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The Evolution of Modesty: The Phenomena of SexualPeriodicity


be found, retort with another word: reticence. It is a mistake, they
say, to try to uncover these things; 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 allow 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
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