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STUDIES IN THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SEX, VOLUME V
The Mechanism of Detumescence
The Psychic State in Pregnancy
By HAVELOCK ELLIS
In this volume the terminal phenomena of the sexual process are discussed,
before an attempt is finally made, in the concluding volume, to consider
the bearings of the psychology of sex on that part of morals which may be
called "social hygiene."
Under "Erotic Symbolism" I include practically all the aberrations of the
sexual instinct, although some of these have seemed of sufficient
importance for separate discussion in previous volumes.
It is highly
probable that many readers will consider that the name scarcely suffices
to cover manifestations so numerous and so varied. The term "sexual
equivalents" will seem preferable to some. While, however, it may be fully
admitted that these perversions are "sexual equivalents"--or at all events
equivalents of the normal sexual impulse--that term is merely a
descriptive label which tells us nothing of the phenomena. "Sexual
Symbolism" gives us the key to the process, the key that makes all these
perversions intelligible. In all of them--very clearly in some, as in
shoe-fetichism; more obscurely in others, as in exhibitionism--it has come
about by causes congenital, acquired, or both, that some object or class
of objects, some act or group of acts, has acquired a dynamic power over
the psycho-physical mechanism of the sexual process, deflecting it from
its normal adjustment to the whole of a beloved person of the opposite
sex. There has been a transmutation of values, and certain objects,
certain acts, have acquired an emotional value which for the normal person
they do not possess. Such objects and acts are properly, it seems to me,
termed symbols, and that term embodies the only justification that in most
cases these manifestations can legitimately claim.
"The Mechanism of Detumescence" brings us at last to the final climax for
which the earlier and more prolonged stage of tumescence, which has
occupied us so often in these _Studies_, is the elaborate preliminary.
"The art of love," a clever woman novelist has written,
"is the art of
preparation." That "preparation" is, on the physiological side, the
production of tumescence, and all courtship is concerned in building up
tumescence. But the final conjugation of two individuals in an explosion
of detumescence, thus slowly brought about, though it is largely an
involuntary act, is still not without its psychological implications and
consequences; and it is therefore a matter for regret that so little is
yet known about it. The one physiological act in which two individuals are
lifted out of all ends that center in self and become the instrument of
those higher forces which fashion the species, can never be an act to be
slurred over as trivial or unworthy of study.
In the brief study of "The Psychic State in Pregnancy"
we at last touch
the point at which the whole complex process of sex reaches its goal. A
woman with a child in her womb is the everlasting miracle which all the
romance of love, all the cunning devices of tumescence and detumescence,
have been invented to make manifest. The psychic state of the woman who
thus occupies the supreme position which life has to offer cannot fail to
be of exceeding interest from many points of view, and not least because
the maternal instinct is one of the elements even of love between the
sexes. But the psychology of pregnancy is full of involved problems, and
here again, as so often in the wide field we have traversed, we stand at
the threshold of a door it is not yet given us to pass.
Carbis Water, Lelant, Cornwall.
The Definition of Erotic Symbolism. Symbolism of Act and Symbolism of
Object. Erotic Fetichism. Wide Extension of the Symbols of Sex. The
Immense Variety of Possible Erotic Fetiches. The Normal Foundations of
Erotic Symbolism. Classification of the Phenomena. The Tendency to
Idealize the Defects of a Beloved Person. Stendhal's
Foot-fetichism and Shoe-fetichism. Wide Prevalence and Normal Basis.
Restif de la Bretonne. The Foot a Normal Focus of Sexual Attraction Among
Some Peoples. The Chinese, Greeks, Romans, Spaniards, etc. The Congenital
Predisposition in Erotic Symbolism. The Influence of Early Association and
Emotional Shock. Shoe-fetichism in Relation to Masochism. The Two
Phenomena Independent Though Allied. The Desire to be Trodden On. The
Fascination of Physical Constraint. The Symbolism of Self-inflicted Pain.
The Dynamic Element in Erotic Symbolism. The Symbolism of Garments.
Scatalogic Symbolism. Urolagnia. Coprolagnia. The Ascetic Attitude Towards
the Flesh. Normal Basis of Scatalogic Symbolism.
Among Primitive Peoples. Urine as a Primitive Holy Water. Sacredness of
Animal Excreta. Scatalogy in Folk-lore. The Obscene as Derived from the
Mythological. The Immature Sexual Impulse Tends to Manifest Itself in
Scatalogic Forms. The Basis of Physiological Connection Between the
Urinary and Genital Spheres. Urinary Fetichism Sometimes Normal in
Animals. The Urolagnia of Masochists. The Scatalogy of Saints. Urolagnia
More Often a Symbolism of Act Than a Symbolism of Object. Only
Occasionally an Olfactory Fetichism. Comparative Rarity of Coprolagnia.
Influence of Nates Fetichism as a Transition to Coprolagnia, Ideal
Coprolagnia. Olfactory Coprolagnia. Urolagnia and Coprolagnia as Symbols
Animals as Sources of Erotic Symbolism. Mixoscopic Zoophilia. The
Stuff-fetichisms. Hair-fetichism. The Stuff-fetichisms Mainly on a Tactile
Base. Erotic Zoophilia. Zooerastia. Bestiality. The Conditions that Favor
Bestiality. Its Wide Prevalence Among Primitive Peoples and Among
Peasants. The Primitive Conception of Animals. The Goat.
The Influence of
Familiarity With Animals. Congress Between Women and Animals. The Social
Reaction Against Bestiality.
Exhibitionism. Illustrative Cases. A Symbolic Perversion of Courtship. The
Impulse to Defile. The Exhibitionist's Psychic Attitude.
The Sexual Organs
as Fetiches. Phallus Worship. Adolescent Pride in Sexual Development.
Exhibitionism of the Nates. The Classification of the Forms of
Exhibitionism. Nature of the Relationship of Exhibitionism to Epilepsy.
The Forms of Erotic Symbolism are Simulacra of Coitus.
Wide Extension of
Erotic Symbolism. Fetichism Not Covering the Whole Ground of Sexual
Selection. It is Based on the Individual Factor in Selection.
Crystallization. The Lover and the Artist. The Key to Erotic Symbolism is
to be Found in the Emotional Sphere. The Passage to Pathological Extremes.
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE.
The Psychological Significance of Detumescence. The Testis and the Ovary.
Sperm Cell and Germ Cell. Development of the Embryo. The External Sexual
Organs. Their Wide Range of Variation. Their Nervous Supply. The Penis.
Its Racial Variations. The Influence of Exercise. The Scrotum and
Testicles. The Mons Veneris. The Vulva. The Labia Majora and their
Varieties. The Public Hair and Its Characters. The Clitoris and Its
Functions. The Anus as an Erogenous Zone. The Nymphæ and their Function.
The Vagina. The Hymen. Virginity. The Biological Significance of the
The Object of Detumescence. Erogenous Zones. The Lips.
Characters of Detumescence. Erectile Tissue. Erection in Woman. Mucous
Emission in Women. Sexual Connection. The Human Mode of Intercourse.
Normal Variations. The Motor Characters of Detumescence.
Virile Reflex. The General Phenomena of Detumescence.
The Circulatory and
Respiratory Phenomena. Blood Pressure. Cardiac Disturbance. Glandular
Activity. Distillatio. The Essentially Motor Character of Detumescence.
Involuntary Muscular Irradiation to Bladder, etc. Erotic Intoxication.
Analogy of Sexual Detumescence and Vesical Tension. The Specifically
Sexual Movements of Detumescence in Man. In Woman. The Spontaneous
Movements of the Genital Canal in Woman. Their Function in Conception.
Part Played by Active Movement of the Spermatozoa. The Artificial
Injection of Semen. The Facial Expression During Detumescence. The
Expression of Joy. The Occasional Serious Effects of Coitus.
The Constituents of Semen. Function of the Prostate. The Properties of
Semen. Aphrodisiacs. Alcohol, Opium, etc.
Anaphrodisiacs. The Stimulant
Influence of Semen in Coitus. The Internal Effects of Testicular
Secretions. The Influence of Ovarian Secretion.
The Aptitude for Detumescence. Is There an Erotic Temperament? The
Available Standards of Comparison. Characteristics of the Castrated.
Characteristics of Puberty. Characteristics of the State of Detumescence.
Shortness of Stature. Development of the Secondary Sexual Characters. Deep
Voice. Bright Eyes. Glandular Activity. Everted Lips.
Profuse Hair. Dubious Significance of Many of These Characters.
THE PSYCHIC STATE IN PREGNANCY.
The Relationship of Maternal and Sexual Emotion.
Conception and Loss of
Virginity. The Anciently Accepted Signs of This Condition. The Pervading
Effects of Pregnancy on the Organism. Pigmentation. The Blood and
Circulation. The Thyroid. Changes in the Nervous System.
The Vomiting of
Pregnancy. The Longings of Pregnant Women. Mental Impressions. Evidence
for and Against Their Validity. The Question Still Open.
Our Knowledge. The Significance of Pregnancy.
Histories of Sexual Development.
INDEX OF AUTHORS.
INDEX OF SUBJECTS.
The Definition of Erotic Symbolism--Symbolism of Act and Symbolism of
Object--Erotic Fetichism--Wide extension of the symbols of Sex--The
Immense Variety of Possible Erotic Fetiches--The Normal Foundations of
Erotic Symbolism--Classification of the Phenomena--The Tendency to
Idealize the Defects of a Beloved Person--Stendhal's
By "erotic symbolism" I mean that tendency whereby the lover's attention
is diverted from the central focus of sexual attraction to some object or
process which is on the periphery of that focus, or is even outside of it
altogether, though recalling it by association of contiguity or of
similarity. It thus happens that tumescence, or even in extreme cases
detumescence, may be provoked by the contemplation of acts or objects
which are away from the end of sexual conjugation.
In considering the phenomena of sexual selection in a previous volume,
it was found that there are four or five main factors in the constitution
of beauty in so far as beauty determines sexual selection. Erotic
symbolism is founded on the factor of individual taste in beauty; it
arises as a specialized development of that factor, but it is,
nevertheless, incorrect to merge it in sexual selection.
characteristics of a beloved woman or man, from the point of view of
sexual selection, are a complex but harmonious whole leading up to a
desire for the complete possession of the person who displays them. There
is no tendency to isolate and dissociate any single character from the
individual and to concentrate attention upon that character at the expense
of the attention bestowed upon the individual generally.
As soon as such a
tendency begins to show itself, even though only in a slight or temporary
form, we may say that there is erotic symbolism.
Erotic symbolism is, however, by no means confined to the individualizing
tendency to concentrate amorous attention upon some single characteristic
of the adult woman or man who is normally the object of sexual love. The
adult human being may not be concerned at all, the attractive object or
act may not even be human, not even animal, and we may still be concerned
with a symbol which has parasitically rooted itself on the fruitful site
of sexual emotion and absorbed to itself the energy which normally goes
into the channels of healthy human love having for its final end the
procreation of the species. Thus understood in its widest sense, it may be
said that every sexual perversion, even homosexuality, is a form of erotic
symbolism, for we shall find that in every case some object or act that
for the normal human being has little or no erotic value, has assumed such
value in a supreme degree; that is to say, it has become a symbol of the
normal object of love. Certain perversions are, however, of such great
importance on account of their wide relationships, that they cannot be
adequately discussed merely as forms of erotic symbolism. This is notably
the case as regards homosexuality, auto-erotism, and algolagnia, all of
which phenomena have therefore been separately discussed in previous
studies. We are now mainly concerned with manifestations which are more
narrowly and exclusively symbolical.
A portion of the field of erotic symbolism is covered by what Binet
(followed by Lombroso, Krafft-Ebing, and others) has termed "erotic
fetichism," or the tendency whereby sexual attraction is unduly exerted by
some special part or peculiarity of the body, or by some inanimate object
which has become associated with it. Such erotic symbolism of object
cannot, however, be dissociated from the even more important erotic
symbolism of process, and the two are so closely bound together that we
cannot attain a truly scientific view of them until we regard them broadly
as related parts of a common psychic tendency. If, as Groos asserts, a
symbol has two chief meanings, one in which it indicates a physical
process which stands for a psychic process, and another in which it
indicates a part which represents the whole, erotic symbolism of act
corresponds to the first of these chief meanings, and erotic symbolism of
object to the other.
Although it is not impossible to find some germs of erotic symbolism in
animals, in its more pronounced manifestations it is only found in the
human species. It could not be otherwise, for such symbolism involves not
only the play of fancy and imagination, the idealizing aptitude, but also
a certain amount of power of concentrating the attention on a point
outside the natural path of instinct and the ability to form new mental
constructions around that point. There are, indeed, as we shall see,
elementary forms of erotic symbolism which are not uncommonly associated
with feeble-mindedness, but even these are still peculiarly human, and in
its less crude manifestations erotic symbolism easily lends itself to
every degree of human refinement and intelligence.
"It depends primarily upon an increase of the psychological
process of representation," Colin Scott remarks of sexual
symbolism generally, "involving greater powers of comparison and
analysis as compared with the lower animals. The outer
impressions come to be clearly distinguished as such, but at the
same time are often treated as symbols of inner experiences, and
a meaning read into them which they would not otherwise possess.
Symbolism or fetichism is, indeed, just the capacity to see
meaning, to emphasize something for the sake of other things
which do not appear. In brain terms it indicates an activity of
the higher centers, a sort of side-tracking or long-circuiting of
the primitive energy; ... Rosetti's poem, 'The Woodspurge,'
gives a concrete example of the formation of such a symbol. Here
the otherwise insignificant presentation of the three-cupped
woodspurge, representing originally a mere side-current of the
stream of consciousness, becomes the intellectual symbol or
fetich of the whole psychosis forever after. It seems, indeed, as
if the stronger the emotion the more likely will become the
formation of an overlying symbolism, which serves to focus and
stand in the place of something greater than itself; nowhere at
least is symbolism a more characteristic feature than as an
expression of the sexual instinct. The passion of sex, with its
immense hereditary background, in early man became centered often
upon the most trivial and unimportant features....
symbolism, now become fetichistic, or symbolic in a bad sense, is
at least an exercise of the increasing representative power of
man, upon which so much of his advancement has depended, while it
also served to express and help to purify his most perennial
emotion." (Colin Scott, "Sex and Art," _American Journal of
Psychology_, vol. vii, No. 2, p. 189.) In the study of "Love and Pain" in a previous volume, the analysis of the
large and complex mass of sexual phenomena which are associated with pain,
gradually resolved them to a considerable extent into a special case of
erotic symbolism; pain or restraint, whether inflicted on or by the loved
person, becomes, by a psychic process that is usually unconscious, the
symbol of the sexual mechanism, and hence arouses the same emotions as
that mechanism normally arouses. We may now attempt to deal more broadly
and comprehensively with the normal and abnormal aspects of erotic
symbolism in some of their most typical and least mixed forms.
"When our human imagination seeks to animate artificial things," Huysmans
writes in _Là-bas_, "it is compelled to reproduce the movements of animals
in the act of propagation. Look at machines, at the play of pistons in the
cylinders; they are Romeos of steel in Juliets of cast-iron." And not only
in the work of man's hands but throughout Nature we find sexual symbols
which are the less deniable since, for the most part, they make not the
slightest appeal to even the most morbid human imagination. Language is
full of metaphorical symbols of sex which constantly tend to lose their
poetic symbolism and to become commonplace. Semen is but seed, and for the
Latins especially the whole process of human sex, as well as the male and
female organs, constantly presented itself in symbols derived from
agricultural and horticultural life. The testicles were beans (_fabæ_) and
fruit or apples (_poma_ and _mala_); the penis was a tree (_arbor_), or a
stalk (_thyrsus_), or a root (_radix_), or a sickle (_falx_), or a
ploughshare (_vomer_). The semen, again, was dew (_ros_). The labia majora
or minora were wings (_alæ_); the vulva and vagina were a field (_ager_
and _campus_), or a ploughed furrow (_sulcus_), or a vineyard (_vinea_),
or a fountain (_fons_), while the pudendal hair was herbage
(_plantaria_). In other languages it is not difficult to trace similar
and even identical imagery applied to sexual organs and sexual acts. Thus
it is noteworthy that Shakespeare more than once applies the term
"ploughed" to a woman who has had sexual intercourse.
The Talmud calls the
labia minora the doors, the labia majora hinges, and the clitoris the key.
The Greeks appear not only to have found in the myrtle-berry, the fruit of
a plant sacred to Venus, the image of the clitoris, but also in the rose
an image of the feminine labia; in the poetic literature of many
countries, indeed, this imagery of the rose may be traced in a more or
less veiled manner.
The widespread symbolism of sex arose in the theories and conceptions of
primitive peoples concerning the function of generation and its nearest
analogies in Nature; it was continued for the sake of the vigorous and
expressive terminology which it furnished both for daily life and for
literature; its final survivals were cultivated because they furnished a
delicately æsthetic method of approaching matters which a growing
refinement of sentiment made it difficult for lovers and poets to approach
in a more crude and direct manner. Its existence is of interest to us now
because it shows the objective validity of the basis on which erotic
symbolism, as we have here to understand it, develops.
But from first to
last it is a distinct phenomenon, having a more or less reasoned and
intellectual basis, and it scarcely serves in any degree to feed the
sexual impulse. Erotic symbolism is not intellectual but emotional in its
origin; it starts into being, obscurely, with but a dim consciousness or
for the most part none at all, either suddenly from the shock of some
usually youthful experience, or more gradually through an instinctive
brooding on those things which are most intimately associated with a
sexually desirable person.
The kind of soil on which the germs of erotic symbolism may
develop is well seen in cases of sexual hyperæsthesia. In such
cases all the emotionally sexual analogies and resemblances,
which in erotic symbolism are fixed and organized, may be traced
in vague and passing forms, a single hyperæsthetic individual
perhaps presenting a great variety of germinal symbolisms.
Thus it has been recorded of an Italian nun (whose sister became
a prostitute) that from the age of 8 she had desire for coitus,
from the age of 10 masturbated, and later had homosexual
feelings, that the same feelings and practices continued after
she had taken the veil, though from time to time they assumed
religious equivalents. The mere contact, indeed, of a priest's
hand, the news of the presentation of an ecclesiastic she had
known to a bishopric, the sight of an ape, the contemplation of
the crucified Christ, the figure of a toy, the picture of a
demon, the act of defecation in the children entrusted to her
care (whom, on this account, and against the regulations, she
would accompany to the closets), especially the sight and the
mere recollection of flies in sexual connection--all these things
sufficed to produce in her a powerful orgasm.
Psichiatria_, 1902, fasc. II-III, p. 338.) A boy of 15 (given to masturbation), studied by Macdonald in
America, was similarly hyperæsthetic to the symbols of sexual
emotion. "I like amusing myself with my comrades,"
Macdonald, "rolling ourselves into a ball, which gives one a
funny kind of warmth. I have a special pleasure in talking about
some things. It is the same when the governess kisses me on
saying good night or when I lean against her breast.
I have that
sensation, too, when I see some of the pictures in the comic
papers, but only in those representing a woman, as when a young
man skating trips up a girl so that her clothes are raised a
little. When I read how a man saved a young girl from drowning,
so that they swam together, I had the same sensation. Looking at
the statues of women in the museum produces the same effect, or
when I see naked babies, or when a mother suckles a child. I
have often had that sensation when reading novels I ought not to
read, or when looking at a new-born calf, or seeing dogs and cows
and horses mounting on each other. When I see a girl flirting
with a boy, or leaning on his shoulder or with his arm round her
waist, I have an erection. It is the same when I see women and
little girls in bathing costume, or when boys talk of what their
fathers and mothers do together. In the Natural History Museum I
often see things which give me that sensation. One day when I
read how a man killed a young girl and carried her into a wood
and undressed her I had a feeling of enjoyment. When I read of
men who were bastards the idea of a woman having a child in that
way gives me this sensation. Some dances, and seeing young girls
astride a horse, excited me, too, and so in a circus when a woman
was shot out of a cannon and her skirts flew in the air. It has
no effect on me when I see men naked. Sometimes I enjoy seeing
women's underclothes in a shop, or when I see a lady or a girl
buying them, especially if they are drawers. When I saw a lady in
a dress which buttoned from top to bottom it had more effect on
me than seeing underclothes. Seeing dogs coupling gives me more
pleasure than looking at pretty women, but less than looking at
pretty little girls." In order of increasing intensity he placed
the phenomena that affected him thus: The coupling of flies, then
of horses, then the sight of women's undergarments, then a boy
and a girl flirting, then cows mounting on each other, the
statues of women with naked breasts, then contact with the
governess's body and breasts, finally coitus.
_Le Criminel-Type_, pp. 126 et seq.)
It is worthy of remark that the instinct of nutrition, when
restrained, may exhibit something of an analogous symbolism,
though in a minor degree, to that of sex. The ways in which a
hyperæsthetic hunger may seek its symbols are illustrated in the
case of a young woman called Nadia, who during several years was
carefully studied by Janet. It is a case of obsession ("maladie
du scrupule"), simulating hysterical anorexia, in which the
patient, for fear of getting fat, reduced her nourishment to the
smallest possible amount. "Nadia is generally hungry, even very
hungry. One can tell this by her actions; from time to time she
forgets herself to such an extent as to devour greedily anything
she can put her hands on. At other times, when she cannot resist
the desire to eat, she secretly takes a biscuit. She feels
horrible remorse for the action, but, all the same, she does it
again. Her confidences are very curious. She recognizes that a
great effort is needed to avoid eating, and considers she is a
heroine to resist so long. 'Sometimes I spent whole hours in
thinking about food, I was so hungry; I swallowed my saliva, I
bit my handkerchief, I rolled on the floor, I wanted to eat so
badly. I would look in books for descriptions of meals and
feasts, and tried to deceive my hunger by imagining that I was
sharing all these good things,'" (P. Janet, "La Maladie du
Scrupule," _Revue Philosophique_, May, 1901, p.
deviations of the instinct of nutrition are, however, confined
within narrow limits, and, in the nature of things, hunger,
unlike sexual desire, cannot easily accept a fetich.
"There is almost no feature, article of dress, attitude, act," Stanley
Hall declares, "or even animal or perhaps object in nature, that may not
have to some morbid soul specialized erogenic and erethic power." Even
a mere shadow may become a fetich. Goron tells of a merchant in Paris--a
man with a reputation for ability, happily married and the father of a
family, altogether irreproachable in his private life--
who was returning
home one evening after a game of billiards with a friend, when, on
chancing to raise his eyes, he saw against a lighted window the shadow of
a woman changing her chemise. He fell in love with that shadow and
returned to the spot every evening for many months to gaze at the window.
Yet--and herein lies the fetichism--he made no attempt to see the woman or
to find out who she was; the shadow sufficed; he had no need of the
realty. It is even possible to have a negative fetich, the absence of
some character being alone demanded, and the case has been recorded in
Chicago of an American gentleman of average intelligence, education, and
good habits who, having as a boy cherished a pure affection for a girl
whose leg had been amputated, throughout life was relatively impotent with
normal women, but experienced passion and affection for women who had lost
a leg; he was found by his wife to be in extensive correspondence with
one-legged women all over the country, expending no little money on the
purchase of artificial legs for his various protegées.
It is important to remember, however, that while erotic symbolism becomes
fantastic and abnormal in its extreme manifestations, it is in its
essence absolutely normal. It is only in the very grossest forms of sexual
desire that it is altogether absent. Stendhal described the mental side of
the process of tumescence as a crystallization, a process whereby certain
features of the beloved person present points around which the emotions
held in solution in the lover's mind may concentrate and deposit
themselves in dazzling brilliance. This process inevitably tends to take
place around all those features and objects associated with the beloved
person which have most deeply impressed the lover's mind, and the more
sensitive and imaginative and emotional he is the more certainly will such
features and objects crystallize into erotic symbols.
"Devotion and love,"
wrote Mary Wollstonecraft, "may be allowed to hallow the garments as well
as the person, for the lover must want fancy who has not a sort of sacred
respect for the glove or slipper of his mistress. He would not confound
them with vulgar things of the same kind." And nearly two centuries
earlier Burton, who had gathered together so much of the ancient lore of
love, clearly asserted the entirely normal character of erotic symbolism.
"Not one of a thousand falls in love," he declares, "but there is some
peculiar part or other which pleaseth most, and inflames him above the
rest.... If he gets any remnant of hers, a busk-point, a feather of her
fan, a shoe-tie, a lace, a ring, a bracelet of hair, he wears it for a
favor on his arm, in his hat, finger, or next his heart; as Laodamia did
by Protesilaus, when he went to war, sit at home with his picture before
her: a garter or a bracelet of hers is more precious than any Saint's
Relique, he lays it up in his casket (O blessed Relique) and every day
will kiss it: if in her presence his eye is never off her, and drink he
will where she drank, if it be possible, in that very place," etc.
Burton's accuracy in describing the ways of lovers in his century
is shown by a passage in Hamilton's _Mémoires de Gramont_. Miss
Price, one of the beauties of Charles II's court, and Dongan were
tenderly attached to each other; when the latter died he left
behind a casket full of all possible sorts of love-tokens
pertaining to his mistress, including, among other things, "all
kinds of hair." And as regards France, Burton's contemporary,
Howell, wrote in 1627 in his _Familiar Letters_
repulse of the English at Rhé: "A captain told me that when they
were rifling the dead bodies of the French gentlemen after the
first invasion they found that many of them had their mistresses'
favors tied about their genitories."
Schurig (_Spermatologia_, p. 357) at the beginning of the
eighteenth century knew a Belgian lady who, when her dearly loved
husband died, secretly cut off his penis and treasured it as a
sacred relic in a silver casket. She eventually powdered it, he
adds, and found it an efficacious medicine for herself and
others. An earlier example, of a lady at the French court who
embalmed and perfumed the genital organs of her dead husband,
always preserving them in a gold casket, is mentioned by
Brantôme. Mantegazza knew a man who kept for many years on his
desk the skull of his dead mistress, making it his dearest
companion. "Some," he remarks, "have slept for months and years
with a book, a garment, a trifle. I once had a friend who would
spend long hours of joy and emotion kissing a thread of silk
which _she_ had held between her fingers, now the only relic of
love." (Mantegazza, _Fisiologia dell' Amore_, cap.
X.) In the
same way I knew a lady who in old age still treasured in her
desk, as the one relic of the only man she had ever been
attracted to, a fragment of paper he had casually twisted up in a
conversation with her half a century before.
The tendency to treasure the relics of a beloved person, more especially
the garments, is the simplest and commonest foundation of erotic
symbolism. It is without doubt absolutely normal. It is inevitable that
those objects which have been in close contact with the beloved person's
body, and are intimately associated with that person in the lover's mind,
should possess a little of the same virtue, the same emotional potency. It
is a phenomenon closely analogous to that by which the relics of saints
are held to possess a singular virtue. But it becomes somewhat less normal
when the garment is regarded as essential even in the presence of the
While an extremely large number of objects and acts may be found to
possess occasionally the value of erotic symbols, such symbols most
frequently fall into certain well-defined groups. A vast number of
isolated objects or acts may be exceptionally the focus of erotic
contemplation, but the objects and acts which frequently become thus
symbolic are comparatively few.
It seems to me that the phenomena of erotic symbolism may be most
conveniently grouped in three great classes, on the basis of the objects
or acts which arouse them.
I. PARTS OF THE BODY.--_A. Normal:_ Hand, foot, breasts, nates, hair,
secretions and excretions, etc.
_B. Abnormal:_ Lameness, squinting, pitting of smallpox, etc. Paidophilia
or the love of children, presbyophilia or the love of the aged, and
necrophilia or the attraction for corpses, may be included under this
head, as well as the excitement caused by various animals.
II. INANIMATE OBJECTS.--_A. Garments:_ Gloves, shoes and stockings and
garters, caps, aprons, handkerchiefs, underlinen.
_B. Impersonal Objects:_ Here may be included all the various objects that
may accidentally acquire the power of exciting sexual feeling in
auto-erotism. Pygmalionism may also be included.
III. ACTS AND ATTITUDES.--_A. Active:_ Whipping, cruelty, exhibitionism.
_B. Passive:_ Being whipped, experiencing cruelty.
Personal odors and the
sound of the voice may be included under this head. _C.
vision of climbing, swinging, etc. The acts of urination and defecation.
The coitus of animals.
Although the three main groups into which the phenomena of erotic
symbolism are here divided may seem fairly distinct, they are yet very
closely allied, and indeed overlap, so that it is possible, as we shall
see, for a single complex symbol to fall into all three groups.
A very complete kind of erotic symbolism is furnished by Pygmalionism or
the love of statues. It is exactly analogous to the child's love of a
doll, which is also a form of sexual (though not erotic) symbolism. In a
somewhat less abnormal form, erotic symbolism probably shows itself in its
simplest shape in the tendency to idealize unbeautiful peculiarities in a
beloved person, so that such peculiarities are ever afterward almost or
quite essential in order to arouse sexual attraction. In this way men have
become attracted to limping women. Even the most normal man may idealize a
trifling defect in a beloved woman. The attention is inevitably
concentrated on any such slight deviation from regular beauty, and the
natural result of such concentration is that a complexus of associated
thoughts and emotions becomes attached to something that in itself is
unbeautiful. A defect becomes an admired focus of attention, the embodied
symbol of the lover's emotion.
Thus a mole is not in itself beautiful, but by the tendency to
erotic symbolism it becomes so. Persian poets especially have
lavished the richest imagery on moles (_Anis El-Ochchâq_ in
_Bibliothèque des Hautes Etudes_, fasc, 25, 1875); the Arabs, as
Lane remarks (_Arabian Society in the Middle Ages_, p. 214), are
equally extravagant in their admiration of a mole.
Stendhal long since well described the process by which a defect
becomes a sexual symbol. "Even little defects in a woman's face,"
he remarked, "such as a smallpox pit, may arouse the tenderness
of a man who loves her, and throw him into deep reverie when he
sees them in another woman. It is because he has experienced a
thousand feelings in the presence of that smallpox mark, that
these feelings have been for the most part delicious, all of the
highest interest, and that, whatever they may have been, they are
renewed with incredible vivacity on the sight of this sign, even
when perceived on the face of another woman. If in such a case we
come to prefer and love _ugliness_, it is only because in such a
case ugliness is beauty. A man loved a woman who was very thin
and marked by smallpox; he lost her by death. Three years later,
in Rome, he became acquainted with two women, one very beautiful,
the other thin and marked by smallpox, on that account, if you
will, rather ugly. I saw him in love with this plain one at the
end of a week, which he had employed in effacing her plainness by
his memories." (_De l'Amour_, Chapter XVII.) In the tendency to idealize the unbeautiful features of a beloved person
erotic symbolism shows itself in a simple and normal form. In a less
simple and more morbid form it appears in persons in whom the normal paths
of sexual gratification are for some reasons inhibited, and who are thus
led to find the symbols of natural love in unnatural perversions. It is
for this reason that so many erotic symbolisms take root in childhood and
puberty, before the sexual instincts have reached full development. It is
for the same reason also, that, at the other end of life, when the sexual
energies are failing, erotic symbols sometimes tend to be substituted for
the normal pleasures of sex. It is for this reason, again, that both men
and women whose normal energies are inhibited sometimes find the symbols
of sexual gratification in the caresses of children.
The case of a schoolmistress recorded by Penta instructively
shows how an erotic symbolism of this last kind may develop by no
means as a refinement of vice, but as the one form in which
sexual gratification becomes possible when normal gratification
has been pathologically inhibited. F.R., aged 48, schoolmistress;
she was some years ago in an asylum with religious mania, but
came out well in a few months. At the age of 12 she had first
experienced sexual excitement in a railway train from the jolting
of the carriage. Soon after she fell in love with a youth who
represented her ideal and who returned her affection. When,
however, she gave herself to him, great was her disillusion and
surprise to find that the sexual act which she had looked forward
to could not be accomplished, for at the first contact there was
great pain and spasmodic resistance of the vagina.
There was a
condition of vaginismus. After repeated attempts on subsequent
occasions her lover desisted. Her desire for intercourse
increased, however, rather than diminished, and at last she was
able to tolerate coitus, but the pain was so great that she
acquired a horror of the sexual embrace and no longer sought it.
Having much will power, she restrained all erotic impulses during
many years. It was not until the period of the menopause that the
long repressed desires broke out, and at last found a symbolical
outlet that was no longer normal, but was felt to supply a
complete gratification. She sought the close physical contact of
the young children in her care. She would lie on her bed naked,
with two or three naked children, make them suck her breasts and
press them to every part of her body. Her conduct was discovered
by means of other children who peeped through the keyhole, and
she was placed under Penta for treatment. In this case the loss
of moral and mental inhibition, due probably to troubles of the
climacteric, led to indulgence, under abnormal conditions, in
those primitive contacts which are normally the beginning of
love, and these, supported by the ideal image of the early lover,
constituted a complete and adequate symbol of natural love in a
morbidly perverted individual. (P. Penta, _Archivio delle
Psicopatie Sessuali_, January, 1896.)
 The term "erotic symbolism" has already been employed by Eulenburg
(_Sexuale Neuropathie_, 1895, p. 101). It must be borne in mind that this
term, implying the specific emotion, is much narrower than the term
"sexual symbolism," which may be used to designate a great variety of
ritual and social practices which have played a part in the evolution of
 _Sexual Selection in Man_, iv, "Vision."
 K. Groos, _Der Æsthetische Genuss_, p. 122. The psychology of the
associations of contiguity and resemblance through which erotic symbolism
operates its transference is briefly discussed by Ribot in the _Psychology
of the Emotions_, Part 1, Chapter XII; the early chapters of the same
author's _Logique des Sentiments_ may also be said to deal with the
emotional basis on which erotic symbolism arises.
 A number of synonyms for the female pudenda are brought together by
Schurig--cunnus, hortus, concha, navis, fovea, larva, canis, annulus,
focus, cymba, antrum, delta, myrtus, etc.--and he discusses many of them.
(_Muliebria_, Section I, cap. I.)
 Kleinpaul, _Sprache Ohne Worte_, pp. 24-29; cf. K.
Pearson, on the
general and special words for sex, _Chances of Death_, vol. ii, pp.
112-245; a selection of the literature of the rose will be found in a
volume of translations entitled _Ros Rosarum_.
 G.S. Hall, _Adolescence_, vol. i, p. 470.
 Goron, _Les Parias de l'Amour_, p. 45.
 A.R. Reynolds, _Medical Standard_, vol. x, cited by Kiernan,
"Responsibility in Sexual Perversion," _American Journal of Neurology and
 R. Burton, _Anatomy of Melancholy_, Part III, Section II, Mem. II,
Subs. II, and Mem. III, Subs. I.
 Numerous examples are given by Moll, _Konträre Sexualempfindung_,
third edition, pp. 265-268.
 Chevalier (_De l'Inversion_, 1885; id., _L'Inversion Sexuelle_, 1892,
p. 52), followed by E. Laurent (_L'Amour Morbide_, 1891, Chapter X),
separates this group from other fetichistic perversions, under the head of
"azoöphilie." I see no adequate ground for this step.
The various forms of
fetichism are too intimately associated to permit of any group of them
being violently separated from the others.
 This has already been considered as a perversion founded on vision,
in discussing _Sexual Selection in Man_. IV.
Foot-fetichism and Shoe-fetichism--Wide Prevalence and Normal
Basis--Restif de la Bretonne--The Foot a Normal Focus of Sexual Attraction
Among Some Peoples--The Chinese, Greeks, Romans, Spaniards, etc.--The
Congenital Predisposition in Erotic Symbolism--The Influence of Early
Association and Emotional Shock--Shoe-fetichism in Relation to
Masochism--The Two Phenomena Independent Though Allied--
The Desire to be
Trodden On--The Fascination of Physical Constraint--The Symbolism of
Self-inflicted Pain--The Dynamic Element in Erotic Symbolism--The
Symbolism of Garments.
Of all forms of erotic symbolism the most frequent is that which idealizes
the foot and the shoe. The phenomena we here encounter are sometimes so
complex and raise so many interesting questions that it is necessary to
discuss them somewhat fully.
It would seem that even for the normal lover the foot is one of the most
attractive parts of the body. Stanley Hall found that among the parts
specified as most admired in the other sex by young men and women who
answered a _questionnaire_ the feet came fourth (after the eyes, hair,
stature and size). Casanova, an acute student and lover of women who
was in no degree a foot fetichist, remarks that all men who share his
interest in women are attracted by their feet; they offer the same
interest, he considers, as the question of the particular edition offers
to the book-lover.
In a report of the results of a _questionnaire_
children's sense of self, to which over 500 replies were