Studies in the psychology of sex, volume VI. Sex in Relation to Society by Havelock Ellis. - HTML preview

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Sex in Relation to Society




In the previous five volumes of these _Studies_, I have dealt mainly with

the sexual impulse in relation to its object, leaving

out of account the

external persons and the environmental influences which yet may powerfully

affect that impulse and its gratification. We cannot

afford, however, to

pass unnoticed this relationship of the sexual impulse to third persons

and to the community at large with all its anciently


traditions. We have to consider sex in relation to


In so doing, it will be possible to discuss more

summarily than in

preceding volumes the manifold and important problems

that are presented

to us. In considering the more special questions of

sexual psychology we

entered a neglected field and it was necessary to expend an analytic care

and precision which at many points had never been

expended before on these

questions. But when we reach the relationships of sex to society we have

for the most part no such neglect to encounter. The

subject of every

chapter in the present volume could easily form, and

often has formed, the

topic of a volume, and the literature of many of these subjects is already

extremely voluminous. It must therefore be our main

object here not to

accumulate details but to place each subject by turn, as clearly and

succinctly as may be, in relation to those fundamental principles of

sexual psychology which--so far as the data at present admit--have been

set forth in the preceding volumes.

It may seem to some, indeed, that in this exposition I should have

confined myself to the present, and not included so wide a sweep of the

course of human history and the traditions of the race.

It may especially

seem that I have laid too great a stress on the

influence of Christianity

in moulding sexual ideals and establishing sexual

institutions. That, I am

convinced, is an error. It is because it is so

frequently made that the

movements of progress among us--movements that can never at any period of

social history cease--are by many so seriously

misunderstood. We cannot

escape from our traditions. There never has been, and

never can be, any

"age of reason." The most ardent co-called "free-thinker," who casts aside

as he imagines the authority of the Christian past, is still held by that

past. If its traditions are not absolutely in his blood, they are

ingrained in the texture of all the social institutions into which he was

born and they affect even his modes of thinking. The

latest modifications

of our institutions are inevitably influenced by the

past form of those

institutions. We cannot realize where we are, nor

whither we are moving,

unless we know whence we came. We cannot understand the significance of

the changes around us, nor face them with cheerful

confidence, unless we

are acquainted with the drift of the great movements

that stir all

civilization in never-ending cycles.

In discussing sexual questions which are very largely

matters of social

hygiene we shall thus still be preserving the

psychological point of view.

Such a point of view in relation to these matters is not only legitimate

but necessary. Discussions of social hygiene that are

purely medical or

purely juridical or purely moral or purely theological not only lead to

conclusions that are often entirely opposed to each

other but they

obviously fail to possess complete applicability to the complex human

personality. The main task before us must be to

ascertain what best

expresses, and what best satisfies, the totality of the impulses and ideas

of civilized men and women. So that while we must

constantly bear in mind

medical, legal, and moral demands--which all correspond in some respects

to some individual or social need--the main thing is to satisfy the

demands of the whole human person.

It is necessary to emphasize this point of view because it would seem

that no error is more common among writers on the

hygienic and moral

problems of sex than the neglect of the psychological

standpoint. They may

take, for instance, the side of sexual restraint, or the side of sexual

unrestraint, but they fail to realize that so narrow a basis is inadequate

for the needs of complex human beings. From the wider


standpoint we recognize that we have to conciliate

opposing impulses that

are both alike founded on the human psychic organism.

In the preceding volumes of these _Studies_ I have

sought to refrain from

the expression of any personal opinion and to maintain, so far as

possible, a strictly objective attitude. In this

endeavor, I trust, I have

been successful if I may judge from the fact that I have received the

sympathy and approval of all kinds of people, not less of the

rationalistic free-thinker than of the orthodox

believer, of those who

accept, as well as of those who reject, our most current standards of

morality. This is as it should be, for whatever our

criteria of the worth

of feelings and of conduct, it must always be of use to us to know what

exactly are the feelings of people and how those

feelings tend to affect

their conduct. In the present volume, however, where

social traditions

necessarily come in for consideration and where we have to discuss the

growth of those traditions in the past and their

probable evolution in the

future, I am not sanguine that the objectivity of my

attitude will be

equally clear to the reader. I have here to set down not only what people

actually feel and do but what I think they are tending to feel and do.

That is a matter of estimation only, however widely and however cautiously

it is approached; it cannot be a matter of absolute

demonstration. I trust

that those who have followed me in the past will bear

with me still, even

if it is impossible for them always to accept the

conclusions I have

myself reached.


Carbis Bay, Cornwall, England.




The Child's Right to Choose Its Ancestry--How This is

Effected--The Mother

the Child's Supreme Parent--Motherhood and the Woman

Movement--The Immense

Importance of Motherhood--Infant Mortality and Its

Causes--The Chief Cause

in the Mother--The Need of Rest During Pregnancy--

Frequency of Premature

Birth--The Function of the State--Recent Advance in


Question of Coitus During Pregnancy--The Need of Rest


Lactation--The Mother's Duty to Suckle Her Child--The


Question--The Duty of the State--Recent Progress in the Protection of the

Mother--The Fallacy of State Nurseries.



Nurture Necessary as Well as Breed--Precocious

Manifestations of the

Sexual Impulse--Are they to be Regarded as Normal?--The Sexual Play of

Children--The Emotion of Love in Childhood--Are Town

Children More

Precocious Sexually Than Country Children?--Children's Ideas Concerning

the Origin of Babies--Need for Beginning the Sexual

Education of Children

in Early Years--The Importance of Early Training in


of the Old Doctrine of Silence in Matters of Sex--The

Evil Magnified When

Applied to Girls--The Mother the Natural and Best

Teacher--The Morbid

Influence of Artificial Mystery in Sex Matters--Books on Sexual

Enlightenment of the Young--Nature of the Mother's Task-

-Sexual Education

in the School--The Value of Botany--Zoölogy--Sexual

Education After

Puberty--The Necessity of Counteracting Quack

Literature--Danger of

Neglecting to Prepare for the First Onset of

Menstruation--The Right

Attitude Towards Woman's Sexual Life--The Vital

Necessity of the Hygiene

of Menstruation During Adolescence--Such Hygiene

Compatible with the

Educational and Social Equality of the Sexes--The

Invalidism of Women

Mainly Due to Hygienic Neglect--Good Influence of

Physical Training on

Women and Bad Influence of Athletics--The Evils of


Suppression--Need of Teaching the Dignity of Sex--

Influence of These

Factors on a Woman's Fate in Marriage--Lectures and

Addresses on Sexual

Hygiene--The Doctor's Part in Sexual Education--Pubertal Initiation Into

the Ideal World--The Place of the Religious and Ethical Teacher--The

Initiation Rites of Savages Into Manhood and Womanhood--

The Sexual

Influence of Literature--The Sexual Influence of Art.



The Greek Attitude Towards Nakedness--How the Romans

Modified That

Attitude--The Influence of Christianity--Nakedness in


Times--Evolution of the Horror of Nakedness--Concomitant Change in the

Conception of Nakedness--Prudery--The Romantic Movement-

-Rise of a New

Feeling in Regard to Nakedness--The Hygienic Aspect of Nakedness--How

Children May Be Accustomed to Nakedness--Nakedness Not Inimical to

Modesty--The Instinct of Physical Pride--The Value of

Nakedness in

Education--The Æsthetic Value of Nakedness--The Human

Body as One of the

Prime Tonics of Life--How Nakedness May Be Cultivated--

The Moral Value of




The Conception of Sexual Love--The Attitude of Mediæval Asceticism--St.

Bernard and St. Odo of Cluny--The Ascetic Insistence on the Proximity of

the Sexual and Excretory Centres--Love as a Sacrament of Nature--The Idea

of the Impurity of Sex in Primitive Religions Generally-

-Theories of the

Origin of This Idea--The Anti-Ascetic Element in the

Bible and Early

Christianity--Clement of Alexandria--St. Augustine's


Recognition of the Sacredness of the Body by Tertullian, Rufinus and

Athanasius--The Reformation--The Sexual Instinct

Regarded as Beastly--The

Human Sexual Instinct Not Animal-like--Lust and Love--

The Definition of

Love--Love and Names for Love Unknown in Some Parts of the World--Romantic

Love of Late Development in the White Race--The Mystery of Sexual

Desire--Whether Love is a Delusion--The Spiritual as

Well as the Physical

Structure of the World in Part Built up on Sexual Love The Testimony of

Men of Intellect to the Supremacy of Love.



Chastity Essential to the Dignity of Love--The

Eighteenth Century Revolt

Against the Ideal of Chastity--Unnatural Forms of


Psychological Basis of Asceticism--Asceticism and

Chastity as Savage

Virtues--The Significance of Tahiti--Chastity Among


Peoples--Chastity Among the Early Christians--Struggles of the Saints with

the Flesh--The Romance of Christian Chastity--Its Decay in Mediæval

Times--_Aucassin et Nicolette_ and the New Romance of

Chaste Love--The

Unchastity of the Northern Barbarians--The Penitentials-

-Influence of the

Renaissance and the Reformation--The Revolt Against

Virginity as a

Virtue--The Modern Conception of Chastity as a Virtue--

The Influences That

Favor the Virtue of Chastity--Chastity as a Discipline--

The Value of

Chastity for the Artist--Potency and Impotence in

Popular Estimation--The

Correct Definitions of Asceticism and Chastity.



The Influence of Tradition--The Theological Conception of Lust--Tendency

of These Influences to Degrade Sexual Morality--Their

Result in Creating

the Problem of Sexual Abstinence--The Protests Against Sexual

Abstinence--Sexual Abstinence and Genius--Sexual

Abstinence in Women--The

Advocates of Sexual Abstinence--Intermediate Attitude--


Nature of the Whole Discussion--Criticism of the

Conception of Sexual

Abstinence--Sexual Abstinence as Compared to Abstinence from Food--No

Complete Analogy--The Morality of Sexual Abstinence

Entirely Negative--Is

It the Physician's Duty to Advise Extra-Conjugal Sexual Intercourse?--Opinions of Those Who Affirm or Deny This Duty--The

Conclusion Against Such Advice--The Physician Bound by the Social and

Moral Ideas of His Age--The Physician as Reformer--

Sexual Abstinence and

Sexual Hygiene--Alcohol--The Influence of Physical and Mental

Exercise--The Inadequacy of Sexual Hygiene in This

Field--The Unreal

Nature of the Conception of Sexual Abstinence--The

Necessity of Replacing

It by a More Positive Ideal.



I. _The Orgy:_--The Religious Origin of the Orgy--The

Feast of

Fools--Recognition of the Orgy by the Greeks and Romans-

-The Orgy Among

Savages--The Drama--The Object Subserved by the Orgy.

II. _The Origin and Development of Prostitution:_--The Definition of

Prostitution--Prostitution Among Savages--The Conditions Under Which

Professional Prostitution Arises--Sacred Prostitution--

The Rite of

Mylitta--The Practice of Prostitution to Obtain a

Marriage Portion--The

Rise of Secular Prostitution in Greece--Prostitution in the East--India,

China, Japan, etc.--Prostitution in Rome--The Influence of Christianity on

Prostitution--The Effort to Combat Prostitution--The

Mediæval Brothel--The

Appearance of the Courtesan--Tullia D'Aragona--Veronica Franco--Ninon de

Lenclos--Later Attempts to Eradicate Prostitution--The Regulation of

Prostitution--Its Futility Becoming Recognized.

III. _The Causes of Prostitution:_--Prostitution as a