Studies in the psychology of sex, volume 4 (of 6) by Havelock Ellis. - HTML preview
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generalized aphrodisiac sense comparable to the specialized
sexual orgasm. Bronson refers to the significant fact that
itching occurs so frequently in the sexual region, and states
that sexual neurasthenia is sometimes the only discoverable cause
of genital and anal pruritus. (Cf. discussion on pruritus,
_British Medical Journal_, November 30, 1895.) Gilman, again
(_American Journal of Psychology_, vi, p. 22), considers that
scratching, as well as sneezing, is comparable to coitus.
The sexual embrace has an intimate connection with the phenomena of
ticklishness which could not fail to be recognized. This connection is,
indeed, the basis of Spinoza's famous definition of love,--"_Amor est
titillatio quædam concomitante idea causæ externæ_,"--a statement which
seems to be reflected in Chamfort's definition of love as "_l'échange de
deux fantaisies, et le contact de deux epidermes_." The sexual act, says
Gowers, is, in fact, a skin reflex. "The sexual parts," Hall and Allin
state, "have a ticklishness as unique as their function and as keen as
their importance." Herrick finds the supreme illustration of the summation
and irradiation theory of tickling in the phenomena of erotic excitement,
and points out that in harmony with this the skin of the sexual region is,
as Dogiel has shown, that portion of the body in which the tactile
corpuscles are most thoroughly and elaborately provided with anastomosing
fibres. It has been pointed out that, when ordinary tactile
sensibility is partially abolished,--especially in hemianæsthesia in the
insane,--some sexual disturbance is specially apt to be found in
In young children, in girls even when they are no longer children, and
occasionally in men, tickling may be a source of acute pleasure, which in
very early life is not sexual, but later tends to become so under
circumstances predisposing to the production of erotic emotion, and
especially when the nervous system is keyed up to a high tone favorable
for the production of the maximum effect of tickling.
"When young," writes a lady aged 28, "I was extremely fond of
being tickled, and I am to some extent still.
Between the ages of
10 and 12 it gave me exquisite pleasure, which I now regard as
sexual in character. I used to bribe my younger sister to tickle
my feet until she was tired."
Stanley Hall and Allin in their investigation of the phenomena of
tickling, largely carried out among young women teachers, found
that in 60 clearly marked cases ticklishness was more marked at
one time than another, "as when they have been
'carrying on,' or
are in a happy mood, are nervous or unwell, after a good meal,
when being washed, when in perfect health, when with people they
like, etc." (Hall and Allin, "Tickling and Laughter," _American
Journal of Psychology_, October, 1897.) It will be observed that
most of the conditions mentioned are such as would be favorable
to excitations of an emotionally sexual character.
The palms of the hands may be very ticklish during sexual
excitement, especially in women, and Moll (_Konträre Sexualempfindung_, p. 180) remarks that in some men titillation
of the skin of the back, of the feet, and even of the forehead
evokes erotic feelings.
It may be added that, as might be expected, titillation of the
skin often has the same significance in animals as in man. "In
some animals," remarks Louis Robinson (art.
_Dictionary of Psychological Medicine_), "local titillation of
the skin, though in parts remote from the reproductive organs,
plainly acts indirectly upon them as a stimulus.
records that, by stroking the back of a favorite parrot (which he
had possessed for years and supposed to be a male), he not only
gave the bird gratification,--which was the sole intention of the
illustrious physiologist,--but also caused it to reveal its sex
by laying an egg."
The sexual significance of tickling is very clearly indicated by the fact
that the general ticklishness of the body, which is so marked in children
and in young girls, greatly diminishes, as a rule, after sexual
relationships have been established. Dr. Gina Lombroso, who investigated
the cutaneous reflexes, found that both the abdominal and plantar
reflexes, which are well marked in childhood and in young people between
the ages of 15 and 18, were much diminished in older persons, and to a
greater extent in women than in men, to a greater extent in the abdominal
region than on the soles of the feet; her results do not directly show
the influence of sexual relationship, but they have an indirect bearing
which is worth noting.
The difference in ticklishness between the unmarried woman and the married
woman corresponds to their difference in degree of modesty. Both modesty
and ticklishness may be said to be characters which are no longer needed.
From this point of view the general ticklishness of the skin is a kind of
body modesty. It is so even apart from any sexual significance of
tickling, and Louis Robinson has pointed out that in young apes, puppies,
and other like animals the most ticklish regions correspond to the most
vulnerable spots in a fight, and that consequently in the mock fights of
early life skill in defending these spots is attained.
In Iceland, according to Margarethe Filhés (as quoted by Max
Bartels, _Zeitschrift für Ethnologie_, 1900, ht. 2-3, p. 57), it
may be known whether a youth is pure or a maid is intact by their
susceptibility to tickling. It is considered a bad sign if that
I am indebted to a medical correspondent for the following
communication: "Married women have told me that they find that
after marriage they are not ticklish under the arms or on the
breasts, though before marriage any tickling or touching in these
regions, especially by a man, would make them jump or get
hysterical or 'queer,' as they call it. Before coitus the sexual
energy seems to be dissipated along all the nerve-channels and
especially along the secondary sexual routes,--the breasts, nape
of neck, eyebrows, lips, cheeks, armpits, and hair thereon,
etc.,--but after marriage the surplus energy is diverted from
these secondary channels, and response to tickling is diminished.
I have often noted in insane cases, especially mania in
adolescent girls, that they are excessively ticklish. Again, in
ordinary routine practice I have observed that, though married
women show no ticklishness during auscultation and percussion of
the chest, this is by no means always so in young girls. Perhaps
ticklishness in virgins is Nature's self-protection against rape
and sexual advances, and the young girl instinctively wishing to
hide the armpits, breasts, and other ticklish regions, tucks
herself up to prevent these parts being touched. The married
woman, being in love with a man, does not shut up these parts, as
she reciprocates the advances that he makes; she no longer
requires ticklishness as a protection against sexual aggression."
 Alrutz's views are summarized in _Psychological Review_, Sept., 1901.
 _Die Spiele der Menschen_, 1899, p. 206.
 L. Robinson, art. "Ticklishness," Tuke's _Dictionary of Psychological
 Stanley Hall and Allin, "Tickling and Laughter,"
_American Journal of
Psychology_, October, 1897.
 H.M. Stanley, "Remarks on Tickling and Laughter,"
_American Journal of
Psychology_, vol. ix, January, 1898.
 Simpson, "On the Attitude of the Foetus in Utero,"
Memoirs_, 1856, vol. ii.
 Erasmus Darwin, _Zoönomia_, Sect. XVII, 4.
 Hyades and Deniker, _Mission Scientifique du Cap Horn_, vol. vii. p.
 Such an interpretation is supported by the arguments of W. McDougall
("The Theory of Laughter," _Nature_, February 5, 1903), who contends,
without any reference to the sexual field, that one of the objects of
laughter is automatically to "disperse our attention."
 Even the structure of the vaginal mucous membrane, it may be noted,
is analogous to that of the skin. D. Berry Hart, "Note on the Development
of the Clitoris, Vagina, and Hymen," _Transactions of the Edinburgh
Obstetrical Society_, vol. xxi, 1896.
 W.H.B. Stoddart, "Anæsthesia in the Insane,"
_Journal of Mental
Science_, October, 1899.
 Gina Lombroso, "Sur les Réflexes Cutanés,"
International Congress of
Criminal Anthropology, Amsterdam, _Comptes Rendus_, p.
The Secondary Sexual Skin Centres--Orificial Contacts--
Fellatio--The Kiss--The Nipples--The Sympathy of the Breasts with the
Primary Sexual Centres--This Connection Operative both through the Nerves
and through the Blood--The Influence of Lactation on the Sexual
Centres--Suckling and Sexual Emotion--The Significance of the Association
between Suckling and Sexual Emotion--This Association as a Cause of Sexual
We have seen that the skin generally has a high degree of sensibility,
which frequently tends to be in more or less definite association with the
sexual centres. We have seen also that the central and specific sexual
sensation, the sexual embrace itself, is, in large measure, a specialized
kind of skin reflex. Between the generalized skin sensations and the great
primary sexual centre of sensation there are certain secondary sexual
centres which, on account of their importance, may here be briefly
These secondary centres have in common the fact that they always involve
the entrances and the exits of the body--the regions, that is, where skin
merges into mucous membrane, and where, in the course of evolution,
tactile sensibility has become highly refined. It may, indeed, be said
generally of these frontier regions of the body that their contact with
the same or a similar frontier region in another person of opposite sex,
under conditions otherwise favorable to tumescence, will tend to produce a
minimum and even sometimes a maximum degree of sexual excitation. Contact
of these regions with each other or with the sexual region itself so
closely simulates the central sexual reflex that channels are set up for
the same nervous energy and secondary sexual centres are constituted.
It is important to remember that the phenomena we are here concerned with
are essentially normal. Many of them are commonly spoken of as
perversions. In so far, however, as they are aids to tumescence they must
be regarded as coming within the range of normal variation. They may be
considered unæsthetic, but that is another matter. It has, moreover, to be
remembered that æsthetic values are changed under the influence of sexual
emotion; from the lover's point of view many things are beautiful which
are unbeautiful from the point of view of him who is not a lover, and the
greater the degree to which the lover is swayed by his passion the greater
the extent to which his normal æsthetic standard is liable to be modified.
A broad consideration of the phenomena among civilized and uncivilized
peoples amply suffices to show the fallacy of the tendency, so common
among unscientific writers on these subjects, to introduce normal æsthetic
standards into the sexual sphere. From the normal standpoint of ordinary
daily life, indeed, the whole process of sex is unæsthetic, except the
earlier stages of tumescence.
So long as they constitute a part of the phase of tumescence, the
utilization of the sexual excitations obtainable through these channels
must be considered within the normal range of variation, as we may
observe, indeed, among many animals. When, however, such contacts of the
orifices of the body, other than those of the male and female sexual
organs proper, are used to procure not merely tumescence, but
detumescence, they become, in the strict and technical sense, perversions.
They are perversions in exactly the same sense as are the methods of
intercourse which involve the use of checks to prevent fecundation. The
æsthetic question, however, remains the same as if we were dealing with
tumescence. It is necessary that this should be pointed out clearly, even
at the risk of misapprehension, as confusions are here very common.
The essentially sexual character of the sensitivity of the
orificial contacts is shown by the fact that it may sometimes be
accidentally developed even in early childhood. This is well
illustrated in a case recorded by Féré. A little girl of 4, of
nervous temperament and liable to fits of anger in which she
would roll on the ground and tear her clothes, once ran out into
the garden in such a fit of temper and threw herself on the lawn
in a half-naked condition. As she lay there two dogs with whom
she was accustomed to play came up and began to lick the
uncovered parts of the body. It so happened that as one dog
licked her mouth the other licked her sexual parts.
experienced a shock of intense sensation which she could never
forget and never describe, accompanied by a delicious tension of
the sexual organs. She rose and ran away with a feeling of shame,
though she could not comprehend what had happened.
thus made was so profound that it persisted throughout life and
served as the point of departure of sexual perversions, while the
contact of a dog's tongue with her mouth alone afterward sufficed
to evoke sexual pleasure. (Féré, _Archives de Neurologie_, 1903,
I do not purpose to discuss here either _cunnilingus_ (the
apposition of the mouth to the female pudendum) or _fellatio_
(the apposition of the mouth to the male organ), the agent in the
former case being, in normal heterosexual relationships, a man,
in the latter a woman; they are not purely tactile phenomena, but
involve various other physical and psychic elements.
_Cunnilingus_ was a very familiar manifestation in classic times,
as shown by frequent and mostly very contemptuous references in
Aristophanes, Juvenal, and many other Greek and Roman writers;
the Greeks regarded it as a Phoenician practice, just as it is
now commonly considered French; it tends to be especially
prevalent at all periods of high civilization.
also been equally well known, in both ancient and modern times,
especially as practiced by inverted men. It may be accepted that
both _cunnilingus_ and _fellatio_, as practiced by either sex,
are liable to occur among healthy or morbid persons, in
heterosexual or homosexual relationships. They have little
psychological significance, except to the extent that when
practiced to the exclusion of normal sexual relationships they
become perversions, and as such tend to be associated with
various degenerative conditions, although such associations are
The essentially normal character of _cunnilingus_
when occurring as incidents in the process of tumescence, is
shown by the fact that they are practiced by many animals. This
is the case, for instance, among dogs. Moll points out that not
infrequently the bitch, while under the dog, but before
intromission, will change her position to lick the dog's
penis--apparently from an instinctive impulse to heighten her own
and his excitement--and then return to the normal position, while
_cunnilingus_ is of constant occurrence among animals, and on
account of its frequency among dogs was called by the Greeks
skylax (Rosenbaum, _Geschichte der Lustseuche im Altertume_,
fifth edition, pp. 260-278; also notes in Moll, _Untersuchungen
über pie Libido Sexualis_, Bd. I, pp. 134, 369; and Bloch,
_Beiträge zur Ætiologie der Psychopathia Sexualis_, Teil II, pp.
216 et seq.)
The occurrence of _cunnilingus_ as a sexual episode of tumescence
among lower human races is well illustrated by a practice of the
natives of the Caroline Islands (as recorded by Kubary in his
ethnographic study of this people and quoted by Ploss and
Bartels, _Das Weib_, vol. i). It is here customary for a man to
place a piece of fish between the labia, while he stimulates the
latter by his tongue and teeth until under stress of sexual
excitement the woman urinates; this is regarded as an indication
that the proper moment for intercourse has arrived.
practice rests on physiologically sound facts whatever may be
thought of it from an æsthetic standpoint.
The contrast between the normal æsthetic standpoint in this
matter and the lover's is well illustrated by the following
quotations: Dr. A.B. Holder, in the course of his description of
the American Indian _boté_, remarks, concerning _fellatio_: "Of
all the many varieties of sexual perversion, this, it seems to
me, is the most debased that could be conceived of."
On the other
hand, in a communication from a writer and scholar of high
intellectual distinction occurs the statement: "I affirm that, of
all sexual acts, _fellatio_ is most an affair of imagination and
sympathy." It must be pointed out that there is no contradiction
in these two statements, and that each is justified, according as
we take the point of view of the ordinary onlooker or of the
impassioned lover eager to give a final proof of his or her
devotion. It must be added that from a scientific point of view
we are not entitled to take either side.
Of the whole of this group of phenomena, the most typical and the most
widespread example is certainly the kiss. We have in the lips a highly
sensitive frontier region between skin and mucous membrane, in many
respects analogous to the vulvo-vaginal orifice, and reinforcible,
moreover, by the active movements of the still more highly sensitive
tongue. Close and prolonged contact of these regions, therefore, under
conditions favorable to tumescence sets up a powerful current of nervous
stimulation. After those contacts in which the sexual regions themselves
take a direct part, there is certainly no such channel for directing
nervous force into the sexual sphere as the kiss. This is nowhere so well
recognized as in France, where a young girl's lips are religiously kept
for her lover, to such an extent, indeed, that young girls sometimes come
to believe that the whole physical side of love is comprehended in a kiss
on the mouth; so highly intelligent a woman as Madam Adam has described
the agony she felt as a girl when kissed on the lips by a man, owing to
the conviction that she had thereby lost her virtue.
Although the lips
occupy this highly important position as a secondary sexual focus
in the sphere of touch, the kiss is--unlike _cunnilingus_ and
_fellatio_--confined to man and, indeed, to a large extent, to civilized
man. It is the outcome of a compound evolution which had its beginning
outside the sphere of touch, and it would therefore be out of place to
deal with the interesting question of its development in this place. It
will be discussed elsewhere.
There is yet another orificial frontier region which is a highly important
tactile sexual focus: the nipple. The breasts raise, indeed, several
interesting questions in their intimate connection with the sexual sphere
and it may be worth while to consider them at this point.
The breasts have from the present point of view this special significance
among the sexual centres that they primarily exist, not for the contact of
the lover, but the contact of the child. This is doubtless, indeed, the
fundamental fact on which all the touch contacts we are here concerned
with have grown up. The sexual sensitivity of the lover's lips to
orificial contacts has been developed from the sensitivity of the infant's
lips to contact with his mother's nipple. It is on the ground of that
evolution that we are bound to consider here the precise position of the
breasts as a sexual centre.
As the great secreting organs of milk, the function of the breasts must
begin immediately the child is cut off from the nutrition derived from
direct contact with his mother's blood. It is therefore essential that the
connection between the sexual organs proper, more especially the womb, and
the breasts should be exceedingly intimate, so that the breasts may be in
a condition to respond adequately to the demand of the child's sucking
lips at the earliest moment after birth. As a matter of fact, this
connection is very intimate, so intimate that it takes place in two
totally distinct ways--by the nervous system and by the blood.
The breasts of young girls sometimes become tender at puberty in
sympathy with the evolution of the sexual organs, although the
swelling of the breasts at this period is not normally a
glandular process. At the recurring periods of menstruation,
again, sensations in the breasts are not uncommon.
It is not, however, until impregnation occurs that really
decisive changes take place in the breasts. "As soon as the ovum
is impregnated, that is to say within a few days,"
Griffith states it ("The Diagnosis of Pregnancy,"
Medical Journal_, April 11, 1903), "the changes begin to occur in
the breast, changes which are just as well worked out as are the
changes in the uterus and the vagina, which, from the
commencement of pregnancy, prepare for the labor which ought to
follow nine months afterward. These are changes in the direction
of marked activity of function. An organ which was previously
quite passive, without activity of circulation and the effects of
active circulation, begins to grow and continues to grow in
activity and size as pregnancy progresses."
The association between breasts and womb is so obvious that it
has not escaped many savage peoples, who are often, indeed,
excellent observers. Among one primitive people at least the
activity of the breast at impregnation seems to be clearly
recognized. The Sinangolo of British New Guinea, says Seligmann
(_Journal of the Anthropological Institute_, July-December, 1902,
p. 298) believe that conception takes place in the breasts; on
this account they hold that coitus should never take place before
the child is weaned or he might imbibe semen with the milk.
It is natural to assume that this connection between the activity
of the womb and the glandular activity of the breasts is a
nervous connection, by means of the spinal cord, and such a
connection certainly exists and plays a very important part in
the stimulating action of the breasts on the sexual organs. But
that there is a more direct channel of communication even than
the nervous system is shown by the fact that the secretion of
milk will take place at parturition, even when the nervous
connection has been destroyed. Mironoff found that, when the
mammary gland is completely separated from the central nervous
system, secretion, though slightly diminished, still continued.
In two goats he cut the nerves shortly before parturition and
after birth the breasts still swelled and functioned normally
(_Archives des Sciences Biologiques_, St.
summarized in _L'Année Biologique_; 1895, p. 329).
again, cut out the mammary gland of a young rabbit and
transplanted it into the ear; five months after the rabbit bore
young and the gland secreted milk freely. The case has been
reported of a woman whose spinal cord was destroyed by an
accident at the level of the fifth and sixth dorsal vertebræ,
yet lactation was perfectly normal (_British Medical Journal_,
August 5, 1899, p. 374). We are driven to suppose that there is
some chemical change in the blood, some internal secretion from
the uterus or the ovaries, which acts as a direct stimulant to
the breasts. (See a comprehensive discussion of the phenomena of
the connection between the breasts and sexual organs, though the
conclusions are not unassailable, by Temesvary, _Journal of
Obstetrics and Gynæcology of the British Empire_, June, 1903).
That this hypothetical secretion starts from the womb rather than
the ovaries seems to be indicated by the fact that removal of
both ovaries during pregnancy will not suffice to prevent
lactation. In favor of the ovaries, see Beatson, _Lancet_, July,
1896; in favor of the uterus, Armand Routh, "On the Interaction
between the Ovaries and the Mammary Glands,"
Journal_, September 30, 1899.
While, however, the communications from the sexual organs to the breast
are of a complex and at present ill understood character, the
communication from the breasts to the sexual organs is without doubt
mainly and chiefly nervous. When the child is put to the breast after
birth the suction of the nipple causes a reflex contraction of the womb,
and it is held by many, though not all, authorities that in a woman who
does not suckle her child there is some risk that the womb will not return
to its normal involuted size. It has also been asserted that to put a
child to the breast during the early months of pregnancy causes so great a
degree of uterine contraction that abortion may result.
Freund found in Germany that stimulation of the nipples by an
electrical cupping apparatus brought about contraction of the
pregnant uterus. At an earlier period it was recommended to
irritate the nipple in order to excite the uterus to parturient
action. Simpson, while pointing out that this was scarcely
adequate to produce the effect desired, thought that placing a
child to the breast after labor had begun might increase uterine
action. (J.Y. Simpson, _Obstetric Memoirs_, vol. i, p. 836; also
Féré, _L'Instinct Sexuel_, second edition, p. 132).
The influence of lactation over the womb in preventing the return
of menstruation during its continuance is well known. According
to Remfry's investigation of 900 cases in England, in 57 per
cent. of cases there is no menstruation during lactation. (L.
Remfry, in paper read before Obstetrical Society of London,
summarized in the _British Medical Journal_, January 11, 1896, p.
86). Bendix, in Germany, found among 140 cases that in about 40
per cent. there was no menstruation during lactation (paper read
before Düsseldorf meeting of the Society of German Naturalists
and Physicians, 1899). When the child is not suckled menstruation
tends to reappear about six months after parturition.
It is possible that the divergent opinions of authorities
concerning the necessarily favorable influence of lactation in
promoting the return of the womb to its normal size may be due to
a confusion of two distinct influences: the reflex action of the
nipple on the womb and the effects of prolonged glandular
secretion of the breasts in debilitated persons. The act of
suckling undoubtedly tends to promote uterine contraction, and in
healthy women during lactation the womb may even (according to
Vineberg) be temporarily reduced to a smaller size than before
impregnation, thus producing what is known as
atrophy." In debilitated women, however, the strain of
milk-production may lead to general lack of muscular tone, and
involution of the womb thus be hindered rather than aided by
On the objective side, then, the nipple is to be regarded as an erectile
organ, richly supplied with nerves and vessels, which, under the
stimulation of the infant's lips--or any similar compression, and even
under the influence of emotion or cold,--becomes firm and projects, mainly
as a result of muscular contraction; for, unlike the penis and the
clitoris, the nipple contains no true erectile tissue and little capacity
for vascular engorgement. We must then suppose that an impetus tends
to be transmitted through the spinal cord to the sexual organs, setting up
a greater or less degree of nervous and muscular excitement with uterine
contraction. These being the objective manifestations, what manifestations
are to be noted on the subjective side?
It is a remarkable proof of the general indifference with which in Europe
even the fairly constant and prominent characteristics of the psychology
of women have been treated until recent times that, so far as I am
aware,--though I have made no special research to this end,--no one before
the end of the eighteenth century had recorded the fact that the act of
suckling tends to produce in women voluptuous sexual emotions. Cabanis in
1802, in the memoir on "Influence des Sexes" in his _Rapports du Physique
et du Moral de l'Homme_, wrote that several suckling women had told him
that the child in sucking the breast made them experience a vivid
sensation of pleasure, shared in some degree by the sexual organs. There
can be no doubt that in healthy suckling women this phenomenon is
exceedingly common, though in the absence of any methodical and precise
investigation it cannot be affirmed that it is experienced by every woman
in some degree, and it is highly probable that this is not the case. One
lady, perfectly normal, states that she has had stronger sexual feelings
in suckling her children than she has ever experienced with her husband,
but that so far as possible she has tried to repress them, as she regards
them as brutish under these circumstances. Many other women state
generally that suckling is the most delicious physical feeling they have
ever experienced. In most cases, however, it does not appear to lead to a
desire for intercourse, and some of those who make this statement have no
desire for coitus during lactation, though they may have strong sexual
needs at other times. It is probable that this corresponds to the normal
condition, and that the voluptuous sensations aroused by suckling are
adequately gratified by the child. It may be added that there are probably
many women who could say, with a lady quoted by Féré, that the only
real pleasures of sex they have ever known are those derived from their
It is not difficult to see why this normal association of sexual emotion
with suckling should have come about. It is essential for the preservation
of the lives of young mammals that the mothers should have an adequate
motive in pleasurable sensation for enduring the trouble of suckling. The
most obvious method for obtaining the necessary degree of pleasurable
sensation lay in utilizing the reservoir of sexual emotion, with which
channels of communication might already be said to be open through the
action of the sexual organs on the breasts during pregnancy. The
voluptuous element in suckling may thus be called a merciful provision of
Nature for securing the maintenance of the child.
Cabanis seems to have realized the significance of this
connection as the basis of the sympathy between mother and child,
and more recently Lombroso and Ferrero have remarked (_La Donna
Delinquente_, p. 438) on the fact that maternal love has a sexual
basis in the element of venereal pleasure, though usually
inconsiderable, experienced during suckling. Houzeau has referred
to the fact that in the majority of animals the relation between
mother and offspring is only close during the period of
lactation, and this is certainly connected with the fact that it
is only during lactation that the female animal can derive
physical gratification from her offspring. When living on a farm
I have ascertained that cows sometimes, though not frequently,
exhibit slight signs of sexual excitement, with secretion of
mucus, while being milked; so that, as the dairymaid herself
observed, it is as if they were being "bulled." The sow, like
some other mammals, often eats her own young after birth,
mistaking them, it is thought, for the placenta, which is
normally eaten by most mammals; it is said that the sow never
eats her young when they have once taken the teat.
It occasionally happens that this normal tendency for suckling to
produce voluptuous sexual emotions is present in an extreme
degree, and may lead to sexual perversions. It does not appear
that the sexual sensations aroused by suckling usually culminate
in the orgasm; this however, was noted in a case recorded by
Féré, of a slightly neurotic woman in whom intense sexual
excitement occurred during suckling, especially if prolonged; so
far as possible, she shortened the periods of suckling in order
to prevent, not always successfully, the occurrence of the orgasm
(Féré, _Archives de Neurologie_ No. 30, 1903). Icard refers to
the case of a woman who sought to become pregnant solely for the
sake of the voluptuous sensations she derived from suckling, and
Yellowlees (Art. "Masturbation," _Dictionary of Psychological
Medicine_) speaks of the overwhelming character of
"the storms of
sexual feeling sometimes observed during lactation."
It may be remarked that the frequency of the association between
lactation and the sexual sensations is indicated by the fact
that, as Savage remarks, lactational insanity is often
accompanied by fancies regarding the reproductive organs.
When we have realized the special sensitivity of the orificial regions and
the peculiarly close relationships between the breasts and the sexual
organs we may easily understand the considerable part which they normally
play in the art of love. As one of the chief secondary sexual characters
in women, and one of her chief beauties, a woman's breasts offer
themselves to the lover's lips with a less intimate attraction than her
mouth only because the mouth is better able to respond.
On her side, such
contact is often instinctively desired. Just as the sexual disturbance of
pregnancy is accompanied by a sympathetic disturbance in the breasts, so
the sexual excitement produced by the lover's proximity reacts on the
breasts; the nipple becomes turgid and erect in sympathy with the
clitoris; the woman craves to place her lover in the place of the child,
and experiences a sensation in which these two supreme objects of her
desire are deliciously mingled.
The powerful effect which stimulation of the nipple produces on
the sexual sphere has led to the breasts playing a prominent part
in the erotic art of those lands in which this art has been most
carefully cultivated. Thus in India, according to Vatsyayana,
many authors are of the opinion that in approaching a woman a
lover should begin by sucking the nipples of her breasts, and in
the songs of the Bayaderes of Southern India sucking the nipple
is mentioned as one of the natural preliminaries of coitus.
In some cases, and more especially in neurotic persons, the
sexual pleasure derived from manipulation of the nipple passes
normal limits and, being preferred even to coitus, becomes a
perversion. In girls' schools, it is said, especially in France,
sucking and titillation of the breasts are not uncommon; in men,
also, titillation of the nipples occasionally produces sexual
sensations (Féré, _L'Instinct Sexuel_, second edition, p. 132).
Hildebrandt recorded the case of a young woman whose nipples had
been sucked by her lover; by constantly drawing her breasts she
became able to suck them herself and thus attained extreme sexual
pleasure. A.J. Bloch, of New Orleans, has noted the case of a
woman who complained of swelling of the breasts; the gentlest
manipulation produced an orgasm, and it was found that the
swelling had been intentionally produced for the sake of this
manipulation. Moraglia in Italy knew a very beautiful woman who
was perfectly cold in normal sexual relationships, but madly
excited when her husband pressed or sucked her breasts. Lombroso
(_Archivio di Psichiatria_, 1885, fasc. IV) has described the
somewhat similar case of a woman who had no sexual sensitivity in
the clitoris, vagina, or labia, and no pleasure in coitus except
in very strange positions, but possessed intense sexual feelings
in the right nipple as well as in the upper third of the thigh.
It is remarkable that not only is suckling apt to be accompanied
by sexual pleasure in the mother, but that, in some cases, the
infant also appears to have a somewhat similar experience. This
is, at all events, indicated in a remarkable case recorded by
Féré (_L'Instinct Sexuel_, second edition, p. 257).
infant child of slightly neurotic heredity was weaned at the age
of 14 months, but so great was her affection for her mother's
breasts, though she had already become accustomed to other food,
that this was only accomplished with great difficulty and by
allowing her still to caress the naked breasts several times a
day. This went on for many months, when the mother, becoming
again pregnant, insisted on putting an end to it. So jealous was
the child, however, that it was necessary to conceal from her the
fact that her younger sister was suckled at her mother's breasts,
and once at the age of 3, when she saw her father aiding her
mother to undress, she became violently jealous of him. This
jealousy, as well as the passion for her mother's breasts,
persisted to the age of puberty, though she learned to conceal
it. At the age of 13, when menstruation began, she noticed in
dancing with her favorite girl friends that when her breasts came
in contact with theirs she experienced a very agreeable
sensation, with erection of the nipples; but it was not till the
age of 16 that she observed that the sexual region took part in
this excitement and became moist. From this period she had erotic
dreams about young girls. She never experienced any attraction
for young men, but eventually married; though having much esteem
and affection for her husband, she never felt any but the
slightest sexual enjoyment in his arms, and then only by evoking
feminine images. This case, in which the sensations of an infant
at the breast formed the point of departure of a sexual
perversion which lasted through life, is, so far as I am aware,
 Jonas Cohn (_Allgemeine Æsthetik_, 1901, p. 11) lays it down that
psychology has nothing to do with good or bad taste.
between good and bad taste has no meaning for psychology. On this account,
the fundamental conceptions of æsthetics cannot arise from psychology." It
may be a question whether this view can be accepted quite absolutely.
 See Appendix A: "The Origins of the Kiss."
 See J.B. Hellier, "On the Nipple Reflex," _British Medical Journal_,
November 7, 1896.
 Féré, _L'Instinct Sexuel_, second edition, p. 147.
The Bath--Antagonism of Primitive Christianity to the Cult of the
Skin--Its Cult of Personal Filth--The Reasons which Justified this
Attitude--The World-wide Tendency to Association between Extreme
Cleanliness and Sexual Licentiousness--The Immorality Associated with
Public Baths in Europe down to Modern Times.
The hygiene of the skin, as well as its special cult, consists in bathing.
The bath, as is well known, attained under the Romans a degree of
development which, in Europe at all events, it has never reached before or
since, and the modern visitor to Rome carries away with him no more
impressive memory than that of the Baths of Caracalla.
Since the coming of
Christianity the cult of the skin, and even its hygiene, have never again
attained the same general and unquestioned exaltation.
The Church killed
the bath. St. Jerome tells us with approval that when the holy Paula noted
that any of her nuns were too careful in this matter she would gravely
reprove them, saying that "the purity of the body and its garments means
the impurity of the soul." Or, as the modern monk of Mount Athos still
declares: "A man should live in dirt as in a coat of mail, so that his
soul may sojourn more securely within."
Our knowledge of the bathing arrangements of Roman days is
chiefly derived from Pompeii. Three public baths (two for both
men and women, who were also probably allowed to use the third
occasionally) have so far been excavated in this small town, as
well as at least three private bathing establishments (at least
one of them for women), while about a dozen houses contain
complete baths for private use. Even in a little farm house at
Boscoreale (two miles out of Pompeii) there was an elaborate
series of bathing rooms. It may be added that Pompeii was well
supplied with water. All houses but the poorest had flowing
jets, and some houses had as many as ten jets. (See Man's
_Pompeii_, Chapters XXVI-XXVIII.)
The Church succeeded to the domination of imperial Rome, and
adopted many of the methods of its predecessor. But there could
be no greater contrast than is presented by the attitude of
Paganism and of Christianity toward the bath.
As regards the tendencies of the public baths in imperial Rome,
some of the evidence is brought together in the section on this
subject in Rosenbaum's _Geschichte der Lustseuche im Alterthume_.
As regards the attitude of the earliest Christian ascetics in
this matter I may refer the reader to an interesting passage in
Lecky's _History of European Morals_ (vol. ii, pp.
which are brought together a number of highly instructive
examples of the manner in which many of the most eminent of the
early saints deliberately cultivated personal filth.
In the middle ages, when the extreme excesses of the early
ascetics had died out, and monasticiam became regulated, monks
generally took two baths a year when in health; in illness they
could be taken as often as necessary. The rules of Cluny only
allowed three towels to the community: one for the novices, one
for the professed, and one for the lay brothers. At the end of
the seventeenth century Madame de Mazarin, having retired to a
convent of Visitandines, one day desired to wash her feet, but
the whole establishment was set in an uproar at such an idea, and
she received a direct refusal. In 1760 the Dominican Richard
wrote that in itself the bath is permissible, but it must be
taken solely for necessity, not for pleasure. The Church taught,
and this lesson is still inculcated in convent schools, that it
is wrong to expose the body even to one's own gaze, and it is not
surprising that many holy persons boasted that they had never
even washed their hands. (Most of these facts have been taken
from A. Franklin, _Les Soins de Toilette_, one of the _Vie Privée
d'Autrefois_ series, in which further details may be found.)
In sixteenth-century Italy, a land of supreme elegance and
fashion, superior even to France, the conditions were the same,
and how little water found favor even with aristocratic ladies we
may gather from the contemporary books on the toilet, which
abound with recipes against itch and similar diseases. It should
be added that Burckhardt (_Die Cultur der Renaissance in
Italien_, eighth edition, volume ii, p. 92) considers that in
spite of skin diseases the Italians of the Renaissance were the
first nation in Europe for cleanliness.
It is unnecessary to consider the state of things in other
European countries. The aristocratic conditions of former days
are the plebeian conditions of to-day. So far as England is
concerned, such documents as Chadwick's _Report on the Sanitary
Condition of the Laboring Population of Great Britain_ (1842)
sufficiently illustrate the ideas and the practices as regards
personal cleanliness which prevailed among the masses during the
nineteenth century and which to a large extent still prevail.
A considerable amount of opprobrium has been cast upon the Catholic Church
for its direct and indirect influence in promoting bodily uncleanliness.
Nietzsche sarcastically refers to the facts, and Mr.
asserts that "the tone of the middle ages in the matter of dirt was a form
of mental disease." It would be easy to quote many other authors to the
It is necessary to point out, however, that the writers who have committed
themselves to such utterances have not only done an injustice to
Christianity, but have shown a lack of historical insight. Christianity
was essentially and fundamentally a rebellion against the classic world,
against its vices, and against their concomitant virtues, against both its
practices and its ideals. It sprang up in a different part of the
Mediterranean basin, from a different level of culture; it found its
supporters in a new and lower social stratum. The cult of charity,
simplicity, and faith, while not primarily ascetic, became inevitably
allied with asceticism, because from its point of view: sexuality was the
very stronghold of the classic world. In the second century the genius of
Clement of Alexandria and of the great Christian thinkers who followed him
seized on all those elements in classic life and philosophy which could be
amalgamated with Christianity without, as they trusted, destroying its
essence, but in the matter of sexuality there could be no compromise, and
the condemnation of sexuality involved the condemnation of the bath. It
required very little insight and sagacity for the Christians to
see--though we are now apt to slur over the fact--that the cult of the
bath was in very truth the cult of the flesh.
However profound their
ignorance of anatomy, physiology, and psychology might be, they had
before them ample evidence to show that the skin is an outlying sexual
zone and that every application which promoted the purity, brilliance, and
healthfulness of the skin constituted a direct appeal, feeble or strong as
the case might be, to those passions against which they were warring. The
moral was evident: better let the temporary garment of your flesh be
soaked with dirt than risk staining the radiant purity of your immortal
soul. If Christianity had not drawn that moral with clear insight and
relentless logic Christianity would never have been a great force in the
If any doubt is felt as to the really essential character of the
connection between cleanliness and the sexual impulse it may be
dispelled by the consideration that the association is by no
means confined to Christian Europe. If we go outside Europe and
even Christendom altogether, to the other side of the world, we
find it still well marked. The wantonness of the luxurious people
of Tahiti when first discovered by European voyagers is
notorious. The Areoi of Tahiti, a society largely constituted on
a basis of debauchery, is a unique institution so far as
primitive peoples are concerned. Cook, after giving one of the
earliest descriptions of this society and its objects at Tahiti
(Hawkesworth, _An Account of Voyages_, etc., 1775, vol. ii, p.
55), immediately goes on to describe the extreme and scrupulous
cleanliness of the people of Tahiti in every respect; they not
only bathed their bodies and clothes every day, but in all
respects they carried cleanliness to a higher point than even
"the politest assembly in Europe." Another traveler bears similar
testimony: "The inhabitants of the Society Isles are, among all
the nations of the South Seas, the most cleanly; and the better
sort of them carry cleanliness to a very great length"; they
bathe morning and evening in the sea, he remarks, and afterward
in fresh water to remove the particles of salt, wash their hands
before and after meals, etc. (J.R. Forster,
during a Voyage round the World_," 1798, p. 398.) And William
Ellis, in his detailed description of the people of Tahiti
(_Polynesian Researches_, 1832, vol. i, especially Chapters VI
and IX), while emphasizing their extreme cleanliness, every
person of every class bathing at least once or twice a day,
dwells on what he considers their unspeakable moral debasement;
"notwithstanding the apparent mildness of their disposition and
the cheerful vivacity of their conversation, no portion of the
human race was ever perhaps sunk lower in brutal licentiousness
and moral degradation."
After leaving Tahiti Cook went on to New Zealand.
Here he found
that the people were more virtuous than at Tahiti, and also, he
found, less clean.
It is, however, a mistake to suppose that physical uncleanliness ruled
supreme through mediæval and later times. It is true that the eighteenth
century, which saw the birth of so much that marks our modern world,
witnessed a revival of the old ideal of bodily purity.
But the struggle
between two opposing ideals had been carried on for a thousand years or
more before this. The Church, indeed, was in this matter founded on an
impregnable rock. But there never has been a time when influences outside
the Church have not found a shelter somewhere. Those traditions of the
classic world which Christianity threw aside as useless or worse quietly
reappeared. In no respect was this more notably the case than in regard to
the love of pure water and the cult of the bath. Islam adopted the
complete Roman bath, and made it an institution of daily life, a necessity