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Sexual Selection in Man

of definite scientific results. However it may be in the physical
universe, in the cosmos of science our knowledge must be nebulous before
it constellates into definitely measurable shapes, and nothing is gained
by attempting to anticipate the evolutionary process. Thus it is that
here, for the most part, we have to content ourselves at present with the
task of mapping out the field in broad and general outlines, bringing
together the facts and considerations which indicate the direction in
which more extended and precise results will in the future be probably
found.
In his famous _Descent of Man_, wherein he first set forth the doctrine of
sexual selection, Darwin injured an essentially sound principle by
introducing into it a psychological confusion whereby the physiological
sensory stimuli through which sexual selection operates were regarded as
equivalent to æsthetic preferences. This confusion misled many, and it is
only within recent years (as has been set forth in the "Analysis of the
Sexual Impulse" in the previous volume of these _Studies_) that the
investigations and criticisms of numerous workers have placed the doctrine
of sexual selection on a firm basis by eliminating its hazardous æsthetic
element. Love springs up as a response to a number of stimuli to
tumescence, the object that most adequately arouses tumescence being that
which evokes love; the question of æsthetic beauty, although it develops
on this basis, is not itself fundamental and need not even be consciously
present at all. When we look at these phenomena in their broadest
biological aspects, love is only to a limited extent a response to beauty;
to a greater extent beauty is simply a name for the complexus of stimuli
which most adequately arouses love. If we analyze these stimuli to
tumescence as they proceed from a person of the opposite sex we find that
they are all appeals which must come through the channels of four senses:
touch, smell, hearing, and, above all, vision. When a man or a woman
experiences sexual love for one particular person from among the multitude
by which he or she is surrounded, this is due to the influences of a group
of stimuli coming through the channels of one or more of these senses.
There has been a sexual selection conditioned by sensory stimuli. This is
true even of the finer and more spiritual influences that proceed from one
person to another, although, in order to grasp the phenomena adequately,
it is best to insist on the more fundamental and less complex forms which
they assume. In this sense sexual selection is no longer a hypothesis
concerning the truth of which it is possible to dispute; it is a
self-evident fact. The difficulty is not as to its existence, but as to
the methods by which it may be most precisely measured. It is
fundamentally a psychological process, and should be approached from the
psychological side. This is the reason for dealing with it here. Obscure
as the psychological aspects of sexual selection still remain, they are
full of fascination, for they reveal to us the more intimate sides of
human evolution, of the process whereby man is molded into the shapes we
know.
HAVELOCK ELLIS.
Carbis Water,
Lelant, Cornwall, England.
CONTENTS.
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