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explain why it is that in so many parts of the world defloration is not
immediately effected on marriage.[404] No doubt religious or magic reasons
may also intervene here, but, as so often happens, they harmonize with the
biological process. This is the case even among uncivilized peoples who
marry early. The need for delay and considerate skill is far greater when,
as among ourselves, a woman's marriage is delayed long past the
establishment of puberty to a period when it is more difficult to break
down the psychic and perhaps even physical barriers of personality.

It has to be added that the art of love in the act of courtship is not
confined to the preliminaries to the single act of coitus. In a sense the
life of love is a continuous courtship with a constant progression. The
establishment of physical intercourse is but the beginning of it. This is
especially true of women. "The consummation of love," says Sénancour,[405]
"which is often the end of love with man is only the beginning of love
with woman, a test of trust, a gage of future pleasure, a sort of
engagement for an intimacy to come." "A woman's soul and body," says
another writer,[406] "are not given at one stroke at a given moment; but
only slowly, little by little, through many stages, are both delivered to
the beloved. Instead of abandoning the young woman to the bridegroom on
the wedding night, as an entrapped mouse is flung to the cat to be
devoured, it would be better to let the young bridal couple live side by
side, like two friends and comrades, until they gradually learn how to
develop and use their sexual consciousness." The conventional wedding is
out of place as a preliminary to the consummation of marriage, if only on
the ground that it is impossible to say at what stage in the endless
process of courtship it ought to take place.

A woman, unlike a man, is prepared by Nature, to play a skilful part in
the art of love. The man's part in courtship, which is that of the male
throughout the zoölogical series, may be difficult and hazardous, but it
is in a straight line, fairly simple and direct. The woman's part, having
to follow at the same moment two quite different impulses, is necessarily
always in a zigzag or a curve. That is to say that at every erotic moment
her action is the resultant of the combined force of her desire (conscious
or unconscious) and her modesty. She must sail through a tortuous channel
with Scylla on the one side and Charybdis on the other, and to avoid
either danger too anxiously may mean risking shipwreck on the other side.
She must be impenetrable to all the world, but it must be an
impenetrability not too obscure for the divination of the right man. Her
speech must be honest, but yet on no account tell everything; her actions
must be the outcome of her impulses, and on that very account be capable
of two interpretations. It is only in the last resort of complete intimacy
that she can become the perfect woman,

"Whose speech Truth knows not from her thought,
Nor Love her body from her soul."

For many a woman the conditions for that final erotic avatar - "that
splendid shamelessness which," as Rafford Pyke says, "is the finest thing
in perfect love" - never present themselves at all. She is compelled to be
to the end of her erotic life, what she must always be at the beginning, a
complex and duplex personality, naturally artful. Therewith she is better
prepared than man to play her part in the art of love.

The man's part in the art of love is, however, by no means easy. That is
not always realized by the women who complain of his lack of skill in
playing it. Although a man has not to cultivate the same natural duplicity
as a woman, it is necessary that he should possess a considerable power of
divination. He is not well prepared for that, because the traditional
masculine virtue is force rather than insight. The male's work in the
world, we are told, is domination, and it is by such domination that the
female is attracted. There is an element of truth in that doctrine, an
element of truth which may well lead astray the man who too exclusively
relies upon it in the art of love. Violence is bad in every art, and in
the erotic art the female desires to be won to love and not to be ordered
to love. That is fundamental. We sometimes see the matter so stated as if
the objection to force and domination in love constituted some quite new
and revolutionary demand of the "modern woman." That is, it need scarcely
be said, the result of ignorance. The art of love, being an art that
Nature makes, is the same now as in essentials it has always been,[407]
and it was well established before woman came into existence. That it has
not always been very skilfully played is another matter. And, so far as
the man is concerned, it is this very tradition of masculine predominance
which has contributed to the difficulty of playing it skilfully. The woman
admires the male's force; she even wishes herself to be forced to the
things that she altogether desires; and yet she revolts from any exertion
of force outside that narrow circle, either before the boundary of it is
reached or after the boundary is passed. Thus the man's position is really
more difficult than the women who complain of his awkwardness in love are
always ready to admit. He must cultivate force, not only in the world but
even for display in the erotic field; he must be able to divine the
moments when, in love, force is no longer force because his own will is
his partner's will; he must, at the same time, hold himself in complete
restraint lest he should fall into the fatal error of yielding to his own
impulse of domination; and all this at the very moment when his emotions
are least under control. We need scarcely be surprised that of the myriads
who embark on the sea of love, so few women, so very few men, come safely
into port.

It may still seem to some that in dwelling on the laws that guide the
erotic life, if that life is to be healthy and complete, we have wandered
away from the consideration of the sexual instinct in its relationship to
society. It may therefore be desirable to return to first principles and
to point out that we are still clinging to the fundamental facts of the
personal and social life. Marriage, as we have seen reason to believe, is
a great social institution; procreation, which is, on the public side, its
supreme function, is a great social end. But marriage and procreation are
both based on the erotic life. If the erotic life is not sound, then
marriage is broken up, practically if not always formally, and the process
of procreation is carried out under unfavorable conditions or not at all.

This social and personal importance of the erotic life, though, under the
influence of a false morality and an equally false modesty, it has
sometimes been allowed to fall into the background in stages of artificial
civilization, has always been clearly realized by those peoples who have
vitally grasped the relationships of life. Among most uncivilized races
there appear to be few or no "sexually frigid" women. It is little to the
credit of our own "civilization" that it should be possible for physicians
to-day to assert, even with the faintest plausibility, that there are some
25 per cent. of women who may thus be described.

The whole sexual structure of the world is built up on the general fact
that the intimate contact of the male and female who have chosen each
other is mutually pleasurable. Below this general fact is the more
specific fact that in the normal accomplishment of the act of sexual
consummation the two partners experience the acute gratification of
simultaneous orgasm. Herein, it has been said, lies the secret of love. It
is the very basis of love, the condition of the healthy exercise of the
sexual functions, and, in many cases, it seems probable, the condition
also of fertilization.

Even savages in a very low degree of culture are sometimes
patient and considerate in evoking and waiting for the signs of
sexual desire in their females. (I may refer to the significant
case of the Caroline Islanders, as described by Kubary in his
ethnographic study of that people and quoted in volume iv of
these _Studies_, "Sexual Selection in Man," Sect. III.) In
Catholic days theological influence worked wholesomely in the
same direction, although the theologians were so keen to detect
the mortal sin of lust. It is true that the Catholic insistence
on the desirability of simultaneous orgasm was largely due to the
mistaken notion that to secure conception it was necessary that
there should be "insemination" on the part of the wife as well as
of the husband, but that was not the sole source of the
theological view. Thus Zacchia discusses whether a man ought to
continue with his wife until she has the orgasm and feels
satisfied, and he decides that that is the husband's duty;
otherwise the wife falls into danger either of experiencing the
orgasm during sleep, or, more probably, by self-excitation, "for
many women, when their desires have not been satisfied by coitus,
place one thigh on the other, pressing and rubbing them together
until the orgasm occurs, in the belief that if they abstain from
using the hands they have committed no sin." Some theologians, he
adds, favor that belief, notably Hurtado de Mendoza and Sanchez,
and he further quotes the opinion of the latter that women who
have not been satisfied in coitus are liable to become hysterical
or melancholic (_Zacchiæ Quæstionum Medico-legalium Opus_, lib.
vii, tit. iii, quæst. VI). In the same spirit some theologians
seem to have permitted _irrumatio_ (without ejaculation), so long
as it is only the preliminary to the normal sexual act.

Nowadays physicians have fully confirmed the belief of Sanchez.
It is well recognized that women in whom, from whatever cause,
acute sexual excitement occurs with frequency without being
followed by the due natural relief of orgasm are liable to
various nervous and congestive symptoms which diminish their
vital effectiveness, and very possibly lead to a breakdown in
health. Kisch has described, as a cardiac neurosis of sexual
origin, a pathological tachycardia which is an exaggeration of
the physiological quick heart of sexual excitement. J. Inglis
Parsons (_British Medical Journal_, Oct. 22, 1904, p. 1062)
refers to the ovarian pain produced by strong unsatisfied sexual
excitement, often in vigorous unmarried women, and sometimes a
cause of great distress. An experienced Austrian gynæcologist
told Hirth (_Wege zur Heimat_, p. 613) that of every hundred
women who come to him with uterine troubles seventy suffered from
congestion of the womb, which he regarded as due to incomplete

It is frequently stated that the evil of incomplete gratification
and absence of orgasm in women is chiefly due to male withdrawal,
that is to say _coitus interruptus_, in which the penis is
hastily withdrawn as soon as involuntary ejaculation is
impending; and it is sometimes said that the same widely
prevalent practice is also productive of slight or serious
results in the male (see, e.g., L.B. Bangs, _Transactions New
York Academy of Medicine_, vol. ix, 1893; D.S. Booth, "Coitus
Interruptus and Coitus Reservatus as Causes of Profound Neurosis
and Psychosis," _Alienist and Neurologist_, Nov., 1906; also,
_Alienist and Neurologist_, Oct., 1897, p. 588).

It is undoubtedly true that coitus interruptus, since it involves
sudden withdrawal on the part of the man without reference to the
stage of sexual excitation which his partner may have reached,
cannot fail to produce frequently an injurious nervous effect on
the woman, though the injurious effect on the man, who obtains
ejaculation, is little or none. But the practice is so widespread
that it cannot be regarded as necessarily involving this evil
result. There can, I am assured, be no doubt whatever that
Blumreich is justified in his statement (Senator and Kaminer,
_Health and Disease in Relation to Marriage_, vol. ii, p. 783)
that "interrupted coitus is injurious to the genital system of
those women only who are disturbed in their sensation of delight
by this form of cohabitation, in whom the orgasm is not produced,
and who continue for hours subsequently to be tormented by
feelings of an unsatisfied desire." Equally injurious effects
follow in normal coitus when the man's orgasm occurs too soon.
"These phenomena, therefore," he concludes, "are not
characteristic of interrupted coitus, but consequences of an
imperfectly concluded sexual cohabitation as such." Kisch,
likewise, in his elaborate and authoritative work on _The Sexual
Life of Woman_, also states that the question of the evil results
of _coitus interruptus_ in women is simply a question of whether
or not they receive sexual satisfaction. (Cf. also Fürbringer,
_Health and Disease in Relation to Marriage_, vol. i, pp. 232 _et
seq._) This is clearly the most reasonable view to take
concerning what is the simplest, the most widespread, and
certainly the most ancient of the methods of preventing
conception. In the Book of Genesis we find it practiced by Onan,
and to come down to modern times, in the sixteenth century it
seems to have been familiar to French ladies, who, according to
Brantôme, enjoined it on their lovers.

Coitus reservatus, - in which intercourse is maintained even for
very long periods, during which the woman may have orgasm several
times while the man succeeds in holding back orgasm, - so far from
being injurious to the woman, is probably the form of coitus
which gives her the maximum of gratification and relief. For most
men, however, it seems probable that this self-control over the
processes leading to the involuntary act of detumescence is
difficult to acquire, while in weak, nervous, and erethic persons
it is impossible. It is, however, a desirable condition for
completely adequate coitus, and in the East this is fully
recognized, and the aptitude carefully cultivated. Thus W.D.
Sutherland states ("Einiges über das Alltagsleben und die
Volksmedizin unter den Bauern Britischostindiens," _Münchener
Medizinische Wochenschrift_, No. 12, 1906) that the Hindu smokes
and talks during intercourse in order to delay orgasm, and
sometimes applies an opium paste to the glans of the penis for
the same purpose. (See also vol. iii of these _Studies_, "The
Sexual Impulse in Women.") Some authorities have, indeed, stated
that the prolongation of the act of coitus is injurious in its
effect on the male. Thus R.W. Taylor (_Practical Treatise on
Sexual Disorders_, third ed., p. 121) states that it tends to
cause atonic impotence, and Löwenfeld (_Sexualleben und
Nervenleiden_, p. 74) thinks that the swift and unimpeded
culmination of the sexual act is necessary in order to preserve
the vigor of the reflex reactions. This is probably true of
extreme and often repeated cases of indefinite prolongation of
pronounced erection without detumescence, but it is not true
within fairly wide limits in the case of healthy persons.
Prolonged _coitus reservatus_ was a practice of the complex
marriage system of the Oneida community, and I was assured by the
late Noyes Miller, who had spent the greater part of his life in
the community, that the practice had no sort of evil result.
_Coitus reservatus_ was erected into a principle in the Oneida
community. Every man in the community was theoretically the
husband of every woman, but every man was not free to have
children with every woman. Sexual initiation took place soon
after puberty in the case of boys, some years later in the case
of girls, by a much older person of the opposite sex. In
intercourse the male inserted his penis into the vagina and
retained it there for even an hour without emission, though
orgasm took place in the woman. There was usually no emission in
the case of the man, even after withdrawal, and he felt no need
of emission. The social feeling of the community was a force on
the side of this practice, the careless, unskilful men being
avoided by women, while the general romantic sentiment of
affection for all the women in the community was also a force.
Masturbation was unknown, and no irregular relations took place
with persons outside the community. The practice was maintained
for thirty years, and was finally abandoned, not on its demerits,
but in deference to the opinions of the outside world. Mr. Miller
admitted that the practice became more difficult in ordinary
marriage, which favors a more mechanical habit of intercourse.
The information received from Mr. Miller is supplemented in a
pamphlet entitled _Male Continence_ (the name given to _coitus
reservatus_ in the community), written in 1872 by the founder,
John Humphrey Noyes. The practice is based, he says, on the fact
that sexual intercourse consists of two acts, a social and a
propagative, and that if propagation is to be scientific there
must be no confusion of these two acts, and procreation must
never be involuntary. It was in 1844, he states, that this idea
occurred to him as a result of a resolve to abstain from sexual
intercourse in consequence of his wife's delicate health and
inability to bear healthy children, and in his own case he found
the practice "a great deliverance. It made a happy household." He
points out that the chief members of the Oneida community
"belonged to the most respectable families in Vermont, had been
educated in the best schools of New England morality and
refinement, and were, by the ordinary standards, irreproachable
in their conduct so far as sexual matters are concerned, till
they deliberately commenced, in 1846, the experiment of a new
state of society, on principles which they had been long maturing
and were prepared to defend before the World." In relation to
male continence, therefore, Noyes thought the community might
fairly be considered "the Committee of Providence to test its
value in actual life." He states that a careful medical
comparison of the statistics of the community had shown that the
rate of nervous disease in the community was considerably below
the average outside, and that only two cases of nervous disorder
had occurred which could be traced with any probability to a
misuse of male continence. This has been confirmed by Van de
Warker, who studied forty-two women of the community without
finding any undue prevalence of reproductive diseases, nor could
he find any diseased condition attributable to the sexual habits
of the community (cf. C. Reed, _Text-Book of Gynecology_, 1901,
p. 9).

Noyes believed that "male continence" had never previously been a
definitely recognized practice based on theory, though there
might have been occasional approximation to it. This is probably
true if the coitus is _reservatus_ in the full sense, with
complete absence of emission. Prolonged coitus, however,
permitting the woman to have orgasm more than once, while the man
has none, has long been recognized. Thus in the seventeenth
century Zacchia discussed whether such a practice is legitimate
(_Zacchiæ Quæstionum Opus_, ed. of 1688, lib. vii, tit. iii,
quæst. VI). In modern times it is occasionally practiced, without
any theory, and is always appreciated by the woman, while it
appears to have no bad effect on the man. In such a case it will
happen that the act of coitus may last for an hour and a quarter
or even longer, the maximum of the woman's pleasure not being
reached until three-quarters of an hour have passed; during this
period the woman will experience orgasm some four or five times,
the man only at the end. It may occasionally happen that a little
later the woman again experiences desire, and intercourse begins
afresh in the same way. But after that she is satisfied, and
there is no recurrence of desire.

It may be desirable at this point to refer briefly to the chief
variations in the method of effecting coitus in their
relationship to the art of love and the attainment of adequate
and satisfying detumescence.

The primary and essential characteristic of the specifically
human method of coitus is the fact that it takes place face to
face. The fact that in what is usually considered the typically
normal method of coitus the woman lies supine and the man above
her is secondary. Psychically, this front-to-front attitude
represents a great advance over the quadrupedal method. The two
partners reveal to each other the most important, the most
beautiful, the most expressive sides of themselves, and thus
multiply the mutual pleasure and harmony of the intimate act of
union. Moreover, this face-to-face attitude possesses a great
significance, in the fact that it is the outward sign that the
human couple has outgrown the animal sexual attitude of the
hunter seizing his prey in the act of flight, and content to
enjoy it in that attitude, from behind. The human male may be
said to retain the same attitude, but the female has turned
round; she has faced her partner and approached him, and so
symbolizes her deliberate consent to the act of union.

The human variations in the exercise of coitus, both individual
and national, are, however, extremely numerous. "To be quite
frank," says Fürbringer (Senator and Kaminer, _Health and Disease
in Relation to Marriage_, vol. i, p. 213), "I can hardly think of
any combination which does not figure among my case-notes as
having been practiced by my patients." We must not too hastily
conclude that such variations are due to vicious training. That
is far from being the case. They often occur naturally and
spontaneously. Freud has properly pointed out (in the second
series of his _Beiträge zur Neurosenlehre_, "Bruchstück" etc.)
that we must not be too shocked even when the idea of _fellatio_
spontaneously presents itself to a woman, for that idea has a
harmless origin in the resemblance between the penis and the
nipple. Similarly, it may be added, the desire for
_cunnilinctus_, which seems to be much more often latently
present in women than is the desire for its performance in men,
has a natural analogy in the pleasure of suckling, a pleasure
which is itself indeed often erotically tinged (see vol. iv of
these _Studies_, "Sexual Selection in Man," Touch, Sect. III).

Every variation in this matter, remarks Remy de Gourmont
(_Physique de l'Amour_, p. 264) partakes of the sin of luxury,
and some of the theologians have indeed considered any position
in coitus but that which is usually called normal in Europe as a
mortal sin. Other theologians, however, regarded such variations
as only venial sins, provided ejaculation took place in the
vagina, just as some theologians would permit _irrumatio_ as a
preliminary to coitus, provided there was no ejaculation. Aquinas
took a serious view of the deviations from normal intercourse;
Sanchez was more indulgent, especially in view of his doctrine,
derived from the Greek and Arabic natural philosophers, that the
womb can attract the sperm, so that the natural end may be
attained even in unusual positions.

Whatever difference of opinion there may have been among ancient
theologians, it is well recognized by modern physicians that
variations from the ordinary method of coitus are desirable in
special cases. Thus Kisch points out (_Sterilität des Weibes_, p.
107) that in some cases it is only possible for the woman to
experience sexual excitement when coitus takes place in the
lateral position, or in the _a posteriori_ position, or when the
usual position is reversed; and in his _Sexual Life of Woman_,
also, Kisch recommends several variations of position for coitus.

Online LibraryHavelock EllisStudies in the Psychology of Sex, Volume 6 Sex in Relation to Society → online text (page 61 of 72)