Sexual Selection in Man by Havellock Ellis - HTML preview
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At the outset, nevertheless, it seems desirable that we should at least have some conception of the special characteristics which mark the great and varied mass of sensations reaching the brain through the channel of the olfactory organ. The main special character of olfactory images seems to be conditioned by the fact that they are intermediate in character between those of touch or taste and those of sight or sound, that they have much of the vagueness of the first and something of the richness and variety of the second. Æsthetically, also, they occupy an intermediate position between the higher and the lower senses. They are, at the same time, less practically useful than either the lower or the higher senses. They furnish us with a great mass of what we may call by-sensations, which are of little practical use, but inevitably become intimately mixed with the experiences of life by association and thus acquire an emotional significance which is often very considerable. Their emotional force, it may well be, is connected with the fact that their anatomical seat is the most ancient part of the brain. They lie in a remote almost disused storehouse of our minds and show the fascination or the repulsiveness of all vague and remote things. It is for this reason that they are--to an extent that is remarkable when we consider that they are much more precise than touch sensations--subject to the influence of emotional associations. The very same odor may be at one moment highly pleasant, at the next moment highly unpleasant, in accordance with the emotional attitude resulting from its associations. Visual images have no such extreme flexibility; they are too definite to be so easily influenced. Our feelings about the beauty of a flower cannot oscillate so easily or so far as may our feelings about the agreeableness of its odor.
Our olfactory experiences thus institute a more or less continuous series of by-sensations accompanying us through life, of no great practical significance, but of considerable emotional significance from their variety, their intimacy, their associational facility, their remote ancestral reverberations through our brains.
It is the existence of these characteristics--at once so vague and so specific, so useless and so intimate--which led various writers to describe the sense of smell as, above all others, the sense of imagination. No sense has so strong a power of suggestion, the power of calling up ancient memories with a wider and deeper emotional reverberation, while at the same time no sense furnishes impressions which so easily change emotional color and tone, in harmony with the recipient's general attitude. Odors are thus specially apt both to control the emotional life and to become its slaves. With the use of incense religions have utilized the imaginative and symbolical virtues of fragrance. All the legends of the saints have insisted on the odor of sanctity that exhales from the bodies of holy persons, especially at the moment of death. Under the conditions of civilization these primitive emotional associations of odor tend to be dispersed, but, on the other hand, the imaginative side of the olfactory sense becomes accentuated, and personal idiosyncrasies of all kinds tend to manifest themselves in the sphere of smell.
Rousseau (in _Emile_, Bk. II) regarded smell as the sense of the imagination. So, also, at an earlier period, it was termed (according to Cloquet) by Cardano. Cloquet frequently insisted on the qualities of odors which cause them to appeal to the imagination; on their irregular and inconstant character; on their power of intoxicating the mind on some occasions; on the curious individual and racial preferences in the matter of odors.
He remarked on the fact that the Persians employed asafoetida as a seasoning, while valerian was accounted a perfume in antiquity.
(Cloquet, _Osphrésiologie_, pp. 28, 45, 71, 112.) It may be added, as a curious example familiar to most people of the dependence of the emotional tone of a smell on its associations, that, while the exhalations of other people's bodies are ordinarily disagreeable to us, such is not the case with our own; this is expressed in the crude and vigorous dictum of the Elizabethan poet, Marston, "Every man's dung smell sweet i' his own nose." There are doubtless many implications, moral as well as psychological, in that statement.
The modern authorities on olfaction, Passy and Zwaardemaker, both alike insist on the same characteristics of the sense of smell: its extreme acuity and yet its vagueness. "We live in a world of odor," Zwaardemaker remarks (_L'Année Psychologique_, 1898, p.
203), "as we live in a world of light and of sound. But smell yields us no distinct ideas grouped in regular order, still less that are fixed in the memory as a grammatical discipline.
Olfactory sensations awake vague and half-understood perceptions, which are accompanied by very strong emotion. The emotion dominates us, but the sensation which was the cause of it remains unperceived." Even in the same individual there are wide variations in the sensitiveness to odors at different times, more especially as regards faint odors; Passy (_L'Année Psychologique_, 1895, p. 387) brings forward some observations on this point.
Maudsley noted the peculiarly suggestive power of odors; "there are certain smells," he remarked, "which never fail to bring back to me instantly and visibly scenes of my boyhood"; many of us could probably say the same. Another writer (E. Dillon, "A Neglected Sense," _Nineteenth Century_, April, 1894) remarks that
"no sense has a stronger power of suggestion."
Ribot has made an interesting investigation as to the prevalence and nature of the emotional memory of odors (_Psychology of the Emotions_, Chapter XI). By "emotional memory" is meant the spontaneous or voluntary revivability of the image, olfactory or other. (For the general question, see an article by F. Pillon,
"La Mémoire Affective, son Importance Théorique et Pratique,"
_Revue Philosophique_, February, 1901; also Paulhan, "Sur la Mémoire Affective," _Revue Philosophique_, December, 1902 and January, 1903.) Ribot found that 40 per cent. of persons are unable to revive any such images of taste or smell; 48 per cent, could revive some; 12 per cent, declared themselves capable of reviving all, or nearly all, at pleasure. In some persons there is no necessary accompanying revival of visual or tactile representations, but in the majority the revived odor ultimately excites a corresponding visual image. The odors most frequently recalled were pinks, musk, violets, heliotrope, carbolic acid, the smell of the country, of grass, etc. Piéron (_Revue Philosophique_, December, 1902) has described the special power possessed by vague odors, in his own case, of evoking ancient impressions.
Dr. J.N. Mackenzie (_American Journal of the Medical Sciences_, January, 1886) considers that civilization exerts an influence in heightening or encouraging the influence of olfaction as it affects our emotions and judgment, and that, in the same way, as we ascend the social scale the more readily our minds are influenced and perhaps perverted by impressions received through the sense of smell.
Odors are powerful stimulants to the whole nervous system, causing, like other stimulants, an increase of energy which, if excessive or prolonged, leads to nervous exhaustion. Thus, it is well recognized in medicine that the aromatics containing volatile oils (such as anise, cinnamon, cardamoms, cloves, coriander, and peppermint) are antispasmodics and anæsthetics, and that they stimulate digestion, circulation, and the nervous system, in large doses producing depression. The carefully arranged plethysmographic experiments of Shields, at the Johns Hopkins University, have shown that olfactory sensations, by their action on the vasomotor system, cause an increase of blood in the brain and sometimes in addition stimulation of the heart; musk, wintergreen, wood violet, and especially heliotrope were found to act strongly in these ways.
Féré's experiments with the dynamometer and the ergograph have greatly contributed to illustrate the stimulating effects of odors. Thus, he found that smelling musk suffices to double muscular effort. With a number of odorous substances he has found that muscular work is temporarily heightened; when taste stimulation was added the increase of energy, notably when using lemon was "colossal." A kind of "sensorial intoxication" could be produced by the inhalation of odors and the whole system stimulated to greater activity; the visual acuity was increased, and electric and general excitability heightened. Such effects may be obtained in perfectly healthy persons, though both Shields and Féré have found that in highly nervous persons the effects are liable to be much greater. It is doubtless on this account that it is among civilized peoples that attention is chiefly directed to perfumes, and that under the conditions of modern life the interest in olfaction and its study has been revived.
It is the genuinely stimulant qualities of odorous substances which led to the widespread use of the more potent among them by ancient physicians, and has led a few modern physicians to employ them still. Thus, vanilla, according to Eloy, deserves to be much more frequently used therapeutically than it is, on account of its excitomotor properties; he states that its qualities as an excitant of sexual desire have long been recognized and that Fonssagrives used to prescribe it for sexual frigidity.
 The opinions of psychologists concerning the æsthetic significance of smell, not on the whole very favorable, are brought together and discussed by J.V. Volkelt, "Der Æsthetische Wert der niederen Sinne," _Zeitschrift für Psychologie und Physiologie der Sinnesorgane_, 1902, ht. 3.
 T.E. Shields, "The Effect of Odors, etc., upon the Blood-flow,"
_Journal of Experimental Medicine_, vol. i, November, 1896. In France, O.
Henry and Tardif have made somewhat similar experiments on respiration and circulation. See the latter's _Les Odeurs et les Parfums_, Chapter III.
 Féré, _Sensation et Mouvement_, Chapter VI; ib., _Comptes Rendus de la Société de Biologie_, November 3, December 15 and 22, 1900.
 Eloy, art. "Vanille," _Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Sciences Médicales_.
The Specific Body Odors of Various Peoples--The Negro, etc.--The European--The Ability to Distinguish Individuals by Smell--The Odor of Sanctity--The Odor of Death--The Odors of Different Parts of the Body--The Appearance of Specific Odors at Puberty--The Odors of Sexual Excitement--The Odors of Menstruation--Body Odors as a Secondary Sexual Character--The Custom of Salutation by Smell--The Kiss--Sexual Selection by Smell--The Alleged Association between Size of Nose and Sexual Vigor--The Probably Intimate Relationship between the Olfactory and Genital Spheres--Reflex Influences from the Nose--Reflex Influences from the Genital Sphere--Olfactory Hallucinations in Insanity as Related to Sexual States--The Olfactive Type--The Sense of Smell in Neurasthenic and Allied States--In Certain Poets and Novelists--Olfactory Fetichism--The Part Played by Olfaction in Normal Sexual Attraction--In the East, etc.--In Modern Europe--The Odor of the Armpit and its Variations--As a Sexual and General Stimulant--Body Odors in Civilization Tend to Cause Sexual Antipathy unless some Degree of Tumescence is Already Present--The Question whether Men or Women are more Liable to Feel Olfactory Influences--Women Usually more Attentive to Odors--The Special Interest in Odors Felt by Sexual Inverts.
In approaching the specifically sexual aspect of odor in the human species we may start from the fundamental fact--a fact we seek so far as possible to disguise in our ordinary social relations--that all men and women are odorous. This is marked among all races. The powerful odor of many, though not all, negroes is well known; it is by no means due to uncleanly habits, and Joest remarks that it is even increased by cleanliness, which opens the pores of the skin; according to Sir H. Johnston, it is most marked in the armpits and is stronger in men than in women. Pruner Bey describes it as "ammoniacal and rancid; it is like the odor of the he-goat." The odor varies not only individually, but according to the tribe; Castellani states that the negress of the Congo has merely a slight "_goût de noisette_" which is agreeable rather than otherwise. Monbuttu women, according to Parke, have a strong Gorgonzola perfume, and Emin told Parke that he could distinguish the members of different tribes by their characteristic odor. In the same way the Nicobarese, according to Man, can distinguish a member of each of the six tribes of the archipelago by smell. The odor of Australian blacks is less strong than that of negroes and has been described as of a phosphoric character. The South American Indians, d'Orbigny stated, have an odor stronger than that of Europeans, though not as strong as most negroes; it is marked, Latcham states, even among those who, like the Araucanos, bathe constantly. The Chinese have a musky odor. The odor of many peoples is described as being of garlic.
A South Sea Islander, we are told by Charles de Varigny, on coming to Sydney and seeing the ladies walking about the streets and apparently doing nothing, expressed much astonishment, adding, with a gesture of contempt, "and they have no smell!" It is by no means true, however, that Europeans are odorless. They are, indeed, considerably more odorous than are many other races,--for instance, the Japanese,--and there is doubtless some association between the greater hairiness of Europeans and their marked odor, since the sebaceous glands are part of the hair apparatus. A Japanese anthropologist, Adachi, has published an interesting study on the odor of Europeans, which he describes as a strong and pungent smell,--sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter,--of varying strength in different individuals, absent in children and the aged, and having its chief focus in the armpits, which, however carefully they are washed, immediately become odorous again. Adachi has found that the sweat-glands are larger in Europeans than in the Japanese, among whom a strong personal odor is so uncommon that "armpit stink" is a disqualification for the army. It is certainly true that the white races smell less strongly than most of the dark races, odor seeming to be correlated to some extent with intensity of pigmentation, as well as with hairiness; but even the most scrupulously clean Europeans all smell. This fact may not always be obvious to human nostrils, apart from intimate contact, but it is well known to dogs, to whom their masters are recognizable by smell. When Hue traveled in Tibet in Chinese disguise he was not detected by the natives, but the dogs recognized him as a foreigner by his smell and barked at him.
Many Chinese can tell by smell when a European has been in a room.
There are, however, some Europeans who can recognize and distinguish their friends by smell. The case has been recorded of a man who with bandaged eyes could recognize his acquaintances, at the distance of several paces, the moment they entered the room. In another case a deaf and blind mute woman in Massachusetts knew all her acquaintances by smell, and could sort linen after it came from the wash by the odor alone. Governesses have been known to be able when blindfolded to recognize the ownership of their pupil's garments by smell; such a case is known to me. Such odor is usually described as being agreeable, but not one person in fifty, it is stated, is able to distinguish it with sufficient precision to use it as a method of recognition. Among some races, however this aptitude would appear to be better developed. Dr. C.S. Myers at Sarawak noted that his Malay boy sorted the clean linen according to the skin-odor of the wearer. Chinese servants are said to do the same, as well as Australians and natives of Luzon.
Although the distinctively individual odor of most persons is not sufficiently marked to be generally perceptible, there are cases in which it is more distinct to all nostrils. The most famous case of this kind is that of Alexander the Great, who, according to Plutarch, exhaled so sweet an odor that his tunics were soaked with aromatic perfume (_Convivalium Disputationum_, lib. I, quest. 6). Malherbe, Cujas, and Haller are said to have diffused a musky odor. The agreeable odor of Walt Whitman has been remarked by Kennedy and others. The perfume exhaled by many holy men and women, so often noted by ancient writers (discussed by Görres in the second volume of his _Christliche Mystik_) and which has entered into current phraseology as a merely metaphorical "odor of sanctity," was doubtless due, as Hammond first pointed out, to abnormal nervous conditions, for it is well known that such conditions affect the odor, and in insanity, for instance, the presence is noted of bodily odors which have sometimes even been considered of diagnostic importance. J.B.
Friedreich, _Allgemeine Diagnostik der Psychischen Krankheiten_, second edition, 1832, pp. 9-10, quotes passages from various authors on this point, which he accepts; various writers of more recent date have made similar observations.
The odor of sanctity was specially noted at death, and was doubtless confused with the _odor mortis_, which frequently precedes death and by some is regarded as an almost certain indication of its approach. In the _British Medical Journal_, for May and June, 1898, will be found letters from several correspondents substantiating this point. One of these correspondents (Dr. Tuckey, of Tywardwreath, Cornwall) mentions that he has in Cornwall often seen ravens flying over houses in which persons lay dying, evidently attracted by a characteristic odor.
It must be borne in mind, however, that, while every person has, to a sensitive nose, a distinguishing odor, we must regard that odor either as but one of the various sensations given off by the body, or else as a combination of two or more of these emanations. The body in reality gives off a number of different odors. The most important of these are: (1) the general skin odor, a faint, but agreeable, fragrance often to be detected on the skin even immediately after washing; (2) the smell of the hair and scalp; (3) the odor of the breath; (4) the odor of the armpit; (5) the odor of the feet; (6) the perineal odor; (7) in men the odor of the preputial smegma; (8) in women the odor of the mons veneris, that of vulvar smegma, that of vaginal mucus, and the menstrual odor. All these are odors which may usually be detected, though sometimes only in a very faint degree, in healthy and well-washed persons under normal conditions.
It is unnecessary here to take into account the special odors of various secretions and excretions.
It is a significant fact, both as regards the ancestral sexual connections of the body odors and their actual sexual associations to-day, that, as Hippocrates long ago noted, it is not until puberty that they assume their adult characteristics. The infant, the adult, the aged person, each has his own kind of smell, and, as Monin remarks, it might be possible, within certain limits, to discover the age of a person by his odor. Jorg in 1832
pointed out that in girls the appearance of a specific smell of the excreta indicates the establishment of puberty, and Kaan, in his _Psychopathia Sexualis_, remarked that at puberty "the sweat gives out a more acrid odor resembling musk." In both sexes puberty, adolescence, early manhood and womanhood are marked by a gradual development of the adult odor of skin and excreta, in general harmony with the secondary sexual development of hair and pigment. Venturi, indeed, has, not without reason, described the odor of the body as a secondary sexual character. It may be added that, as is the case with the pigment in various parts of the body in women, some of these odors tend to become exaggerated in sympathy with sexual and other emotional states.
The odor of the infant is said to be of butyric acid; that of old people to resemble dry leaves. Continent young men have been said by many ancient writers to smell more strongly than the unchaste, and some writers have described as "seminal odor"--an odor resembling that of animals in heat, faintly recalling that of the he-goat, according to Venturi--the exhalations of the skin at such times.
During sexual excitement, as women can testify, a man very frequently, if not normally, gives out an odor which, as usually described, proceeds from the skin, the breath, or both. Grimaldi states that it is as of rancid butter; others say it resembles chloroform. It is said to be sometimes perceptible for a distance of several feet and to last for several hours after coitus.
(Various quotations are given by Gould and Pyle, _Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine_, section on "Human Odors," pp. 397-403.) St. Philip Neri is said to have been able to recognize a chaste man by smell.
During menstruation girls and young women frequently give off an odor which is quite distinct from that of the menstrual fluid, and is specially marked in the breath, which may smell of chloroform or violets. Pouchet (confirmed by Raciborski, _Traité de la Menstruation_, 1868, p. 74) stated that about a day before the onset of menstruation a characteristic smell is exuded.
Menstruating girls are also said sometimes to give off a smell of leather. Aubert, of Lyons (as quoted by Galopin), describes the odor of the skin of a woman during menstruation as an agreeable aromatic or acidulous perfume of chloroform character. By some this is described as emanating especially from the armpits.
Sandras (quoted by Raciborski) knew a lady who could always tell by a sensation of faintness and _malaise_--apparently due to a sensation of smell--when she was in contact with a menstruating woman. I am acquainted with a man, having strong olfactory sympathies and antipathies, who detects the presence of menstruation by smell. It is said that Hortense Baré, who accompanied her lover, the botanist Commerson, to the Pacific disguised as a man, was recognized by the natives as a woman by means of smell.
Women, like men, frequently give out an odor during coitus or strong sexual excitement. This odor may be entirely different from that normally emanating from the woman, of an acid or hircine character, and sufficiently strong to remain in a room for a considerable period. Many of the ancient medical writers (as quoted by Schurigius, _Parthenologia_, p. 286) described the goaty smell produced by venery, especially in women; they regarded it as specially marked in harlots and in the newly married, and sometimes even considered it a certain sign of defloration. The case has been recorded of a woman who emitted a rose odor for two days after coitus (McBride, quoted by Kiernan in an interesting summary, "Odor in Pathology," _Doctor's Magazine_, December, 1900). There was, it is said (_Journal des Savans_ 1684, p. 39, quoting from the _Journal d'Angleterre_) a monk in Prague who could recognize by smell the chastity of the women who approached him. (This monk, it is added, when he died, was composing a new science of odors.)
Gustav Klein (as quoted by Adler, _Die Mangelhafte Geschlechtsempfindungen des Weibes_, p. 25) argues that the special function of the glands at the vulvar orifice--the _glandulæ vestibulares majores_--is to give out an odorous secretion to act as an attraction to the male, this relic of sexual periodicity no longer, however, playing an important part in the human species. The vulvar secretion, however, it may be added, still has a more aromatic odor than the vaginal secretion, with its simple mucous odor, very clearly perceived during parturition.
It may be added that we still know extremely little concerning the sexual odors of women among primitive peoples. Ploss and Bartels are only able to bring forward (_Das Weib_, 1901, bd. 1, p. 218) a statement concerning the women of New Caledonia, who, according to Moncelon, when young and ardent, give out during coitus a powerful odor which no ablution will remove. In abnormal states of sexual excitement such odor may be persistent, and, according to an ancient observation, a nymphomaniac, whose periods of sexual excitement lasted all through the spring-time, at these periods always emitted a goatlike odor. It has been said (G. Tourdes, art. "Aphrodisie," _Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Sciences Médicales_) that the erotic temperament is characterized by a special odor.
If the body odors tend to develop at puberty, to be maintained during sexual life, especially in sympathy with conditions of sexual disturbance, and to become diminished in old age, being thus a kind of secondary sexual character, we should expect them to be less marked in those cases in which the primary sexual characters are less marked. It is possible that this is actually the case. Hagen, in his _Sexuelle Osphrésiologie_, quotes from Roubaud's _Traité de l'Impuissance_ the statement that the body odor of the castrated differs from that of normal individuals. Burdach had previously stated that the odor of the eunuch is less marked than that of the normal man.
It is thus possible that defective sexual development tends to be associated with corresponding olfactory defect. Heschl has reported a case in which absence of both olfactory nerves coincided with defective development of the sexual organs. Féré remarks that the impotent show a repugnance for sexual odors. Dr. Kiernan informs me that in women after oöphorectomy he has noted a tendency to diminished (and occasionally increased) sense of smell. These questions, however, await more careful and extended observation.
A very significant transition from the phenomena of personal odor to those of sexual attraction by personal odor is to be found in the fact that among the peoples inhabiting a large part of the world's surface the ordinary salutation between friends is by mutual smelling of the person.
In some form or another the method of salutation by applying the nose to the nose, face, or hand of a friend in greeting is found throughout a large part of the Pacific, among the Papuans, the Eskimo, the hill tribes of India, in Africa, and elsewhere. Thus, among a certain hill tribe in India, according to Lewin, they smell a friend's cheek: "in their language, they do not say, 'Give me a kiss,' but they say 'Smell me.'" And on the Gambia, according to F. Moore, "When the men salute the women, they, instead of shaking their hands, put it up to their noses, and smell twice to the back of it." Here we have very clearly a recognition of the emotional value of personal odor widely prevailing throughout the world.
The salutation on an olfactory basis may, indeed, be said to be more general than the salutation on a tactile basis on which European handshaking rests, each form involving one of the two most intimate and emotional senses. The kiss may be said to be a development proceeding both from the olfactory and the tactile bases, with perhaps some other elements as well, and is too complex to be regarded as a phenomenon of either purely tactile or purely olfactory origin.
As the sole factor in sexual selection olfaction must be rare. It is said that Asiatic princes have sometimes caused a number of the ladies to race in the seraglio garden until they were heated; their garments have then been brought to the prince, who has selected one of them solely by the odor. There was here a sexual selection mainly by odor. Any exclusive efficacy of the olfactory sense is rare, not so much because the impressions of this sense are inoperative, but because agreeable personal odors are not sufficiently powerful, and the olfactory organ is too obtuse, to enable smell to take precedence of sight. Nevertheless, in many people, it is probable that certain odors, especially those that are correlated with a healthy and sexually desirable person, tend to be agreeable; they are fortified by their association with the loved person, sometimes to an irresistible degree; and their potency is doubtless increased by the fact, to which reference has already been made, that many odors, including some bodily odors, are nervous stimulants.
It is possible that the sexual associations of odors have been still further fortified by a tendency to correlation between a high development of the olfactory organ and a high development of the sexual apparatus. An association between a large nose and a large male organ is a very ancient observation and has been verified occasionally in recent times. There is normally at puberty a great increase in the septum of the nose, and it is quite conceivable, in view of the sympathy, which, as we shall see, certainly exists between the olfactory and sexual region, that the two regions may develop together under a common influence.
The Romans firmly believed in the connection between a large nose and a large penis. "Noscitur e naso quanta sit hasta viro,"
stated Ovid. This belief continued to prevail, especially in Italy, through the middle ages; the physiognomists made much of it, and licentious women (like Joanna of Naples) were, it appears, accustomed to bear it in mind, although disappointment is recorded often to have followed. (See e.g., the quotations and references given by J.N. Mackenzie, "Physiological and Pathological Relations between the Nose and the Sexual Apparatus in Man." _Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin_, No. 82, January, 1898; also Hagen, _Sexuelle Osphrésiologie_, pp. 15-19.) A similar belief as to the association between the sexual impulse in women and a long nose was evidently common in England in the sixteenth century, for in Massinger's _Emperor of the East_ (Act II, Scene I) we read,
"Her nose, which by its length assures me Of storms at midnight if I fail to pay her
The tribute she expects."
At the present day, a proverb of the Venetian people still embodies the belief in the connection between a large nose and a large sexual member.
The probability that such an association tends in many cases to prevail is indicated not only by the beliefs of antiquity, when more careful attention was paid to these matters, but by the testimony of various modern observers, although it does not appear that any series of exact observations have yet been made.
It may be noted that Marro, in his careful anthropological study of criminals (_I Caratteri dei Delinquenti_), found no class of criminals with so large a proportion alike of anomalies of the nose and anomalies of the genital organs as sexual offenders.
However this may be, it is less doubtful that there is a very intimate relation both in men and women between the olfactory mucous membrane of the nose and the whole genital apparatus, that they frequently show a sympathetic action, that influences acting on the genital sphere will affect the nose, and occasionally, it is probable, influences acting on the nose reflexly affect the genital sphere. To discuss these relationships would here be out of place, since specialists are not altogether in agreement concerning the matter. A few are inclined to regard the association as extremely intimate, so that each region is sensitive even to slight stimuli applied to the other region, while, on the other hand, many authorities ignore altogether the question of the relationship. It would appear, however, that there really is, in a considerable number of people at all events, a reflex connection of this kind. It has especially been noted that in many cases congestion of the nose precedes menstruation.
Bleeding of the nose is specially apt to occur at puberty and during adolescence, while in women it may take the place of menstruation and is sometimes more apt to occur at the menstrual periods; disorders of the nose have also been found to be aggravated at these periods. It has even been possible to control bleeding of the nose, both in men and women, by applying ice to the sexual regions. In both men and women, again, cases have been recorded in which sexual excitement, whether of coitus or masturbation, has been followed by bleeding of the nose. In numerous cases it is followed by slight congestive conditions of the nasal passages and especially by sneezing. Various authors have referred to this phenomenon; I am acquainted with a lady in whom it is fairly constant. Féré records the case of a lady, a nervous subject, who began to experience intense spontaneous sexual excitement shortly after marriage, accompanied by much secretion from the nose. J.N. Mackenzie is acquainted with a number of such cases, and he considers that the popular expression
"bride's cold" indicates that this effect of strong sexual excitement is widely recognized.
The late Professor Hack, of Freiburg, in 1884, called general medical attention to the intimate connection between the nose and states of nervous hyperexcitability in various parts of the body, although such a connection had been recognized for many centuries in medical literature. While Hack and his disciples thus gave prominence to this association, they undoubtedly greatly exaggerated its importance and significance. (Sir Felix Semon, _British Medical Journal_, November 9, 1901.) Even many workers who have more recently further added to our knowledge have also, as sometimes happens with enthusiasts, unduly strained their own data. Starting from the fact that in women during menstruation examination of the nose reveals a degree of congestion not found during the rest of the month, Fliess (_Die Beziehungen zwischen Nase und Weiblichen Geschlechtsorganen_, 1897), with the help of a number of elaborate and prolonged observations, has reached conclusions which, while they seem to be hazardous at some points, have certainly contributed to build up our knowledge of this obscure subject. Schiff (_Wiener klinische Wochenschrift_, 1900, p. 58, summarized in _British Medical Journal_, February 16, 1901), starting from a skeptical standpoint, has confirmed some of Fliess's results, and in a large number of cases controlled painful menstruation by painting with cocaine the so-called "genital spots" in the nose, all possibility of suggestion being avoided. Ries, of Chicago, has been similarly successful with the method of Fliess (_American Gynæcology_, vol.
iii, No. 4, 1903). Benedikt (_Wiener medicinische Wochenschrift_, No. 8, 1901, summarized in _Journal of Medical Science_, October, 1901), while pointing out that the nose is not the only organ in sympathetic relation with the sexual sphere, suggests that the mechanism of the relationship is involved in the larger problem of the harmony in growth and in nutrition of the different parts of the organism. In this way, probably, we may attach considerable significance to the existence of a kind of erectile tissue in the nose.
An interesting example of a reflex influence from the nose affecting the genital sphere has been brought forward by Dr. E.S.
Talbot, of Chicago: "A 56-year-old man was operated on (September 1, 1903) for the removal of the left cartilage of the septum of the nose owing to a previous traumatic fracture at the sixteenth year. No pain was experienced until two years ago, when a continual soreness occurred at the apical end of the fracture during the winter months. The operation was decided upon fearing more serious complications. The parts were cocainized. No pain was experienced in the operation except at one point at the lower posterior portion near the floor of the nose. A profound shock to the general system followed. The reflex influence of the pain upon the genital organs caused semen to flow continually for three weeks. Treatment of general motor irritability with camphor monobromate and conium, on consultation with Dr. Kiernan, checked the flow. The discharge produced spinal neurasthenia. The legs and feet felt heavy. Erythromelalgia caused uneasiness. The patient walked with difficulty. The tired feeling in the feet and limbs was quite noticeable four months after the operation, although the pain had, to a great extent diminished." (Chicago Academy of Medicine, January, 1904, and private letter.) J.N. Mackenzie has brought together a great many original observations, together with interesting quotations from old medical literature, in his two papers: "The Pathological Nasal Reflex" (_New York Medical Journal_, August 20, 1887) and "The Physiological and Pathological Relations between the Nose and the Sexual Apparatus of Man" (_Johns Hopkins Hospital Bulletin_, January 1, 1898). A number of cases have also been brought together from the literature by G. Endriss in his Inaugural Dissertation, _Die bisherigen Beobachtungen von Physiologischen und Pathologischen Beziehungen der oberen Luftwege zu den Sexualorganen_, Teil. II, Würzburg, 1892.
The intimate association between the sexual centers and the olfactory tract is well illustrated by the fact that this primitive and ancient association tends to come to the surface in insanity. It is recognized by many alienists that insanity of a sexual character is specially liable to be associated with hallucinations of smell.
Many eminent alienists in various countries are very decidedly of the opinion that there is a special tendency to the association of olfactory hallucinations with sexual manifestations, and, although one or two authorities have expressed doubt on the matter, the available evidence clearly indicates such an association. Hallucinations of smell are comparatively rare as compared to hallucinations of sight and hearing; they are commoner in women than in men and they not infrequently occur at periods of sexual disturbance, at adolescence, in puerperal fever, at the change of life, in women with ovarian troubles, and in old people troubled with sexual desires or remorse for such desires. They have often been noted as specially frequent in cases of excessive masturbation.
Krafft-Ebing, who found olfactory hallucinations common in various sexual states, considers that they are directly dependent on sexual excitement (_Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie_, bd. 34, ht. 4, 1877). Conolly Norman believes in a distinct and frequent association between olfactory hallucinations and sexual disturbance (_Journal of Mental Science_, July, 1899, p. 532).
Savage is also impressed by the close association between sexual disturbance or changes in the reproductive organs and hallucinations of smell as well as of touch. He has found that persistent hallucinations of smell disappeared when a diseased ovary was removed, although the patient remained insane. He considers that such hallucinations of smell are allied to reversions. (G.H. Savage, "Smell, Hallucinations of," Tuke's _Dictionary of Psychological Medicine_; cf. the same author's manual of _Insanity and Allied Neuroses_.) Matusch, while not finding olfactory hallucinations common at the climacteric, states that when they are present they are connected with uterine trouble and sexual craving. He finds them more common in young women. (Matusch, "Der Einfluss des Climacterium auf Entstchung und Form der Geistesstörung," _Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie_, vol. xlvi, ht. 4). Féré has related a significant case of a young man in whom hallucinations of smell accompanied the sexual orgasm; he subsequently developed epilepsy, to which the hallucination then constituted the aura (_Comptes Rendus de la Société de Biologie_, December, 1896). The prevalence of a sexual element in olfactory hallucinations has been investigated by Bullen, who examined into 95 cases of hallucinations of smell among the patients in several asylums. (In a few cases there were reasons for believing that peripheral conditions existed which would render these hallucinations more strictly illusions.) Of these, 64 were women. Sixteen of the women were climacteric cases, and 3 of them had sexual hallucinations or delusions.
Fourteen other women (chiefly cases of chronic delusional insanity) had sexual delusions. Altogether, 31 men and women had sexual delusions. This is a large proportion. Bullen is not, however, inclined to admit any direct connection between the reproductive system and the sense of smell. He finds that other hallucinations are very frequently associated with the olfactory hallucinations, and considers that the co-existence of olfactory and sexual troubles simply indicates a very deep and widespread nervous disturbance. (F. St. John Bullen, "Olfactory Hallucinations in the Insane," _Journal of Mental Science_, July, 1899.) In order to elucidate the matter fully we require further precise inquiries on the lines Bullen has laid down.
It may be of interest to note, in this connection, that smell and taste hallucinations appear to be specially frequent in forms of religious insanity. Thus, Dr. Zurcher, in her inaugural dissertation on Joan of Arc (_Jeanne d'Arc_, Leipzig, 1895, p.
72), estimates that on the average in such insanity nearly 50 per cent, of the hallucinations affect smell and taste; she refers also to the olfactory hallucinations of great religious leaders, Francis of Assisi, Katherina Emmerich, Lazzaretti, and the Anabaptists.
It may well be, as Zwaardemaker has suggested in his _Physiologie des Geruchs_, that the nasal congestion at menstruation and similar phenomena are connected with that association of smell and sexuality which is observable throughout the whole animal world, and that the congestion brings about a temporary increase of olfactory sensitiveness during the stage of sexual excitation. Careful investigation of olfactory acuteness would reveal the existence of such menstrual heightening of its acuity.
In a few exceptional, but still quite healthy people, smell would appear to possess an emotional predominance which it cannot be said to possess in the average person. These exceptional people are of what Binet in his study of sexual fetichism calls olfactive type; such persons form a group which, though of smaller size and less importance, is fairly comparable to the well-known groups of visual type, of auditory type, and of psychomotor type. Such people would be more attentive to odors, more moved by olfactory sympathies and antipathies, than are ordinary people. For these, it may well be, the supremacy accorded to olfactory influences in Jäger's _Entdeckung der Seele_, though extravagantly incorrect for ordinary persons, may appear quite reasonable.
It is certain also that a great many neurasthenic people, and particularly those who are sexually neurasthenic, are peculiarly susceptible to olfactory influences. A number of eminent poets and novelists--especially, it would appear, in France--seem to be in this case. Baudelaire, of all great poets, has most persistently and most elaborately emphasized the imaginative and emotional significance of odor; the _Fleurs du Mal_ and many of the _Petits Poèmes en Prose_ are, from this point of view, of great interest. There can be no doubt that in Baudelaire's own imaginative and emotional life the sense of smell played a highly important part; and that, in his own words, odor was to him what music is to others. Throughout Zola's novels--and perhaps more especially in _La Faute de l'Abbé Mouret_--there is an extreme insistence on odors of every kind. Prof. Leopold Bernard wrote an elaborate study of this aspect of Zola's work; he believed that underlying Zola's interest in odors there was an abnormally keen olfactory sensibility and large development of the olfactory region of the brain. Such a supposition is, however, unnecessary, and, as a matter of fact, a careful examination of Zola's olfactory sensibility, conducted by M. Passy, showed that it was somewhat below normal. At the same time it was shown that Zola was really a person of olfactory psychic type, with a special attention to odors and a special memory for them; as is frequently the case with perfumers with less than normal olfactory acuity he possessed a more than normal power of discriminating odors; it is possible that in early life his olfactory acuity may also have been above normal. In the same way Nietzsche, in his writings, shows a marked sensibility, and especially antipathy, as regards odors, which has by some been regarded as an index to a real physical sensibility of abnormal keenness; according to Möbius, however, there was no reason for supposing this to be the case. Huysmans, who throughout his books reveals a very intense preoccupation with the exact shades of many kinds of sensory impressions, and an apparently abnormally keen sensibility to them, has shown a great interest in odors, more especially in an oft-quoted passage in _A Rebours_. The blind Milton of "Paradise Lost" (as the late Mr. Grant Allen once remarked to me), dwells much on scents; in this case it is doubtless to the blindness and not to any special organic predisposition that we must attribute this direction of sensory attention. Among our older English poets, also, Herrick displays a special interest in odors with a definite realization of their sexual attractiveness. Shelley, who was alive to so many of the unusual æsthetic aspects of things, often shows an enthusiastic delight in odors, more especially those of flowers. It may, indeed, be said that most poets--though to a less degree than those I have mentioned--devote a special attention to odors, and, since it has been possible to describe smell as the sense of imagination, this need not surprise us. That Shakespeare, for instance, ranked this sense very high indeed is shown by various passages in his works and notably by Sonnet LIV: "O, how much more doth beauty beauteous seem?"--in which he implicitly places the attraction of odor on at least as high a level as that of vision.
A neurasthenic sensitiveness to odors, specially sexual odors, is frequently accompanied by lack of sexual vigor. In this way we may account for the numerous cases in which old men in whom sexual desire survives the loss of virile powers--probably somewhat abnormal persons at the outset--find satisfaction in sexual odors. Here, also, we have the basis for olfactory fetichism. In such fetichism the odor of the woman alone, whoever she may be and however unattractive she may be, suffices to furnish complete sexual satisfaction. In many, although not all, of those cases in which articles of women's clothing become the object of fetichistic attraction, there is certainly an olfactory element due to the personal odor attaching to the garments.
Olfactory influences play a certain part in various sexually abnormal tendencies and practices which do not proceed from an exclusively olfactory fascination. Thus, _cunnilingus_ and _fellatio_ derive part of their attraction, more especially in some individuals, from a predilection for the odors of the sexual parts. (See, e.g., Moll, _Untersuchungen über die Libido Sexualis_, bd. 1, p. 134.) In many cases smell plays no part in the attraction; "I enjoy _cunnilingus_, if I like the girl very much," a correspondent writes, "_in spite_ of the smell." We may associate this impulse with the prevalence of these practices among sexual inverts, in whom olfactory attractions are often specially marked. Those individuals, also, who are sexually affected by the urinary and alvine excretions ("_renifleurs_,"
"_stereoraires_," etc.) are largely, though not necessarily altogether, moved by olfactory impressions. The attraction was, however, exclusively olfactory in the case of the young woman recorded by Moraglia (_Archivio di Psichiatria_, 1892, p. 267), who was irresistibly excited by the odor of the fermented urine of men, and possibly also in the case narrated to Moraglia by Prof. L. Bianchi (ib. p. 568), in which a wife required flatus from her husband.
The sexual pleasure derived from partial strangulation (discussed in the study of "Love and Pain" in a previous volume) may be associated with heightened olfactory sexual excitation. Dr.
Kiernan, who points this out to me, has investigated a few neuropathic patients who like to have their necks squeezed, as they express it, and finds that in the majority the olfactory sensibility is thus intensified.
Even in ordinary normal persons, however, there can be no doubt that personal odor tends to play a not inconsiderable part in sexual attractions and sexual repulsions. As a sexual excitant, indeed, it comes far behind the stimuli received through the sense of sight. The comparative bluntness of the sense of smell in man makes it difficult for olfactory influence to be felt, as a rule, until the preliminaries of courtship are already over; so that it is impossible for smell ever to possess the same significance in sexual attraction in man that it possesses in the lower animals. With that reservation there can be no doubt that odor has a certain favorable or unfavorable influence in sexual relationships in all human races from the lowest to the highest. The Polynesian spoke with contempt of those women of European race who "have no smell," and in view of the pronounced personal odor of so many savage peoples as well as of the careful attention which they so often pay to odors, we may certainly assume, even in the absence of much definite evidence, that smell counts for much in their sexual relationships. This is confirmed by such practices as that found among some primitive peoples--as, it is stated, in the Philippines--of lovers exchanging their garments to have the smell of the loved one about them. In the barbaric stages of society this element becomes self-conscious and is clearly avowed; personal odors are constantly described with complacency, sometimes as mingled with the lavish use of artificial perfumes, in much of the erotic literature produced in the highest stages of barbarism, especially by Eastern peoples living in hot climates; it is only necessary to refer to the _Song of Songs_, the _Arabian Nights_, and the Indian treatises on love. Even in some parts of Europe the same influence is recognized in the crudest animal form, and Krauss states that among the Southern Slavs it is sometimes customary to leave the sexual parts unwashed because a strong odor of these parts is regarded as a sexual stimulant. Under the usual conditions of life in Europe personal odor has sunk into the background; this has been so equally under the conditions of classic, mediæval, and modern life. Personal odor has been generally regarded as unæsthetic; it has, for the most part, only been mentioned to be reprobated, and even those poets and others who during recent centuries have shown a sensitive delight and interest in odors--Herrick, Shelley, Baudelaire, Zola, and Huysmans--have seldom ventured to insist that a purely natural and personal odor can be agreeable. The fact that it may be so, and that for most people such odors cannot be a matter of indifference in the most intimate of all relationships, is usually only to be learned casually and incidentally. There can be no doubt, however, that, as Kiernan points out, the extent to which olfaction influences the sexual sphere in civilized man has been much underestimated. We need not, therefore, be surprised at the greater interest which has recently been taken in this subject. As usually happens, indeed, there has been in some writers a tendency to run to the opposite extreme, and we cannot, with Gustav Jäger, regard the sexual instinct as mainly or altogether an olfactory matter.
Of the Padmini, the perfect woman, the "lotus woman," Hindu writers say that "her sweat has the odor of musk," while the vulgar woman, they say, smells of fish (_Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana_). Ploss and Bartels (_Das Weib_, 1901, p. 218) bring forward a passage from the Tamil _Kokkôgam_, minutely describing various kinds of sexual odor in women, which they regard as resting on sound observation.
Four things in a woman, says the Arab, should be perfumed: the mouth, the armpits, the pudenda, and the nose. The Persian poets, in describing the body, delighted to use metaphors involving odor. Not only the hair and the down on the face, but the chin, the mouth, the beauty spots, the neck, all suggested odorous images. The epithets applied to the hair frequently refer to musk, ambergris, and civet. (_Anis El-Ochchâq_ translated by Huart, _Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes_, fasc. 25, 1875.)
The Hebrew _Song of Songs_ furnishes a typical example of a very beautiful Eastern love-poem in which the importance of the appeal to the sense of smell is throughout emphasized. There are in this short poem as many as twenty-four fairly definite references to odors,--personal odors, perfumes, and flowers,--while numerous other references to flowers, etc., seem to point to olfactory associations. Both the lover and his sweetheart express pleasure in each other's personal odor.
"My beloved is unto me," she sings, "as a bag of myrrh That lieth between my breasts;
My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna flowers In the vineyard of En-gedi."
And again: "His cheeks are as a bed of spices [or balsam], as banks of sweet herbs." While of her he says: "The smell of thy breath [or nose] is like apples."
Greek and Roman antiquity, which has so largely influenced the traditions of modern Europe, was lavish in the use of perfumes, but showed no sympathy with personal odors. For the Roman satirists, like Martial, a personal odor is nearly always an unpleasant odor, though, there are a few allusions in classic literature recognizing bodily smell as a sexual attraction. Ovid, in his _Ars Amandi_ (Book III), says it is scarcely necessary to remind a lady that she must not keep a goat in her armpits: "_ne trux caper iret in alas_." "_Mulier tum bene olet ubi nihil olet_" is an ancient dictum, and in the sixteenth century Montaigne still repeated the same saying with complete approval.
A different current of feeling began to appear with the new emotional movement during the eighteenth century. Rousseau called attention to the importance of the olfactory sense, and in his educational work, _Emile_ (Bk. II), he referred to the odor of a woman's "_cabinet de toilette_" as not so feeble a snare as is commonly supposed. In the same century Casanova wrote still more emphatically concerning the same point; in the preface to his _Mémoires_ he states: "I have always found sweet the odor of the women I have loved"; and elsewhere: "There is something in the air of the bedroom of the woman one loves, something so intimate, so balsamic, such voluptuous emanations, that if a lover had to choose between Heaven and this place of delight his hesitation would not last for a moment" (_Mémoires_, vol. iii). In the previous century, in England, Sir Kenelm Digby, in his interesting and remarkable _Private Memoirs_, when describing a visit to Lady Venetia Stanley, afterward his wife, touches on personal odor as an element of attraction; he had found her asleep in bed and on her breasts "did glisten a few drops of sweatlike diamond sparks, and had a more fragrant odor than the violets or primroses whose season was newly passed."
In 1821 Cadet-Devaux published, in the _Revue Encyclopédique_, a study entitled "De l'atmosphère de la Femme et de sa Puissance,"
which attracted a great deal of attention in Germany as well as in France; he considered that the exhalations of the feminine body are of the first importance in sexual attraction.
Prof. A. Galopin in 1886 wrote a semiscientific book, _Le Parfum de la Femme_, in which the sexual significance of personal odor is developed to its fullest. He writes with enthusiasm concerning the sweet and health-giving character of the natural perfume of a beloved woman, and the mischief done both to health and love by the use of artificial perfumes. "The purest marriage that can be contracted between a man and a woman," he asserts (p. 157) "is that engendered by olfaction and sanctioned by a common assimilation in the brain of the animated molecules due to the secretion and evaporation of two bodies in contact and sympathy."
In a book written during the first half of the nineteenth century which contains various subtle observations on love we read, with reference to the sweet odor which poets have found in the breath of women: "In reality many women have an intoxicatingly agreeable breath which plays no small part in the love-compelling atmosphere which they spread around them" (_Eros oder Wörterbuch über die Physiologie_, 1849, Bd. 1, p. 45).
Most of the writers on the psychology of love at this period, however, seem to have passed over the olfactory element in sexual attraction, regarding it probably as too unæsthetic. It receives no emphasis either in Sénancour's _De l'Amour_ or Stendhal's _De l'Amour_ or Michelet's _L'Amour_.
The poets within recent times have frequently referred to odors, personal and other, but the novelists have more rarely done so.
Zola and Huysmans, the two novelists who have most elaborately and insistently developed the olfactory side of life, have dwelt more on odors that are repulsive than on those that are agreeable. It is therefore of interest to note that in a few remarkable novels of recent times the attractiveness of personal odor has been emphasized. This is notably so in Tolstoy's _War and Peace_, in which Count Peter suddenly resolves to marry Princess Helena after inhaling her odor at a ball. In d'Annunzio's _Trionfo della Morte_ the seductive and consoling odor of the beloved woman's skin is described in several passages; thus, when Giorgio kissed Ippolita's arms and shoulders, we are told, "he perceived the sharp and yet delicate perfume of her, the perfume of the skin that in the hour of joy became intoxicating as that of the tuberose, and a terrible lash to desire."
When we are dealing with the sexual significance of personal odors in man there is at the outset an important difference to be noticed in comparison with the lower mammals. Not only is the significance of odor altogether very much less, but the focus of olfactory attractiveness has been displaced. The centre of olfactory attractiveness is not, as usually among animals, in the sexual region, but is transferred to the upper part of the body. In this respect the sexual olfactory allurement in man resembles what we find in the sphere of vision, for neither the sexual organs of man nor of woman are usually beautiful in the eyes of the opposite sex, and their exhibition is not among us regarded as a necessary stage in courtship. The odor of the body, like its beauty, in so far as it can be regarded as a possible sexual allurement, has in the course of development been transferred to the upper parts. The careful concealment of the sexual region has doubtless favored this transfer. It has thus happened that when personal odor acts as a sexual allurement it is the armpit, in any case normally the chief focus of odor in the body, which mainly comes into play, together with the skin and the hair.
Aubert, of Lyons, noted that during menstruation the odor of the armpits may become more powerful, and describes it as being at this time an aromatic odor of acidulous or chloroform character.
Galopin remarks that, while some women's armpits smell of sheep in rut, others, when exposed to the air, have a fragrance of ambergris or violet. Dark persons (according to Gould and Pyle) are said sometimes to exhale a prussic acid odor, and blondes more frequently musk; Galopin associates the ambergris odor more especially with blondes.
While some European poets have faintly indicated the woman's armpit as a centre of sexual attraction, it is among Eastern poets that we may find the idea more directly and naturally expressed. Thus, in a Chinese drama ("The Transmigration of Yo-Chow," _Mercure de France_, No. 8, 1901) we find a learned young doctor addressing the following poem to his betrothed:--
"When I have climbed to the bushy summit of Mount Chao, I have still not reached to the level of your odorous armpit.
I must needs mount to the sky
Before the breeze brings to me
The perfume of that embalsamed nest!"
This poet seems, however, to have been carried to a pitch of enthusiasm unusual even in China, for his future mother-in-law, after expressing her admiration for the poem, remarks: "But who would have thought one could find so many beautiful things under my daughter's armpit!"
The odor of the armpit is the most powerful in the body, sufficiently powerful to act as a muscular stimulant even in the absence of any direct sexual association. This is indicated by an observation made by Féré, who noticed, when living opposite a laundry, that an old woman who worked near the window would, toward the close of the day, introduce her right hand under the sleeve of the other to the armpit and then hold it to her nose; this she would do about every five minutes. It was evident that the odor acted as a stimulant to her failing energies. Féré has been informed by others who have had occasion to frequent workrooms that this proceeding is by no means uncommon among persons of both sexes. (Féré, _L'Instinct Sexuel_, second edition, p. 135.) I have myself noticed the same gesture very deliberately made in the street by a young English woman of the working class, under circumstances which suggested that it acted as an immediate stimulant in fatigue.
Huysmans--who in his novels has insisted on odors, both those of a personal kind and perfumes, with great precision--has devoted one of the sketches, "Le Gousset," in his _Croquis Parisiens_
(1880) to the varying odors of women's armpits. "I have followed this fragrance in the country," he remarks, "behind a group of women gleaners under the bright sun. It was excessive and terrible; it stung your nostrils like an unstoppered bottle of alkali; it seized you, irritating your mucous membrane with a rough odor which had in it something of the relish of wild duck cooked with olives and the sharp odor of the shallot. On the whole, it was not a vile or repugnant emanation; it united, as an anticipated thing, with the formidable odors of the landscape; it was the pure note, completing with the human animals' cry of heat the odorous melody of beasts and woods." He goes on to speak of the perfume of feminine arms in the ball-room. "There the aroma is of ammoniated valerian, of chlorinated urine, brutally accentuated sometimes, even with a slight scent of prussic acid about it, a faint whiff of overripe peaches." These
"spice-boxes," however, Huysmans continues, are more seductive when their perfume is filtered through the garments. "The appeal of the balsam of their arms is then less insolent, less cynical, than at the ball where they are more naked, but it more easily uncages the animal in man. Various as the color of the hair, the odor of the armpit is infinitely divisible; its gamut covers the whole keyboard of odors, reaching the obstinate scents of syringa and elder, and sometimes recalling the sweet perfume of the rubbed fingers that have held a cigarette. Audacious and sometimes fatiguing in the brunette and the black woman, sharp and fierce in the red woman, the armpit is heady as some sugared wines in the blondes." It will be noted that this very exact description corresponds at various points with the remarks of more scientific observers.
Sometimes the odor of the armpit may even become a kind of fetich which is craved for its own sake and in itself suffices to give pleasure. Féré has recorded such a case, in a friend of his own, a man of 60, with whom at one time he used to hunt, of robust health and belonging to a healthy family. On these hunting expeditions he used to tease the girls and women he met (sometimes even rather old women) in a surprising manner, when he came upon them walking in the fields with their short-sleeved chemises exposed. When he had succeeded in introducing his hand into the woman's armpit he went away satisfied, and frequently held the hand to his nose with evident pleasure. After long hesitation Féré asked for an explanation, which was frankly given. As a child he had liked the odor, without knowing why. As a young man women with strong odors had stimulated him to extraordinary sexual exploits, and now they were the only women who had any influence on him. He professed to be able to recognize continence by the odor, as well as the most favorable moment for approaching a woman. Throughout life a cold in the head had always been accompanied by persistent general excitement. (Féré, _L'Instinct Sexuel_, 1902, p. 134.) We not only have to recognize that in the course of evolution the specific odors of the sexual region have sunk into the background as a source of sexual allurements, we have further to recognize the significant fact that even those personal odors which are chiefly liable under normal circumstances to come occasionally within the conscious sexual sphere, and indeed purely personal odors of all kinds, fail to exert any attraction, but rather tend to cause antipathy, unless some degree of tumescence has already been attained. That is to say, our olfactory experiences of the human body approximate rather to our tactile experiences of it than to our visual experiences. Sight is our most intellectual sense, and we trust ourselves to it with comparative boldness without any undue dread that its messages will hurt us by their personal intimacy; we even court its experiences, for it is the chief organ of our curiosity, as smell is of a dog's. But smell with us has ceased to be a leading channel of intellectual curiosity. Personal odors do not, as vision does, give us information that is very largely intellectual; they make an appeal that is mainly of an intimate, emotional, imaginative character. They thus tend, when we are in our normal condition, to arouse what James calls the antisexual instinct.
"I cannot understand how people do not see how the senses are connected," said Jenny Lind to J.A. Symonds (Horatio Brown, _J.A.
Symonds_, vol. i, p. 207). "What I have suffered from my sense of smell! My youth was misery from my acuteness of sensibility."
Mantegazza discusses the strength of olfactory antipathies (_Fisiologia dell' Odio_, p. 101), and mentions that once when ill in Paraguay he was nursed by an Indian girl of 16, who was fresh as a peach and extremely clean, but whose odor--"a mixture of wild beast's lair and decayed onions"--caused nausea and almost made him faint.
Moll (_Untersuchungen über die Libido Sexualis_, bd. i, p. 135) records the case of a neuropathic man who was constantly rendered impotent by his antipathy to personal body odors. It had very frequently happened to him to be attracted by the face and appearance of a girl, but at the last moment potency was inhibited by the perception of personal odor.
In the case of a man of distinguished ability known to me, belonging to a somewhat neuropathic family, there is extreme sensitiveness to the smell of a woman, which is frequently the most obvious thing to him about her. He has seldom known a woman whose natural perfume entirely suits him, and his olfactory impressions have frequently been the immediate cause of a rupture of relationships.
It was formerly discussed whether strong personal odor constituted adequate ground for divorce. Hagen, who brings forward references on this point (_Sexuelle Osphrésiologie_, pp.
75-83), considers that the body odors are normally and naturally repulsive because they are closely associated with the capryl group of odors, which are those of many of the excretions.
Olfactory antipathies are, however, often strictly subordinated to the individual's general emotional attitude toward the object from which they emanate. This is illustrated in the case, known to me, of a man who on a hot day entering a steamboat with a woman to whom he was attached seated himself between her and a man, a stranger. He soon became conscious of an axillary odor which he concluded to come from the man and which he felt as disagreeable. But a little later he realized that it proceeded from his own companion, and with this discovery the odor at once lost its disagreeable character.
In this respect a personal odor resembles a personal touch. Two intimate touches of the hand, though of precisely similar physical quality, may in their emotional effects be separated by an immeasurable interval, in dependence on our attitude toward the person from whom they proceed.
Personal odor, in order to make its allurement felt, and not to arouse antipathy, must, in normal persons, have been preceded by conditions which have inhibited the play of the antisexual instinct. A certain degree of tumescence must already have been attained. It is even possible, when we bear in mind the intimate sympathy between the sexual sphere and the nose, that the olfactory organ needs to have its sensibility modified in a form receptive to sexual messages, though such an assumption is by no means necessary. It is when such a faint preliminary degree of tumescence has been attained, however it may have been attained,--for the methods of tumescence, as we know, are innumerable,--that a sympathetic personal odor is enabled to make its appeal. If we analyze the cases in which olfactory perceptions have proved potent in love, we shall nearly always find that they have been experienced under circumstances favorable for the occurrence of tumescence. When this is not the case we may reasonably suspect the presence of some degree of perversion.
In the oft-quoted case of the Austrian peasant who found that he was aided in seducing young women by dancing with them and then wiping their faces with a handkerchief he had kept in his armpit, we may doubtless regard the preliminary excitement of the dance as an essential factor in the influence produced.
In the same way, I am acquainted with the ease of a lady not usually sensitive to simple body odors (though affected by perfumes and flowers) who on one occasion, when already in a state of sexual erethism, was highly excited when perceiving the odor of her lover's axilla.
The same influence of preliminary excitement may be seen in another instance known to me, that of a gentlemen who when traveling abroad fell in with three charming young ladies during a long railway journey. He was conscious of a pleasurable excitement caused by the prolonged intimacy of the journey, but this only became definitely sexual when the youngest of the ladies, stretching before him to look out of the window and holding on to the rack above, accidentally brought her axilla into close proximity with his face, whereupon erection was caused, although he himself regards personal odors, at all events when emanating from strangers, as indifferent or repulsive.
A medical correspondent, referring to the fact that with many men (indeed women also) sexual excitement occurs after dancing for a considerable time, remarks that he considers the odor of the woman's sweat is here a considerable factor.
The characteristics of olfaction which our investigation has so far revealed have not, on the whole, been favorable to the influence of personal odors as a sexual attraction in civilized men. It is a primitive sense which had its flowering time before men arose; it is a comparatively unæsthetic sense; it is a somewhat obtuse sense which among Europeans is usually incapable of perceiving the odor of the "human flower"--to use Goethe's phrase--except on very close contact, and on this account, and on account of the fact that it is a predominantly emotional sense, personal odors in ordinary social intercourse are less likely to arouse the sexual instinct than the antisexual instinct. If a certain degree of tumescence is required before a personal odor can exert an attractive influence, a powerful personal odor, strong enough to be perceived before any degree of tumescence is attained, will tend to cause repulsion, and in so doing tend, consciously or unconsciously, to excite prejudice against personal odor altogether. This is actually the case in civilization, and most people, it would appear, view with more or less antipathy the personal odors of those persons to whom they are not sexually attracted, while their attitude is neutral in this respect toward the individuals to whom they are sexually attracted. The following statement by a correspondent seems to me to express the experience of the majority of men in this respect: "I do not notice that different people have different smells. Certain women I have known have been in the habit of using particular scents, but no associations could be aroused if I were to smell the same scent now, for I should not identify it. As a boy I was very fond of scent, and I associate this with my marked sexual proclivities. I like a woman to use a little scent. It rouses my sexual feelings, but not to any large extent. I dislike the smell of a woman's vagina." While the last statement seems to express the feeling of many if not most men, it may be proper to add that there seems no natural reason why the vulvar odor of a clean and healthy woman should be other than agreeable to a normal man who is her lover.
In literature it is the natural odor of women rather than men which receives attention. We should expect this to be the case since literature is chiefly produced by men. The question as to whether men or women are really more apt to be sexually influenced in this way cannot thus be decided. Among animals, it seems probable, both sexes are alike influenced by odors, for, while it is usually the male whose sexual regions are furnished with special scent glands, when such occur, the peculiar odor of the female during the sexual season is certainly not less efficacious as an allurement to the male. If we compare the general susceptibility of men and women to agreeable odors, apart from the question of sexual allurement, there can be little doubt that it is most marked among women.
As Groos points out, even among children little girls are more interested in scents than boys, and the investigations of various workers, especially Garbini, have shown that there is actually a greater power of discriminating odors among girls than among boys. Marro has gone further, and in an extended series of observations on girls before and after the establishment of puberty--which is of considerable interest from the point of view of the sexual significance of olfaction--he has shown reason to believe that girls acquire an increased susceptibility to odors when sexual life begins, although they show no such increased powers as regards the other senses. On the whole, it would appear that, while women are not apt to be seriously affected, in the absence of any preliminary excitation, by crude body odors, they are by no means insusceptible to the sexual influence of olfactory impressions. It is probable, indeed, that they are more affected, and more frequently affected, in this way, than are men.
Edouard de Goncourt, in his novel _Chérie_--the intimate history of a young girl, founded, he states, on much personal observation--describes (Chapter LXXXV) the delight with which sensuous, but chaste young girls often take in strong perfumes.
"Perfume and love," he remarks, "impart delights which are closely allied." In an earlier chapter (XLIV) he writes of his heroine at the age of 15: "The intimately happy emotion which the young girl experienced in reading _Paul et Virginie_ and other honestly amorous books she sought to make more complete and intense and penetrating by soaking the book with scent, and the love-story reached her senses and imagination through pages moist with liquid perfume."
Carbini (_Archivio per l'Antropologia_, 1896, fasc. 3) in a very thorough investigation of a large number of children, found that the earliest osmo-gustative sensations occurred in the fourth week in girls, the fifth week in boys; the first real and definite olfactory sensations appeared in the fifteenth month in girls, in the sixteenth in boys; while experiments on several hundred children between the ages of 3 and 6 years showed the girls slightly, but distinctly, superior to the boys. It may, of course, be argued that these results merely show a somewhat greater precocity of girls. I have summarized the main investigations into this question in _Man and Woman_, revised and enlarged edition, 1904, pp. 134-138. On the whole, they seem to indicate greater olfactory acuteness on the part of women, but the evidence is by no means altogether concordant in this sense.
Popular and general scientific opinion is also by no means always in harmony. Thus, Tardif, in his book on odors in relation to the sexual instinct, throughout assumes, as a matter of course, that the sense of smell is most keen in men; while, on the other hand, I note that in a pamphlet by Mr. Martin Perls, a manufacturing perfumer, it is stated with equal confidence that "it is a well-known fact that ladies have, even without a practice of long standing, a keener sense of smell than men," and on this account he employs a staff of young ladies for testing perfumes by smell in the laboratory by the glazed paper test.
It is sometimes said that the use of strong perfumes by women indicates a dulled olfactory organ. On the other hand, it is said that the use of tobacco deadens the sensitiveness of the masculine nose. Both these statements seem to be without foundation. The use of a large amount of perfume is rather a question of taste than a question of sensory acuteness (not to mention that those who live in an atmosphere of perfume are, of course, only faintly conscious of it), and the chemist perfumer in his laboratory surrounded by strong odors can distinguish them all with great delicacy. As regards tobacco, in Spain the _cigarreras_ are women and girls who live perpetually in an atmosphere of tobacco, and Señora Pardo Bazan, who knows them well, remarks in her novel, _La Tribuna_, which deals with life in a tobacco factory, that "the acuity of the sense of smell of the _cigarreras_ is notable, and it would seem that instead of blunting the nasal membrane the tobacco makes the olfactory nerves keener."
"It was the same as if I was in a sweet apple garden, from the sweetness that came to me when the light wind passed over them and stirred their clothes," a woman is represented as saying concerning a troop of handsome men in the Irish sagas (_Cuchulain of Muirthemne_, p. 161). The pleasure and excitement experienced by a woman in the odor of her lover is usually felt concerning a vague and mixed odor which may be characteristic, but is not definitely traceable to any specific bodily sexual odor. The general odor of the man she loves, one woman states, is highly, sometimes even overwhelmingly, attractive to her; but the specific odor of the male sexual organs which she describes as fishy has no attraction. A man writes that in his relations with women he has never been able to detect that they were influenced by the axillary or other specific odors. A woman writes: "To me any personal odor, as that of perspiration, is very disagreeable, and the healthy _naked_ human body is very free from any odor.
Fresh perspiration has no disagreeable smell; it is only by retention in the clothing that it becomes objectionable. The faint smell of smoke which lingers round men who smoke much is rather exciting to me, but only when it is _very_ faint. If at all strong it becomes disagreeable. As most of the men who have attracted me have been great smokers, there is doubtless a direct association of ideas. It has only once occurred to me that an indifferent unpleasant smell became attractive in connection with some particular person. In this case it was the scent of stale tobacco, such as comes from the end of a cold cigar or cigarette.
It was, and is now, very disagreeable to me, but, for the time and in connection with a particular person, it seemed to me more delightful and exciting than the most delicious perfume. I think, however, only a very strong attraction could overcome a dislike of this sort, and I doubt if I could experience such a twist-round if it had been a personal odor. Stale tobacco, though nasty, conveys no mentally disagreeable idea. I mean it does not suggest dirt or unhealthiness."
It is probably significant of the somewhat considerable part which, in one way or another, odors and perfumes play in the emotional life of women, that, of the 4 women whose sexual histories are recorded in Appendix B of vol. iii of these _Studies_, all are liable to experience sexual effects from olfactory stimuli, 3 of them from personal odors (though this fact is not in every case brought out in the histories as recorded), while of the 8 men not one has considered his olfactory experiences in this respect as worthy of mention.
The very marked sexual fascination which odor, associated with the men they love, exerts on women has easily passed unperceived, since women have not felt called upon to proclaim it. In sexual inversion, however, when the woman takes a more active and outspoken part than in normal love, it may very clearly be traced. Here, indeed, it is often exaggerated, in consequence of the common tendency for neurotic and neurasthenic persons to be more than normally susceptible to the influence of odors. In the majority of inverted women, it may safely be said, the odor of the beloved person plays a very considerable part. Thus, one inverted woman asks the woman she loves to send her some of her hair that she may intoxicate herself in solitude with its perfume (_Archivio di Psicopatie Sessuali_, vol. i, fasc. 3, p. 36).
Again, a young girl with some homosexual tendencies, was apt to experience sexual emotions when in ordinary contact with schoolfellows whose body odor was marked (Féré, _L'Instinct Sexuel_, p. 260). Such examples are fairly typical.
That the body odor of men may in a large number of cases be highly agreeable and sexually attractive is shown by the testimony of male sexual inverts. There is abundant evidence to this effect. Raffalovich (_L'Uranisme et l'Unisexualité_, p. 126) insists on the importance of body odors as a sexual attraction to the male invert, and is inclined to think that the increased odor of the man's own body during sexual excitement may have an auto-aphrodisiacal effect which is reflected on the body of the loved person. The odor of peasants, of men who work in the open air, is specially apt to be found attractive. Moll mentions the case of an inverted man who found the "forest, mosslike odor" of a schoolfellow irresistibly attractive.
The following passage from a letter written by an Italian marquis has been sent to me: "Bonifazio stripped one evening, to give me pleasure. He has the full, rounded flesh and amber coloring which painters of the Giorgione school gave to their S. Sebastians.
When he began to dress, I took up an old _fascia_, or girdle of netted silk, which was lying under his breeches, and which still preserved the warmth of his body. I buried my face in it, and was half inebriated by its exquisite aroma of young manhood and fresh hay. He told me he had worn it for two years. No wonder it was redolent of him. I asked him to let me keep it as a souvenir. He smiled and said: 'You like it because it has lain so long upon my _panoia_.' 'Yes, just so,' I replied; 'whenever I kiss it, thus and thus, it will bring you back to me.' Sometimes I tie it round my naked waist before I go to bed. The smell of it is enough to cause a powerful erection, and the contact of its fringes with my testicles and phallus has once or twice produced an involuntary emission."
I may here reproduce a communication which has reached me concerning the attractiveness of the odor of peasants: "One predominant attraction of these men is that they are pure and clean; their bodies in a state of healthy normal function. Then they possess, if they are temperate, what the Greek poet Straton called the phydikê chrôtos (a quality which, according to this authority, is never found in women). This 'natural fair perfume of the flesh' is a peculiar attribute of young men who live in the open air and deal with natural objects. Even their perspiration has an odor very different from that of girls in ball-rooms: more refined, ethereal, pervasive, delicate, and difficult to seize. When they have handled hay--in the time of hay-harvest, or in winter, when they bring hay down from mountain huts--the youthful peasants carry about with them the smell of 'a field the Lord hath blessed.' Their bodies and their clothes exhale an indefinable fragrance of purity and sex combined. Every gland of the robust frame seems to have accumulated scent from herbs and grasses, which slowly exudes from the cool, fresh skin of the lad. You do not perceive it in a room. You must take the young man's hands and bury your face in them, or be covered with him under the same blanket in one bed, to feel this aroma. No sensual impression on the nerves of smell is more poignantly impregnated with spiritual poetry--the poetry of adolescence, and early hours upon the hills, and labor cheerfully accomplished, and the harvest of God's gifts to man brought home by human industry. It is worth mentioning that Aristophanes, in his description of the perfect Athenian Ephebus, dwells upon his being redolent of natural perfumes."
In a passage in the second part of _Faust_ Goethe (who appears to have felt considerable interest in the psychology of smell) makes three women speak concerning the ambrosiacal odor of young men.
In this connection, also, I note a passage in a poem ("Appleton House") by our own English poet Marvell, which it is of interest to quote:--
"And now the careless victors play,
Dancing the triumphs of the hay,
When every mower's wholesome heat
Smells like an Alexander's sweat.
Their females fragrant as the mead
Which they in fairy circles tread,
When at their dance's end they kiss,
Their new-mown hay not sweeter is."
 R. Andree, "Völkergeruch," in _Ethnographische Parallelen_, Neue Folge, 1889, pp. 213-222, brings together many passages describing the odors of various peoples. Hagen, _Sexuelle Osphrésiologie_, pp. 166 et seq., has a chapter on the subject; Joest, supplement to _International Archiv für Ethnographie_, 1893, p. 53, has an interesting passage on the smells of various races, as also Waitz, _Introduction to Anthropology_, p.
103. Cf. Sir H.H. Johnston, _British Central Africa_, p. 395; T.H. Parke, _Experiences in Equatorial Africa_, p. 409; E.H. Man, _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, 1889, p. 391; Brough Smyth, _Aborigines of Victoria_, vol. i, p. 7; d'Orbigny, _L'Homme Américain_, vol. i, p. 87, etc.
 B. Adachi "Geruch der Europaer," _Globus_, 1903, No. 1.
 Hagen quotes testimonies on this point, _Sexuelle Osphrésiologie_, p.
173. The negro, Castellani states, considers that Europeans have a smell of death.
 _Reports of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition_, vol. ii, p.