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Studies in the Psychology of Sex-Auto-Eroticism


leave the sexual instincts alone, to grow up and develop in the shy solitude they
love, and they will be sure to grow up and develop wholesomely. But, as a matter of
fact, that is precisely what we can not and will not ever allo w them to do. There are
very few middle-aged men and women who can clearly recall the facts of their lives
and tell you in all honesty that their sexual instincts have developed easily and
wholesomely throughout. And it should not be difficult to see why this is so. Let my
friends try to transfer their feelings and theories from the reproductive region to, let
us say, the nutritive region, the only other which can be compared to it for
importance. Suppose that eating and drinking was never spoken of openly, save in
veiled or poetic language, and that no one ever ate food publicly, because it was
considered immoral and immodest to reveal the mysteries of this natural function.
We know what would occur. A considerable proportion of the community, more
especially the more youthful members, possessed by an instinctive and legitimate
curiosity, would concentrate their thoughts on the subject. They would have so
many problems to puzzle over: How often ought I to eat? What ought I to eat? Is it
wrong to eat fruit, which I like? Ought I to eat grass, which I don't like? Instinct
notwithstanding, we may be quite sure that only a small minority would succeed in
eating reasonably and wholesomely. The sexual secrecy of life is even more
disastrous than such a nutritive secrecy would be; partly because we expend such a
wealth of moral energy in directing or misdirecting it, partly because the sexual
impulse normally develops at the same time as the intellectual impulse, not in the
early years of life, when wholesome instinctive habits might be formed. And there is
always some ignorant and foolish friend who is prepared still further to muddle
things: Eat a meal every other day! Eat twelve meals a day! Never eat fruit! Always
eat grass! The advice emphatically given in sexual matters is usually not less absurd
than this. When, however, the matter is fully open, the problems of food are not
indeed wholly solved, but everyone is enabled by the experience of his fellows to
reach some sort of situation suited to his own case. And when the rigid secrecy is
once swept away a sane and natural reticence becomes for the first time possible.
This secrecy has not always been maintained. When the Catholic Church was at the
summit of its power and influence it fully realized the magnitude o f sexual problems
and took an active and inquiring interest in all the details of normal and abnormal
sexuality. Even to the present time there are certain phenomena of the sexual life
which have scarcely been accurately described except in ancient theolog ical
treatises. As the type of such treatises I will mention the great tome of Sanchez, De
Matrimonio. Here you will find the whole sexual life of men and women analyzed in
its relationships to sin. Everything is set forth, as clearly and as concisely as it can
be—without morbid prudery on the one hand, or morbid sentimentality on the
other—in the coldest scientific language; the right course of action is pointed out for
all the cases that may occur, and we are told what is lawful, what a venial sin, what a
mortal sin. Now I do not consider that sexual matters concern the theologian alone,
and I deny altogether that he is competent to deal with them. In his hands, also,
undoubtedly, they sometimes become prurient, as they can scarcely fail to become
on the non-natural and unwholesome basis of asceticism, and as they with difficulty
become in the open-air light of science. But we are bound to recognize the
thoroughness with which the Catholic theologians dealt with these matters, and,
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