From very early times it seems possible to trace two streams of opinion regarding womenby@havelock
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From very early times it seems possible to trace two streams of opinion regarding women

by Havelock EllisApril 15th, 2023
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The Primitive View of Women—As a Supernatural Element in Life—As Peculiarly Embodying the Sexual Instinct—The Modern Tendency to Underestimate the Sexual Impulse in Women—This Tendency Confined to Recent Times—Sexual Anæsthesia—Its Prevalence—Difficulties in Investigating the Subject—Some Attempts to Investigate it—Sexual Anesthesia must be Regarded as Abnormal—The Tendency to Spontaneous Manifestations of the Sexual Impulse in Young Girls at Puberty. From very early times it seems possible to trace two streams of opinion regarding women: on the one hand, a tendency to regard women as a supernatural element in life, more or less superior to men, and, on the other hand, a tendency to regard women as especially embodying the sexual instinct and as peculiarly prone to exhibit its manifestations.
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Studies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 3 by Havelock Ellis is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. THE SEXUAL IMPULSE IN WOMEN - I


The Primitive View of Women—As a Supernatural Element in Life—As Peculiarly Embodying the Sexual Instinct—The Modern Tendency to Underestimate the Sexual Impulse in Women—This Tendency Confined to Recent Times—Sexual Anæsthesia—Its Prevalence—Difficulties in Investigating the Subject—Some Attempts to Investigate it—Sexual Anesthesia must be Regarded as Abnormal—The Tendency to Spontaneous Manifestations of the Sexual Impulse in Young Girls at Puberty.

From very early times it seems possible to trace two streams of opinion regarding women: on the one hand, a tendency to regard women as a supernatural element in life, more or less superior to men, and, on the other hand, a tendency to regard women as especially embodying the sexual instinct and as peculiarly prone to exhibit its manifestations.

In the most primitive societies, indeed, the two views seem to be to some extent amalgamated; or, it should rather be said, they have not yet been differentiated; and, as in such societies it is usual to venerate the generative principle of nature and its embodiments in the human body and in human functions, such a co-ordination of ideas is entirely rational. But with the development of culture the tendency is for this homogeneous conception to be split up into two inharmonious tendencies. Even apart from Christianity and before its advent this may be noted. It was, however, to Christianity and the Christian ascetic spirit that we owe the complete differentiation and extreme development which these opposing views have reached. The condemnation of sexuality involved the glorification of the virgin; and indifference, even contempt, was felt for the woman who exercised sexual functions. It remained open to anyone, according to his own temperament, to identify the typical average woman with the one or with the other type; all the fund of latent sexual emotion which no ascetic rule can crush out of the human heart assured the picturesque idealization alike of the angelic and the diabolic types of woman. We may trace the same influence subtly lurking even in the most would-be scientific statements of anthropologists and physicians today.

It may not be out of place to recall at this point, once more, the fact, fairly obvious indeed, that the judgments of men concerning women are very rarely matters of cold scientific observation, but are colored both by their own sexual emotions and by their own moral attitude toward the sexual impulse. The ascetic who is unsuccessfully warring with his own carnal impulses may (like the voluptuary) see nothing in women but incarnations of sexual impulse; the ascetic who has subdued his own carnal impulses may see no elements of sex in women at all. Thus the opinions regarding this matter are not only tinged by elements of primitive culture, but by elements of individual disposition. Statements about the sexual impulses of women often tell us less about women than about the persons who make them.

The curious manner in which for men women become incarnations of the sexual impulse is shown by the tendency of both general and personal names for women to become applicable to prostitutes only. This is the case with the words "garce" and "fille" in French, "Mädchen" and "Dirne" in German, as well as with the French "catin" (Catherine) and the German "Metze" (Mathilde). (See, e.g., R. Kleinpaul, Die Räthsel der Sprache, 1890, pp. 197-198.)

At the same time, though we have to recognize the presence of elements which color and distort in various ways the judgments of men regarding women, it must not be hastily assumed that these elements render discussion of the question altogether unprofitable. In most cases such prejudices lead chiefly to a one-sided solution of facts, against which we can guard.

While, however, these two opposing currents of opinion are of very ancient origin, it is only within quite recent times, and only in two or three countries, that they have led to any marked difference of opinion regarding the sexual aptitude of women. In ancient times men blamed women for concupiscence or praised them for chastity, but it seems to have been reserved for the nineteenth century to state that women are apt to be congenitally incapable of experiencing complete sexual satisfaction, and peculiarly liable to sexual anesthesia. This idea appears to have been almost unknown to the eighteenth century. During the last century, however, and more especially in England, Germany, and Italy, this opinion has been frequently set down, sometimes even as a matter of course, with a tincture of contempt or pity for any woman afflicted with sexual emotions.

In the treatise On Generation (chapter v), which until recent times was commonly ascribed to Hippocrates, it is stated that men have greater pleasure in coitus than women, though the pleasure of women lasts longer, and this opinion, though not usually accepted, was treated with great respect by medical authors down to the end of the seventeenth century. Thus A. Laurentius (Du Laurens), after a long discussion, decides that men have stronger sexual desire and greater pleasure in coitus than women. (Historia Anatomica Humani Corporis, 1599, lib. viii, quest, ii and vii.)

About half a century ago a book entitled Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs, by W. Acton, a surgeon, passed through many editions and was popularly regarded as a standard authority on the subjects with which it deals. This extraordinary book is almost solely concerned with men; the author evidently regards the function of reproduction as almost exclusively appertaining to men. Women, if "well brought up," are, and should be, he states, in England, absolutely ignorant of all matters concerning it. "I should say," this author again remarks, "that the majority of women (happily for society) are not very much troubled with sexual feeling of any kind." The supposition that women do possess sexual feelings he considers "a vile aspersion."

In the article "Generation," contained in another medical work belonging to the middle of the nineteenth century,—Rees's Cyclopedia,—we find the following statement: "That a mucous fluid is sometimes found in coition from the internal organs and vagina is undoubted; but this only happens in lascivious women, or such as live luxuriously."

Gall had stated decisively that the sexual desires of men are stronger and more imperious than those of women. (Fonctions du Cerveau, 1825, vol. iii, pp. 241-271.)

Raciborski declared that three-fourths of women merely endure the approaches of men. (De la Puberté chez la Femme, 1844, p. 486.)

"When the question is carefully inquired into and without prejudice," said Lawson Tait, "it is found that women have their sexual appetites far less developed than men." (Lawson Tait, "Remote Effects of Removal of the Uterine Appendages," Provincial Medical Journal, May, 1891.) "The sexual instinct is very powerful in man and comparatively weak in women," he stated elsewhere (Diseases of Women, 1889, p. 60).

Hammond stated that, leaving prostitutes out of consideration, it is doubtful if in one-tenth of the instances of intercourse they [women] experience the slightest pleasurable sensation from first to last (Hammond, Sexual Impotence, p. 300), and he considered (p. 281) that this condition was sometimes congenital.

Lombroso and Ferrero consider that sexual sensibility, as well as all other forms of sensibility, is less pronounced in women, and they bring forward various facts and opinions which seem to them to point in the same direction. "Woman is naturally and organically frigid." At the same time they consider that, while erethism is less, sexuality is greater than in men. (Lombroso and Ferrero, La Donna Delinquente, la Prostituta, e la Donna Normale, 1893, pp. 54-58.)

"It is an altogether false idea," Fehling declared, in his rectorial address at the University of Basel in 1891, "that a young woman has just as strong an impulse to the opposite sex as a young man.... The appearance of the sexual side in the love of a young girl is pathological." (H. Fehling, Die Bestimmung der Frau, 1892, p. 18.) In his Lehrbuch der Frauenkrankheiten the same gynecological authority states his belief that half of all women are not sexually excitable.

Krafft-Ebing was of opinion that women require less sexual satisfaction than men, being less sensual. (Krafft-Ebing, "Ueber Neurosen und Psychosen durch sexuelle Abstinenz," Jahrbücher für Psychiatrie, 1888, Bd. viii, ht. I and 2.)

"In the normal woman, especially of the higher social classes," states Windscheid, "the sexual instinct is acquired, not inborn; when it is inborn, or awakes by itself, there is abnormality. Since women do not know this instinct before marriage, they do not miss it when they have no occasion in life to learn it." (F. Windscheid, "Die Beziehungen zwischen Gynäkologie und Neurologie," Zentralblatt für Gynäkologie, 1896, No. 22; quoted by. Moll, Libido Sexualis, Bd. i, p. 271.)

"The sensuality of men," Moll states, "is in my opinion very much greater than that of women." (A. Moll, Die Konträre Sexualempfindung, third edition, 1899, p. 592.)

"Women are, in general, less sensual than men," remarks Näcke, "notwithstanding the alleged greater nervous supply of their sexual organs." (P. Näcke, "Kritisches zum Kapitel der Sexualität," Archiv für Psychiatrie, 1899, p. 341.)

Löwenfeld states that in normal young girls the specifically sexual feelings are absolutely unknown; so that desire cannot exist in them. Putting aside the not inconsiderable proportion of women in whom this absence of desire may persist and be permanent, even after sexual relationships have begun, thus constituting absolute frigidity, in a still larger number desire remains extremely moderate, constituting a state of relative frigidity. He adds that he cannot unconditionally support the view of Fürbringer, who is inclined to ascribe sexual coldness to the majority of German married women. (L. Löwenfeld, Sexualleben und Nervenleiden, 1899, second edition, p. 11.)

Adler, who discusses the question at some length, decides that the sexual needs of women are less than those of men, though in some cases the orgasm in quantity and quality greatly exceeds that of men. He believes, not only that the sexual impulse in women is absolutely less than in men, and requires stronger stimulation to arouse it, but that also it suffers from a latency due to inhibition, which acts like a foreign body in the brain (analogous to the psychic trauma of Breuer and Freud in hysteria), and demands great skill in the man who is to awaken the woman to love. (O. Adler, Die Mangelhafte Geschlechtsempfindung des Weibes, 1904, pp. 47, 126 et seq.; also enlarged second edition, 1911; id., "Die Frigide Frau," Sexual-Probleme, Jan., 1912.)

It must not, however, be supposed that this view of the natural tendency of women to frigidity has everywhere found acceptance. It is not only an opinion of very recent growth, but is confined, on the whole, to a few countries.

"Turn to history," wrote Brierre de Boismont, "and on every page you will be able to recognize the predominance of erotic ideas in women." It is the same today, he adds, and he attributes it to the fact that men are more easily able to gratify their sexual impulses. (Des Hallucinations, 1862, p. 431.)

The laws of Manu attribute to women concupiscence and anger, the love of bed and of adornment.

The Jews attributed to women greater sexual desire than to men. This is illustrated, according to Knobel (as quoted by Dillmann), by Genesis, chapter iii, v. 16.

In Greek antiquity the romance and sentiment of love were mainly felt toward persons of the same sex, and were divorced from the more purely sexual feelings felt for persons of opposite sex. Theognis compared marriage to cattle-breeding. In love between men and women the latter were nearly always regarded as taking the more active part. In all Greek love-stories of early date the woman falls in love with the man, and never the reverse. Æschylus makes even a father assume that his daughters will misbehave if left to themselves. Euripides emphasized the importance of women; "The Euripidean woman who 'falls in love' thinks first of all: 'How can I seduce the man I love?"' (E. F. M. Benecke, Antimachus of Colophon and the Position of Women in Greek Poetry, 1896, pp. 34, 54.)

The most famous passage in Latin literature as to the question of whether men or women obtain greater pleasure from sexual intercourse is that in which Ovid narrates the legend of Tiresias (Metamorphoses, iii, 317-333). Tiresias, having been both a man and a woman, decided in favor of women. This passage was frequently quoted down to the eighteenth century.

In a passage quoted from a lost work of Galen by the Arabian biographer, Abu-l-Faraj, that great physician says of the Christians "that they practice celibacy, that even many of their women do so." So that in Galen's opinion it was more difficult for a woman than for a man to be continent.

The same view is widely prevalent among Arabic authors, and there is an Arabic saying that "The longing of the woman for the penis is greater than that of the man for the vulva."

In China, remarks Dr. Coltman, "when an old gentleman of my acquaintance was visiting me my little daughter, 5 years old, ran into the room, and, climbing upon my knee, kissed me. My visitor expressed his surprise, and remarked: 'We never kiss our daughters when they are so large; we may when they are very small, but not after they are 3 years old,' said he, 'because it is apt to excite in them bad emotions.'" (Coltman, The Chinese, 1900, p. 99.)

The early Christian Fathers clearly show that they regard women as more inclined to sexual enjoyment than men. That was, for instance, the opinion of Tertullian (De Virginibus Velandis, chapter x), and it is clearly implied in some of St. Jerome's epistles.

Notwithstanding the influence of Christianity, among the vigorous barbarian races of medieval Europe, the existence of sexual appetite in women was not considered to be, as it later became, a matter to be concealed or denied. Thus in 1068 the ecclesiastical historian, Ordericus Vitalis (himself half Norman and half English), narrates that the wives of the Norman knights who had accompanied William the Conqueror to England two years earlier sent over to their husbands to say that they were consumed by the fierce names of desire ("sæva libidinis face urebantur"), and that if their husbands failed to return very shortly they proposed to take other husbands. It is added that this threat brought a few husbands back to their wanton ladies ("lascivis dominabus suis").

During the medieval period in Europe, largely in consequence, no doubt, of the predominance of ascetic ideals set up by men who naturally regarded woman as the symbol of sex, the doctrine of the incontinence of woman became firmly fixed, and it is unnecessary and unprofitable to quote examples. It is sufficient to mention the very comprehensive statement of Jean de Meung (in the Roman de la Rose, 9903):—

"Toutes estes, serés, ou fûtesDe fait ou de volunté putes."

The satirical Jean de Meung was, however, a somewhat extreme and untypical representative of his age, and the fourteenth century Johannes de Sancto Amando (Jean de St. Amand) gives a somewhat more scientifically based opinion (quoted by Pagel, Neue litterarische Beiträge zur Mittelalterlichen Medicin, 1896, p. 30) that sexual desire is stronger in women than in men.

Humanism and the spread of the Renaissance movement brought in a spirit more sympathetic to women. Soon after, especially in Italy and France, we begin to find attempts at analyzing the sexual emotions, which are not always without a certain subtlety. In the seventeenth century a book of this kind was written by Venette. In matters of love, Venette declared, "men are but children compared to women. In these matters women have a more lively imagination, and they usually have more leisure to think of love. Women are much more lascivious and amorous than men." This is the conclusion reached in a chapter devoted to the question whether men or women are the more amorous. In a subsequent chapter, dealing with the question whether men or women receive more pleasure from the sexual embrace, Venette concludes, after admitting the great difficulty of the question, that man's pleasure is greater, but woman's lasts longer. (N. Venette, De la Génération de l'Homme ou Tableau de l'Amour Conjugal, Amsterdam, 1688.)

At a much earlier date, however, Montaigne had discussed this matter with his usual wisdom, and, while pointing out that men have imposed their own rule of life on women and their own ideals, and have demanded from them opposite and contradictory virtues,—a statement not yet antiquated,—he argues that women are incomparably more apt and more ardent in love than men are, and that in this matter they always know far more than men can teach them, for "it is a discipline that is born in their veins." (Montaigne, Essais, book iii, chapter v.)

The old physiologists generally mentioned the appearance of sexual desire in girls as one of the normal signs of puberty. This may be seen in the numerous quotations brought together by Schurig, in his Parthenologia, cap. ii.

A long succession of distinguished physicians throughout the seventeenth century discussed at more or less length the relative amount of sexual desire in men and women, and the relative degree of their pleasure in coitus. It is remarkable that, although they usually attach great weight to the supposed opinion of Hippocrates in the opposite sense, most of them decide that both desire and pleasure are greater in women.

Plazzonus decides that women have more sources of pleasure in coitus than men because of the larger extent of surface excited; and if it were not so, he adds, women would not be induced to incur the pains and risks of pregnancy and childbirth. (Plazzonus, De Partibus Generationi Inservientibus, 1621, lib. ii, cap. xiii.)

"Without doubt," says Ferrand, "woman is more passionate than man, and more often torn by the evils of love." (Ferrand, De la Maladie d'Amour, 1623, chapter ii.)

Zacchia, mainly on a priori grounds, concludes that women have more pleasure in coitus than men. (Zacchia, Quæstiones Medico-legales, 1630, lib. iii, quest, vii.)

Sinibaldus, discussing whether men or women have more salacity, decides in favor of women. (J. B. Sinibaldus, Geneanthropeia, 1642, lib. ii, tract. ii, cap. v.)

Hornius believed that women have greater sexual pleasure than men, though he mainly supported his opinion by the authority of classical poets. (Hornius, Historic Naturalis, 1670, lib. iii, cap. i.)

Nenter describes what we may now call women's affectability, and considers that it makes them more prone than men to the sexual emotions, as is shown by the fact that, notwithstanding their modesty, they sometimes make sexual advances. This greater proneness of women to the sexual impulse is, he remarks, entirely natural and right, for the work of generation is mainly carried on by women, and love is its basis: "generationis fundamentum est amor." (G. P. Nenter, Theoria Hominis Sani, 1714, cap. v, memb. ii.)

The above opinions of seventeenth-century physicians are quoted from the original sources. Schurig, in his Gynæcologia, (pp. 46-50 and 71-81), quotes a number of passages on this subject from medical authorities of the same period, on which I have not drawn.

Sénancour, in his fine and suggestive book on love, first published in 1806, asks: "Has sexual pleasure the same power on the sex which less loudly demands it? It has more, at all events in some respects. The very vigor and laboriousness of men may lead them to neglect love, but the constant cares of maternity make women feel how important it must ever be to them. We must remember also that in men the special emotions of love only have a single focus, while in women the organs of lactation are united to those of conception. Our feelings are all determined by these material causes." (Sénancour, De l'Amour, fourth edition, 1834, vol. i, p. 68.) A later psychologist of love, this time a woman, Ellen Key, states that woman's erotic demands, though more silent than man's, are stronger. (Ellen Key, Ueber Liebe und Ehe, p. 138.)

Michael Ryan considered that sexual enjoyment "is more delicious and protracted" in women, and ascribed this to a more sensitive nervous system, a finer and more delicate skin, more acute feelings, and the fact that in women the mammæ are the seat of a vivid sensibility in sympathy with the uterus. (M. Ryan, Philosophy of Marriage, 1837, p. 153.)

Busch was inclined to think women have greater sexual pleasure than men. (D. W. H. Busch, Das Geschlechtsleben des Weibes, 1839, vol. i, p. 69.) Kobelt held that the anatomical conformation of the sexual organs in women led to the conclusion that this must be the case.

Guttceit, speaking of his thirty years' medical experience in Russia, says: "In Russia at all events, a girl, as very many have acknowledged to me, cannot resist the ever stronger impulses of sex beyond the twenty-second or twenty-third year. And if she cannot do so in natural ways she adopts artificial ways. The belief that the feminine sex feels the stimulus of sex less than the male is quite false." (Guttceit, Dreissig Jahre Praxis, 1873, theil i, p. 313.)

In Scandinavia, according to Vedeler, the sexual emotions are at least as strong in women as in men (Vedeler, "De Impotentia Feminarum," Norsk Magazin for Laegevidenskaben, March, 1894). In Sweden, Dr. Eklund, of Stockholm, remarking that from 25 to 33 per cent. of the births are illegitimate, adds: "We hardly ever hear anyone talk of a woman having been seduced, simply because the lust is at the worst in the woman, who, as a rule, is the seducing party." (Eklund, Transactions of the American Association of Obstetricians, Philadelphia, 1892, p. 307.)

On the opposite side of the Baltic, in the Königsberg district, the same observation has been made. Intercourse before marriage is the rule in most villages of this agricultural district, among the working classes, with or without intention of subsequent marriage; "the girls are often the seducing parties, or at least very willing; they seek to bind their lovers to them and compel them to marriage." In the Köslin district of Pomerania, where intercourse between the girls and youths is common, the girls come to the youths' rooms even more frequently than the youths to the girls'. In some of the Dantzig districts the girls give themselves to the youths, and even seduce them, sometimes, but not always, with a view of marriage. (Wittenberg, Die geschlechtsittlichen Verhalten der Landbewohner im Deutschen Reiche, 1895, Bd. i, pp. 47, 61, 83.)

Mantegazza devoted great attention to this point in several of the works he published during fifty years, and was decidedly of the opinion that the sexual emotions are much stronger in women than in men, and that women have much more enjoyment in sexual intercourse. In his Fisiologia del Piacere he supports this view, and refers to the greater complexity of the genital apparatus in women (as well as its larger surface and more protected position), to what he considers to be the keener sensibility of women generally, to the passivity of women, etc.; and he considers that sexual pleasure is rendered more seductive to women by the mystery in which it is veiled for them by modesty and our social habits. In a more recent work (Fisiologia della Donna, cap. viii) Mantegazza returns to this subject, and remarks that long experience, while confirming his early opinion, has modified it to the extent that he now believes that, as compared with men, the sexual emotions of women vary within far wider limits. Among men few are quite insensitive to the physical pleasures of love, while, on the other hand, few are thrown by the violence of its emotional manifestations into a state of syncope or convulsions. Among women, while some are absolutely insensitive, others (as in cases with which he was acquainted) are so violently excited by the paradise of physical love that, after the sexual embrace, they faint or fall into a cataleptic condition for several hours.

"Physical sex is a larger factor in the life of the woman.... If this be true of the physical element, it is equally true of the mental element." (Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell, The Human Element in Sex, fifth edition, 1894, p. 47.)

"In the female sex," remarks Clouston, "reproduction is a more dominant function of the organism than in the male, and has far larger, if not more intense, relationships to feeling, judgment, and volition." (Clouston, Neuroses of Development, 1891.)

"It may be said," Marro states, "that in woman the visceral system reacts, if not with greater intensity, certainly in a more general manner, to all the impressions, having a sexual basis, which dominate the life of woman, if not as sexual emotions properly so called, as related emotions closely dependent on the reproductive instinct." (A. Marro, La Pubertà, 1898, p. 233.)

Forel also believed (Die Sexuelle Frage, p. 274) that women are more erotic than men.

The gynecologist Kisch states his belief that "The sexual impulse is so powerful in women that at certain periods of life its primitive force dominates her whole nature, and there can be no room left for reason to argue concerning reproduction; on the contrary, union is desired even in the presence of the fear of reproduction or when there can be no question of it." He regards absence of sexual feeling in women as pathological. (Kisch, Sterilität des Weibes, second edition, pp. 205-206.) In his later work (The Sexual Life of Woman) Kisch again asserts that sexual impulse always exists in mature women (in the absence of organic sexual defect and cerebral disease), though it varies in strength and may be repressed. In adolescent girls, however, it is weaker than in youths of the same age. After she has had sexual experiences, Kisch maintains, a woman's sexual emotions are just as powerful as a man's, though she has more motives than a man for controlling them.

Eulenburg is of the same opinion as Kisch, and sharply criticises the loose assertion of some authorities who have expressed themselves in an opposite sense. (A. Eulenburg, Sexuale Neuropathie, pp. 88-90; the same author has dealt with the point in the Zukunft, December 2, 1893.)

Kossmann states that the opinion as to the widespread existence of frigidity among women is a fable. (Kossmann, Allgemeine Gynæcologie, 1903, p. 362.)

Bloch concludes that "in most cases the sexual coldness of women is in fact only apparent, either due to the concealment of glowing sexuality beneath the veil of outward reticence prescribed by conventional morality, or else to the husband who has not succeeded in arousing erotic sensations which are complicated and with difficulty awakened.... The sexual sensibility of women is certainly different from that of men, but in strength it is at least as great." (Iwan Bloch, Das Sexualleben unserer Zeit 1907, ch. v.)

Nyström, also, after devoting a chapter to the discussion of the causes of sexual coldness in women, concludes: "My conviction, founded on experience, is, that only a small number of women would be without sexual feeling if sound views and teaching prevailed in respect to the sexual life, if due weight were given to inner devotion and tender caresses as the preliminaries of love in marriage, and if couples who wish to avoid pregnancy would adopt sensible preventive methods instead of coitus interruptus." (A. Nyström, Das Geschlichtsleben und seine Gesetze, eighth edition, 1907, p. 177.)

We thus find two opinions widely current: one, of world-wide existence and almost universally accepted in those ages and centers in which life is lived most nakedly, according to which the sexual impulse is stronger in women than in men; another, now widely prevalent in many countries, according to which the sexual instinct is distinctly weaker in women, if, indeed, it may not be regarded as normally absent altogether. A third view is possible: it may be held that there is no difference at all. This view, formerly not very widely held, is that of the French physiologist, Beaunis, as it is of Winckel; while Rohleder, who formerly held that sexual feeling tends to be defective in women, now believes that men and women are equal in sexual impulse.

At an earlier period, however, Donatus (De Medica Historia Mirabili, 1613, lib. iv, cap. xvii) held the same view, and remarked that sometimes men and sometimes women are the more salacious, varying with the individual. Roubaud (De l'Impuissance, 1855, p. 38) stated that the question is so difficult as to be insoluble.

In dealing with the characteristics of the sexual impulse in women, it will be seen, we have to consider the prevalence in them of what is commonly termed (in its slightest forms) frigidity or hyphedonia, and (in more complete form) sexual anesthesia or anaphrodism, or erotic blindness, or anhedonia.[157]

Many modern writers have referred to the prevalence of frigidity among women. Shufeldt believes (Pacific Medical Journal, Nov., 1907) that 75 per cent, of married women in New York are afflicted with sexual frigidity, and that it is on the increase; it is rare, however, he adds, among Jewish women. Hegar gives 50 per cent, as the proportion of sexually anesthetic women; Fürbringer says the majority of women are so. Effertz (quoted by Löwenfeld, Sexualleben und Nervenleiden, p. 11, apparently with approval) regards 10 per cent, among women generally as sexually anesthetic, but only 1 per cent, men. Moll states (Eulenburg's Encyclopädie, fourth edition, art. "Geschlechtstrieb") that the prevalence of sexual anesthesia among German women varies, according to different authorities, from 10 to 66 per cent. Elsewhere Moll (Konträre Sexualempfindung, third edition, 1890, p. 510) emphasizes the statement that "sexual anesthesia in women is much more frequent than is generally supposed." He explains that he is referring to the physical element of pleasure and satisfaction in intercourse, and of desire for intercourse. He adds that the psychic side of love is often more conspicuous in women than in men. He cannot agree with Sollier that this kind of sexual frigidity is a symptom of hysteria. Féré (L'Instinct Sexuel, second edition, p. 112), in referring to the greater frequency of sexual anesthesia in women, remarks that it is often associated with neuropathic states, as well as with anomalies of the genital organs, or general troubles of nutrition, and is usually acquired. Some authors attribute great importance to amenorrhea in this connection; one investigator has found that in 4 out of 14 cases of absolute amenorrhea sexual feeling was absent. Löwenfeld, again (Sexualleben und Nervenleiden), referring to the common misconception that nervous disorder is associated with increased sexual desire, points out that nervously degenerate women far more often display frigidity than increased sexual desire. Elsewhere (Ueber die Sexuelle Konstitution) Löwenfeld says it is only among the upper classes that sexual anesthesia is common. Campbell Clark, also, showed some years ago that, in young women with a tendency to chlorosis and a predisposition to insanity, defects of pelvic and mammary development are very prevalent. (Journal of Mental Science, October, 1888.)

As regards the older medical authors, Schurig (Spermatologia, 1720, p. 243, and Gynæcologia, 1730, p. 81) brought together from the literature and from his own knowledge cases of women who felt no pleasure in coitus, as well as of some men who had erections without pleasure.

There is, however, much uncertainty as to what precisely is meant by sexual frigidity or anesthesia. All the old medical authors carefully distinguish between the heat of sexual desire and the actual presence of pleasure in coitus; many modern writers also properly separate libido from voluptas, since it is quite possible to experience sexual desires and not to be able to obtain their gratification during sexual intercourse, and it is possible to hold, with Mantegazza, that women naturally have stronger sexual impulses than men, but are more liable than men to experience sexual anesthesia. But it is very much more difficult than most people seem to suppose, to obtain quite precise and definite data concerning the absence of either voluptas or libido in a woman. Even if we accept the statement of the woman who asserts that she has either or both, the statement of their absence is by no means equally conclusive and final. As even Adler—who discusses this question fully and has very pronounced opinions about it—admits, there are women who stoutly deny the existence of any sexual feelings until such feelings are actually discovered.[158] Some of the most marked characteristics of the sexual impulse in women, moreover,—its association with modesty, its comparatively late development, its seeming passivity, its need of stimulation,—all combine to render difficult the final pronouncement that a woman is sexually frigid. Most significant of all in this connection is the complexity of the sexual apparatus in women and the corresponding psychic difficulty—based on the fundamental principle of sexual selection—of finding a fitting mate. The fact that a woman is cold with one man or even with a succession of men by no means shows that she is not apt to experience sexual emotions; it merely shows that these men have not been able to arouse them. "I recall two very striking cases," a distinguished gynecologist, the late Dr. Engelmann, of Boston, wrote to me, "of very attractive young married women—one having had a child, the other a miscarriage—who were both absolutely cold to their husbands, as told me by both husband and wife. They could not understand desire or passion, and would not even believe that it existed. Yet, both these women with other men developed ardent passion, all the stronger perhaps because it had been so long latent." In such cases it is scarcely necessary to invoke Adler's theory of a morbid inhibition, or "foreign body in consciousness," which has to be overcome. We are simply in the presence of the natural fact that the female throughout nature not only requires much loving, but is usually fastidious in the choice of a lover. In the human species this natural fact is often disguised and perverted. Women are not always free to choose the man whom they would prefer as a lover, nor even free to find out whether the man they prefer sexually fits them; they are, moreover, very often extremely ignorant of the whole question of sex, and the victims of the prejudice and false conventions they have been taught. On the one hand, they are driven into an unnatural primness and austerity; on the other hand, they rebound to an equally unnatural facility or even promiscuity. Thus it happens that the men who find that a large number of women are not so facile as they themselves are, and as they have found a large number of women to be, rush to the conclusion that women tend to be "sexually anesthetic." If we wish to be accurate, it is very doubtful whether we can assert that a woman is ever absolutely without the aptitude for sexual satisfaction.[159] She may unquestionably be without any conscious desire for actual coitus. But if we realize to how large an extent woman is a sexual organism, and how diffused and even unconscious the sexual impulses may be, it becomes very difficult to assert that she has never shown any manifestation of the sexual impulse. All we can assert with some degree of positiveness in some cases is that she has not manifested sexual gratification, more particularly as shown by the occurrence of the orgasm, but that is very far indeed from warranting us to assert that she never will experience such gratification or still less that she is organically incapable of experiencing it.[160] It is therefore quite impossible to follow Adler when he asks us to accept the existence of a condition which he solemnly terms anæsthesia sexualis completa idiopathica, in which there is no mechanical difficulty in the way or psychic inhibition, but an "absolute" lack of sexual sensibility and a complete absence of sexual inclination.[161]

It is instructive to observe that Adler himself knows no "pure" case of this condition. To find such a case he has to go back nearly two centuries to Madame de Warens, to whom he devotes a whole chapter. He has, moreover, had the courage in writing this chapter to rely entirely on Rousseau's Confessions, which were written nearly half a century later than the episodes they narrated, and are therefore full of inaccuracies, besides being founded on an imperfect and false knowledge of Madame de Warens's earlier life, and written by a man who was, there can be no doubt, not able to arouse women's passions. Adler shows himself completely ignorant of the historical investigations of De Montet, Mugnier, Ritter, and others which, during recent years, have thrown a flood of light on the life and character of Madame de Warens, and not even acquainted with the highly significant fact that she was hysterical.[162] This is the basis of "fact" on which we are asked to accept anæsthesia sexualis completa idiopathica![163]

"In dealing with the alleged absence of the sexual impulse," a well-informed medical correspondent writes from America, "much caution has to be used in accepting statements as to its absence, from the fact that most women fear by the admission to place themselves in an impure category. I am also satisfied that influx of women into universities, etc., is often due to the sexual impulse causing restlessness, and that this factor finds expression in the prurient prudishness so often presenting itself in such women, which interferes with coeducation. This is becoming especially noticeable at the University of Chicago, where prudishness interferes with classical, biological, sociological, and physiological discussion in the classroom. There have been complaints by such women that a given professor has not left out embryological facts not in themselves in any way implying indelicacy. I have even been informed that the opinion is often expressed in college dormitories that embryological facts and discussions should be left out of a course intended for both sexes." Such prudishness, it is scarcely necessary to remark, whether found in women or men, indicates a mind that has become morbidly sensitive to sexual impressions. For the healthy mind embryological and allied facts have no emotionally sexual significance, and there is, therefore, no need to shun them.

Kolischer, of Chicago ("Sexual Frigidity in Women," American Journal of Obstetrics, Sept., 1905), points out that it is often the failure of the husband to produce sexual excitement in the wife which leads to voluntary repression of sexual sensation on her part, or an acquired sexual anesthesia. "Sexual excitement," he remarks, "not brought to its natural climax, the reaction leaves the woman in a very disagreeable condition, and repeated occurrences of this kind may even lead to general nervous disturbances. Some of these unfortunate women learn to suppress their sexual sensation so as to avoid all these disagreeable sequelæ. Such a state of affairs is not only unfortunate, because it deprives the female partner of her natural rights, but it is also to be deplored because it practically brings down such a married woman to the level of the prostitute."

In illustration of the prevalence of inhibitions of various kinds, from without and from within, in suppressing or disguising sexual feeling in women, I may quote the following observations by an American lady concerning a series of women of her acquaintance:—

"Mrs. A. This woman is handsome and healthy. She has never had children, much to the grief of herself and her husband. The man is also handsome and attractive. Mrs. A. once asked me if love-making between me and my husband ever originated with me. I replied it was as often so as not, and she said that in that event she could not see how passion between husband and wife could be regulated. When I seemed not to be ashamed of the matter, but rather to be positive in my views that it should be so, she at once tried to impress me with the fact that she did not wish me to think she 'could not be aroused.' This woman several times hinted that she had learned a great amount that was not edifying at boarding school, and I always felt that, with proper encouragement, she would have retailed suggestive stories.

"Mrs. B. This woman lives to please her husband, who is a spoiled man. She gave birth to a child soon after marriage, but was left an invalid for some years. She told me coition always hurt her, and she said it made her sick to see her husband nude. I was therefore surprised, years afterward, to hear her say, in reply to a remark of another person, 'Yes; women are not only as passionate as men, I am sure they are more so.' I therefore questioned the lack of passion she had on former occasions avowed, or else felt convinced her improvement in health had made intercourse pleasant.

"Miss C. A teacher. She is emotional and easily becomes hysterical. Her life has been one of self-sacrifice and her rearing most Puritanical. She told me she thought women did not crave sexual satisfaction unless it had been aroused in them. I consider her one who physically is injured by not having it.

"Mrs. D. After being married a few years this person told me she thought intercourse 'horrid.' Some years after this, however, she fell in love with a man not her husband, which caused their separation. She always fancied men in love with her, and she told me that she and her husband tried to live without intercourse, fearing more children, but they could not do it; she also told of trying to refrain, for the same purpose, until safe parts of the menstrual month, but that 'was just the time she cared least for it.' These remarks made me doubt the sincerity of the first.

"Mrs. E. said she enjoyed intercourse as well as her husband, and she 'didn't see why she should not say so.' This same woman, whether using a current phrase or not, afterward said her husband 'did not bother her very often.'

"Mrs. F., the mother of several children, was married to a man she neither loved nor respected, but she said that when a strange man touched her it made her tremble all over.

"Mrs. G., the mother of many children, divorced on account of the dissipation, drinking and otherwise, of her husband. She is of the creole type, but large and almost repulsive. She is a brilliant talker and she supports herself by writing. She has fallen in love with a number of young men, 'wildly, madly, passionately,' as one of them told me, and I am sure she suffers greatly from the lack of satisfaction. She would no doubt procure it if it were possible.

"I believe," the writer concludes, "women are as passionate as men, but the enforced restraint of years possibly smothers it. The fear of having children and the methods to prevent conception are, I am sure, potent factors in the injury to the emotions of married women. Perhaps the lack of intercourse acts less disastrously upon a woman because of the renewed feeling which comes after each menstrual period."

As bearing on the causes which have led to the disguise and misinterpretation of the sexual impulse in women I may quote the following communication from another lady:—

"I do think the coldness of women has been greatly exaggerated. Men's theoretically ideal woman (though they don't care so much about it in practice) is passionless, and women are afraid to admit that they have any desire for sexual pleasure. Rousseau, who was not very straight-laced, excuses the conduct of Madame de Warens on the ground that it was not the result of passion: an aggravation rather than a palliation of the offense, if society viewed it from the point of view of any other fault. Even in the modern novels written by the 'new woman' the longing for maternity, always an honorable sentiment, is dragged in to veil the so-called 'lower' desire. That some women, at any rate, have very strong passions and that great suffering is entailed by their repression is not, I am sure, sufficiently recognized, even by women themselves.

"Besides the 'passionless ideal' which checks their sincerity, there are many causes which serve to disguise a woman's feelings to herself and make her seem to herself colder than she really is. Briefly these are:—

"1. Unrecognized disease of the reproductive organs, especially after the birth of children. A friend of mine lamented to me her inability to feel pleasure, though she had done so before the birth of her child, then 3 years old. With considerable difficulty I persuaded her to see a doctor, who told her all the reproductive organs were seriously congested; so that for three years she had lived in ignorance and regret for her husband's sake and her own.

"2. The dread of recommencing, once having suffered them, all the pains and discomforts of child-bearing.

"3. Even when precautions are taken, much bother and anxiety is involved, which has a very dampening effect on excitement.

"4. The fact that men will never take any trouble to find out what specially excites a woman. A woman, as a rule, is at some pains to find out the little things which particularly affect the man she loves,—it may be a trick of speech, a rose in her hair, or what not,—and she makes use of her knowledge. But do you know one man who will take the same trouble? (It is difficult to specify, as what pleases one person may not another. I find that the things that affect me personally are the following: [a] Admiration for a man's mental capacity will translate itself sometimes into direct physical excitement. [b] Scents of white flowers, like tuberose or syringa. [c] The sight of fireflies. [d] The idea or the reality of suspension. [e] Occasionally absolute passivity.)

"5. The fact that many women satisfy their husbands when themselves disinclined. This is like eating jam when one does not fancy it, and has a similar effect. It is a great mistake, in my opinion, to do so, except very rarely. A man, though perhaps cross at the time, prefers, I believe, to gratify himself a few times, when the woman also enjoys it, to many times when she does not.

"6. The masochistic tendency of women, or their desire for subjection to the man they love. I believe no point in the whole question is more misunderstood than this. Nearly every man imagines that to secure a woman's love and respect he must give her her own way in small things, and compel her obedience in great ones. Every man who desires success with a woman should exactly reverse that theory."

When we are faced by these various and often conflicting statements of opinion it seems necessary to obtain, if possible, a definite basis of objective fact. It would be fairly obvious in any case, and it becomes unquestionable in view of the statements I have brought together, that the best-informed and most sagacious clinical observers, when giving an opinion on a very difficult and elusive subject which they have not studied with any attention and method, are liable to make unguarded assertions; sometimes, also, they become the victims of ethical or pseudoethical prejudices, so as to be most easily influenced by that class of cases which happens to fit in best with their prepossessions.[164] In order to reach any conclusions on a reasonable basis it is necessary to take a series of unselected individuals and to ascertain carefully the condition of the sexual impulse in each.

At present, however, this is extremely difficult to do at all satisfactorily, and quite impossible, indeed, to do in a manner likely to yield absolutely unimpeachable results. Nevertheless, a few series of observations have been made. Thus, Dr. Harry Campbell[165] records the result of an investigation, carried on in his hospital practice, of 52 married women of the poorer class; they were not patients, but ordinary, healthy working-class women, and the inquiry was not made directly, but of the husbands, who were patients. Sexual instinct was said to be present in 12 cases before marriage, and absent in 40; in 13 of the 40 it never appeared at all; so that it altogether appeared in 39, or in the ratio of something over 75 per cent. Among the 12 in whom it existed before marriage it was said to have appeared in most with puberty; in 3, however, a few years before puberty, and in 2 a few years later. In 2 of those in whom it appeared before puberty, menstruation began late; in the third it rose almost to nymphomania on the day preceding the first menstruation. In nearly all the cases desire was said to be stronger in the husband than in the wife; when it was stronger in the wife, the husband was exceptionally indifferent. Of the 13 in whom desire was absent after marriage, 5 had been married for a period under two years, and Campbell remarks that it would be wrong to conclude that it would never develop in these cases, for in this group of cases the appearance of sexual instinct was sometimes a matter of days, sometimes of years, after the date of marriage. In two-thirds of the cases there was a diminution of desire, usually gradual, at the climacteric; in the remaining third there was either no change or exaltation of desire. The most important general result, Campbell concludes, is that "the sexual instinct is very much less intense in woman than in man," and to this he elsewhere adds a corollary that "the sexual instinct in the civilized woman is, I believe, tending to atrophy."

An eminent gynecologist, the late Dr. Matthews Duncan, has (in his work on Sterility in Women) presented a table which, although foreign to this subject, has a certain bearing on the matter. Matthews Duncan, believing that the absence of sexual desire and of sexual pleasure in coitus are powerful influences working for sterility, noted their presence or absence in a number of cases, and found that, among 191 sterile women between the ages of 15 and 45, 152, or 79 per cent., acknowledged the presence of sexual desire; and among 196 sterile women (mostly the same cases), 134, or 68 per cent., acknowledged the presence of sexual pleasure in coitus. Omitting the cases over 35 years of age, which were comparatively few, the largest proportion of affirmative answers, both as regards sexual pleasure and sexual desire, was from between 30 and 34 years of age. Matthews Duncan assumes that the absence of sexual desire and sexual pleasure in women is thoroughly abnormal.[166]

An English non-medical author, in the course of a thoughtful discussion of sexual phenomena, revealing considerable knowledge and observation,[167] has devoted a chapter to this subject in another of its aspects. Without attempting to ascertain the normal strength of the sexual instinct in women, he briefly describes 11 cases of "sexual anesthesia" in Women (in 2 or 3 of which there appears, however, to be an element of latent homosexuality) from among the circle of his own friends. This author concludes that sexual coldness is very common among English women, and that it involves questions of great social and ethical importance.

I have not met with any series of observations made among seemingly healthy and normal women in other countries; there are, however, various series of somewhat abnormal cases in which the point was noted, and the results are not uninstructive. Thus, in Vienna at Krafft-Ebing's psychiatric clinic, Gattel (Ueber die sexuellen Ursachen der Neurasthenie und Angstneurose, 1898) carefully investigated the cases of 42 women, mostly at the height of sexual life,—i.e., between 20 and 35,—who were suffering from slight nervous disorders, especially neurasthenia and mild hysteria, but none of them from grave nervous or other disease. Of these 42, at least 17 had masturbated, at one time or another, either before or after marriage, in order to obtain relief of sexual feelings. In the case of 4 it is stated that they do not obtain sexual satisfaction in marriage, but in these cases only coitus interruptus is practised, and the fact that the absence of sexual satisfaction was complained of seems to indicate an aptitude for experiencing it. These 4 cases can therefore scarcely be regarded as exceptions. In all the other cases sexual desire, sexual excitement, or sexual satisfaction is always clearly indicated, and in a considerable proportion of cases it is noted that the sexual impulse is very strongly developed. This series is valuable, since the facts of the sexual life are, as far as possible, recorded with much precision. The significance of the facts varies, however, according to the view taken as to the causation of neurasthenia and allied conditions of slight nervous disorder. Gattel argues that sexual irregularities are a peculiarly fruitful, if not invariable, source of such disorders; according to the more commonly accepted view this is not so. If we accept the more usual view, these women fairly correspond to average women of lower class; if, however, we accept Gattel's view, they may possess the sexual instinct in a more marked degree than average women.

In a series of 116 German women in whom the operation of removing the ovaries was performed, Pfister usually noted briefly in what way the sexual impulse was affected by the operation ("Die Wirkung der Castration auf den Weiblichen Organismus," Archiv für Gynäkologie, 1898, p. 583). In 13 cases (all but 3 unmarried) the presence of sexual desire at any time was denied, and 2 of these expressed disgust of sexual matters. In 12 cases the point is left doubtful. In all the other cases sexual desire had once been present, and in 2 or 3 cases it was acknowledged to be so strong as to approach nymphomania. In about 30 of these (not including any in which it was previously very strong) it was extinguished by castration, in a few others it was diminished, and in the rest unaffected. Thus, when we exclude the 12 cases in which the point was not apparently investigated, and the 10 unmarried women, in whom it may have been latent or unavowed, we find that, of 94 married women, 91 women acknowledged the existence of sexual desire and only 3 denied it.

Schröter, again in Germany, has investigated the manifestations of the sexual impulse among 402 insane women in the asylum at Eichberg in Rheingau. ("Wird bei jungen Unverheiratheten zur Zeit der Menstruation stärkere sexuelle Erregheit beobaehtet?" Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie, vol. lvi, 1899, pp. 321-333.) There is no reason to suppose that the insane represent a class of the community specially liable to sexual emotion, although its manifestations may become unrestrained and conspicuous under the influence of insanity; and at the same time, while the appearance of such manifestations is evidence of the aptitude for sexual emotions, their absence may be only due to disease, seclusion, or to an intact power of self-control.

Of the 402 women, 166 were married and 236 unmarried. Schröter divided them into four groups: (1) those below 20; (2) those between 20 and 30; (3) those between 30 and 40; (4) those from 40 to the menopause. The patients included persons from the lowest class of the population, and only about a quarter of them could fairly be regarded as curable. Thus the manifestations of sexuality were diminished, for with advance of mental disease sexual manifestations cease to appear. Schröter only counted those cases in which the sexual manifestations were decided and fairly constant at the menstrual epoch; if not visibly manifested, sexual feeling was not taken into account. Sexual phenomena accompanied the entry of the menstrual epoch in 141 cases: i.e., in 20 (or in the proportion of 72 per cent.) of the first group, consisting entirely of unmarried women; in 33 (or 28 per cent.) of the second group; in 55 (or 35 per cent.) of the third group; and in 33 (or 33 per cent.) of the fourth group. It was found that 181 patients showed no sexual phenomena at any time, while 80 showed sexual phenomena frequently between the menstrual epochs, but only in a slight degree, and not at all during the period. At all ages sexual manifestations were more prevalent among the unmarried than among the married, though this difference became regularly and progressively less with increase in age.

Schröter inclines to think that sexual excitement is commoner among insane women belonging to the lower social classes than in those belonging to the better classes. Among 184 women in a private asylum, only 13 (6.13 per cent.) showed very marked and constant excitement at menstrual periods. He points out, however, that this may be due to a greater ability to restrain the manifestations of feeling.

There is some interest in Schröter's results, though they cannot be put on a line with inquiries made among the sane; they only represent the prevalence of the grossest and strongest sexual manifestations when freed from the restraints of sanity.

As a slight contribution toward the question, I have selected a series of 12 cases of women of whose sexual development I possess precise information, with the following results: In 2 cases distinct sexual feeling was experienced spontaneously at the age of 7 and 8, but the complete orgasm only occurred some years after puberty; in 5 cases sexual feeling appeared spontaneously for a few months to a year after the appearance of menstruation, which began between 12 and 14 years of age, usually at 13; in another case sexual feeling first appeared shortly after menstruation began, but not spontaneously, being called out by a lover's advances; in the remaining 4 cases sexual emotion never became definite and conscious until adult life (the ages being 26, 27, 34, 35), in 2 cases through being made love to, and in 2 cases through self-manipulation out of accident or curiosity. It is noteworthy that the sexual feelings first developed in adult life were usually as strong as those arising at puberty. It may be added that, of these 12 women, 9 had at some time or another masturbated (4 shortly after puberty, 5 in adult life), but, except in 1 case, rarely and at intervals. All belong to the middle class, 2 or 3 leading easy, though not idle, lives, while all the others are engaged in professional or other avocations often involving severe labor. They differ widely in character and mental ability; but, while 2 or 3 might be regarded as slightly abnormal, they are all fairly healthy.

I am inclined to believe that the experiences of the foregoing group are fairly typical of the social class to which they belong. I may, however, bring forward another series of 35 women, varying in age from 18 to 40 (with 2 exceptions all over 25), and in every respect comparable with the smaller group, but concerning whom my knowledge, though reliable, is usually less precise and detailed. In this group 5 state that they have never experienced sexual emotion, these being all unmarried and leading strictly chaste lives; in 18 cases the sexual impulse may be described as strong, or is so considered by the subject herself; in 9 cases it is only moderate; in 3 it is very slight when evoked, and with difficulty evoked, in 1 of these only appearing two years after marriage, in another the exhaustion and worry of household cares being assigned for its comparative absence. It is noteworthy that all the more highly intelligent, energetic women in the series appear in the group of those with strong sexual emotions, and also that severe mental and physical labor, even when cultivated for this purpose, has usually had little or no influence in relieving sexual emotion.

An American physician in the State of Connecticut sends me the following notes concerning a series of 13 married women, taken, as they occurred, in obstetric practice. They are in every way respectable and moral women:—

"Mrs. A. says that her husband does not give her sufficient sexual attention, as he fears they will have more children than he can properly care for. Mrs. B. always enjoys intercourse; so does Mrs. C. Mrs. D. is easily excited and very fond of sexual attention. Mrs. E. likes intercourse if her husband is careful not to hurt her. Mrs. F. never had any sexual desire until after second marriage, but it is now very urgent at times. Mrs. G. is not easily excited, but has never objected to her husband's attention. Mrs. H. would prefer to have her husband exhibit more attention. Mrs. I. never refused her husband, but he does not trouble her much. Mrs. J. thinks that three or four times a week is satisfactory, but would not object to nightly intercourse. Mrs. K. does not think that her husband could give her more than she would like. Mrs. L. would prefer to live with a woman if it were not for sexual intercourse. Mrs. M., aged 40, says that her husband, aged 65, insists upon intercourse three times every night, and that he keeps her tired and disgusted. She each time has at least one orgasm, and would not object to reasonable attention."

It may be remarked that, while these results in English women of the middle class are in fair agreement with the German and Austrian observations I have quoted, they differ from Campbell's results among women of the working class in London. This discrepancy is, perhaps, not difficult to explain. While the conditions of upper-class life may possibly be peculiarly favorable to the development of the sexual emotions, among the working classes in London, where the stress of the struggle for existence under bad hygienic conditions is so severe, they may be peculiarly unfavorable. It is thus possible that there really are a smaller number of women experiencing sexual emotion among the class dealt with by Campbell than among the class to which my series belong.[168]

A more serious consideration is the method of investigation. A working man, who is perhaps unintelligent outside his own work, and in many cases married to a woman who is superior in refinement, may possibly be able to arouse his wife's sexual emotions, and also able to ascertain what those emotions are, and be willing to answer questions truthfully on this point, to the best of his ability, but he is by no means a witness whose evidence is final. While, however, Campbell's facts may not be quite unquestionable, I am inclined to agree with his conclusion, and Mantegazza's, that there is a very great range of variation in this matter, and that there is no age at which the sexual impulse in women may not appear. A lady who has received the confidence of very many women tells me that she has never found a woman who was without sexual feeling. I should myself be inclined to say that it is extremely difficult to find a woman who is without the aptitude for sexual emotion, although a great variety of circumstances may hinder, temporarily or permanently, the development of this latent aptitude. In other words, while the latent sexual aptitude may always be present, the sexual impulse is liable to be defective and the aptitude to remain latent, with consequent deficiency of sexual emotion, and absence of sexual satisfaction.

This is not only indicated by the considerable proportion of my cases in which there is only moderate or slight sexual feeling. I have ample evidence that in many cases the element of pain, which may almost be said to be normal in the establishment of the sexual function, is never merged, as it normally is, in pleasurable sensations on the full establishment of sexual relationships. Sometimes, no doubt, this may be due to dyspareunia. Sometimes there may be an absolute sexual anesthesia, whether of congenital or hysterical origin. I have been told of the case of a married lady who has never been able to obtain sexual pleasure, although she has had relations with several men, partly to try if she could obtain the experience, and partly to please them; the very fact that the motives for sexual relationships arose from no stronger impulse itself indicates a congenital defect on the psychic as well as on the physical side. But, as a rule, the sexual anesthesia involved is not absolute, but lies in a disinclination to the sexual act due to various causes, in a defect of strong sexual impulse, and an inaptitude for the sexual orgasm.

I am indebted to a lady who has written largely on the woman question, and is herself the mother of a numerous family, for several letters in regard to the prevalence among women of sexual coldness, a condition which she regards as by no means to be regretted. She considers that in all her own children the sexual impulse is very slightly developed, the boys being indifferent to women, the girls cold toward men and with no desire to marry, though all are intelligent and affectionate, the girls showing a very delicate and refined kind of beauty. (A large selection of photographs accompanied this communication.) Something of the same tendency is said to mark the stocks from which this family springs, and they are said to be notable for their longevity, healthiness, and disinclination for excesses of all kinds. It is scarcely necessary to remark that a mother, however highly intelligent, is by no means an infallible judge as to the presence or absence in her children of so shy, subtle, and elusive an impulse as that of sex. At the same time I am by no means disposed to question the existence in individuals, and even in families or stocks, of a relatively weak sexual impulse, which, while still enabling procreation to take place, is accompanied by no strong attraction to the opposite sex and no marked inclination for marriage. (Adler, op. cit., p. 168, found such a condition transmitted from mother to daughter.) Such persons often possess a delicate type of beauty. Even, however, when the health is good there seems usually to be a certain lack of vitality.

It seems to me that a state of sexual anesthesia, relative or absolute, cannot be considered as anything but abnormal. To take even the lowest ground, the satisfaction of the reproductive function ought to be at least as gratifying as the evacuation of the bowels or bladder; while, if we take, as we certainly must, higher ground than this, an act which is at once the supreme fact and symbol of love and the supreme creative act cannot under normal conditions be other than the most pleasurable of all acts, or it would stand in violent opposition to all that we find in nature.

How natural the sexual impulse is in women, whatever difficulties may arise in regard to its complete gratification, is clearly seen when we come to consider the frequency with which in young women we witness its more or less instinctive manifestations. Such manifestations are liable to occur in a specially marked manner in the years immediately following the establishment of puberty, and are the more impressive when we remember the comparatively passive part played by the female generally in the game of courtship, and the immense social force working on women to compel them to even an unnatural extension of that passive part. The manifestations to which I allude not only occur with most frequency in young girls, but, contrary to the common belief, they seem to occur chiefly in innocent and unperverted girls. The more vicious are skillful enough to avoid the necessity for any such open manifestations. We have to bear this in mind when confronted by flagrant sexual phenomena in young girls.

"A young girl," says Hammer ("Ueber die Sinnlichkeit gesunder Jungfrauen," Die Neue Generation, Aug., 1911), "who has not previously adopted any method of self-gratification experiences at the beginning of puberty, about the time of the first menstruation and the sprouting of the pubic hair, in the absence of all stimulation by a man, spontaneous sexual tendencies of both local and psychic nature. On the psychic side there is a feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction, a need of subjection and of serving, and, if the opportunity has so far been absent, the craving to see masculine nudity and to learn the facts of procreation. Side by side with these wishes, there are at the same time inhibitory desires, such as the wish to keep herself pure, either for a man whom she represents to herself as the 'ideal,' or for her parents, who must not be worried, or as a member of a chosen people in whose spirit she must live and die, or out of love to Jesus or to some saint. On the physical side, there is the feeling of fresh power and energy, of enterprise; the agreeable tension of the genital regions, which easily become moist. Then there is the feeling of overirritability and excess of tension, and the need of relieving the tension through pinches, blows, tight lacing, and so forth. If the girl remains innocent of sex satisfaction, there takes place during sleep, at regular intervals of about three days, more or less the relief and emission of the tense glands, not corresponding to the menstrual period, but to intercourse, and serving better than sexual instruction to represent to her the phenomena of intercourse. If at this period actual intercourse takes place, it is, as a rule, free from pain, as also is the introduction of the speculum. Without any seduction from without, the chaste girl now frequently finds a way to relieve the excessive tension without the aid of a man. It is self-abuse that leads gradually to the production of pain in defloration. The menstrual phenomena correspond to birth; self-gratification or relief during sleep to intercourse." This statement of the matter is somewhat too absolute and unqualified. Under the artificial conditions of civilization the inhibitory influences of training speedily work powerfully, and more or less successfully, in banishing sexual phenomena into the subconscious, sometimes to work all the mischief there which Freud attributes to them. It must also be said (as I have pointed out in the discussion of Auto-erotism in another volume) that sexual dreams seem to be the exception rather than the rule in innocent girls. It remains true that sexual phenomena in girls at puberty must not be regarded as morbid or unnatural. There is also very good reason for believing (even apart from the testimony of so experienced a gynecologist as Hammer) that on the physical side sexual processes tend to be accomplished with a facility that is often lost in later years with prolonged chastity. This is true alike of intercourse and of childbirth. (See vol. vi of these Studies, ch. xii.)

Even, however, in the case of adults the active part played by women in real life in matters of love by no means corresponds to the conventional ideas on these subjects. No doubt nearly every woman receives her sexual initiation from an older and more experienced man. But, on the other hand, nearly every man receives his first initiation through the active and designed steps taken by an older and more experienced woman. It is too often forgotten by those who write on these subjects that the man who seduces a woman has usually himself in the first place been "seduced" by a woman.

A well-known physician in Chicago tells me that on making inquiry of 25 middle-class married men in succession be found that 16 had been first seduced by a woman. An officer in the Indian Medical Service writes to me as follows: "Once at a club in Burma we were some 25 at table and the subject of first intercourse came up. All had been led astray by servants save 2, whom their sisters' governesses had initiated. We were all men in the 'service,' so the facts may be taken to be typical of what occurs in our stratum of society. All had had sexual relations with respectable unmarried girls, and most with the wives of men known to their fathers, in some instances these being old enough to be their lovers' mothers. Apparently up to the age of 17 none had dared to make the first advances, yet from the age of 13 onward all had had ample opportunity for gratifying their sexual instincts with women. Though all had been to public schools where homosexuality was known to occur, yet (as I can assert from intimate knowledge) none had given signs of inversion or perversion in Burma."

In Russia, Tchlenoff, investigating the sexual life of over 2000 Moscow students of upper and middle class (Archives d'Anthropologie Criminelle, Oct.-Nov., 1908), found that in half of them the first coitus took place between 14 and 17 years of age; in 41 per cent, with prostitutes, in 39 per cent, with servants, and in 10 per cent, with married women. In 41 per cent, the young man declared that he had taken the initiative, in 25 per cent, the women took it, and in 23 per cent, the incitement came from a comrade.

The histories I have recorded in Appendix B (as well as in the two following volumes of these Studies) very well illustrate the tendency of young girls to manifest sexual impulses when freed from the constraint which they feel in the presence of adult men and from the fear of consequences. These histories show especially how very frequently nurse-maids and servant-girls effect the sexual initiation of the young boys intrusted to them. How common this impulse is among adolescent girls of low social class is indicated by the fact that certainly the majority of middle-class men can recall instances from their own childhood. (I here leave out of account the widespread practice among nurses of soothing very young children in their charge by manipulating the sexual organs.)

A medical correspondent, in emphasizing this point, writes that "many boys will tell you that, if a nurse-girl is allowed to sleep in the same room with them, she will attempt sexual manipulations. Either the girl gets into bed with the boy and pulling him on to her tickles the penis and inserts it into the vulva, making the boy imitate sexual movements, or she simply masturbates the child, to get him excited and interested, often showing him the female sexual opening in herself or in his sisters, teaching him to finger it. In fact, a nurse-girl may ruin a boy, chiefly, I think, because she has been brought up to regard the sexual organs as a mystery, and is in utter ignorance about them. She thus takes the opportunity of investigating the boy's penis to find out how it works, etc., in order to satisfy her curiosity. I know of a case in which a nurse in a fashionable London Square garden used to collect all the boys and girls (gentlemen's children) in a summer-house when it grew dark, and, turning up her petticoats, invite all the boys to look at and feel her vulva, and also incite the older boys of 12 or 14 to have coitus with her. Girls are afraid of pregnancy, so do not allow an adult penis to operate. I think people should take on a far higher class of nurses, than they do."

"Children ought never to be allowed, under any circumstances whatever," wrote Lawson Tait (Diseases of Women, 1889, p. 62), "to sleep with servants. In every instance where I have found a number of children affected [by masturbation] the contagion has been traced to a servant." Freud has found (Neurologisches Centralblatt, No. 10, 1896) that in cases of severe youthful hysteria the starting point may frequently be traced to sexual manipulations by servants, nurse-girls, and governesses.

"When I was about 8 or 9," a friend writes, "a servant-maid of our family, who used to carry the candle out of my bedroom, often drew down the bedclothes and inspected my organs. One night she put the penis in her mouth. When I asked her why she did it her answer was that 'sucking a boy's little dangle' cured her of pains in her stomach. She said that she had done it to other little boys, and declared that she liked doing it. This girl was about 16; she had lately been 'converted.' Another maid in our family used to kiss me warmly on the naked abdomen when I was a small boy. But she never did more than that. I have heard of various instances of servant-girls tampering with boys before puberty, exciting the penis to premature erection by manipulation, suction, and contact with their own parts." Such overstimulation must necessarily in some cases have an injurious influence on the boy's immature nervous system. Thus, Hutchinson (Archives of Surgery, vol. iv, p. 200) describes a case of amblyopia in a boy, developing after he had been placed to sleep in a servant-girl's room.

Moll (Konträre Sexualempfindung, third edition, 1899, p. 325) refers to the frequency with which servant-girls (between the ages of 18 and 30) carry on sexual practices with young boys (between 5 and 13) committed to their care. More than a century earlier Tissot, in his famous work on onanism, referred to the frequency with which servant-girls corrupt boys by teaching them to masturbate; and still earlier, in England, the author of Onania gave many such cases. We may, indeed, go back to the time of Rabelais, who (as Dr. Kiernan reminds me) represents the governesses of Gargantua, when he was a child, as taking pleasure in playing with his penis till it became wet, and joking with each other about it. (Gargantua, book i, chapter ix.)

The prevalence of such manifestations among servant-girls witnesses to their prevalence among lower-class girls generally. In judging such acts, even when they seem to be very deliberate, it is important to remember that at this age unreasoning instinct plays a very large part in the manifestations of the sexual impulse. This is clearly indicated by the phenomena observed in the insane. Thus, as we have seen (page 214), Schröter has found that, among girls of low social class under 20 years of age, spontaneous periodical sexual manifestations at menstrual epochs occurred in as large a proportion as 72 per cent. Among girls of better social position these impulses are inhibited, or at all events modified, by good taste or good feeling, the influences of tradition or education; it is only to the latter that children should be intrusted.

Hoche mentions a case in which a man was accused of repeatedly exhibiting his sexual organs to the servant-girl at a house; she enjoyed the spectacle (Neurologisches Centralblatt, 1896, No. 2). It may well be that in some cases of self-exhibition the offender has good reason, on the ground of previous experience, for thinking that he is giving pleasure. "When we used to go to bathe while I was at school," writes a correspondent, "girls from a poor quarter of the lower town (some quite 16) often followed us and stood to watch about a hundred yards from the river. They used to 'giggle' and 'pass remarks.' I have seen girls of this class peeping through chinks of a palisade around a bathing-place on the Thames." A correspondent who has given special attention to the point tells me of the great interest displayed by young girls of the people in Italy in the sexual organs of men.

Curiosity—whether in the form of the desire for knowledge or the desire for sensation—is, of course, not confined to young girls and women of lower social strata, though in them it is less often restrained by motives of self-respect and good feeling. "At the age of 8," writes a correspondent, "I was one day playing in a spare room with a girl of about 12 or 13. She gave me a penholder, and, crouching upon her hands and knees, with her posterior toward me, invited me to introduce the instrument into the vulva. This was the first time I had seen the female parts, and, as I appeared to be somewhat repelled, she coaxed me to comply with her desire. I did as she directed, and she said that it gave her pleasure. Several times after I repeated the same act at her request. A friend tells me that when he was 10 a girl of 16 asked him to lace up her boots. While he was kneeling at her feet his hand touched her ankle. She asked him to put his hand higher, and repeated 'Higher, higher,' till he touched the pudenda, and finally, at her request, put his finger into the vestibule. This girl was very handsome and amiable, and a favorite of the boy's mother. No one suspected this propensity." Again, a correspondent (a man of science) tells me of a friend who lately, when dining out, met a girl, the daughter of a country vicar; he was not specially attracted to her and paid her no special attention. "A few days afterward he was astonished to receive a call from her one afternoon (though his address is not discoverable from any recognized source). She sat down as near to him as she could, and rested her hand on his thigh, etc., while talking on different subjects and drinking tea. Then without any verbal prelude she asked him to have connection with her. Though not exactly a Puritan, he is not the man to jump at such an offer from a woman he is not in love with, so, after ascertaining that the girl was virgo intacta, he declined and she went away. A fortnight or so later he received a letter from her in the country, making no reference to what had passed, but giving an account of her work with her Sunday-school class. He did not reply, and then came a curt note asking him to return her letter. My friend feels sure she was devoted to auto-erotic performances, but, having become attracted to him, came to the conclusion she would like to try normal intercourse."

Wolbarst, studying the prevalence of gonorrhea among boys in New York (especially, it would appear, in quarters where the foreign-born elements—mainly Russian Jew and south Italian—are large), states: "In my study of this subject there have been observed 3 cases of gonorrheal urethritis, in boys aged, respectively, 4, 10, and 12 years, which were acquired in the usual manner, from girls ranging between 10 and 12 years of age. In each case, according to the story told by the victim, the girl made the first advances, and in I case, that of the 4-year-old boy, the act was consummated in the form of an assault, by a girl 12 years old, in which the child was threatened with injury unless he performed his part." (A. L. Wolbarst, Journal of the American Medical Association, Sept. 28, 1901.) In a further series of cases (Medical Record, Oct. 29, 1910) Wolbarst obtained similar results, though he recognizes also the frequency of precocious sexuality in the young boys themselves.

Gibb states, concerning assaults on children by women: "It is undeniably true that they occur much more frequently than is generally supposed, although but few of the cases are brought to public notice, owing to the difficulty of proving the charge." (W. T. Gibb, article "Indecent Assaults upon Children," in A. McLane Hamilton's System of Legal Medicine, vol. i, p. 651.) Gibb's opinion carries weight, since he is medical adviser for the New York Society for the Protection of Children, and compelled to sift the evidence carefully in such cases.

It should be mentioned that, while a sexual curiosity exercised on younger children is, in girls about the age of puberty, an ill-regulated, but scarcely morbid, manifestation, in older women it may be of pathological origin. Thus, Kisch records the case of a refined and educated lady of 30 who had been married for nine years, but had never experienced sexual pleasure in coitus. For a long time past, however, she had felt a strong desire to play with the genital organs of children of either sex, a proceeding which gave her sexual pleasure. She sought to resist this impulse as much as possible, but during menstruation it was often irresistible. Examination showed an enlarged and retroflexed uterus and anesthesia of vagina. (Kisch, Die Sterilität des Weibes, 1886, p. 103.) The psychological mechanism by which an anesthetic vagina leads to a feeling of repulsion for normal coitus and normal sexual organs, and directs the sexual feelings toward more infantile forms of sexuality, is here not difficult to trace.

It is not often that the sexual attempts of girls and young women on boys—notwithstanding their undoubted frequency—become of medico-legal interest. In France in the course of ten years (1874 to 1884) only 181 women, who were mostly between 20 and 30 years of age, were actually convicted of sexual attempts on children below 15. (Paul Bernard, "Viols et attentats a la Pudeur," Archives de l'Anthropologie Criminelle, 1887.) Lop ("Attentats à la Pudeur commis par des Femmes sur des Petits Enfants," id., Aug., 1896) brings together a number of cases chiefly committed by girls between the ages of 18 and 20. In England such accusations against a young woman or girl may easily be circumvented. If she is under 16 she is protected by the Criminal Law Amendment Act and cannot be punished. In any case, when found out, she can always easily bring the sympathy to her side by declaring that she is not the aggressor, but the victim. Cases of violent sexual assault upon girls, Lawson Tait remarks, while they undoubtedly do occur, are very much rarer than the frequency with which the charge is made would lead us to suspect. At one time, by arrangement with the authority, 70 such charges at Birmingham were consecutively brought before Lawson Tait. These charges were all made under the Criminal Law Amendment Act. In only 6 of these cases was he able to advise prosecution, in all of which cases conviction was obtained. In 7 other cases in which the police decided to prosecute there was either no conviction or a very light sentence. In at least 26 cases the charge was clearly trumped up. The average age of these girls was 12. "There is not a piece of sexual argot that ever had before reached my ears," remarks Mr. Tait, "but was used by these children in the descriptions given by them of what had been done to them; and they introduced, in addition, quite a new vocabulary on the subject. The minute and detailed descriptions of the sexual act given by chits of 10 and 11 would do credit to the pages of Mirabeau. At first sight it is a puzzle to see how children so young obtained their information." "About the use of the word 'seduced,'" the same writer remarks, "I wish to say that the class of women from amongst whom the great bulk of these cases are drawn seem to use it in a sense altogether different from that generally employed. It is not with them a process in which male villainy succeeds by various arts in overcoming female virtue and reluctance, but simply a date at which an incident in their lives occurs for the first time; and, according to their use of the phrase, the ancient legend of the Sacred Scriptures, had it ended in the more ordinary and usual way by the virtue of Joseph yielding to the temptation offered, would have to read as a record of the seduction of Mrs. Potiphar."

With reference to Lawson Tait's observation that violent assaults on women, while they do occur, are very much rarer than the frequency with which such charges are made would lead us to believe, it may be remarked that many medico-legal authorities are of the same opinion. (See, e.g., G. Vivian Poore's Treatise on Medical Jurisprudence, 1901, p. 325. This writer also remarks: "I hold very strongly that a woman may rape a man as much as a man may rape a woman.") There can be little doubt that the plea of force is very frequently seized on by women as the easiest available weapon of defense when her connection with a man has been revealed. She has been so permeated by the current notion that no "respectable" woman can possibly have any sexual impulses of her own to gratify that, in order to screen what she feels to be regarded as an utterly shameful and wicked, as well as foolish, act, she declares it never took place by her own will at all. "Now, I ask you, gentlemen," I once heard an experienced counsel address the jury in a criminal case, "as men of the world, have you ever known or heard of a woman, a single woman, confess that she had had sexual connection and not declare that force had been used to compel her to such connection?" The statement is a little sweeping, but in this matter there is some element of truth in the "man of the world's" opinion. One may refer to the story (told by Etienne de Bourbon, by Francisco de Osuna in a religious work, and by Cervantes in Don Quixote, part ii, ch. xlv) concerning a magistrate who, when a girl came before him to complain of rape, ordered the accused young man either to marry her or pay her a sum of money. The fine was paid, and the magistrate then told the man to follow the girl and take the money from her by force; the man obeyed, but the girl defended herself so energetically that he could not secure the money. Then the judge, calling the parties before him again, ordered the fine to be returned: "Had you defended your chastity as well as you have defended your money it could not have been taken away from you." In most cases of "rape," in the case of adults, there has probably been some degree of consent, though that partial assent may have been basely secured by an appeal to the lower nervous centers alone, with no participation of the intelligence and will. Freud (Zur Psychopathologie des Alltagslebens, p. 87) considers that on this ground the judge's decision in Don Quixote is "psychologically unjust," because in such a case the woman's strength is paralyzed by the fact that an unconscious instinct in herself takes her assailant's part against her own conscious resistance. But it must be remembered that the factor of instinct plays a large part even when no violence is attempted.

Such facts and considerations as these tend to show that the sexual impulse is by no means so weak in women as many would lead us to think. It would appear that, whereas in earlier ages there was generally a tendency to credit women with an unduly large share of the sexual impulse, there is now a tendency to unduly minimize the sexual impulse in women.

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