor of discovering it. Columbus was not its discoverer, for Fallopius speedily showed that Avicenna and Albucasis had referred to it. The Arabs appear to have been very familiar with it, and, from the various names they gave it, clearly understood the important part it plays in generating voluptuous emotion. But it was known in classic antiquity; the Greeks called it μύρτον, the myrtle-berry; Galen and Soranus called it νύμφη because it is covered as a bride is veiled, while the old Latin name was tentigo, from its power of entering into erection, and columella, the little pillar, from its shape. The modern term, which is Greek and refers to the sensitiveness of the part to voluptuous titillation, is said to have originated with Suidas and Pollux. It was mentioned, though not adopted, by Rufus.

"The clitoris," declared Haller, "is a part extremely sensible and wonderfully prurient." It is certainly the chief though by no means the only point through which the immediate call to detumescence is conveyed to the female organism. It is, indeed, as Bryan Robinson remarks, "a veritable electrical bell button which, being pressed or irritated, rings up the whole nervous system."

The nervous supply of this little organ is very large, and the dorsal nerve of the clitoris is relatively three or four times larger than that of the penis. Yet the sensitive point of this organ is only 5 to 7 millimeters in extent. The length of the clitoris is usually rather over 2 centimeters (or about an inch) and 3 centimeters when erect; a length of 4 centimeters or more was regarded by Martineau as within the normal range of variation. It is not usual to find the clitoris longer than this in Europe (for among some races like the negro the clitoris is generally large), but all degrees of magnitude may be found as rare exceptions. (See, e.g., Sir J. Y. Simpson, "Hermaphrodites," Obstetric Memoirs and Contributions, vol. ii, pp. 217-226; also Dickinson, loc. cit.) It was formerly thought that the clitoris is easily enlarged by masturbation, and Martineau believed that in this way it might be doubled in length. It is probable that slight enlargement of the clitoris may be caused by very frequent masturbation, but only to an insignificant extent, and it is impossible to diagnose masturbation from the size of the clitoris. Among the women of Lake Nyassa, as well as in the Caroline Islands, special methods are practiced for elongating the clitoris, but in Europe, at all events, it is probable that the variations in the size of the organ are mainly congenital. It may well be that a congenitally large clitoris is associated with an abnormally developed excitability of the sexual apparatus. Tilt stated (On Uterine and Ovarian Inflammation, p. 37) that in his experience there was a frequent though not invariable connection between a large clitoris and sexual proclivity. (Schurig referred to a case of intense and life-long sexual obsession associated with an extremely large clitoris, Gynæcologia, pp. 16-17.) Of recent years considerable importance has been attached by some gynecologists (e.g., R. T. Morris, "Is Evolution Trying to Do Away With the Clitoris?" Transactions American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, vol. v, 1893) to preputial adhesions around the clitoris as a source of nervous disturbance and invalidism in young women.

While the clitoris is anatomically analogous to the penis, its actual mechanism under the stress of sexual excitement is somewhat different. As Liétaud long since pointed out, it cannot rise freely in erection as the penis can; it is apparently bound down by its prepuce and its frenulum. Waldeyer, in his book on the pelvis, states more precisely that, unlike the penis, when erect it retains its angle, only this becomes somewhat rounded so that the organ is to some slight extent lifted and protruded. Waldeyer considered that the clitoris was thus perfectly fitted to fulfill its part as the recipient of erotic stimulation from friction by the penis. Adler, however, has pointed out with considerable justice, that this is not altogether the case. The clitoris was developed in mammals who practiced the posterior mode of coitus; in this position the clitoris was beneath the penis, which was thus easily able in coitus to press it against the pubic bone close beneath which it is situated, and thus impart the compression and friction which the feminine organ craves. But in the human anterior mode of coitus it is not necessarily brought into close contact with the penis during the act of coitus, and thus fails to receive powerful stimulation. Its restricted position, which is an advantage in posterior coitus, is a disadvantage in anterior coitus. Adler observes that it thus comes about that the human method of coitus, while by bringing breast to breast and face to face it has added a new dignity and refinement, a fresh source of enjoyment, to the embrace of the sexes, has not been an unmixed advantage to woman, for while man has lost nothing by the change, woman has now to contend with an increased difficulty in attaining an adequate amount of pressure on that "electric button" which normally sets the whole mechanism in operation.

We may well bring into connection with the changed conditions brought about by anterior coitus the interesting fact that while the clitoris remains the most exquisitely sensitive of the sexual centers in woman, voluptuous sensitivity is much more widely diffused in woman than in man. Over the whole body, indeed, it is apt to be more distinctly marked than is usually the case in man. But even if we confine ourselves to the genital region, while in man that portion of the penis which enters the vagina, and especially the glans, is normally the only portion which, even during turgescence, is sensitive to voluptuous contacts, in woman the whole of the region comprised within the larger lips, including even the anus and internally the vagina and the vaginal portion of the womb, become sensitive to voluptuous contacts. Deprived of the penis the ability of a man to experience specifically sexual sensations becomes very limited indeed. But the loss of the clitoris or of any other structure involves no correspondingly serious disability on women. Ablation of the clitoris for sexual hyperæsthesia has for this reason been abandoned, except under special circumstances. The members of the Russian Skoptzy sect habitually amputate the clitoris, nymphæ, and breasts, yet many young Skoptzy women told the Russian physician, Guttceit, that they were perfectly well able to enjoy coitus.

Freud believes that in very young girls the clitoris is the exclusive seat of sexual sensation, masturbation at this age being directed to the clitoris alone, and spontaneous sexual excitement being confined to twitchings and erection of this organ, so that young girls are able, from their own experience, to recognize without instruction the signs of sexual excitement in boys. At a later age sexual excitability spreads from the clitoris to other regions—just as the easy inflammability of wood sets light to coal—though in the male the penis remains from first to last normally the almost exclusive seat of specific excitability. (S. Freud, Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, p. 62.)

The anus would, however, seem to be sometimes an erogenous zone even at an early age. Titillation of the anus appears to be frequently pleasurable in women; and this is not surprising considering the high degree of erotic sensitivity which is easily developed at the body orifices where skin meets mucous membrane. (Thus the meatus of the urethra is a highly erogenous zone, as is sufficiently shown by the frequency with which hair-pins and other articles used in masturbation find their way into the bladder.) It is in this germinal sensitivity, undoubtedly, that we find a chief key to the practice of pedicatio. Freud attaches great importance to the anus as a sexually erogenous zone at a very early age, and considers that it very frequently makes its influence felt in this respect. He believes that intestinal catarrhs in very early life and hæmorrhoids later tend to develop sensibility in the anus. He finds an indication that the anus has become a sexually erogenous zone when children wish to allow the contents of the rectum to accumulate so that defecation may by its increased difficulty involve voluptuous sensations, and adds that masturbatory excitation of the anus with the fingers is by no means rare in older children. (S. Freud, Op. cit., pp. 40-42.) A medical correspondent in India tells me of a European lady who derived, she said, "quite as much, indeed more," pleasure from digitally titillating her rectum as from vulvo-vaginal titillation; she had several times submitted to pedicatio and enjoyed it, though it was painful during penetration. The anus may retain this erogenous irritability even in old age, and Routh mentions the case of a lady of over 70, the reverse of lustful, who was so excited by the act of defecation that she was invariably compelled to masturbate, although this state of things was a source of great mental misery to her. (C. H. F. Routh, British Gynæcological Journal, February, 1887, p. 48.)

Bölsche has sought the explanation of the erogenous nature of the anus, and the key to pedicatio, in an atavistic return to the very remote amphibian days when the anus was combined with the sexual parts in a common cloaca. But it is unnecessary to invoke any vestigial inheritance from a vastly remote past when we bear in mind that the innervation of these two adjoining regions is inevitably very closely related. The presence of a body exit with its marked and special sensitivity at a point where it can scarcely fail to receive the nervous overflow from an immensely active center of nervous energy quite adequately accounts for the phenomenon in question.

The inner lips, the nymphæ or labia minora, running parallel with the greater lips which enclose them, embrace the clitoris anteriorly and extend backward, enclosing the urethral exit between them as well as the vaginal entrance. They form little wings whence their old Latin name, alæ, and from their resemblance to the cock's comb were by Spigelius termed crista galli. The red and (especially in brunettes) dark appearance of the nymphæ suggests that they are mucous membrane and not integumentary; it is, however, now considered that even on the inner surface they are covered by skin and separated from the mucous membrane by a line. In structure, as described by Waldeyer, they consist of fine connective tissue rich in elastic fibers as well as some muscular tissue, and full of large veins, so that they are capable of a considerable degree of turgescence resembling erection during sexual excitement, while Ballantyne finds that the nymphæ are supplied to a notable extent with nervous end-organs.

More than any other part of the sexual apparatus in either sex, the lesser lips, on account of their shape, their position, and their structure, are capable of acquired modifications, more especially hypertrophy and elongation. By stretching, it is stated, a labium can be doubled in its dimensions. The "Hottentot apron," or elongated nymphæ, commonly found among some peoples in South Africa, has long been a familiar phenomenon. In such cases a length or transverse diameter of 3 to 5 centimeters is commonly found. But such elongated nymphæ are by no means confined to one part of the world or to one race; they are quite common among women of European race, and reach a size equal to most of the more reliably recorded Hottentot cases. Dickinson, who has very carefully studied this question in New York, finds that in 1000 consecutive gynæcological cases the labia showed some form of hypertrophy in 36 per cent., or more than 1 in 3; while among 150 of these cases who were neurasthenic, the proportion reached 56 per cent., even when minor or doubtful enlargements were disregarded. Bergh, in about 16 per cent. cases, found very enlarged nymphæ, the height reached in about 5 per cent. of the cases of enlargement being nearly six centimeters. Ploss and Bartels, in a full discussion: of the "Hottentot apron," come to the conclusion that this condition is perhaps in most cases artificially produced. It is known that among the Basutos it is the custom for the elder girls to manipulate the nymphæ of younger children, when alone with them, almost from birth, and on account of the elastic nature of these structures such manipulation quite adequately accounts for the elongation. It is not necessary to suppose that the custom is practiced for the sake of producing sexual stimulation—though this may frequently occur—since there are numerous similar primitive customs involving deformation of the sexual organs without the production of sexual excitement. Dickinson has come to a similar conclusion as regards the corresponding elongation of the nymphæ in civilized European women. In 361 out of 1000 women of good social class he found elongation or thickening, often with a notable degree of wrinkling and pigmentation, and believes that this is always the result of frequently repeated masturbation practiced with the separation of the nymphæ; in 30 per cent. of the cases admission of masturbation was made. While this conclusion is probably correct in the main, it requires some qualification. To assert that whenever in women who have not been pregnant the marked protrusion of the inner lips beyond the outer lips means that at some period manipulation has been practiced with or without the production of sexual excitement is to make too absolute a statement. It is highly probable that the nymphæ, like the clitoris, are congenitally more prominent in some of the lower human races, as they are also in the apes; among the Fuegians, for instance, according to Hyades and Deniker, the labia minora descend lower than in Europeans, although there is not the slightest reason to suppose that these women practice any manipulations. Among European women, again, the nymphæ sometimes protrude very prominently beyond the labia majora in women who are organically of somewhat infantile type; this occurs in cases in which we may be convinced that no manipulations have ever been practiced.

It is difficult to speak very decisively as to the function of the labia minora. They doubtless exert some amount of protective influence over the entrance to the vagina, and in this way correspond to the lips of the mouth after which they are called. They fulfill, however, one very definite though not obviously important function which is indicated by the mythologic name they have received. There is, indeed, some obscurity in the origin of this term, nymphæ, which has not, I believe, been satisfactorily cleared up. It has been stated that the Greek name νύμφη has been transferred from the clitoris to the labia minora. Any such transfer could only have taken place when the meaning of the word had been forgotten, and νύμφη had become the totally different word nymphæ, the goddesses who presided over streams. The old anatomists were much exercised in their minds as to the meaning of the name, but on the whole were inclined to believe that it referred to the action of the labia minora in directing the urinary stream. The term nymphæ was first applied in the modern sense, according to Bergh, in 1599, by Pinæus, mainly from the influence of these structures on the urinary stream, and he dilated in his De Virginitate on the suitability of the term to designate so poetic a spot. In more modern times Luschka and Sir Charles Bell considered that it is one of the uses of the nymphæ to direct the stream of urine, and Lamb from his own observation thinks the same conclusion probable. In reality there cannot be the slightest doubt about the function of the nymphæ, as, in Hyrtl's phrase, "the naiads of the urinary source," and it can be demonstrated by the simplest experiment.

The nymphæ form the intermediate portal of the vagina, as the canal which conducts to the womb was in anatomy first termed (according to Hyrtl) by De Graaf. It is a secreting, erectile, more or less sensitive canal lined by what is usually considered mucous membrane, though some have regarded it as integument of the same character as that of the external genitals; it certainly resembles such integument more than, for instance, the mucous membrane of the rectum. In the woman who has never had sexual intercourse and has been subjected to no manipulations or accidents affecting this region, the vagina is closed by a last and final gate of delicate membrane—scarcely admitting more than a slender finger—called the hymen.

The poets called the hymen "fios virginitatis," the flower of virginity, whence the medico-legal term defloratio. Notwithstanding the great significance which has long been attached to the phenomena connected with it, the hymen was not accurately known until Vesalius, Fallopius, and Spigelius described and named it. It was, however, recognized by the Arab authors, Avicenna and Averroes. The early literature concerning it is summarized by Schurig, Muliebria, 1729, Section II, cap. V. The same author's Parthenologia is devoted to the various ancient problems connected with the question of virginity.

To say that this delicate piece of membrane is from the non-physical point of view a more important structure than any other part of the body is to convey but a feeble idea of the immense importance of the hymen in the eyes of the men of many past ages and even of our own times and among our own people. For the uses of the feminine body, or for its beauty, there is no part which is more absolutely insignificant. But in human estimation it has acquired a spiritual value which has made it far more than a part of the body. It has taken the place of the soul, that whose presence gives all her worth and dignity, even her name, to the unmarried woman, her purity, her sexual desirability, her market value. Without it—though in all physical and mental respects she might remain the same person—she has sometimes been a mark for contempt, a worthless outcast.

So fragile a membrane scarcely possesses the reliability which should be possessed by a structure whose presence or absence has often meant so much. Its absence by no means necessarily signifies that a woman has had intercourse with a man. Its presence by no means signifies that she has never had such intercourse.

There are many ways in which the hymen may be destroyed apart from coitus. Among the Chinese (and also, it would appear, in India and some other parts of the East) the female parts are from infancy kept so scrupulously clean by daily washing, the finger being introduced into the vagina, that the hymen rapidly disappears, and its existence is unknown even to Chinese doctors. Among some Brazilian Indians a similar practice exists among mothers as regards their young children, less, however, for the sake of cleanliness than in order to facilitate sexual intercourse in future years. (Ploss and Bartels, Das Weib, vol. i, Chapter VI.) The manipulations of vaginal masturbation will, of course, similarly destroy the hymen. It is also quite possible for the hymen to be ruptured by falls and other accidents. (See, e.g., a lengthy study by Nina-Rodrigues, "Des Ruptures de l'Hymen dans les Chutes," Annales d'Hygiène Publique, September, 1903.)

On the other hand, integrity of the hymen is no proof of virginity, apart from the obvious fact that there may be intercourse without penetration. (The case has even been recorded of a prostitute with syphilitic condylomata, a somewhat masculine type of pubic arch, and vulva rather posteriorly placed, whose hymen had never been penetrated.) The hymen may be of a yielding or folding type, so that complete penetration may take place and yet the hymen be afterwards found unruptured. It occasionally happens that the hymen is found intact at the end of pregnancy. In some, though not all, of these cases there has been conception without intromission of the penis. This has occurred even when the entrance was very minute. The possibility of such conception has long been recognized, and Schurig (Syllepsilogia, 1731, Section I, cap. VIII, p. 2) quotes ancient authors who have recorded cases. For some typical modern cases see Guérard (Centralblatt für Gynäkologie, No. 15, 1895), in one of whose cases the hymen of the pregnant woman scarcely admitted a hair; also Braun (ib., No. 23, 1895).

The hymen has played a very definite and pronounced part in the social and moral life of humanity. Until recently it has been more difficult to decide what precise biological function it has exercised to ensure its development and preservation. Sexual selection, no doubt, has worked in its favor, but that influence has been very limited and comparatively very recent. Virginity is not usually of any value among peoples who are entirely primitive. Indeed, even in the classic civilization which we inherit, it is easy to show that the virgin and the admiration for virginity are of late growth; the virgin goddesses were not originally virgins in our modern sense. Diana was the many-breasted patroness of childbirth before she became the chaste and solitary huntress, for the earliest distinction would appear to have been simply between the woman who was attached to a man and the woman who followed an earlier rule of freedom and independence; it was a later notion to suppose that the latter woman was debarred from sexual intercourse. We certainly must not seek the origin of the hymen in sexual selection; we must find it in natural selection. And here it might seem at first sight that we come upon a contradiction in Nature, for Nature is always devising contrivances to secure the maximum amount of fertilization. "Increase and multiply" is so obviously the command of Nature that the Hebrews, with their usual insight, unhesitatingly dared to place it in the mouth of Jehovah. But the hymen is a barrier to fertilization. It has, however, always to be remembered that as we rise in the zoölogical scale, and as the period of gestation lengthens and the possible number of offspring is fewer, it becomes constantly more essential that fertilization shall be effective rather than easy; the fewer the progeny the more necessary it is that they shall be vigorous enough to survive. There can be little doubt that, as one or two writers have already suggested, the hymen owes its development to the fact that its influence is on the side of effective fertilization. It is an obstacle to the impregnation of the young female by immature, aged, or feeble males. The hymen is thus an anatomical expression of that admiration of force which marks the female in her choice of a mate. So regarded, it is an interesting example of the intimate manner in which sexual selection is really based on natural selection. Sexual selection is but the translation into psychic terms of a process which has already found expression in the physical texture of the body.

It may be added that this interpretation of the biological function of the hymen is supported by the facts of its evolution. It is unknown among the lower mammals, with whom fertilization is easy, gestation short and offspring numerous. It only begins to appear among the higher mammals in whom reproduction is already beginning to take on the characters which become fully developed in man. Various authors have found traces of a rudimentary hymen, not only in apes, but in elephants, horses, donkeys, bitches, bears, pigs, hyenas, and giraffes. (Hyrtl, Op. cit., vol. ii, p. 189; G. Gellhoen, "Anatomy and Development of the Hymen," American Journal Obstetrics, August, 1904.) It is in the human species that the tendency to limitation of offspring is most marked, combined at the same time with a greater aptitude for impregnation than exists among any lower mammals. It is here, therefore, that a physical check is of most value, and accordingly we find that in woman alone, of all animals, is the hymen fully developed.

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