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.[14] "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[15] 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.

Thus, Harvey

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;[16] 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

is lost.

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."


[5] Alrutz's views are summarized in _Psychological Review_, Sept., 1901.

[6] _Die Spiele der Menschen_, 1899, p. 206.

[7] L. Robinson, art. "Ticklishness," Tuke's _Dictionary of Psychological


[8] Stanley Hall and Allin, "Tickling and Laughter,"

_American Journal of

Psychology_, October, 1897.

[9] H.M. Stanley, "Remarks on Tickling and Laughter,"

_American Journal of

Psychology_, vol. ix, January, 1898.

[10] Simpson, "On the Attitude of the Foetus in Utero,"


Memoirs_, 1856, vol. ii.

[11] Erasmus Darwin, _Zoönomia_, Sect. XVII, 4.

[12] Hyades and Deniker, _Mission Scientifique du Cap Horn_, vol. vii. p.


[13] 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."

[14] 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.

[15] W.H.B. Stoddart, "Anæsthesia in the Insane,"

_Journal of Mental

Science_, October, 1899.

[16] Gina Lombroso, "Sur les Réflexes Cutanés,"

International Congress of

Criminal Anthropology, Amsterdam, _Comptes Rendus_, p.



The Secondary Sexual Skin Centres--Orificial Contacts--

Cunnilingus and

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.[17]

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.

The impression

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,

No. 90.)

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.

_Fellatio_ has

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

not invariable.

The essentially normal character of _cunnilingus_

and _fellatio_,

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.

Such a

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.[18]

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,"

as W.D.A.

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.

Petersburg, 1895,

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,"

_British Medical

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.[19] 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,[20] that the only

real pleasures of sex they have ever known are those derived from their

suckling infants.

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).

A female

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,



[17] Jonas Cohn (_Allgemeine Æsthetik_, 1901, p. 11) lays it down that

psychology has nothing to do with good or bad taste.

"The distinction

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.

[18] See Appendix A: "The Origins of the Kiss."

[19] See J.B. Hellier, "On the Nipple Reflex," _British Medical Journal_,

November 7, 1896.

[20] 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."[21] 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.

107-112), in

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.

Frederick Harrison

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

same effect.

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.[22]

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,

"_Observations made

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