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The Phenomena of Sexual Periodicity






The origin of these _Studies_ dates from many years back. As a youth I was

faced, as others are, by the problem of sex. Living partly in an

Australian city where the ways of life were plainly seen, partly in the

solitude of the bush, I was free both to contemplate and to meditate many

things. A resolve slowly grew up within me: one main part of my life-work

should be to make clear the problems of sex.

That was more than twenty years ago. Since then I can honestly say that in

all that I have done that resolve has never been very far from my

thoughts. I have always been slowly working up to this central problem;

and in a book published some three years ago--_Man and Woman: a Study of

Human Secondary Sexual Characters_--I put forward what was, in my own

eyes, an introduction to the study of the primary questions of sexual


Now that I have at length reached the time for beginning to publish my

results, these results scarcely seem to me large. As a youth, I had hoped

to settle problems for those who came after; now I am quietly content if I

do little more than state them. For even that, I now think, is much; it is

at least the half of knowledge. In this particular field the evil of

ignorance is magnified by our efforts to suppress that which never can be

suppressed, though in the effort of suppression it may become perverted. I

have at least tried to find out what are the facts, among normal people as

well as among abnormal people; for, while it seems to me that the

physician's training is necessary in order to ascertain the facts, the

physician for the most part only obtains the abnormal facts, which alone

bring little light. I have tried to get at the facts, and, having got at

the facts, to look them simply and squarely in the face.

If I cannot

perhaps turn the lock myself, I bring the key which can alone in the end

rightly open the door: the key of sincerity. That is my one panacea:


I know that many of my friends, people on whose side I, too, am to 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 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

of 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 theological 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, from their own point

of view, indeed, the entire reasonableness; we are bound to recognize the

admirable spirit in which, successfully or not, they sought to approach

them. We need to-day the same spirit and temper applied from a different

standpoint. These things concern everyone; the study of these things

concerns the physiologist, the psychologist, the moralist. We want to get

into possession of the actual facts, and from the investigation of the

facts we want to ascertain what is normal and what is abnormal, from the

point of view of physiology and of psychology. We want to know what is

naturally lawful under the various sexual chances that may befall man, not

as the born child of sin, but as a naturally social animal. What is a

venial sin against nature, what a mortal sin against nature? The answers

are less easy to reach than the theologians' answers generally were, but

we can at least put ourselves in the right attitude; we may succeed in

asking that question which is sometimes even more than the half of


It is perhaps a mistake to show so plainly at the outset that I approach

what may seem only a psychological question not without moral fervour. But

I do not wish any mistake to be made. I regard sex as the central problem

of life. And now that the problem of religion has practically been

settled, and that the problem of labor has at least been placed on a

practical foundation, the question of sex--with the racial questions that

rest on it--stands before the coming generations as the chief problem for

solution. Sex lies at the root of life, and we can never learn to

reverence life until we know how to understand sex.--So, at least, it

seems to me.

Having said so much, I will try to present such results as I have to

record in that cold and dry light through which alone the goal of

knowledge may truly be seen.


July, 1897.


The first edition of this volume was published in 1899, following "Sexual

Inversion," which now forms Volume II. The second edition, issued by the

present publishers and substantially identical with the first edition,

appeared in the following year. Ten years have elapsed since then and this

new edition will be found to reflect the course of that long interval. Not

only is the volume greatly enlarged, but nearly every page has been partly

rewritten. This is mainly due to three causes: Much new literature

required to be taken into account; my own knowledge of the historical and

ethnographic aspects of the sexual impulse has increased; many fresh

illustrative cases of a valuable and instructive character have

accumulated in my hands. It is to these three sources of improvement that

the book owes its greatly revised and enlarged condition, and not to the

need for modifying any of its essential conclusions.

These, far from

undergoing any change, have by the new material been greatly strengthened.

It may be added that the General Preface to the whole work, which was

originally published in 1898 at the beginning of "Sexual Inversion," now

finds its proper place at the outset of the present volume.


Carbis Bay,

Cornwall, Eng.


The present volume contains three studies which seem to me to be necessary

_prolegomena_ to that analysis of the sexual instinct which must form the

chief part of an investigation into the psychology of sex. The first

sketches the main outlines of a complex emotional state which is of

fundamental importance in sexual psychology; the second, by bringing

together evidence from widely different regions, suggests a tentative

explanation of facts that are still imperfectly known; the third attempts

to show that even in fields where we assume our knowledge to be adequate a

broader view of the phenomena teaches us to suspend judgment and to adopt

a more cautious attitude. So far as they go, these studies are complete in

themselves; their special use, as an introduction to a more comprehensive

analysis of sexual phenomena, is that they bring before us, under varying

aspects, a characteristic which, though often ignored, is of the first

importance in obtaining a clear understanding of the facts: the tendency

of the sexual impulse to appear in a spontaneous and to some extent

periodic manner, affecting women differently from men.

This is a tendency

which, later, I hope to make still more apparent, for it has practical and

social, as well as psychological, implications. Here--

and more especially

in the study of those spontaneous solitary manifestations which I call

auto-erotic--I have attempted to clear the ground, and to indicate the

main lines along which the progress of our knowledge in these fields may

best be attained.

It may surprise many medical readers that in the third and longest study I

have said little, save incidentally, either of treatment or prevention.

The omission of such considerations at this stage is intentional. It may

safely be said that in no other field of human activity is so vast an

amount of strenuous didactic morality founded on so slender a basis of

facts. In most other departments of life we at least make a pretence of

learning before we presume to teach; in the field of sex we content

ourselves with the smallest and vaguest minimum of information, often

ostentatiously second-hand, usually unreliable. I wish to emphasize the

fact that before we can safely talk either of curing or preventing these

manifestations we must know a great deal more than we know at present

regarding their distribution, etiology, and symptomatology; and we must

exercise the same coolness and caution as--if our work is to be

fruitful--we require in any other field of serious study. We must approach

these facts as physicians, it is true, but also as psychologists,

primarily concerned to find out the workings of such manifestations in

fairly healthy and normal people. If we found a divorce-court judge

writing a treatise on marriage we should smile. But it is equally absurd

for the physician, so long as his knowledge is confined to disease, to

write regarding sex at large; valuable as the facts he brings forward may

be, he can never be in a position to generalize concerning them. And to

me, at all events, it seems that we have had more than enough pictures of

gross sexual perversity, whether furnished by the asylum or the brothel.

They are only really instructive when they are seen in their proper

perspective as the rare and ultimate extremes of a chain of phenomena

which we may more profitably study nearer home.

Yet, although we are, on every hand, surrounded by the normal

manifestations of sex, conscious or unconscious, these manifestations are

extremely difficult to observe, and, in those cases in which we are best

able to observe them, it frequently happens that we are unable to make any

use of our knowledge. Moreover, even when we have obtained our data, the

difficulties--at all events, for an English investigator--are by no means

overcome. He may take for granted that any serious and precise study of

the sexual instinct will not meet with general approval; his work will be

misunderstood; his motives will be called in question; among those for

whom he is chiefly working he will find indifference.

Indeed, the pioneer

in this field may well count himself happy if he meets with nothing worse

than indifference. Hence it is that the present volume will not be

published in England, but that, availing myself of the generous sympathy

with which my work has been received in America, I have sought the wider

medical and scientific audience of the United States. In matters of faith,

"liberty of prophesying" was centuries since eloquently vindicated for

Englishmen; the liberty of investigating facts is still called in

question, under one pretence or another, and to seek out the most vital

facts of life is still in England a perilous task.

I desire most heartily to thank the numerous friends and correspondents,

some living in remote parts of the world, who have freely assisted me in

my work with valuable information and personal histories. To Mr. F.H.

Perry-Coste I owe an appendix which is by far the most elaborate attempt

yet made to find evidence of periodicity in the spontaneous sexual

manifestations of sleep; my debts to various medical and other

correspondents are duly stated in the text. To many women friends and

correspondents I may here express my gratitude for the manner in which

they have furnished me with intimate personal records, and for the

cross-examination to which they have allowed me to subject them. I may

already say here, what I shall have occasion to say more emphatically in

subsequent volumes, that without the assistance I have received from women

of fine intelligence and high character my work would be impossible. I

regret that I cannot make my thanks more specific.





The Definition of Modesty--The Significance of Modesty--

Difficulties in

the Way of Its Analysis--The Varying Phenomena of Modesty Among Different

Peoples and in Different Ages.


Modesty an Agglomeration of Fears--Children in Relation to

Modesty--Modesty in Animals--The Attitude of the Medicean Venus--The

Sexual Factor of Modesty Based on Sexual periodicity and on the Primitive

Phenomena of Courtship--The Necessity of Seclusion in Primitive Sexual

Intercourse--The Meaning of Coquetry--The Sexual Charm of Modesty--Modesty

as an Expression of Feminine Erotic Impulse--The Fear of Causing Disgust

as a Factor of Modesty--The Modesty of Savages in Regard to Eating in the

Presence of Others--The Sacro-Pubic Region as a Focus of Disgust--The Idea

of Ceremonial Uncleanliness--The Custom of Veiling the Face--Ornaments and

Clothing--Modesty Becomes Concentrated in the Garment--

The Economic Factor

in Modesty--The Contribution of Civilization to Modesty-

-The Elaboration

of Social Ritual.


The Blush the Sanction of Modesty--The Phenomena of Blushing--Influences

Which Modify the Aptitude to Blush--Darkness, Concealment of the Face,



Summary of the Factors of Modesty--The Future of Modesty--Modesty an

Essential Element of Love.



The Various Physiological and Psychological Rhythms--


Alleged Influence of the Moon--Frequent Suppression of Menstruation among

Primitive Races--Mittelschmerz--Possible Tendency to a Future

Intermenstrual Cycle--Menstruation among Animals--

Menstruating Monkeys and

Apes--What is Menstruation--Its Primary Cause Still Obscure--The Relation

of Menstruation to Ovulation--The Occasional Absence of Menstruation in

Health--The Relation of Menstruation to "Heat"--The Prohibition of

Intercourse during Menstruation--The Predominance of Sexual Excitement at

and around the Menstrual Period--Its Absence during the Period Frequently

Apparent only.


The Question of a Monthly Sexual Cycle in Men--The Earliest Suggestions of

a General Physiological Cycle in Men--Periodicity in Disease--Insanity,

Heart Disease, etc.--The Alleged Twenty-three Days'


Physiological Periodicity of Seminal Emissions during Sleep--Original

Observations--Fortnightly and Weekly Rhythms.


The Annual Sexual Rhythm--In Animals--In Man--Tendency of the Sexual

Impulse to become Heightened in Spring and Autumn--The Prevalence of

Seasonal Erotic Festivals--The Feast of Fools--The Easter and Midsummer

Bonfires--The Seasonal Variations in Birthrate--The Causes of those

Variations--The Typical Conception-rate Curve for Europe--The Seasonal

Periodicity of Seminal Emissions During Sleep--Original Observations--Spring and Autumn the Chief Periods of Involuntary Sexual

Excitement--The Seasonal Periodicity of Rapes--Of Outbreaks among

Prisoners--The Seasonal Curves of Insanity and Suicide--

The Growth of

Children According to Season--The Annual Curve of Bread-consumption in

Prisons--Seasonal Periodicity of Scarlet Fever--The Underlying Causes of

these Seasonal Phenomena.





Definition of Auto-erotism--Masturbation only Covers a Small Portion of

the Auto-erotic Field--The Importance of this Study, especially

To-day--Auto-erotic Phenomena in Animals--Among Savage and Barbaric

Races--The Japanese _rin-no-tama_ and other Special Instruments for

Obtaining Auto-erotic Gratification--Abuse of the Ordinary Implements and

Objects of Daily Life--The Frequency of Hair-pin in the Bladder--The

Influence of Horse-exercise and Railway Traveling--The Sewing-machine and

the Bicycle--Spontaneous Passive Sexual Excitement--


Morosa_--Day-dreaming--_Pollutio_--Sexual Excitement During Sleep--Erotic

Dreams--The Analogy of Nocturnal Enuresis--Differences in the Erotic

Dreams of Men and Women--The Auto-erotic Phenomena of Sleep in the

Hysterical--Their Frequently Painful Character.


Hysteria and the Question of Its Relation to the Sexual Emotions--The

Early Greek Theories of its Nature and Causation--The Gradual Rise of

Modern Views--Charcot--The Revolt Against Charcot's Too Absolute

Conclusions--Fallacies Involved--Charcot's Attitude the Outcome of his

Personal Temperament--Breuer and Freud--Their Views Supplement and

Complete Charcot's--At the Same Time they Furnish a Justification for the

Earlier Doctrine of Hysteria--But They Must Not be Regarded as Final--The

Diffused Hysteroid Condition in Normal Persons--The Physiological Basis of

Hysteria--True Pathological Hysteria is Linked on to almost Normal States,

especially to Sex-hunger.


The Prevalence of Masturbation--Its Occurrence in Infancy and

Childhood--Is it More Frequent in Males or Females?--

After Adolescence

Apparently more Frequent in Women--Reasons for the Sexual Distribution of

Masturbation--The Alleged Evils of Masturbation--

Historical Sketch of the

Views Held on This Point--The Symptoms and Results of Masturbation--Its

Alleged Influence in Causing Eye Disorders--Its Relation to Insanity and

Nervous Disorders--The Evil Effects of Masturbation Usually Occur on the

Basis of a Congenitally Morbid Nervous System--

Neurasthenia Probably the

Commonest Accompaniment of Excessive Masturbation--

Precocious Masturbation

Tends to Produce Aversion to Coitus--Psychic Results of Habitual

Masturbation--Masturbation in Men of Genius--

Masturbation as a Nervous

Sedative--Typical Cases--The Greek Attitude toward Masturbation--Attitude

of the Catholic Theologians--The Mohammedan Attitude--

The Modern

Scientific Attitude--In What Sense is Masturbation Normal?--The Immense

Part in Life Played by Transmuted Auto-erotic Phenomena.


The Influence of Menstruation on the Position of Women.


Sexual Periodicity in Men.


The Auto-erotic Factor in Religion.





The Definition of Modesty--The Significance of Modesty--

Difficulties in

the Way of Its Analysis--The Varying Phenomena of Modesty Among Different

Peoples and in Different Ages.

Modesty, which may be provisionally defined as an almost instinctive fear

prompting to concealment and usually centering around the sexual

processes, while common to both sexes is more peculiarly feminine, so that

it may almost be regarded as the chief secondary sexual character of women

on the psychical side. The woman who is lacking in this kind of fear is

lacking, also, in sexual attractiveness to the normal and average man. The

apparent exceptions seem to prove the rule, for it will generally be found

that the women who are, not immodest (for immodesty is more closely

related to modesty than mere negative absence of the sense of modesty),

but without that fear which implies the presence of a complex emotional

feminine organization to defend, only make a strong sexual appeal to men

who are themselves lacking in the complementary masculine qualities. As a

psychical secondary sexual character of the first rank, it is necessary,

before any psychology of sex can be arranged in order, to obtain a clear

view of modesty.

The immense importance of feminine modesty in creating masculine

passion must be fairly obvious. I may, however, quote the

observations of two writers who have shown evidence of insight

and knowledge regarding this matter.

Casanova describes how, when at Berne, he went to the baths, and

was, according to custom, attended by a young girl, whom he

selected from a group of bath attendants. She undressed him,

proceeded to undress herself, and then entered the bath with him,

and rubbed him thoroughly all over, the operation being performed

in the most serious manner and without a word being spoken. When

all was over, however, he perceived that the girl had expected

him to make advances, and he proceeds to describe and discuss his

own feelings of indifference under such circumstances. "Though

without gazing on the girl's figure, I had seen enough to

recognize that she had all that a man can desire to find in a

woman: a beautiful face, lively and well-formed eyes, a beautiful

mouth, with good teeth, a healthy complexion, well-developed

breasts, and everything in harmony. It is true that I had felt

that her hands could have been smoother, but I could only

attribute this to hard work; moreover, my Swiss girl was only

eighteen, and yet I remained entirely cold. What was the cause of

this? That was the question that I asked myself."

"It is clear," wrote Stendhal, "that three parts of modesty are

taught. This is, perhaps, the only law born of civilization which

produces nothing but happiness. It has been observed that birds

of prey hide themselves to drink, because, being obliged to

plunge their heads in the water, they are at that moment

defenceless. After having considered what passes at Otaheite, I

can see no other natural foundation for modesty.

Love is the

miracle of civilization. Among savage and very barbarous races we

find nothing but physical love of a gross character.

It is

modesty that gives to love the aid of imagination, and in so

doing imparts life to it. Modesty is very early taught to little

girls by their mothers, and with extreme jealousy, one might say,

by _esprit de corps_. They are watching in advance over the

happiness of the future lover. To a timid and tender woman there

ought to be no greater torture than to allow herself in the

presence of a man something which she thinks she ought to blush

at. I am convinced that a proud woman would prefer a thousand

deaths. A slight liberty taken on the tender side by the man she

loves gives a woman a moment of keen pleasure, but if he has the

air of blaming her for it, or only of not enjoying it with

transport, an awful doubt must be left in her mind.

For a woman

above the vulgar level there is, then, everything to gain by very

reserved manners. The play is not equal. She hazards against a

slight pleasure, or against the advantage of appearing a little

amiable, the danger of biting remorse, and a feeling of shame

which must render even the lover less dear. An evening passed

gaily and thoughtlessly, without thinking of what comes after, is

dearly paid at this price. The sight of a lover with whom one

fears that one has had this kind of wrong must become odious for

several days. Can one be surprised at the force of a habit, the

slightest infractions of which are punished with such atrocious

shame? As to the utility of modesty, it is the mother of love. As

to the mechanism of the feeling, nothing is simpler.

The mind is

absorbed in feeling shame instead of being occupied with desire.

Desires are forbidden, and desires lead to actions.

It is evident

that every tender and proud woman--and these two things, being

cause and effect, naturally go together--must contract habits of

coldness which the people whom she disconcerts call prudery. The

power of modesty is so great that a tender woman betrays herself

with her lover rather by deeds than by words. The evil of

modesty is that it constantly leads to falsehood."

(Stendhal, _De

l'Amour_, Chapter XXIV.)

It thus happens that, as Adler remarks (_Die Mangelhafte

Geschlechtsempfindung des Weibes_, p. 133), the sexual impulse in

women is fettered by an inhibition which has to be conquered. A

thin veil of reticence, shyness, and anxiety is constantly cast

anew over a woman's love, and her wooer, in every act of

courtship, has the enjoyment of conquering afresh an oft-won


An interesting testimony to the part played by modesty in

effecting the union of the sexes is furnished by the fact--to

which attention has often been called--that the special modesty

of women usually tends to diminish, though not to disappear, with

the complete gratification of the sexual impulses.

This may be

noted among savage as well as among civilized women.


comparatively evanescent character of modesty has led to the

argument (Venturi, _Degenerazioni Psico-sessuali_, pp. 92-93)

that modesty (_pudore_) is possessed by women alone, men

exhibiting, instead, a sense of decency which remains at about

the same level of persistency throughout life.

Viazzi ("Pudore

nell 'uomo e nella donna," _Rivista Mensile di Psichiatria

Forense_, 1898), on the contrary, following Sergi, argues that

men are, throughout, more modest than women; but the points he

brings forward, though often just, scarcely justify his

conclusion. While the young virgin, however, is more modest and

shy than the young man of the same age, the experienced married

woman is usually less so than her husband, and in a woman who is

a mother the shy reticences of virginal modesty would be rightly

felt to be ridiculous. ("Les petites pudeurs n'existent pas pour

les mères," remarks Goncourt, _Journal des Goncourt_, vol. iii,

p. 5.) She has put off a sexual livery that has no longer any

important part to play in life, and would, indeed, be

inconvenient and harmful, just as a bird loses its sexual plumage

when the pairing season is over.

Madame Céline Renooz, in an elaborate study of the psychological

sexual differences between men and women (_Psychologie Comparée

de l'Homme et de la Femme_, 1898, pp. 85-87), also believes that

modesty is not really a feminine characteristic.

"Modesty," she

argues, "is masculine shame attributed to women for two reasons:

first, because man believes that woman is subject to the same

laws as himself; secondly, because the course of human evolution

has reversed the psychology of the sexes, attributing to women

the psychological results of masculine sexuality.

This is the

origin of the conventional lies which by a sort of social

suggestion have intimidated women. They have, in appearance at

least, accepted the rule of shame imposed on them by men, but

only custom inspires the modesty for which they are praised; it

is really an outrage to their sex. This reversal of psychological

laws has, however, only been accepted by women with a struggle.

Primitive woman, proud of her womanhood, for a long time

defended her nakedness which ancient art has always represented.

And in the actual life of the young girl to-day there is a moment

when, by a secret atavism, she feels the pride of her sex, the

intuition of her moral superiority, and cannot understand why she

must hide its cause. At this moment, wavering between the laws of

Nature and social conventions, she scarcely knows if nakedness

should or should not affright her. A sort of confused atavistic

memory recalls to her a period before clothing was known, and

reveals to her as a paradisaical ideal the customs of that human


In support of this view the authoress proceeds to point out that

the _décolleté_ constantly reappears in feminine clothing, never

in male; that missionaries experience great difficulty in

persuading women to cover themselves; that, while women accept

with facility an examination by male doctors, men cannot force

themselves to accept examination by a woman doctor, etc. (These

and similar points had already been independently brought forward

by Sergi, _Archivio di Psichiatria_, vol. xiii, 1892.)

It cannot be said that Madame Renooz's arguments will all bear

examination, if only on the ground that nakedness by no means

involves absence of modesty, but the point of view which she

expresses is one which usually fails to gain recognition, though

it probably contains an important element of truth.

It is quite

true, as Stendhal said, that modesty is very largely taught; from

the earliest years, a girl child is trained to show a modesty

which she quickly begins really to feel. This fact cannot fail to

strike any one who reads the histories of pseudo-hermaphroditic

persons, really males, who have from infancy been brought up in

the belief that they are girls, and who show, and feel, all the

shrinking reticence and blushing modesty of their supposed sex.

But when the error is discovered, and they are restored to their

proper sex, this is quickly changed, and they exhibit all the

boldness of masculinity. (See e.g., Neugebauer,


aus dem Gebiete des Scheinzwittertumes," _Jahrbuch für Sexuelle

Zwischenstufen_, Jahrgang iv, 1902, esp. p. 92.) At the same time

this is only one thread in the tangled skein with which we are

here concerned. The mass of facts which meets us when we turn to

the study of modesty in women cannot be dismissed as a group of

artificially-imposed customs. They gain rather than lose in

importance if we have to realize that the organic sexual demands

of women, calling for coyness in courtship, lead to the temporary

suppression of another feminine instinct of opposite, though

doubtless allied, nature.

But these somewhat conflicting, though not really contradictory,

statements serve to bring out the fact that a woman's modesty is

often an incalculable element. The woman who, under some

circumstances and at some times, is extreme in her reticences,

under other circumstances or at other times, may be extreme in

her abandonment. Not that her modesty is an artificial garment,

which she throws off or on at will. It is organic, but like the

snail's shell, it sometimes forms an impenetrable covering, and

sometimes glides off almost altogether. A man's modesty is more

rigid, with little tendency to deviate toward either extreme.

Thus it is, that, when uninstructed, a man is apt to be impatient

with a woman's reticences, and yet shocked at her abandonments.

The significance of our inquiry becomes greater when we reflect that to

the reticences of sexual modesty, in their progression, expansion, and

complication, we largely owe, not only the refinement and development of

the sexual emotions,--"_la pudeur_" as Guyau remarked,

"_a civilisé

l'amour_"--but the subtle and pervading part which the sexual instinct has

played in the evolution of all human culture.

"It is certain that very much of what is best in religion, art,

and life," remark Stanley Hall and Allin, "owes its charm to the

progressively-widening irradiation of sexual feeling. Perhaps the

reluctance of the female first long-circuited the exquisite

sensations connected with sexual organs and acts to the antics of

animal and human courtship, while restraint had the physiological

function of developing the colors, plumes, excessive activity,

and exuberant life of the pairing season. To keep certain parts

of the body covered, irradiated the sense of beauty to eyes,

hair, face, complexion, dress, form, etc., while many savage

dances, costumes and postures are irradiations of the sexual act.

Thus reticence, concealment, and restraint are among the prime

conditions of religion and human culture." (Stanley Hall and

Allin, "The Psychology of Tickling," _American Journal of

Psychology_, 1897, p. 31.)

Groos attributes the deepening of the conjugal relation among

birds to the circumstance that the male seeks to overcome the

reticence of the female by the display of his charms and

abilities. "And in the human world," he continues,

"it is the

same; without the modest reserve of the woman that must, in most

cases, be overcome by lovable qualities, the sexual relationship

would with difficulty find a singer who would extol in love the

highest movements of the human soul." (Groos, _Spiele der

Menschen_, p. 341.)

I have not, however, been, able to find that the subject of modesty has

been treated in any comprehensive way by psychologists.

Though valuable

facts and suggestions bearing on the sexual emotions, on disgust, the

origins of tatooing, on ornament and clothing, have been, brought forward

by physiologists, psychologists, and ethnographists, few or no attempts

appear to have been made to reach a general synthetic statement of these

facts and suggestions. It is true that a great many unreliable, slight, or

fragmentary efforts have been made to ascertain the constitution or basis

of this emotion.[1] Many psychologists have regarded modesty simply as the

result of clothing. This view is overturned by the well-ascertained fact

that many races which go absolutely naked possess a highly-developed sense

of modesty. These writers have not realized that physiological modesty is

earlier in appearance, and more fundamental, than anatomical modesty. A

partial contribution to the analysis of modesty has been made by Professor

James, who, with his usual insight and lucidity, has set forth certain of

its characteristics, especially the element due to "the application to

ourselves of judgments primarily passed upon our mates."

Guyau, in a very

brief discussion of modesty, realized its great significance and touched

on most of its chief elements.[2] Westermarck, again, followed by Grosse,

has very ably and convincingly set forth certain factors in the origin of

ornament and clothing, a subject which many writers imagine to cover the

whole field of modesty. More recently Ribot, in his work on the emotions,

has vaguely outlined most of the factors of modesty, but has not developed

a coherent view of their origins and relationships.

Since the present _Study_ first appeared, Hohenemser, who

considers that my analysis of modesty is unsatisfactory, has made

a notable attempt to define the psychological mechanism of shame.

("Versuch einer Analyse der Scham," _Archiv für die Gesamte

Psychologie_, Bd. II, Heft 2-3, 1903.) He regards shame as a

general psycho-physical phenomenon, "a definite tension of the

whole soul," with an emotion superadded. "The state of shame

consists in a certain psychic lameness or inhibition," sometimes

accompanied by physical phenomena of paralysis, such as sinking

of the head and inability to meet the eye. It is a special case

of Lipps's psychic stasis or damming up (_psychische Stauung_),

always produced when the psychic activities are at the same time

drawn in two or more different directions. In shame there is

always something present in consciousness which conflicts with

the rest of the personality, and cannot be brought into harmony

with it, which cannot be brought, that is, into moral (not

logical) relationship with it. A young man in love with a girl is

ashamed when told that he is in love, because his reverence for

one whom he regards as a higher being cannot be brought into

relationship with his own lower personality. A child in the same

way feels shame in approaching a big, grown-up person, who seems

a higher sort of being. Sometimes, likewise, we feel shame in

approaching a stranger, for a new person tends to seem higher and

more interesting than ourselves. It is not so in approaching a

new natural phenomenon, because we do not compare it with

ourselves. Another kind of shame is seen when this mental contest

is lower than our personality, and on this account in conflict

with it, as when we are ashamed of sexual thoughts.

Sexual ideas

tend to evoke shame, Hohenemser remarks, because they so easily

tend to pass into sexual feelings; when they do not so pass (as

in scientific discussions) they do not evoke shame.

It will be seen that this discussion of modesty is highly

generalized and abstracted; it deals simply with the formal

mechanism of the process. Hohenemser admits that fear is a form

of psychic stasis, and I have sought to show that modesty is a

complexus of fears. We may very well accept the conception of

psychic stasis at the outset. The analysis of modesty has still

to be carried very much further.

The discussion of modesty is complicated by the difficulty, and even

impossibility, of excluding closely-allied emotions--

shame, shyness,

bashfulness, timidity, etc.--all of which, indeed, however defined, adjoin

or overlap modesty.[3] It is not, however, impossible to isolate the main

body of the emotion of modesty, on account of its special connection, on

the whole, with the consciousness of sex. I here attempt, however

imperfectly, to sketch out a fairly-complete analysis of its constitution

and to trace its development.

In entering upon this investigation a few facts with regard to

the various manifestations of modesty may be helpful to us. I

have selected these from scattered original sources, and have

sought to bring out the variety and complexity of the problems

with which we are here concerned.

The New Georgians of the Solomon Islands, so low a race that they

are ignorant both of pottery and weaving, and wear only a loin

cloth, "have the same ideas of what is decent with regard to

certain acts and exposures that we ourselves have;"

so that it is

difficult to observe whether they practice circumcision.

(Somerville, _Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, 1897, p.


In the New Hebrides "the closest secrecy is adopted with regard

to the penis, not at all from a sense of decency, but to avoid

Narak, the _sight_ even of that of another man being considered

most dangerous. The natives of this savage island, accordingly,

wrap the penis around with many yards of calico, and other like

materials, winding and folding them until a preposterous bundle

18 inches, or 2 feet long, and 2 inches or more in diameter is

formed, which is then supported upward by means of a belt, in the

extremity decorated with flowering grasses, etc. The testicles

are left naked." There is no other body covering.


_Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, 1894, p.


In the Pelew Islands, says Kubary, as quoted by Bastian, it is

said that when the God Irakaderugel and his wife were creating

man and woman (he forming man and she forming woman), and were at

work on the sexual organs, the god wished to see his consort's

handiwork. She, however, was cross, and persisted in concealing

what she had made. Ever since then women wear an apron of

pandanus-leaves and men go naked. (A. Bastian, _Inselgruppen in

Oceanien_, p. 112.)

In the Pelew Islands, Semper tells us that when approaching a

large water-hole he was surprised to hear an affrighted,

long-drawn cry from his native friends. "A girl's voice answered

out of the bushes, and my people held us back, for there were

women bathing there who would not allow us to pass.

When I

remarked that they were only women, of whom they need not be

afraid, they replied that it was not so, that women had an

unbounded right to punish men who passed them when bathing

without their permission, and could inflict fines or even death.

On this account, the women's bathing place is a safe and favorite

spot for a secret rendezvous. Fortunately a lady's toilet lasts

but a short time in this island." (Carl Semper, _Die Palau-Inseln_, 1873, p. 68.)

Among the Western Tribes of Torres Strait, Haddon states, "the

men were formerly nude, and the women wore only a leaf petticoat,

but I gather that they were a decent people; now both sexes are

prudish. A man would never go nude before me. The women would

never voluntarily expose their breasts to white men's gaze; this

applies to quite young girls, less so to old women.


themselves they are, of course, much less particular, but I

believe they are becoming more so.... Formerly, I imagine, there

was no restraint in speech; now there is a great deal of prudery;

for instance, the men were always much ashamed when I asked for

the name of the sexual parts of a woman." (A.C.


"Ethnography of the Western Tribes of Torres Straits," _Journal

of the Anthropological Institute_, 1890, p. 336.) After a

subsequent expedition to the same region, the author reiterates

his observations as to the "ridiculously prudish manner" of the

men, attributable to missionary influence during the past thirty

years, and notes that even the children are affected by it. "At

Mabuiag, some small children were paddling in the water, and a

boy of about ten years of age reprimanded a little girl of five

or six years because she held up her dress too high." (_Reports

of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits_,

vol. v, p. 272.)

"Although the women of New Guinea," Vahness says,

"are very

slightly clothed, they are by no means lacking in a well-developed sense of decorum. If they notice, for instance,

that any one is paying special attention to their nakedness, they

become ashamed and turn round." When a woman had to climb the

fence to enter the wild-pig enclosure, she would never do it in

Vahness's presence. (_Zeitschrift für Ethnologie_, Verhdlgen.,

1900, Heft 5, p. 415.)

In Australia "the feeling of decency is decidedly less prevalent

among males than females;" the clothed females retire out of

sight to bathe. (Curr, _Australian Race_.)

"Except for waist-bands, forehead-bands, necklets, and armlets,

and a conventional pubic tassel, shell, or, in the case of the

women, a small apron, the Central Australian native is naked. The

pubic tassel is a diminutive structure, about the size of a

five-shilling piece, made of a few short strands of fur-strings

flattened out into a fan-shape and attached to the pubic hair. As

the string, especially at _corrobboree_ times, is covered with

white kaolin or gypsum, it serves as a decoration rather than a

covering. Among the Arunta and Luritcha the women usually wear

nothing, but further north, a small apron is made and worn."

(Baldwin Spencer and Gillen, _Native Tribes of Central

Australia_, p. 572.)

Of the Central Australians Stirling says: "No sense of shame of

exposure was exhibited by the men on removal of the diminutive

articles worn as conventional coverings; they were taken off

_coram populo_, and bartered without hesitation. On the other

hand, some little persuasion was necessary to allow inspection of

the effect of [urethral] sub-incision, assent being given only

after dismissal to a distance of the women and young children. As

to the women, it was nearly always observed that when in camp

without clothing they, especially the younger ones, exhibited by

their attitude a keen sense of modesty, if, indeed, a

consciousness of their nakedness can be thus considered. When we

desired to take a photograph of a group of young women, they were

very coy at the proposal to remove their scanty garments, and

retired behind a wall to do so; but once in a state of nudity

they made no objection to exposure to the camera."

(_Report of

the Horn Scientific Expedition_, 1896, vol. iv, p.


In Northern Queensland "phallocrypts," or "penis-concealers,"

only used by the males at _corrobborees_ and other public

rejoicings, are either formed of pearl-shell or opossum-string.

The _koom-pa-ra_, or opossum-string form of phallocrypt, forms a

kind of tassel, and is colored red; it is hung from the

waist-belt in the middle line. In both sexes the privates are

only covered on special public occasions, or when in close

proximity to white settlements. (W. Roth, _Ethnological Studies

among the Northwest-Central-Queensland Aborigines_, 1897, pp.


"The principle of chastity," said Forster, of his experiences in

the South Sea Islands in their unspoilt state, "we found in many

families exceedingly well understood. I have seen many fine women

who, with a modesty mixed with politeness, refuse the greatest

and most tempting offers made them by our forward youths; often

they excuse themselves with a simple _tirra-tano_,

'I am

married,' and at other times they smiled and declined it with

_epia_, 'no.' ... Virtuous women hear a joke without emotion,

which, amongst us, might put some men to the blush.


austerity and anger, nor joy and ecstasy is the consequence, but

sometimes a modest, dignified, serene smile spreads itself over

their face, and seems gently to rebuke the uncouth jester." (J.R.

Forster, _Observations made During a Voyage Round the World_,

1728, p. 392.)

Captain Cook, at Tahiti, in 1769, after performing Divine service

on Sunday, witnessed "Vespers of a very different kind. A young

man, near six feet high, performed the rites of Venus with a

little girl about eleven or twelve years of age, before several

of our people and a great number of the natives, without the

least sense of its being indecent or improper, but, as it

appeared, in perfect conformity to the custom of the place. Among

the spectators were several women of superior rank, who may

properly be said to have assisted at the ceremony; for they gave

instructions to the girl how to perform her part, which, young as

she was, she did not seem much to stand in need of."


Hawkesworth, _Account of the Voyages_, etc., 1775, vol. i, p.


At Tahiti, according to Cook, it was customary to

"gratify every

appetite and passion before witnesses," and it is added, "in the

conversation of these people, that which is the principal source

of their pleasure is always the principal topic; everything is

mentioned without any restraint or emotion, and in the most

direct terms, by both sexes." (Hawkesworth, op.

cit., vol ii, p.


"I have observed," Captain Cook wrote, "that our friends in the

South Seas have not even the idea of indecency, with respect to

any object or any action, but this was by no means the case with

the inhabitants of New Zealand, in whose carriage and

conversation there was as much modest reserve and decorum with

respect to actions, which yet in their opinion were not criminal,

as are to be found among the politest people in Europe. The women

were not impregnable; but the terms and manner of compliance were

as decent as those in marriage among us, and according to their

notions, the agreement was as innocent. When any of our people