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STUDIES IN THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SEX, VOLUME I The Evolution of Modesty
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.
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
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.
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
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 EVOLUTION OF MODESTY.
The Definition of Modesty--The Significance of Modesty--
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-
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 PHENOMENA OF SEXUAL PERIODICITY.
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
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.
AUTO-EROTISM: A STUDY OF THE SPONTANEOUS MANIFESTATIONS
OF THE SEXUAL
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?--
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--
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--
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 EVOLUTION OF MODESTY.
The Definition of Modesty--The Significance of Modesty--
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.
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."
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.
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.
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,
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.
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. 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. 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.
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--
bashfulness, timidity, etc.--all of which, indeed, however defined, adjoin
or overlap modesty. 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.
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,
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."
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_,
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
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