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THE BOGY OF SEX
Life Is a Conclusive Denial That Sex Is a Central Interest
HE days of romance have passed. Love no longer hides in a tower room, wooed by music from afar. Love drives down Main Street in chummy roadsters and sits crosslegged on tea-room verandas. Neither is it blind nor shy nor tongue-tied. But in this realistic age the quest is limited. Young love shuns sentiment, it turns its eyes from beauty, singing few songs. The generation has but a single motto, "Male and female created He them."
The new emotionalism is not one of place or social level. It pursues us wherever we turn. Nor is the change confined to the less cultured classes or to the adolescent generation. Even as elderly women have bobbed their hair and given their knees the freedom of the city, so have they at the same time joined the ranks of the unblushing. Many a grandfather these days reads wistfully of glandular therapy. He has sympathy with Faust. The subject of sex has certainly stepped out of the boudoir, thrown off the hushed intimacy of the afternoon knitting, forgotten the privacy of marriage and taken its place at bridge table and club lounge. From three to three score and ten any aspect of it serves for casual reference or minute dissection.
Picture a parlor-grown Victorian with her mind, like her neck, wrists and ankles swathed in the tight conventions of modesty, overhearing two flappers discussing Freud. Their free use of ideas once hardly whispered, would be as horrifying to that ancient lady as their swinging pink legs or the cigarette ashes falling over their alleged dresses. Ladies of bygone days would have blushed deep maroon even to think the thoughts the present generation banter about as nonchalantly as it mentions shoe-strings or the latest dance. And each year conversation takes off another garment, as it We are in an age when the word "sacred" has gone back to the altar and there is nothing hid that shall not be revealed.
The more surprising part of it is the prevailing new attitude. At various times in history sex has been moralized about in contrasting lights. In one day it was something to shun, except as an unfortunate necessity for the continuance of the race. At another it became the most beautiful of secrets only to be whispered about. Not so long ago mothers tremblingly told their young the facts of life in an allegory of butterflies and pollen. Nowadays by the age of seven most children are sophisticated. When
sex became a subject for medical and legal discussion, it was carefully disguised under the name eugenics. The Malthusian question of birthcontrol was referred to chiefly in terms of over-population and the strain of large families upon the poor. Everything was stilted and in comparison with the present, as proper as a platitude.
To-day sex is spoken of casually either as a right or a joy; a release from crushing inhibition or a necessity for health. Yes, even more than this, many believe it to be the single motive of the human being, the dynamic of life. Its eugenic aspect is out of date in drawing-room conversation. Its use for posterity has been submerged beneath its value for the present generation.
When a once forbidden subject takes such possession of people's minds, it behooves us to discover whether we are thinking are thinking rightly about it. Is sex so all important? Is it the central motive of our lives? Can it be possible that thousands of apparently modest thoughts and feelings are really sexual and we know it not? Can we be induced to read books, see plays or buy new clothes only by an appeal to sex impulses? If so the truth would have come out some day and the sooner we get the thing over with the more quickly can we turn to making life worth while in other ways.
In the first place let us see, if we can, where this sex bogy came from. Did Freud and his disciples let him. out of the bottle? This can hardly be true, for while psychoanalysis with its placing of sex as a central human
motive, is contemporary with this age of passionalism, it cannot be said to have caused it. The analyst is one who merely records what he finds in the human being. He draws his conclusions by adding up his statistics. It is his misfortune, not his fault, that his subject having intimately to do with human beings, has become a lay science. In its first wave of popularity it has been appropriated by the just and the unjust alike and used as if it were a patent medicine ready to take after self-diagnosis. Much, however, that is labeled Freudian and used as synonymous with sex, has little relation to Freud's discoveries. It is probable that he hardly recognizes his own theories as they come back to him, not as the children of his research but as cousins several times removed.
If, however, we should admit that men and women are often secretly as hyper-sexual as some believe them to be, it would not prove that many were born so or that extreme sexuality is normal. It would neither disprove personal variation nor social stimulation. An examination of the feet of Chinese women any time during the nineteenth century would have revealed them as dwarfed, while South Sea Island head-binders have higher skulls than our own. If we did not know that each had been confined from infancy, we might easily draw a mistaken conclusion regarding them. It is just as possible that psychoanalysis has merely revealed the abnormal sexualities in human nature caused by pressure of so-called civilization and accentuated distortions of the mind which were being created in every
reflexive frenzy it is strange what a dark secret it has been kept all these centuries. One would expect it to reveal itself as the basic theme of the great speculations and philosophies and as a leading motive in engineering, manufacturing, art and culture. Certainly it would stand out as the salient feature in the events of human history.
might have manifested itself here in America quite apart from any psychoanalytical influence. We cannot blame Freudianism for the debauchery of sex that flames in the penny pictorial or the cheap moving picIt came before and not after these interpretations. It may have resulted from the break-up of the home and lax parental authority as some believe, it may have sprung from unintelligent censorship, the decline in church attendance, modernism, the automobile, the new dances and everything else that differs from the customs of our forefathers. Or it may be age-old and simply released by the luxury of an industrial age. Whatever the cause, modern psychology merely records our passional extremes. It does not create them.
There is here an important key to the situation, one that not only explains the sex bogy itself but the interpretation put upon it by many psychologists. For whether age-old or recent, in hypersexuality we are dealing with an exaggeration of human tendencies as far removed from the actuality of life as are the bill-boards which lure us to melodrama. Sex as a dominating thought is impossible. If it really absorbed our personal attention throughout the twenty-four hours, our days could not be lived, trains could not be run, plays rehearsed or sensational novels put through the press. The work of the world would not go on. Life itself is a conclusive denial that sex as a central interest is anything more than a painted bogy. Admitting that there is a central drive to human life, if it were the sex impulse
We are told of both rape and romance in the World War, but is war therefore a sexual event? Or let us look back through the Civil War, the Napoleonic campaigns, the French Revolution and our Own fight for liberty. Yes, and even to Cæsar crossing the Rubicon or Leonidas at Thermopyla. These events certainly expressed human motives but somehow a central sexual impulse is difficult to trace in them. We can hardly imagine Washington exemplifying Freudian aims at Valley Forge, despite his recent biographies. By a stretch of the imagination one might conceive Wellington with a glowing breast fighting at Waterloo to save the virgins of England. But the idea is hardly more probable than that Columbus discovered America so that daynurseries might be established on New York's East Side. Anything can seem possible once we forsake facts for mystic phantasy.
If the extreme psychoanalysts had taught that interest in home, family and tribe-as protection for our personalities-were dominant impulse, history might bear them out. The desire for comfort and security lies behind many of the great activities of mankind. But anything to do with home as the deepest of human purposes is out of date.
In these sophisticated times it smacks of sentimentality. The conventional home is now painted by radical writers as the thing to be avoided by the free primordial mind. They forget that security by means of a home does not mean a house cut in the pattern of a suburban bungalow with its Boston fern in front and Ford garage in the rear. The Australian bushman's cave with its skins soft to the flesh and its fire-wood for the chilly night is as much loved by him as a place of safety and selfexpression, as the cottage described in the familiar strains of "Home Sweet Home.”
Say what we will, food, clothing and shelter as the first security of our sense of selfhood are the things men have fought and died for, not merely in the French Revolution but in all times. Did a nation ever revolt for more liberty in sex, or for sex more abundantly? It has of course played its part, for none would relegate sex to an unimportant place in the motives of men. But only in its negative forms-in the crusades for sex purity and sex inhibition, the anchoret mortifying the flesh-has it directly made history.
There are two closely allied reasons why sex has been thought to be the greatest interest in human life. We owe one of them to the creeds of our ancestors and to all of the ignorant taboos which lay behind them. Not knowing what to do, moralists made sex the great secret. They taught an ethics which bottled it up in the social breast. Inevitably this damming inhibitory process resulted in the present flood of sexuality just as certainly as an ice jam leads to a spring freshet. The laws of physics
and those of the human mind are in many ways analogous. We are dealing in the twentieth century with a reaction from that type of asceticism which reached its highest point in Victorian days. We must remember the older theology did not teach us sex understanding. It sought to destroy sex interest and stamp it out of life. It taught warfare with the flesh, not reliant selfdirection. Was it not inevitable, as the pendulum swung, that extremists should exalt this imprisoned interest as the major force in life? When the modern analyst saw that the old idea of chastity was simply sex inhibition, and discovered beneath apparent virtue masses of consuming sex phantasy, it was difficult not to draw the conclusion that here was human nature at last revealed.
If after the moral stricture of the last century the sex bogy was inevitable, then the surest way to dethrone sex is to restore it to a simple naturalness. We are seeking to-day a middle ground between the abnormal celibacy and unnatural asceticism of past teachings, and the blatant sensualism of the present attitude. We are striving for a biologically sound standard where truth and not superstition shall prevail. And this means a radically different point of view. In the older moral teaching, spirituality is held to be a negative virtue achievable only by an abnegation of instinctive and sensory impulses. In the tenets of modern psychology, spirituality is seen as the result of right ethical thought and action on its own plane, not as an abnegation of those emotional qualities which God put in the nature of man.
We are seeking also to answer the real question of the importance of sex in human life. And in order to come to any sound conclusion, we must measure all our present data against the fact that they are taken at a time of flood.
It is probable that one of the greatest causes for the present popular disturbance of modern sex theories, is the single and extreme interpretation given to the word itself by most people. American thought grew out of a Puritan background which preached a constant conflict with the flesh and the devil. In fact Puritan thought was even more sexual than the most extreme Freudian teaching, in the sense that sex was seen as the omnipresent temptation. Freud on the other hand sees it as the unconscious dynamic and uses it as a synonym for love. Thus what he is really doing is raising sex to the higher plane of devotion, while our forefathers lowered it to carnal licentiousness.
As long as analytic psychology is misunderstood and as long as it is believed that the leaders teach that an impulse analogous with lust is the great human motivator, we must perforce utterly misjudge the whole psychoanalytic psychology. Unfortunately this is just what has happened. Both the horror-stricken older generation and the libertyseeking younger generation have made the same mistake. The former finding in it opportunity for censorious tirades, the latter gaining justification for sex radicalism. The Purity Leaguer and the Greenwich Village flapper are in the same boateach fails to know that sex as a central motive is to the scientifically
trained analyst a phase of human love, not an excuse for bestiality.
Another popular misconception lies in a misunderstanding of sex itself. It has been assumed that the sex relation springs from a single emotion, that it is a unified urge rather than an expression through which other impulses, non-sexual, may play a part. Psychological analysis often reveals that in people's lives sex desire springs from causes that are not part of any form of passion. In other words general motives and reactions from everyday life have their place in its most intimate relation. Thus in analyzing the usual sex impulse we find it may become a means of solace for that injured pride and vanity known as the inferiority complex and that it is often intensified by loneliness seeking for intimacy. In it also is the adventure spirit and the impulses for excitement and for play. Even more than this, a common rebellion at unadjusted environment has its part, and unconscious parentalism is never lacking. Yet all these human motives belong to other aspects of life, to the ego-urge even more than to sex.
Perhaps the most conspicuous of these allied factors is the inferiority feeling. An injured pride is more completely solaced by the compliment of sex choice than by any other human expression. The writer once knew a roué in constant pursuit of feminine society, but the moment he found some one verbally responsive to him, he was entirely satisfied. Acceptance of an intimate relation gave him the needed feeling of aggrandizement. The sense of in