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A Russian correspondent, who feels this charm of women in a particularly strong degree, is inclined to think that there is an element of perversity in it. "In the erotic action of the idea of feminine enjoyment," he writes, "I think there are traces of a certain perversity. In fact, owing to the impressions of early youth, woman (even if we feel contempt for her in theory) is placed above us, on a certain pedestal, as an almost sacred being, and the more so because mysterious. Now sensuality and sexual desire are considered as rather vulgar, and a little dirty, even ridiculous and degrading, not to say bestial. The woman who enjoys it, is, therefore, rather like a profaned altar, or, at least, like a divinity who has descended on to the earth. To give enjoyment to a woman is, therefore, like perpetrating a sacrilege, or at least like taking a liberty with a god. The feelings bequeathed to us by a long social civilization maintain themselves in spite of our rational and deliberate opinions. Reason tells us that there is nothing evil in sexual enjoyment, whether in man or woman, but an unconscious feeling directs our emotions, and this feeling (having a germ that was placed in modern men by Christianity, and perhaps by still older religions) says that woman ought to be an absolutely pure being, with ethereal sensations, and that in her sexual enjoyment is out of place, improper, scandalous. To arouse sexual emotions in a woman, if not to profane a sacred host, is, at all events, the staining of an immaculate peplos; if not sacrilege, it is, at least, irreverence or impertinence. For all men, the chaster a woman is, the more agreeable it is to bring her to the orgasm. That is felt as a triumph of the body over the soul, of sin over virtue, of earth over heaven. There is something diabolic in such pleasure, especially when it is felt by a man intoxicated with love, and full of religious respect for the virgin of his election. This feeling is, from a rational point of view, absurd, and in its tendencies, immoral; but it is delicious in its sacredly voluptuous subtlety. Defloration thus has its powerful fascination in the respect consciously or unconsciously felt for woman's chastity. In marriage, the feeling is yet more complicated: in deflowering his bride, the Christian (that is, any man brought up in a Christian civilization) has the feeling of committing a sort of sin (for the 'flesh' is, for him, always connected with sin) which, by a special privilege, has for him become legitimate. He has received a special permit to corrupt innocence. Hence, the peculiar prestige for civilized Christians, of the wedding night, sung by Shelley, in ecstatic verses:—

"'Oh, joy! Oh, fear! What will be done

In the absence of the sun!'"

This feeling has, however, its normal range, and is not, per se, a perversity, though it may doubtless become so when unduly heightened by Christian sentiment, and especially if it leads, as to some extent it has led in my Russian correspondent, to an abnormal feeling of the sexual attraction of girls who have only or scarcely reached the age of puberty. The sexual charm of this period of girlhood is well illustrated in many of the poems of Thomas Ashe, and it is worthy of note, as perhaps supporting the contention that this attraction is based on Christian feeling, that Ashe had been a clergyman. An attentiveness to the woman's pleasure remains, in itself, very far from a perversion, but increases, as Colin Scott has pointed out, with civilization, while its absence—the indifference to the partner's pleasure—is a perversion of the most degraded kind.

There is no such instinctive demand on the woman's part for innocence in the man.[19] In the nature of things that could not be. Such emotion is required for properly playing the part of the pursued; it is by no means an added attraction on the part of the pursuer. There is, however, an allied and corresponding desire which is very often clearly or latently present in the woman: a longing for pleasure that is stolen or forbidden. It is a mistake to suppose that this is an indication of viciousness or perversity. It appears to be an impulse that occurs quite naturally in altogether innocent women. The exciting charm of the risky and dangerous naturally arises on a background of feminine shyness and timidity. We may trace its recognition at a very early stage of history in the story of Eve and the forbidden fruit that has so often been the symbol of the masculine organs of sex. It is on this ground that many have argued the folly of laying external restrictions on women in matters of love. Thus in quoting the great Italian writer who afterwards became Pope Pius II, Robert Burton remarked: "I am of Æneas Sylvius' mind, 'Those jealous Italians do very ill to lock up their wives; for women are of such a disposition they will mostly covet that which is denied most, and offend least when they have free liberty to trespass.'"[20]

It is the spontaneous and natural instinct of the lover to desire modesty in his mistress, and by no means any calculated opinion on his part that modesty is the sign of sexual emotion. It remains true, however, that modesty is an expression of feminine erotic impulse. We have here one of the instances, of which there, are so many, of that curious and instinctive harmony by which Nature has sought the more effectively to bring about the ends of courtship. As to the fact itself there can be little doubt. It constantly forces itself on the notice of careful observers, and has long been decided in the affirmative by those who have discussed the matter. Venette, one of the earliest writers on the psychology of sex, after discussing the question at length, decided that the timid woman is a more ardent lover than the bold woman.[21] "It is the most pudent girl," remarked Restif de la Bretonne whose experience of women was so extensive, "the girl who blushes most, who is most disposed to the pleasures of love," he adds that, in girls and boys alike, shyness is a premature consciousness of sex.[22] This observation has even become embodied in popular proverbs. "Do as the lasses do—say no, but take it," is a Scotch saying, to which corresponds the Welsh saying, "The more prudish the more unchaste."[23]

It is not, at first, quite clear why an excessively shy and modest woman should be the most apt for intimate relationships with a man, and in such a case the woman is often charged with hypocrisy. There is, however, no hypocrisy in the matter. The shy and reserved woman holds herself aloof from intimacy in ordinary friendship, because she is acutely sensitive to the judgments of others, and fears that any seemingly immodest action may make an unfavorable opinion. With a lover, however, in whose eyes she feels assured that her actions can not be viewed unfavorably, these barriers of modesty fall down, and the resulting intimacy becomes all the more fascinating to the woman because of its contrast with the extreme reserve she is impelled to maintain in other relationships. It thus happens that many modest women who, in non-sexual relationships with their own sex, are not able to act with the physical unreserve not uncommon with women among themselves, yet feel no such reserve with a man, when they are once confident of his good opinion. Much the same is true of modest and sensitive men in their relations with women.

This fundamental animal factor of modesty, rooted in the natural facts of the sexual life of the higher mammals, and especially man, obviously will not explain all the phenomena of modesty. We must turn to the other great primary element of modesty, the social factor.

We cannot doubt that one of the most primitive and universal of the social characteristics of man is an aptitude for disgust, founded, as it is, on a yet more primitive and animal aptitude for disgust, which has little or no social significance. In nearly all races, even the most savage, we seem to find distinct traces of this aptitude for disgust in the presence of certain actions of others, an emotion naturally reflected in the individual's own actions, and hence a guide to conduct. Notwithstanding our gastric community of disgust with lower animals, it is only in man that this disgust seems to become transformed and developed, to possess a distinctly social character, and to serve as a guide to social conduct.[24] The objects of disgust vary infinitely according to the circumstances and habits of particular races, but the reaction of disgust is fundamental throughout.

The best study of the phenomena of disgust known to me is, without doubt, Professor Richet's.[25] Richet concludes that it is the dangerous and the useless which evoke disgust. The digestive and sexual excretions and secretions, being either useless or, in accordance with widespread primitive ideas, highly dangerous, the genito-anal region became a concentrated focus of disgust.[26] It is largely for this reason, no doubt, that savage men exhibit modesty, not only toward women, but toward their own sex, and that so many of the lowest savages take great precautions in obtaining seclusion for the fulfillment of natural functions. The statement, now so often made, that the primary object of clothes is to accentuate, rather than to conceal, has in it—as I shall point out later—a large element of truth, but it is by no means a complete account of the matter. It seems difficult not to admit that, alongside the impulse to accentuate sexual differences, there is also in both men and women a genuine impulse to concealment among the most primitive peoples, and the invincible repugnance often felt by savages to remove the girdle or apron, is scarcely accounted for by the theory that it is solely a sexual lure.

In this connection it seems to me instructive to consider a special form of modesty very strongly marked among savages in some parts of the world. I refer to the feeling of immodesty in eating. Where this feeling exists, modesty is offended when one eats in public; the modest man retires to eat. Indecency, said Cook, was utterly unknown among the Tahitians; but they would not eat together; even brothers and sisters had their separate baskets of provisions, and generally sat some yards apart, with their backs to each other, when they ate.[27] The Warrua of Central Africa, Cameron found, when offered a drink, put up a cloth before their faces while they swallowed it, and would not allow anyone to see them eat or drink; so that every man or woman must have his own fire and cook for himself.[28] Karl von den Steinen remarks, in his interesting book on Brazil, that though the Bakairi of Central Brazil have no feeling of shame about nakedness, they are ashamed to eat in public; they retire to eat, and hung their heads in shame-faced confusion when they saw him innocently eat in public. Hrolf Vaughan Stevens found that, when he gave an Orang Laut (Malay) woman anything to eat, she not only would not eat it if her husband were present, but if any man were present she would go outside before eating or giving her children to eat.[29] Thus among these peoples the act of eating in public produces the same feelings as among ourselves the indecent exposure of the body in public.[30]


It is quite easy to understand how this arises. Whenever there is any pressure on the means of subsistence, as among savages at some time or another there nearly always is, it must necessarily arouse a profound and mixed emotion of desire and disgust to see another person putting into his stomach what one might just as well have put into one's own.[31] The special secrecy sometimes observed by women is probably due to the fact that women would be less able to resist the emotions that the act of eating would arouse in onlookers. As social feeling develops, a man desires not only to eat in safety, but also to avoid being an object of disgust, and to spare his friends all unpleasant emotions. Hence it becomes a requirement of ordinary decency to eat in private. A man who eats in public becomes—like the man who in our cities exposes his person in public—an object of disgust and contempt.

Long ago, when a hospital student on midwifery duty in London slums, I had occasion to observe that among the women of the poor, and more especially in those who had lost the first bloom of youth, modesty consisted chiefly in the fear of being disgusting. There was an almost pathetic anxiety, in the face of pain and discomfort, not to be disgusting in the doctor's eyes. This anxiety expressed itself in the ordinary symptoms of modesty. But, as soon as the woman realized that I found nothing disgusting in whatever was proper and necessary to be done under the circumstances, it almost invariably happened that every sign of modesty at once disappeared.[32] In the special and elementary conditions of parturition, modesty is reduced to this one fear of causing disgust; so that, when that is negated, the emotion is non-existent, and the subject becomes, without effort, as direct and natural as a little child. A fellow-student on similar duty, who also discovered for himself the same character of modesty—that if he was careful to guard her modesty the woman was careful also, and that if he was not the woman was not—remarked on it to me with sadness; it seemed to him derogatory to womanhood that what he had been accustomed to consider its supreme grace should be so superficial that he could at will set limits to it.[33] I thought then, as I think still, that that was rather a perversion of the matter, and that nothing becomes degrading because we happen to have learned something about its operations. But I am more convinced than ever that the fear of causing disgust—a fear quite distinct from that of losing a sexual lure or breaking a rule of social etiquette—plays a very large part in the modesty of the more modest sex, and in modesty generally. Our Venuses, as Lucretius long since remarked and Montaigne after him, are careful to conceal from their lovers the vita postscenia, and that fantastic fate which placed so near together the supreme foci of physical attraction and physical repugnance, has immensely contributed to build up all the subtlest coquetries of courtship. Whatever stimulates self-confidence and lulls the fear of evoking disgust—whether it is the presence of a beloved person in whose good opinion complete confidence is felt, or whether it is merely the grosser narcotizing influence of a slight degree of intoxication—always automatically lulls the emotion of modesty.[34] Together with the animal factor of sexual refusal, this social fear of evoking disgust seems to me the most fundamental element in modesty.

It is, of course, impossible to argue that the fact of the sacro-pubic region of the body being the chief focus of concealment proves the importance of this factor of modesty. But it may fairly be argued that it owes this position not merely to being the sexual centre, but also as being the excretory centre. Even among many lower mammals, as well as among birds and insects, there is a well-marked horror of dirt, somewhat disguised by the varying ways in which an animal may be said to define "dirt." Many animals spend more time and energy in the duties of cleanliness than human beings, and they often show well-marked anxiety to remove their own excrement, or to keep away from it.[35] Thus this element of modesty also may be said to have an animal basis.

It is on this animal basis that the human and social fear of arousing disgust has developed. Its probably wide extension is indicated not only by the strong feeling attached to the constant presence of clothing on this part of the body,—such constant presence being quite uncalled for if the garment or ornament is merely a sort of sexual war-paint,—but by the repugnance felt by many savages very low down in the scale to the public satisfaction of natural needs, and to their more than civilized cleanliness in this connection;[36] it is further of interest to note that in some parts of the world the covering is not in front, but behind; though of this fact there are probably other explanations. Among civilized people, also, it may be added, the final and invincible seat of modesty is sometimes not around the pubes, but the anus; that is to say, that in such cases the fear of arousing disgust is the ultimate and most fundamental element of modesty.[37]

The concentration of modesty around the anus is sometimes very marked. Many women feel so high a degree of shame and reserve with regard to this region, that they are comparatively indifferent to an anterior examination of the sexual organs. A similar feeling is not seldom found in men. "I would permit of an examination of my genitals by a medical man, without any feeling of discomfort," a correspondent writes, "but I think I would rather die than submit to any rectal examination." Even physicians have been known to endure painful rectal disorders for years, rather than undergo examination.

"Among ordinary English girls," a medical correspondent writes, "I have often noticed that the dislike and shame of allowing a man to have sexual intercourse with them, when newly married, is simply due to the fact that the sexual aperture is so closely apposed to the anus and bladder. If the vulva and vagina were situated between a woman's shoulder blades, and a man had a separate instrument for coitus, not used for any excretory purpose, I do not think women would feel about intercourse as they sometimes do. Again, in their ignorance of anatomy, women often look upon the vagina and womb as part of the bowel and its exit of discharge, and sometimes say, for instance, 'inflammation of the bowel', when they mean womb. Again, many, perhaps most, women believe that they pass water through the vagina, and are ignorant of the existence of the separate urethral orifice. Again, women associate the vulva with the anus, and so feel ashamed of it; even when speaking to their husbands, or to a doctor, or among themselves; they have absolutely no name for the vulva (I mean among the upper classes, and people of gentle birth), but speak of it as 'down below,' 'low down,' etc."

Even though this feeling is largely based on wrong and ignorant ideas, it must still be recognized that it is to some extent natural and inevitable. "How much is risked," exclaims Dugas, "in the privacies of love! The results may be disillusion, disgust, the consciousness of physical imperfection, of brutality or coldness, of æsthetic disenchantment, of a sentimental shock, seen or divined. To be without modesty, that is to say, to have no fear of the ordeals of love, one must be sure of one's self, of one's grace, of one's physical emotions, of one's feelings, and be sure, moreover, of the effect of all these on the nerves, the imagination, and the heart of another person. Let us suppose modesty reduced to æsthetic discomfort, to a woman's fear of displeasing, or of not seeming beautiful enough. Even thus defined, how can modesty avoid being always awake and restless? What woman could repeat, without risk, the tranquil action of Phryne? And even in that action, who knows how much may not have been due to mere professional insolence!" (Dugas, "La Pudeur," Revue Philosophique, November, 1903.) "Men and Women," Schurtz points out (Altersklassen und Männerbünde, pp. 41-51), "have certainly the capacity mutually to supplement and enrich each other; but when this completion fails, or is not sought, the difference may easily become a strong antipathy;" and he proceeds to develop the wide-reaching significance of this psychic fact.

I have emphasized the proximity of the excretory centres to the sexual focus in discussing this important factor of modesty, because, in analyzing so complex and elusive an emotion as modesty it is desirable to keep as near as possible to the essential and fundamental facts on which it is based. It is scarcely necessary to point out that, in ordinary civilized society, these fundamental facts are not usually present at the surface of consciousness and may even be absent altogether; on the foundation of them may arise all sorts of idealized fears, of delicate reserves, of æsthetic refinements, as the emotions of love become more complex and more subtle, and the crude simplicity of the basis on which they finally rest becomes inevitably concealed.


Another factor of modesty, which reaches a high development in savagery, is the ritual element, especially the idea of ceremonial uncleanness, based on a dread of the supernatural influences which the sexual organs and functions are supposed to exert. It may be to some extent rooted in the elements already referred to, and it leads us into a much wider field than that of modesty, so that it is only necessary to touch slightly on it here; it has been exhaustively studied by Frazer and by Crawley. Offences against the ritual rendered necessary by this mysterious dread, though more serious than offences against sexual reticence or the fear of causing disgust, are so obviously allied that they all reinforce one another and cannot easily be disentangled.

Nearly everywhere all over the world at a primitive stage of thought, and even to some extent in the highest civilization, the sight of the sexual organs or of the sexual act, the image or even the names of the sexual parts of either man or woman, are believed to have a curiously potent influence, sometimes beneficent, but quite as often maleficent. The two kinds of influence may even be combined, and Riedel, quoted by Ploss and Bartels,[38] states that the Ambon islanders carve a schematic representation of the vulva on their fruit trees, in part to promote the productiveness of the trees, and in part to scare any unauthorized person who might be tempted to steal the fruit. The precautions prescribed as regards coitus at Loango[39] are evidently associated with religious fears. In Ceylon, again (as a medical correspondent there informs me), where the penis is worshipped and held sacred, a native never allows it to be seen, except under compulsion, by a doctor, and even a wife must neither see it nor touch it nor ask for coitus, though she must grant as much as the husband desires. All savage and barbarous peoples who have attained any high degree of ceremonialism have included the functions not only of sex, but also of excretion, more or less stringently within the bounds of that ceremonialism.[40] It is only necessary to refer to the Jewish ritual books of the Old Testament, to Hesiod, and to the customs prevalent among Mohammedan peoples. Modesty in eating, also, has its roots by no means only in the fear of causing disgust, but very largely in this kind of ritual, and Crawley has shown how numerous and frequent among primitive peoples are the religious implications of eating and drinking.[41] So profound is this dread of the sacred mystery of sex, and so widespread is the ritual based upon it, that some have imagined that here alone we may find the complete explanation of modesty, and Salomon Reinach declares that "at the origin of the emotion of modesty lies a taboo."[42]

Durkheim ("La Prohibition de l'Inceste," L'Année Sociologique, 1898, p. 50), arguing that whatever sense of repugnance women may inspire must necessarily reach the highest point around the womb, which is hence subjected to the most stringent taboo, incidentally suggests that here is an origin of modesty. "The sexual organs must be veiled at an early period, to prevent the dangerous effluvia which they give off from reaching the environment. The veil is often a method of intercepting magic action. Once constituted, the practice would be maintained and transformed."

It was doubtless as a secondary and derived significance that the veil became, as Reinach ("Le Voile de l'Oblation," op. cit., pp. 299-311) shows it was, alike among the Romans and in the Catholic Church, the sign of consecration to the gods.

At an early stage of culture, again, menstruation is regarded as a process of purification, a dangerous expulsion of vitiated humors. Hence the term katharsis applied to it by the Greeks. Hence also the mediæval view of women: "Mulier speciosa templum ædificatum super cloacam," said Boethius. The sacro-pubic region in women, because it includes the source of menstruation, thus becomes a specially heightened seat of taboo. According to the Mosiac law (Leviticus, Chapter XX, v. 18), if a man uncovered a menstruating woman, both were to be cut off.

It is probable that the Mohammedan custom of veiling the face and head really has its source solely in another aspect of this ritual factor of modesty. It must be remembered that this custom is not Mohammedan in its origin, since it existed long previously among the Arabians, and is described by Tertullian.[43] In early Arabia very handsome men also veiled their faces, in order to preserve themselves from the evil eye, and it has been conjectured with much probability that the origin of the custom of women veiling their faces may be traced to this magico-religious precaution.[44] Among the Jews of the same period, according to Büchler,[45] the women had their heads covered and never cut their hair; to appear in the streets without such covering would be like a prostitute and was adequate ground for divorce; adulterous women were punished by uncovering their heads and cutting their hair. It is possible, though not certain, that St. Paul's obscure injunction to women to cover their heads "because of the angels," may really be based on the ancient reason, that when uncovered they would be exposed to the wanton assaults of spirits (1 Corinthians, Ch. XI, vv. 5-6),[46] exactly as Singhalese women believe that they must keep the vulva covered lest demons should have intercourse with them. Even at the present day St. Paul's injunction is still observed by Christendom, which is, however, far from accepting, or even perhaps understanding, the folk-lore ground on which are based such injunctions.

Crawley thus summarizes some of the evidence concerning the significance of the veil:—

"Sexual shyness, not only in woman, but in man, is intensified at marriage, and forms a chief feature of the dangerous sexual properties mutually feared. When fully ceremonial, the idea takes on the meaning that satisfaction of these feelings will lead to their neutralization, as, in fact, it does. The bridegroom in ancient Sparta supped on the wedding night at the men's mess, and then visited his bride, leaving her before daybreak. This practice was continued, and sometimes children were born before the pair had ever seen each other's faces by day. At weddings in the Babar Islands, the bridegroom has to hunt for his bride in a darkened room. This lasts a good while if she is shy. In South Africa, the bridegroom may not see his bride till the whole of the marriage ceremonies have been performed. In Persia, a husband never sees his wife till he has consummated the marriage. At marriages in South Arabia, the bride and bridegroom have to sit immovable in the same position from noon till midnight, fasting, in separate rooms. The bride is attended by ladies, and the groom by men. They may not see each other till the night of the fourth day. In Egypt, the groom cannot see the face of his bride, even by a surreptitious glance, till she is in his absolute possession. Then comes the ceremony, which he performs, of uncovering her face. In Egypt, of course, this has been accentuated by the seclusion and veiling of women. In Morocco, at the feast before the marriage, the bride and groom sit together on a sort of throne; all the time, the poor bride's eyes are firmly closed, and she sits amidst the revelry as immovable as a statue. On the next day is the marriage. She is conducted after dark to her future home, accompanied by a crowd with lanterns and candles. She is led with closed eyes along the street by two relatives, each holding one of her hands. The bride's head is held in its proper position by a female relative, who walks behind her. She wears a veil, and is not allowed to open her eyes until she is set on the bridal bed, with a girl friend beside her. Amongst the Zulus, the bridal party proceeds to the house of the groom, having the bride hidden amongst them. They stand facing the groom, while the bride sings a song. Her companions then suddenly break away, and she is discovered standing in the middle, with a fringe of beads covering her face. Amongst the people of Kumaun, the husband sees his wife first after the joining of hands. Amongst the Bedui of North East Africa, the bride is brought on the evening of the wedding-day by her girl friends, to the groom's house. She is closely muffled up. Amongst the Jews of Jerusalem, the bride, at the marriage ceremony, stands under the nuptial canopy, her eyes being closed, that she may not behold the face of her future husband before she reaches the bridal chamber. In Melanesia, the bride is carried to her new home on some one's back, wrapped in many mats, with palm-fans held about her face, because she is supposed to be modest and shy. Among the Damaras, the groom cannot see his bride for four days after marriage. When a Damara woman is asked in marriage, she covers her face for a time with the flap of a headdress made for this purpose. At the Thlinkeet marriage ceremony, the bride must look down, and keep her head bowed all the time; during the wedding-day, she remains hiding in a corner of the house, and the groom is forbidden to enter. At a Yezedee marriage, the bride is covered from head to foot with a thick veil, and when arrived at her new home, she retires behind a curtain in the corner of a darkened room, where she remains for three days before her husband is permitted to see her. In Corea, the bride has to cover her face with her long sleeves, when meeting the bridegroom at the wedding. The Manchurian bride uncovers her face for the first time when she descends from the nuptial couch. It is dangerous even to see dangerous persons. Sight is a method of contagion in primitive science, and the idea coincides with the psychological aversion to see dangerous things, and with sexual shyness and timidity. In the customs noticed, we can distinguish the feeling that it is dangerous to the bride for her husband's eyes to be upon her, and the feeling of bashfulness in her which induces her neither to see him nor to be seen by him. These ideas explain the origin of the bridal veil and similar concealments. The bridal veil is used, to take a few instances, in China, Burmah, Corea, Russia, Bulgaria, Manchuria, and Persia, and in all these cases it conceals the face entirely." (E. Crawley, The Mystic Rose, pp. 328 et seq.)

Alexander Walker, writing in 1846, remarks: "Among old-fashioned people, of whom a good example may be found in old country people of the middle class in England, it is indecent to be seen with the head unclothed; such a woman is terrified at the chance of being seen In that condition, and if intruded on at that time, she shrieks with terror, and flies to conceal herself." (A. Walker, Beauty, p. 15.) This fear of being seen with the head uncovered exists still, M. Van Gennep informs me, in some regions of France, as in Brittany.

So far it has only been necessary to refer incidentally to the connection of modesty with clothing. I have sought to emphasize the unquestionable, but often forgotten, fact that modesty is in its origin independent of clothing, that physiological modesty takes precedence of anatomical modesty, and that the primary factors of modesty were certainly developed long before the discovery of either ornament or garments. The rise of clothing probably had its first psychical basis on an emotion of modesty already compositely formed of the elements we have traced. Both the main elementary factors, it must be noted, must naturally tend to develop and unite in a more complex, though—it may well be—much less intense, emotion. The impulse which leads the female animal, as it leads some African women when found without their girdles, to squat firmly down on the earth, becomes a more refined and extended play of gesture and ornament and garment. A very notable advance, I may remark, is made when this primary attitude of defence against the action of the male becomes a defence against his eyes. We may thus explain the spread of modesty to various parts of the body, even when we exclude the more special influence of the evil eye. The breasts very early become a focus of modesty in women; this may be observed among many naked, or nearly naked, negro races; the tendency of the nates to become the chief seat of modesty in many parts of Africa may probably be, in large part, thus explained, since the full development of the gluteal regions is often the greatest attraction an African woman can possess.[47] The same cause contributes, doubtless, to the face becoming, in some races, the centre of modesty. We see the influence of this defence against strange eyes in the special precautions in gesture or clothing taken by the women in various parts of the world, against the more offensive eyes of civilized Europeans.

But in thus becoming directed only against sight, and not against action, the gestures of modesty are at once free to become merely those of coquetry. When there is no real danger of offensive action, there is no need for more than playful defence, and no serious anxiety should that defence be taken as a disguised invitation. Thus the road is at once fully open toward the most civilized manifestations of the comedy of courtship.

In the same way the social fear of arousing disgust combines easily and perfectly with any new development in the invention of ornament or clothing as sexual lures. Even among the most civilized races it has often been noted that the fashion of feminine garments (as also sometimes the use of scents) has the double object of concealing and attracting. It is so with the little apron of the young savage belle. The heightening of the attraction is, indeed, a logical outcome of the fear of evoking disgust.


It is possible, as some ethnographists have observed,[48] that intercrural cords and other primitive garments have a physical ground, inasmuch as they protect the most sensitive and unprotected part of the body, especially in women. We may note in this connection the significant remarks of K. von den Steinen, who argues that among Brazilian tribes the object of the uluri, etc., is to obtain a maximum of protection for the mucous membrane with a minimum of concealment. Among the Eskimo, as Nansen noted, the corresponding intercrural cord is so thin as to be often practically invisible; this may be noted, I may add, in the excellent photographs of Eskimo women given by Holm.

But it is evident that, in the beginning, protection is to little or no extent the motive for attaching foreign substances to the body. Thus the tribes of Central Australia wear no clothes, although they often suffer from the cold. But, in addition to armlets, neck-bands and head-bands, they have string or hair girdles, with, for the women, a very small apron and, for the men, a pubic tassel. The latter does not conceal the organs, being no larger than a coin, and often brilliantly coated with white pipeclay, especially during the progress of corrobborees, when a large number of men and women meet together; it serves the purpose of drawing attention to the organs.[49] When Forster visited the unspoilt islanders of the Pacific early in the eighteenth century, he tells us that, though they wore no clothes, they found it necessary to cover themselves with various ornaments, especially on, the sexual parts. "But though their males," he remarks, "were to all appearances equally anxious in this respect with their females, this part of their dress served only to make that more conspicuous which it intended to hide."[50] He adds the significant remark that "these ideas of decency and modesty are only observed at the age of sexual maturity," just as in Central Australia women may only wear aprons after the initiation of puberty.


"There are certain things," said Montaigne, "which are hidden in order to be shown;" and there can be no doubt that the contention of Westermarck and others, that ornament and clothing were, in the first place, intended, not to conceal or even to protect the body, but, in large part, to render it sexually attractive, is fully proved.[51] We cannot, in the light of all that has gone before, regard ornaments and clothing as the sole cause of modesty, but the feelings that are thus gathered around the garment constitute a highly important factor of modesty.

Among some Australian tribes it is said that the sexual organs are only covered during their erotic dances; and it is further said that in some parts of the world only prostitutes are clothed. "The scanty covering," as Westermarck observes, "was found to act as the most powerful obtainable sexual stimulus." It is undoubtedly true that this statement may be made not merely of the savage, but of the most civilized world. All observers agree that the complete nudity of savages, unlike the civilized décolleté or détroussé, has no suggestion of sexual allurement. (Westermarck quotes numerous testimonies on this point, op. cit., pp. 192 et seq.) Dr. R. W. Felkin remarks concerning Central Africa, that he has never met more indecency than in Uganda, where the penalty of death is inflicted on an adult found naked in the street. (Edinburgh Medical Journal, April, 1884.) A study of pictures or statuary will alone serve to demonstrate that nakedness is always chaster in its effects than partial clothing. As a well-known artist, Du Maurier, has remarked (in Trilby), it is "a fact well known to all painters and sculptors who have used the nude model (except a few shady pretenders, whose purity, not being of the right sort, has gone rank from too much watching) that nothing is so chaste as nudity. Venus herself, as she drops her garments and steps on to the model-throne, leaves behind her on the floor every weapon in her armory by which she can pierce to the grosser passions of men." Burton, in the Anatomy of Melancholy (Part III, Sect. II, Subsect. 3), deals at length with the "Allurements of Love," and concludes that "the greatest provocations of lust are from our apparel." The artist's model, as one informs me, is much less exposed to liberties from men when nude than when she is partially clothed, and it may be noted that in Paris studios the model who poses naked undresses behind a screen.

An admirable poetic rendering of this element in the philosophy of clothing has been given by Herrick, that master of erotic psychology, in "A Lily in Crystal," where he argues that a lily in crystal, and amber in a stream, and strawberries in cream, gain an added delight from semi-concealment; and so, he concludes, we obtain

"A rule, how far, to teach,

Your nakedness must reach."

In this connection, also, it is worth noting that Stanley Hall, in a report based on returns from nearly a thousand persons, mostly teachers, ("The Early Sense of Self," American Journal of Psychology, 1898, p. 366), finds that of the three functions of clothes—protection, ornament, and Lotzean "self-feeling"—the second is by far the most conspicuous in childhood. The attitude of children is testimony to the primitive attitude toward clothing.

It cannot, however, be said that the use of clothing for the sake of showing the natural forms of the body has everywhere been developed. In Japan, where nakedness is accepted without shame, clothes are worn to cover and conceal, and not to reveal, the body. It is so, also, in China. A distinguished Chinese gentleman, who had long resided in Europe, once told Baelz that he had gradually learnt to grasp the European point of view, but that it would be impossible to persuade his fellow-countrymen that a woman who used her clothes to show off her figure could possibly possess the least trace of modesty. (Baelz, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1901, Heft 2, p. 179.)

The great artistic elaboration often displayed by articles of ornament or clothing, even when very small, and the fact—as shown by Karl von den Steinen regarding the Brazilian uluri—that they may serve as common motives in general decoration, sufficiently prove that such objects attract rather than avoid attention. And while there is an invincible repugnance among some peoples to remove these articles, such repugnance being often strongest when the adornment is most minute, others have no such repugnance or are quite indifferent whether or not their aprons are accurately adjusted. The mere presence or possession of the article gives the required sense of self-respect, of human dignity, of sexual desirability. Thus it is that to unclothe a person, is to humiliate him; this was so even in Homeric times, for we may recall the threat of Ulysses to strip Thyestes.[52]

When clothing is once established, another element, this time a social-economic element, often comes in to emphasize its importance and increase the anatomical modesty of women. I mean the growth of the conception of women as property. Waitz, followed by Schurtz and Letourneau, has insisted that the jealousy of husbands is the primary origin of clothing, and, indirectly, of modesty. Diderot in the eighteenth century had already given clear expression to the same view. It is undoubtedly true that only married women are among some peoples clothed, the unmarried women, though full grown, remaining naked. In many parts of the world, also, as Mantegazza and others have shown, where the men are naked and the women covered, clothing is regarded as a sort of disgrace, and men can only with difficulty be persuaded to adopt it. Before marriage a woman was often free, and not bound to chastity, and at the same time was often naked; after marriage she was clothed, and no longer free. To the husband's mind, the garment appears—illogically, though naturally—a moral and physical protection against any attack on his property.[53] Thus a new motive was furnished, this time somewhat artificially, for making nakedness, in women at all events, disgraceful. As the conception of property also extended to the father's right over his daughters, and the appreciation of female chastity developed, this motive spread to unmarried as well as married women. A woman on the west coast of Africa must always be chaste because she is first the property of her parents and afterwards of her husband,[54] and even in the seventeenth century of Christendom so able a thinker as Bishop Burnet furnished precisely the same reason for feminine chastity.[55] This conception probably constituted the chief and most persistent element furnished to the complex emotion of modesty by the barbarous stages of human civilization.

This economic factor necessarily involved the introduction of a new moral element into modesty. If a woman's chastity is the property of another person, it is essential that she shall be modest in order that men may not be tempted to incur the penalties involved by the infringement of property rights. Thus modesty is strictly inculcated on women in order that men may be safeguarded from temptation. The fact was overlooked that modesty is itself a temptation. Immodesty being, on this ground, disapproved by men, a new motive for modesty is furnished to women. In the book which the Knight of the Tower, Landry, wrote in the fourteenth century, for the instruction of his daughters, this factor of modesty is naïvely revealed. He tells his daughters of the trouble that David got into through the thoughtlessness of Bathsheba, and warns them that "every woman ought religiously to conceal herself when dressing and washing, and neither out of vanity nor yet to attract attention show either her hair, or her neck, or her breast, or any part which ought to be covered." Hinton went so far as to regard what he termed "body modesty," as entirely a custom imposed upon women by men with the object of preserving their own virtue. While this motive is far from being the sole source of modesty, it must certainly be borne in mind as an inevitable outcome of the economic factor of modesty.

In Europe it seems probable that the generally accepted conceptions of mediæval chivalry were not without influence in constituting the forms in which modesty shows itself among us. In the early middle ages there seems to have been a much greater degree of physical familiarity between the sexes than is commonly found among barbarians elsewhere. There was certainly considerable promiscuity in bathing and indifference to nakedness. It seems probable, as Durkheim points out,[56] that this state of things was modified in part by the growing force of the dictates of Christian morality, which regarded all intimate approaches between the sexes as sinful, and in part by the influence of chivalry with its æsthetic and moral ideals of women, as the representative of all the delicacies and elegancies of civilization. This ideal was regarded as incompatible with the familiarities of the existing social relationships between the sexes, and thus a separation, which at first existed only in art and literature, began by a curious reaction to exert an influence on real life.

The chief new feature—it is scarcely a new element—added to modesty when an advanced civilization slowly emerges from barbarism is the elaboration of its social ritual.[57] Civilization expands the range of modesty, and renders it, at the same time, more changeable. The French seventeenth century, and the English eighteenth, represent early stages of modern European civilization, and they both devoted special attention to the elaboration of the minute details of modesty. The frequenters of the Hotel Rambouillet, the précieuses satirized by Molière, were not only engaged in refining the language; they were refining feelings and ideas and enlarging the boundaries of modesty.[58] In England such famous and popular authors as Swift and Sterne bear witness to a new ardor of modesty in the sudden reticences, the dashes, and the asterisks, which are found throughout their works. The altogether new quality of literary prurience, of which Sterne is still the classical example, could only have arisen on the basis of the new modesty which was then overspreading society and literature. Idle people, mostly, no doubt, the women in salons and drawing-rooms, people more familiar with books than with the realities of life, now laid down the rules of modesty, and were ever enlarging it, ever inventing new subtleties of gesture and speech, which it would be immodest to neglect, and which are ever being rendered vulgar by use and ever changing.

It was at this time, probably, that the custom of inventing an arbitrary private vocabulary of words and phrases for the purpose of disguising references to functions and parts of the body regarded as immodest and indecent, first began to become common. Such private slang, growing up independently in families, and especially among women, as well as between lovers, is now almost universal. It is not confined to any European country, and has been studied in Italy by Niceforo (Il Gergo, 1897, cap. 1 and 2), who regards it as a weapon of social defence against an inquisitive or hostile environment, since it enables things to be said with a meaning which is unintelligible to all but the initiated person. While it is quite true that the custom is supported by the consciousness of its practical advantages, it has another source in a desire to avoid what is felt to be the vulgar immodesty of direct speech. This is sufficiently shown by the fact that such slang is mostly concerned with the sacro-pubic sphere. It is one of the chief contributions to the phenomena of modesty furnished by civilization. The claims of modesty having effected the clothing of the body, the impulse of modesty finds a further sphere of activity—half-playful, yet wholly imperative—in the clothing of language.

Modesty of speech has, however, a deep and primitive basis, although in modern Europe it only became conspicuous at the beginning of the eighteenth century. "All over the world," as Dufour put it, "to do is good, to say is bad." Reticences of speech are not adequately accounted for by the statement that modesty tends to irradiate from the action to the words describing the action, for there is a tendency for modesty to be more deeply rooted in the words than in the actions. "Modest women," as Kleinpaul truly remarks, "have a much greater horror of saying immodest things than of doing them; they believe that fig-leaves were especially made for the mouth." (Kleinpaul, Sprache ohne Worte, p. 309.) It is a tendency which is linked on to the religious and ritual feeling which we have already found to be a factor of modesty, and which, even when applied to language, appears to have an almost or quite instinctive basis, for it is found among the most primitive savages, who very frequently regard a name as too sacred or dangerous to utter. Among the tribes of Central Australia, in addition to his ordinary name, each individual has his sacred or secret name, only known to the older and fully initiated members of his own totemic group; among the Warramunga, it is not permitted to women to utter even a man's ordinary name, though she knows it. (Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 581.) In the mysterious region of sex, this feeling easily takes root. In many parts of the world, men use among themselves, and women use among themselves, words and even languages which they may not use without impropriety in speaking to persons of the opposite sex, and it has been shown that exogamy, or the fact that the wife belongs to a different tribe, will not always account for this phenomenon. (Crawley, The Mystic Rose, p. 46.) A special vocabulary for the generative organs and functions is very widespread. Thus, in northwest Central Queensland, there is both a decent and an indecent vocabulary for the sexual parts; in Mitakoodi language, for instance, me-ne may be used for the vulva in the best aboriginal society, but koon-ja and pukkil, which are names for the same parts, are the most blackguardly words known to the natives. (W. Roth, Ethnological Studies Among the Queensland Aborigines, p. 184.) Among the Malays, puki is also a name for the vulva which it is very indecent to utter, and it is only used in public by people under the influence of an obsessive nervous disorder. (W. Gilman Ellis, "Latah," Journal of Mental Science, Jan., 1897.) The Swahili women of Africa have a private metaphorical language of their own, referring to sexual matters (Zache, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1899, Heft 2-3, pp. 70 et seq.), and in Samoa, again, young girls have a euphemistic name for the penis, aualuma, which is not that in common use (Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1899, Heft 1, p. 31); exactly the same thing is found in Europe, to-day, and is sometimes more marked among young peasant women than among those of better social class, who often avoid, under all circumstances, the necessity for using any definite name.

Singular as it may seem, the Romans, who in their literature impress us by their vigorous and naked grip of the most private facts of life, showed in familiar intercourse a dread of obscene language—a dread ultimately founded, it is evident, on religious grounds—far exceeding that which prevails among ourselves to-day in civilization. "It is remarkable," Dufour observes, "that the prostitutes of ancient Rome would have blushed to say an indecent word in public. The little tender words used between lovers and their mistresses were not less correct and innocent when the mistress was a courtesan and the lover an erotic poet. He called her his rose, his queen, his goddess, his dove, his light, his star, and she replied by calling him her jewel, her honey, her bird, her ambrosia, the apple of her eye, and never with any licentious interjection, but only 'I will love!' (Amabo), a frequent exclamation, summing up a whole life and vocation. When intimate relations began, they treated each other as 'brother' and 'sister.' These appellations were common among the humblest and the proudest courtesans alike." (Dufour, Histoire de la Prostitution, vol. ii, p. 78.) So excessive was the Roman horror of obscenity that even physicians were compelled to use a euphemism for urina, and though the urinal or vas urinarium was openly used at the dining-table (following a custom introduced by the Sybarites, according to Athenæus, Book XII, cap. 17), the decorous guest could not ask for it by name, but only by a snap of the fingers (Dufour, op. cit., vol. ii, p. 174).

In modern Europe, as seems fairly evident from the early realistic dramatic literature of various countries, no special horror of speaking plainly regarding the sacro-pubic regions and their functions existed among the general population until the seventeenth century. There is, however, one marked exception. Such a feeling clearly existed as regards menstruation. It is not difficult to see why it should have begun at this function. We have here not only a function confined to one sex and, therefore, easily lending itself to a vocabulary confined to one sex; but, what is even of more importance, the belief which existed among the Romans, as elsewhere throughout the world, concerning the specially dangerous and mysterious properties of menstruation, survived throughout mediæval times. (See e.g., Ploss and Bartels, Das Weib, Bd. I, XIV; also Havelock Ellis, Man and Woman, fourth ed. Ch. XI.) The very name, menses ("monthlies"), is a euphemism, and most of the old scientific names for this function are similarly vague. As regards popular feminine terminology previous to the eighteenth century, Schurig gives us fairly ample information (Parthenologia, 1729, pp. 27 et seq.). He remarks that both in Latin and Germanic countries, menstruation was commonly designated by some term equivalent to "flowers," because, he says, it is a blossoming that indicates the possibility of fruit. German peasant women, he tells us, called it the rose-wreath (Rosenkrantz). Among the other current feminine names for menstruation which he gives, some are purely fanciful; thus, the Italian women dignified the function with the title of "marchese magnifico;" German ladies, again, would use the locution, "I have had a letter," or would say that their cousin or aunt had arrived. These are closely similar to the euphemisms still used by women.

It should be added that euphemisms for menstruation are not confined to Europe, and are found among savages. According to Hill Tout (Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 1904, p. 320; and 1905, p. 137), one of these euphemisms was "putting on the moccasin," and in another branch of the same people, "putting the knees together," "going outside" (in allusion to the customary seclusion at this period in a solitary hut), and so on.


It would, however, be a mistake to suppose that this process is an intensification of modesty. It is, on the contrary, an attenuation of it. The observances of modesty become merely a part of a vast body of rules of social etiquette, though a somewhat stringent part on account of the vague sense still persisting of a deep-lying natural basis. It is a significant coincidence that the eighteenth century, which was marked by this new extension of the social ritual of modesty, also saw the first appearance of a new philosophic impulse not merely to analyze, but to dissolve the conception of modesty. This took place more especially in France.

The swift rise to supremacy, during the seventeenth century, of logical and rational methods of thinking, in conjunction with the new development of geometrical and mathematical science, led in the eighteenth century to a widespread belief in France that human customs and human society ought to be founded on a strictly logical and rational basis. It was a belief which ignored those legitimate claims of the emotional nature which the nineteenth century afterwards investigated and developed, but it was of immense service to mankind in clearing away useless prejudices and superstitions, and it culminated in the reforms of the great Revolution which most other nations have since been painfully struggling to attain. Modesty offered a tempting field for the eighteenth century philosophic spirit to explore.

The manner in which the most distinguished and adventurous minds of the century approached it, can scarcely be better illustrated than by a conversation, reported by Madame d'Epinay, which took place in 1750 at the table of Mlle. Quinault, the eminent actress. "A fine virtue," Duclos remarked, "which one fastens on in the morning with pins." He proceeded to argue that "a moral law must hold good always and everywhere, which modesty does not." Saint-Lambert, the poet, observed that "it must be acknowledged that one can say nothing good about innocence without being a little corrupted," and Duclos added "or of modesty without being impudent." Saint-Lambert finally held forth with much poetic enthusiasm concerning the desirability of consummating marriages in public.[59] This view of modesty, combined with the introduction of Greek fashions, gained ground to such an extent that towards the end of the century women, to the detriment of their health, were sometimes content to dress in transparent gauze, and even to walk abroad in the Champs Elysées without any clothing; that, however, was too much for the public.[60] The final outcome of the eighteenth century spirit in this direction was, as we know, by no means the dissolution of modesty. But it led to a clearer realization of what is permanent in its organic foundations and what is merely temporary in its shifting manifestations. That is a realization which is no mean task to achieve, and is difficult for many, even yet. So intelligent a traveler as Mrs. Bishop (Miss Bird), on her first visit to Japan came to the conclusion that Japanese women had no modesty, because they had no objection to being seen naked when bathing. Twenty years later she admitted to Dr. Baelz that she had made a mistake, and that "a woman may be naked and yet behave like a lady."[61] In civilized countries the observances of modesty differ in different regions, and in different social classes, but, however various the forms may be, the impulse itself remains persistent.[62]

Modesty has thus come to have the force of a tradition, a vague but massive force, bearing with special power on those who cannot reason, and yet having its root in the instincts of all people of all classes.[63] It has become mainly transformed into the allied emotion of decency, which has been described as "modesty fossilized into social customs." The emotion yields more readily than in its primitive state to any sufficiently-strong motive. Even fashion in the more civilized countries can easily inhibit anatomical modesty, and rapidly exhibit or accentuate, in turn, almost any part of the body, while the savage Indian woman of America, the barbarous woman of some Mohammedan countries, can scarcely sacrifice her modesty in the pangs of childbirth. Even when, among uncivilized races, the focus of modesty may be said to be eccentric and arbitrary, it still remains very rigid. In such savage and barbarous countries modesty possesses the strength of a genuine and irresistible instinct. In civilized countries, however, anyone who places considerations of modesty before the claims of some real human need excites ridicule and contempt.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[4]

Fliess (Die Beziehungen zwischen Nase und weiblichen Geschlechts-Organen, p. 194) remarks on the fact that, in the Bible narrative of Eden, shame and fear are represented as being brought into the world together: Adam feared God because he was naked. Melinaud ("Psychologie de la Pudeur," La Revue, Nov. 15, 1901) remarks that shame differs from modesty in being, not a fear, but a kind of grief; this position seems untenable.

[5]

Bashfulness in children has been dealt with by Professor Baldwin; see especially his Mental Development in the Child and the Race, Chapter VI, pp. 146 et seq., and Social Interpretations in Mental Development, Chapter VI.

[6]

Bell, "A Preliminary Study of the Emotion of Love Between the Sexes," American Journal Psychology, July, 1902.

[7]

Professor Starbuck (Psychology of Religion, Chapter XXX) refers to unpublished investigations showing that recognition of the rights of others also exhibits a sudden increment at the age of puberty.

[8]

Perez, L'Enfant de Trois à Sept Ans, 1886, pp. 267-277.

[9]

It must be remembered that the Medicean Venus is merely a comparatively recent and familiar embodiment of a natural attitude which is very ancient, and had impressed sculptors at a far earlier period. Reinach, indeed, believes ("La Sculpture en Europe," L'Anthropologie, No. 5, 1895) that the hand was first brought to the breast to press out the milk, and expresses the idea of exuberance, and that the attitude of the Venus of Medici as a symbol of modesty came later; he remarks that, as regards both hands, this attitude may be found in a figurine of Cyprus, 2,000 years before Christ. This is, no doubt, correct, and I may add that Babylonian figurines of Ishtar, the goddess of fertility, represent her as clasping her hands to her breasts or her womb.

[10]

When there is no sexual fear the impulse of modesty may be entirely inhibited. French ladies under the old Régime (as A. Franklin points out in his Vie Privée d'Autrefois) sometimes showed no modesty towards their valets, not admitting the possibility of any sexual advance, and a lady would, for example, stand up in her bath while a valet added hot water by pouring it between her separated feet.

[11]

I do not hereby mean to deny a certain degree of normal periodicity even to the human male; but such periodicity scarcely involves any element of sexual fear or attitude of sexual defence, in man because it is too slight to involve complete latency of the sexual functions, in other species because latency of sexual function in the male is always accompanied by corresponding latency in the female.

[12]

H. Northcote, Christianity and the Sex Problem, p. 8. Crawley had previously argued (The Mystic Rose, pp. 134, 180) that this same necessity for solitude during the performance of nutritive, sexual, and excretory functions, is a factor in investing such functions with a potential sacredness, so that the concealment of them became a religious duty.

[13]

Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1878, p. 26.

[14]

Essais, livre ii, Ch. XV.

[15]

Monsieur Nicolas, vol. i, p. 89.

[16]

Lane, Arabian Society, p. 228. The Arab insistence on the value of virginal modesty is well brought out in one of the most charming stories of the Arabian Nights, "The History of the Mirror of Virginity."

[17]

This has especially been emphasized by Crawley, The Mystic Rose, pp. 181, 324 et seq., 353.

[18]

Geschlecht und Gesellschaft, Bd. II, Heft 8, p. 358.

[19]

This, however, is not always or altogether true of experienced women. Thus, the Russian correspondent already referred to, who as a youth was accustomed, partly out of shyness, to feign complete ignorance of sexual matters, informs me that it repeatedly happened to him at this time that young married women took pleasure in imposing on themselves, not without shyness but with evident pleasure, the task of initiating him, though they always hastened to tell him that it was for his good, to preserve him from bad women and masturbation. Prostitutes, also, often take pleasure in innocent men, and Hans Ostwald tells (Sexual-Probleme, June, 1908, p. 357) of a prostitute who fell violently in love with a youth who had never known a woman before; she had never met an innocent man before, and it excited her greatly. And I have been told of an Italian prostitute who spoke of the exciting pleasure which an unspoilt youth gave her by his freshness, tutta questa freschezza.

[20]

Anatomy of Melancholy, Part III, Sect. III. Mem. IV. Subs. I.

[21]

N. Venette, La Génération de l'Homme, Part II, Ch. X.

[22]

Monsieur Nicolas, vol. i, p. 94.

[23]

Κρυπτάδια, vol. ii, p. 26, 31. Ib. vol. iii, p. 162.

[24]

"Modesty is, at first," said Renouvier, "a fear which we have of displeasing others, and of blushing at our own natural imperfections." (Renouvier and Prat, La Nouvelle Monadologie, p. 221.)

[25]

C. Richet, "Les Causes du Dégoût," L'Homme et l'Intelligence, 1884. This eminent physiologist's elaborate study of disgust was not written as a contribution to the psychology of modesty, but it forms an admirable introduction to the investigation of the social factor of modesty.

[26]

It is interesting to note that where, as among the Eskimo, urine, for instance, is preserved as a highly-valuable commodity, the act of urination, even at table, is not regarded as in the slightest degree disgusting or immodest (Bourke, Scatologic Rites, p. 202).

[27]

Hawkesworth, An Account of the Voyages, etc., 1775, vol. ii, p. 52.

[28]

Journal of the Anthropological Institute, vol. vi, p. 173.

[29]

Stevens, "Mittheilungen aus dem Frauenleben der Orang Belendas," Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, Heft 4, p. 167, 1896. Crawley, (Mystic Rose, Ch. VIII, p. 439) gives numerous other instances, even in Europe, with, however, special reference to sexual taboo. I may remark that English people of lower class, especially women, are often modest about eating in the presence of people of higher class. This feeling is, no doubt, due, in part, to the consciousness of defective etiquette, but that very consciousness is, in part, a development of the fear of causing disgust, which is a component of modesty.

[30]

Shame in regard to eating, it may be added, occasionally appears as a neurasthenic obsession in civilization, and has been studied as a form of psychasthenia by Janet. See e.g., (Raymond and Janet, Les Obsessions et la Psychasthénie, vol. ii, p. 386) the case of a young girl of 24, who, from the age of 12 or 13 (the epoch of puberty) had been ashamed to eat in public, thinking it nasty and ugly to do so, and arguing that it ought only to be done in private, like urination.

[31]

"Desire and disgust are curiously blended," remarks Crawley (The Mystic Rose, p. 139), "when, with one's own desire unsatisfied, one sees the satisfaction of another; and here we may see the altruistic stage beginning; this has two sides, the fear of causing desire in others, and the fear of causing disgust; in each case, personal isolation is the psychological result."

[32]

Hohenemser argues that the fear of causing disgust cannot be a part of shame. But he also argues that shame is simply psychic stasis, and it is quite easy to see, as in the above case, that the fear of causing disgust is simply a manifestation of psychic stasis. There is a conflict in the woman's mind between the idea of herself which she has already given, and the more degraded idea of herself which she fears she is likely to give, and this conflict is settled when she is made to feel that the first idea may still be maintained under the new circumstances.

[33]

We neither of us knew that we had merely made afresh a very ancient discovery. Casanova, more than a century ago, quoted the remark of a friend of his, that the easiest way to overcome the modesty of a woman is to suppose it non-existent; and he adds a saying, which he attributes to Clement of Alexandria, that modesty, which seems so deeply rooted in women, only resides in the linen that covers them, and vanishes when it vanishes. The passage to which Casanova referred occurs in the Pædagogus, and has already been quoted. The observation seems to have appealed strongly to the Fathers, always glad to make a point against women, and I have met with it in Cyprian's De Habitu Feminarum. It also occurs in Jerome's treatise against Jovinian. Jerome, with more scholarly instinct, rightly presents the remark as a quotation: "Scribit Herodotus quod mulier cum veste deponat et verecundiam." In Herodotus the saying is attributed to Gyges (Book I, Chapter VIII). We may thus trace very far back into antiquity an observation which in English has received its classical expression from Chaucer, who, in his "Wife of Bath's Prologue," has:—

"He sayde, a woman cast hir shame away,

When she cast of hir smok."

I need not point out that the analysis of modesty offered above robs this venerable saying of any sting it may have possessed as a slur upon women. In such a case, modesty is largely a doubt as to the spectator's attitude, and necessarily disappears when that doubt is satisfactorily resolved. As we have seen, the Central Australian maidens were very modest with regard to the removal of their single garment, but when that removal was accomplished and accepted, they were fearless.

[34]

The same result occurs more markedly under the deadening influence of insanity. Grimaldi (Il Manicomio Moderno, 1888) found that modesty is lacking in 50 per cent, of the insane.

[35]

For some facts bearing on this point, see Houssay, Industries of Animals, Chapter VII. "The Defence and Sanitation of Dwellings;" also P. Ballion, De l'Instinct de Propreté chez les Animaux.

[36]

Thus, Stevens mentions (Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, p. 182, 1897) that the Dyaks of Malacca always wash the sexual organs, even after urination, and are careful to use the left hand in doing so. The left hand is also reserved for such uses among the Jekris of the Niger coast (Journal of the Anthropological Institute, p. 122, 1898).

[37]

Lombroso and Ferrero—who adopt the derivation of pudor from putere; i.e., from the repugnance caused by the decomposition of the vaginal secretions—consider that the fear of causing disgust to men is the sole origin of modesty among savage women, as also it remains the sole form of modesty among some prostitutes to-day. (La Donna Delinquente, p. 540.) Important as this factor is in the constitution of the emotion of modesty, I need scarcely add that I regard so exclusive a theory as altogether untenable.

[38]

Das Weib, Ch. VI.

[39]

For references as to a similar feeling among other savages, see Westermarck, History of Human Marriage, p. 152.

[40]

See e.g., Bourke, Scatologic Rites, pp. 141, 145, etc.

[41]

Crawley, op. cit., Ch. VII.

[42]

S, Reinach, Cultes, Mythes et Religions, p. 172.

[43]

Tertullian, De Virginibus Velandis, cap. 17. Hottentot women, also (Fritsch, Eingeborene Südafrika's, p. 311), cover their head with a cloth, and will not be persuaded to remove it.

[44]

Wellhausen, Reste Arabischen Heidentums, p. 196. The same custom is found among Tuareg men though it is not imperative for the women (Duveyrier, Les Touaregs du Nord, p. 291).

[45]

Quoted in Zentralblatt für Anthropologie, 1906, Heft I, p. 21.

[46]

Or rather, perhaps, because the sight of their nakedness might lead the angels into sin. See W. G. Sumner, Folkways, p. 431.

[47]

In Moruland, Emin Bey remarked that women are mostly naked, but some wear a girdle, with a few leaves hanging behind. The women of some negro tribes, who thus cover themselves behind, if deprived of this sole covering, immediately throw themselves on the ground on their backs, in order to hide their nakedness.

[48]

E.g., Letourneau, L'Evolution de la Morale, p. 146.

[49]

Spencer and Gillen, Northern Tribes of Central Australia, p. 683.

[50]

J. R. Forster, Observations Made During a Voyage Round the World, 1728, p. 395.

[51]

Westermarck (History of Human Marriage, Ch. IX) ably sets forth this argument, with his usual wealth of illustration. Crawley (Mystic Rose, p. 135) seeks to qualify this conclusion by arguing that tattooing, etc., of the sex organs is not for ornament but for the purpose of magically insulating the organs, and is practically a permanent amulet or charm.

[52]

Iliad, II, 262. Waitz gives instances (Anthropology, p. 301) showing that nakedness is sometimes a mark of submission.

[53]

The Celtic races, in their days of developed barbarism, seem to have been relatively free from the idea of proprietorship in women, and it was probably among the Irish (as we learn from the seventeenth century Itinerary of Fynes Moryson) that the habit of nakedness was longest preserved among the upper social class women of Western Europe.

[54]

A. B. Ellis, Tshi-Speaking Peoples, p. 280.

[55]

Burnet, Life and Death of Rochester, p. 110.

[56]

L'Année Sociologique, seventh year, 1904, p. 439.

[57]

Tallemont des Réaux, who began to write his Historiettes in 1657, says of the Marquise de Rambouillet: "Elle est un peu trop délicate ... on n'oscrait prononcer le mot de cul. Cela va dans l'excès." Half a century later, in England, Mandeville, in the Remarks appended to his Fable of the Bees, refers to the almost prudish modesty inculcated on children from their earliest years.

[58]

In one of its civilized developments, this ritualized modesty becomes prudery, which is defined by Forel (Die Sexuelle Frage, Fifth ed., p. 125) as "codified sexual morality." Prudery is fossilized modesty, and no longer reacts vitally. True modesty, in an intelligent civilized person, is instinctively affected by motives and circumstances, responding sensitively to its relationships.

[59]

Memoires de Madame d'Epinay, Part I, Ch. V. Thirty years earlier, Mandeville had written, in England, that "the modesty of women is the result of custom and education."

[60]

Goncourt, Histoire de la Société Française pendant le Directoire, p. 422. Clothes became so gauze-like, and receded to such an extent from the limbs, that for a time the chemise was discarded as an awkward and antiquated garment.

[61]

Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 1901, Heft 2, p. 179.

[62]

In the rural districts of Hanover, Pastor Grashoff states, "even when natural necessities are performed with the greatest possible freedom, there is no offence to modesty, in rural opinion." But he makes a statement which is both contradictory and false, when he adds that "modesty is, to the country man in general, a foreign idea." (Geschlechtlich-Sittliche Verhältnisse im Deutsche Reiche, vol. ii, p. 45.)

[63]

It is frequently stated that prostitutes are devoid of modesty, but this is incorrect; they possess a partial and diminished modesty which, for a considerable period still remains genuine (see e.g., Reuss, La Prostitution, p. 58). Lombroso and Ferrero (La Donna, p. 540) refer to the objection of prostitutes to be examined during the monthly periods as often greater than that of respectable women. Again, Callari states ("Prostituzione in Sicilia," Archivio di Psichiatria, 1903, p. 205), that Sicilian prostitutes can only with difficulty be persuaded to expose themselves naked in the practice of their profession. Aretino long since remarked (in La Pippa) that no women so detest gratuitous décolletage as prostitutes. When prostitutes do not possess modesty, they frequently simulate it, and Ferriani remarks (in his Delinquenti Minorenni) that of ninety-seven minors (mostly females) accused of offences against public decency, seventy-five simulated a modesty which, in his opinion, they were entirely without.


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III.
The Blush the Sanction of Modesty—The Phenomena of Blushing—Influences Which Modify the Aptitude to Blush—Darkness, Concealment of the Face, Etc.




It is impossible to contemplate this series of phenomena, so radically persistent whatever its changes of form, and so constant throughout every stage of civilization, without feeling that, although modesty cannot properly be called an instinct, there must be some physiological basis to support it. Undoubtedly such a basis is formed by that vasomotor mechanism of which the most obvious outward sign is, in human beings, the blush. All the allied emotional forms of fear—shame, bashfulness, timidity—are to some extent upheld by this mechanism, but such is especially the case with the emotion we are now concerned with.[64] The blush is the sanction of modesty.

The blush is, indeed, only a part, almost, perhaps, an accidental part, of the organic turmoil with which it is associated. Partridge, who has studied the phenomena of blushing in one hundred and twenty cases (Pedagogical Seminary, April, 1897), finds that the following are the general symptoms: tremors near the waist, weakness in the limbs, pressure, trembling, warmth, weight or beating in the chest, warm wave from feet upward, quivering of heart, stoppage and then rapid beating of heart, coldness all over followed by heat, dizziness, tingling of toes and fingers, numbness, something rising in throat, smarting of eyes, singing in ears, prickling sensations of face, and pressure inside head. Partridge considers that the disturbance is primarily central, a change in the cerebral circulation, and that the actual redness of the surface comes late in the nerve storm, and is really but a small part of it.

There has been some discussion as to why, and indeed how far, blushing is confined to the face. Henle (Ueber das Erröthen) thought that we blush in the face because all nervous phenomena produced by mental states appear first in the face, owing to the anatomical arrangement of the nerves of the body. Darwin (Expression of the Emotions) argued that attention to a part tends to produce capillary activity in the part, and that the face has been the chief object of attention. It has also been argued, on the other hand, that the blush is the vestigial remains of a general erethism of sex, in which shame originated; that the blush was thus once more widely diffused, and is so still among the women of some lower races, its limitation to the face being due to sexual selection and the enhanced beauty thus achieved. Féré once had occasion to examine, when completely nude, a boy of thirteen whose sexual organs were deformed; when accused of masturbation he became covered by a blush which spread uniformly over his face, neck, body and limbs, before and behind, except only the hands and feet. Féré asks whether such a universal blush is more common than we imagine, or whether the state of nudity favors its manifestation. (Comptes Rendus, Société de Biologie, April 1, 1905.) It may be added that Partridge mentions one case in which the hands blushed.

The sexual relationships of blushing are unquestionable. It occurs chiefly in women; it attains its chief intensity at puberty and during adolescence; its most common occasion is some more or less sexual suggestion; among one hundred and sixty-two occasions of blushing enumerated by Partridge, by far the most frequent cause was teasing, usually about the other sex. "An erection," it has been said, "is a blushing of the penis." Stanley Hall seems to suggest that the sexual blush is a vicarious genital flushing of blood, diverted from the genital sphere by an inhibition of fear, just as, in girls, giggling is also very frequently a vicarious outlet of shame; the sexual blush would thus be the outcome of an ancestral sex-fear; it is as an irradiation of sexual erethism that the blush may contain an element of pleasure.[65]

Bloch remarks that the blush is sexual, because reddening of the face, as well as of the genitals, is an accompaniment of sexual emotion (Beiträge zur Ætiologie der Psychopathia Sexualis, Teil II, p. 39). "Do you not think," a correspondent writes, "that the sexual blush, at least, really represents a vaso-relaxor effect quite the same as erection? The embarrassment which arises is due to a perception of this fact under circumstances which are felt to be unsuited for such a condition. There may arise the fear of awakening disgust by the exhibition of a state which is out of place. I have noticed that such a blush is produced when a sufficiently young and susceptible woman is pumped full of compliments. This blush seems accompanied by pleasure which does not always change to fear or disgust, but is felt to be attractive. When discomfort arises, most women say that they feel this because 'it looks as if they had no control over themselves.' When they feel that there is no need for control, they no longer feel fear, and the relaxor effect has a wider field of operation, producing a general rosiness, erection of spinal sexual organs, etc. Such a blush would thus be a partial sexual equivalent, and allow of the inhibition of other sexual effects, through the warning it gives, and the fear aroused, as well as being in itself a slight outlet of relaxor energy. When the relationships of the persons concerned allow freedom to the special sexual stimuli, as in marriage, blushing does not occur so often, and when it does it has not so often the consequent of fear."

There can be no doubt that the blush is sexually attractive. The blush is the expression of an impulse to concealment and flight, which tends automatically to arouse in the beholder the corresponding impulse of pursuit, so that the central situation of courtship is at once presented. Women are more or less conscious of this, as well as men, and this recognition is an added source of embarrassment when it cannot become a source of pleasure. The ancient use of rouge testifies to the beauty of the blush, and Darwin stated that, in Turkish slave-markets, the girls who readily blushed fetched the highest prices. To evoke a blush, even by producing embarrassment, is very commonly a cause of masculine gratification.

Savages, both men and women, blush even beneath a dusky skin (for the phenomenon of blushing among different races, see Waitz, Anthropologie der Naturvölker, Bd. I, pp. 149-150), and it is possible that natural selection, as well as sexual selection, has been favorable to the development of the blush. It is scarcely an accident that, as has been often observed, criminals, or the antisocial element of the community—whether by the habits of their lives or by congenital abnormality—blush less easily than normal persons. Kroner (Das körperliche Gefühl, 1887, p. 130) remarks: "The origin of a specific connection between shame and blushing is the work of a social selection. It is certainly an immediate advantage for a man not to blush; indirectly, however, it is a disadvantage, because in other ways he will be known as shameless, and on that account, as a rule, he will be shut out from propagation. This social selection will be specially exercised on the female sex, and on this account, women blush to a greater extent, and more readily, than men."

The importance of the blush, and the emotional confusion behind it, as the sanction of modesty is shown by the significant fact that, by lulling emotional confusion, it is possible to inhibit the sense of modesty. In other words, we are here in the presence of a fear—to a large extent a sex-fear—impelling to concealment, and dreading self-attention; this fear naturally disappears, even though its ostensible cause remains, when it becomes apparent that there is no reason for fear.

That is the reason why nakedness in itself has nothing to do with modesty or immodesty; it is the conditions under which the nakedness occurs which determine whether or not modesty will be roused. If none of the factors of modesty are violated, if no embarrassing self-attention is excited, if there is a consciousness of perfect propriety alike in the subject and in the spectator, nakedness is entirely compatible with the most scrupulous modesty. A. Duval, a pupil of Ingres, tells that a female model was once quietly posing, completely nude, at the École des Beaux Arts. Suddenly she screamed and ran to cover herself with her garments. She had seen a workman on the roof gazing inquisitively at her through a skylight.[66] And Paola Lombroso describes how a lady, a diplomatist's wife, who went to a gathering where she found herself the only woman in evening dress, felt, to her own surprise, such sudden shame that she could not keep back her tears.

It thus comes about that the emotion of modesty necessarily depends on the feelings of the people around. The absence of the emotion by no means signifies immodesty, provided that the reactions of modesty are at once set in motion under the stress of a spectator's eye that is seen to be lustful, inquisitive, or reproachful. This is proved to be the case among primitive peoples everywhere. The Japanese woman, naked as in daily life she sometimes is, remains unconcerned because she excites no disagreeable attention, but the inquisitive and unmannerly European's eye at once causes her to feel confusion. Stratz, a physician, and one, moreover, who had long lived among the Javanese who frequently go naked, found that naked Japanese women felt no embarrassment in his presence.

It is doubtless as a cloak to the blush that we must explain the curious influence of darkness in restraining the manifestations of modesty, as many lovers have discovered, and as we may notice in our cities after dark. This influence of darkness in inhibiting modesty is a very ancient observation. Burton, in the Anatomy of Melancholy, quotes from Dandinus the saying "Nox facit impudentes," directly associating this with blushing, and Bargagli, the Siennese novelist, wrote in the sixteenth century that, "it is commonly said of women, that they will do in the dark what they would not do in the light." It is true that the immodesty of a large city at night is to some extent explained by the irruption of prostitutes at that time; prostitutes, being habitually nearer to the threshold of immodesty, are more markedly affected by this influence. But it is an influence to which the most modest women are, at all events in some degree, susceptible. It has, indeed, been said that a woman is always more her real self in the dark than in the glare of daylight; this is part of what Chamberlain calls her night-inspiration.

"Traces of the night-inspiration, of the influence of the primitive fire-group, abound in woman. Indeed, it may be said (the life of Southern Europe and of American society of to-day illustrates this point abundantly) that she is, in a sense, a night-being, for the activity, physical and moral, of modern women (revealed e.g. in the dance and the nocturnal intellectualities of society) in this direction is remarkable. Perhaps we may style a good deal of her ordinary day-labor as rest, or the commonplaces and banalities of her existence, her evening and night life being the true side of her activities" (A. F. Chamberlain, "Work and Rest," Popular Science Monthly, March, 1902). Giessler, who has studied the general influence of darkness on human psychic life, reaches conclusions which harmonize with these (C. M. Giessler, "Der Einfluss der Dunkelheit auf das Seelenleben des Menschen," Vierteljahrsschrift für wissenschaftliche Philosophie, 1904, pp. 255-279). I have not been able to see Giessler's paper, but, according to a summary of it, he comes to the result that in the dark the soul's activities are nearer to its motor pole than to its sensitive pole, and that there is a tendency for phenomena belonging to the early period of development to be prominent, motor memory functioning more than representative memory, attention more than apperception, imagination more than logical thinking, egoistic more than altruistic morals.

It is curious to note that short-sightedness, naturally, though illogically, tends to exert the same influence as darkness in this respect; I am assured by short-sighted persons of both sexes that they are much more liable to the emotions of shyness and modesty with their glasses than without them; such persons with difficulty realize that they are not so dim to others as others are to them. To be in the company of a blind person seems also to be a protection against shyness.[67] It is interesting to learn that congenitally blind children are as sensitive to appearances as normal children, and blush as readily.[68] This would seem to be due to the fact that the habitually blind have permanently adjusted their mental focus to that of normal persons, and react in the same manner as normal persons; blindness is not for them, as it is for the short-sighted without their glasses, a temporary and relative, almost unconscious refuge from clear vision.

It is, of course, not as the mere cloak of a possible blush that darkness gives courage; it is because it lulls detailed self-realization, such conscious self-realization being always a source of fears, and the blush their definite symbol and visible climax. It is to the blush that we must attribute a curious complementary relationship between the face and the sacro-pubic region as centres of anatomical modesty. The women of some African tribes who go naked, Emin Bey remarked, cover the face with the hand under the influence of modesty. Martial long since observed (Lib. iii, LXVIII) that when an innocent girl looks at the penis she gazes through her fingers. Where, as among many Mohammedan peoples, the face is the chief focus of modesty, the exposure of the rest of the body, including sometimes even the sacro-pubic region, and certainly the legs and thighs, often becomes a matter of indifference.[69]

This concealment of the face is more than a convention; it has a psychological basis. We may observe among ourselves the well-marked feminine tendency to hide the face in order to cloak a possible blush, and to hide the eyes as a method of lulling self-consciousness, a method fabulously attributed to the ostrich with the same end of concealment.[70] A woman who is shy with her lover will sometimes experience little or no difficulty in showing any part of her person provided she may cover her face. When, in gynecological practice, examination of the sexual organs is necessary, women frequently find evident satisfaction in concealing the face with the hands, although not the slightest attention is being directed toward the face, and when an unsophisticated woman is betrayed into a confession which affects her modesty she is apt to turn her back to her interlocutor. "When the face of woman is covered," it has been said, "her heart is bared," and the Catholic Church has recognized this psychological truth by arranging that in the confessional the penitent's face shall not be visible. The gay and innocent freedom of southern women during Carnival is due not entirely to the permitted license of the season or the concealment of identity, but to the mask that hides the face. In England, during Queen Elizabeth's reign and at the Restoration, it was possible for respectable women to be present at the theatre, even during the performance of the most free-spoken plays, because they wore masks. The fan has often subserved a similar end.[71]

All such facts serve to show that, though the forms of modesty may change, it is yet a very radical constituent of human nature in all stages of civilization, and that it is, to a large extent, maintained by the mechanism of blushing.



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[64]

Melinaud ("Pourquoi Rougit-on?" Revue des Deux Mondes, 1 Octobre, 1893) points out that blushing is always associated with fear, and indicates, in the various conditions under which it may arise,—modesty, timidity, confusion,—that we have something to conceal which we fear may be discovered. "All the evidence," Partridge states, "seems to point to the conclusion that the mental state underlying blushing belongs to the fear family. The presence of the feeling of dread, the palpitation of the heart, the impulse to escape, to hide, the shock, all confirms this view."

[65]

G. Stanley Hall, "A Study of Fears," American Journal Psychology, 1897.

[66]

Men are also very sensitive to any such inquisitiveness on the part of the opposite sex. To this cause, perhaps, and possibly, also, to the fear of causing disgust, may be ascribed the objection of men to undress before women artists and women doctors. I am told there is often difficulty in getting men to pose nude to women artists. Sir Jonathan Hutchinson was compelled, some years ago, to exclude lady members of the medical profession from the instructive demonstrations at his museum, "on account of the unwillingness of male patients to undress before them." A similar unwillingness is not found among women patients, but it must be remembered that, while women are accustomed to men as doctors, men (in England) are not yet accustomed to women as doctors.

[67]

"I am acquainted with the case of a shy man," writes Dr. Harry Campbell, in his interesting study of "Morbid Shyness" (British Medical Journal, September 26, 1896), "who will make himself quite at home in the house of a blind person, and help himself to wine with the utmost confidence, whereas if a member of the family, who can see, comes into the room, all his old shyness returns, and he wishes himself far away."

[68]

Stanley Hall ("Showing Off and Bashfulness," Pedagogical Seminary, June, 1903), quotes Dr. Anagnos, of the Perkins Institute for the Blind, to this effect.

[69]

Thus, Sonnini, in the eighteenth century, noted that the country women in Egypt only wore a single garment, open from the armpits to the knees on each side, so that it revealed the body at every movement; "but this troubles the women little, provided the face is not exposed." (Voyage dans la Haute et Basse Egypte, 1779, vol. i, p, 289.) When Casanova was at Constantinople, the Comte de Bonneval, a convert to Islam, assured him that he was mistaken in trying to see a woman's face when he might easily obtain greater favors from her. "The most reserved of Turkish women," the Comte assured him, "only carries her modesty in her face, and as soon as her veil is on she is sure that she will never blush at anything." (Mémoires, vol. i, p. 429.)

[70]

It is worth noting that this impulse is rooted in the natural instinctive acts and ideas of childhood. Stanley Hall, dealing with the "Early Sense of Self," in the report already mentioned, refers to the eyes as perhaps even more than the hands, feet, and mouth, "the centres of that kind of self-consciousness which is always mindful of how the self appears to others," and proceeds to mention "the very common impression of young children that if the eyes are covered or closed they cannot be seen. Some think the entire body thus vanishes from sight of others; some, that the head also ceases to be visible; and a still higher form of this curious psychosis is that, when they are closed, the soul cannot be seen." (American Journal of Psychology, vol. ix, No. 3, 1898.) The instinctive and unreasoned character of this act is further shown by its occurrence in idiots. Näcke mentions that he once had occasion to examine the abdomen of an idiot, who, thereupon, attempted to draw down his shirt with the left hand, while with the right he covered his eyes.

[71]

Cf. Stanley Hall and T. Smith, "Showing Off and Bashfulness," American Journal of Psychology, June, 1903.


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IV.
Summary of the Factors of Modesty—The Future of Modesty—Modesty an Essential Element of Love.




We have seen that the factors of modesty are numerous. To attempt to explain modesty by dismissing it as merely an example of psychic paralysis, of Stauung, is to elude the problem by the statement of what is little more than a truism. Modesty is a complexus of emotions with their concomitant ideas which we must unravel to comprehend.

We have found among the factors of modesty: (1) the primitive animal gesture of sexual refusal on the part of the female when she is not at that moment of her generative life at which she desires the male's advances; (2) the fear of arousing disgust, a fear primarily due to the close proximity of the sexual centre to the points of exit of those excretions which are useless and unpleasant, even in many cases to animals; (3) the fear of the magic influence of sexual phenomena, and the ceremonial and ritual practices primarily based on this fear, and ultimately passing into simple rules of decorum which are signs and guardians of modesty; (4) the development of ornament and clothing, concomitantly fostering alike the modesty which represses male sexual desire and the coquetry which seeks to allure it; (5) the conception of women as property, imparting a new and powerful sanction to an emotion already based on more natural and primitive facts.

It must always be remembered that these factors do not usually occur separately. Very often they are all of them implied in a single impulse of modesty. We unravel the cord in order to investigate its construction, but in real life the strands are more or less indistinguishably twisted together.

It may still be asked finally whether, on the whole, modesty really becomes a more prominent emotion as civilization advances. I do not think this position can be maintained. It is a great mistake, as we have seen, to suppose that in becoming extended modesty also becomes intensified. On the contrary, this very extension is a sign of weakness. Among savages, modesty is far more radical and invincible than among the civilized. Of the Araucanian women of Chile, Treutler has remarked that they are distinctly more modest than the Christian white population, and such observations might be indefinitely extended. It is, as we have already noted, in a new and crude civilization, eager to mark its separation from a barbarism it has yet scarcely escaped, that we find an extravagant and fantastic anxiety to extend the limits of modesty in life, and art, and literature. In older and more mature civilizations—in classical antiquity, in old Japan, in France—modesty, while still a very real influence, becomes a much less predominant and all-pervading influence. In life it becomes subservient to human use, in art to beauty, in literature to expression.

Among ourselves we may note that modesty is a much more invincible motive among the lower social classes than among the more cultivated classes. This is so even when we should expect the influence of occupation to induce familiarity. Thus I have been told of a ballet-girl who thinks it immodest to bathe in the fashion customary at the seaside, and cannot make up her mind to do so, but she appears on the stage every night in tights as a matter of course; while Fanny Kemble, in her Reminiscences, tells of an actress, accustomed to appear in tights, who died a martyr to modesty rather than allow a surgeon to see her inflamed knee. Modesty is, indeed, a part of self-respect, but in the fully-developed human being self-respect itself holds in check any excessive modesty.[72]

We must remember, moreover, that there are more definite grounds for the subordination of modesty with the development of civilization. We have seen that the factors of modesty are many, and that most of them are based on emotions which make little urgent appeal save to races in a savage or barbarous condition. Thus, disgust, as Richet has truly pointed out, necessarily decreases as knowledge increases.[73] As we analyze and understand our experiences better, so they cause us less disgust. A rotten egg is disgusting, but the chemist feels no disgust toward sulphuretted hydrogen; while a solution of propylamin does not produce the disgusting impression of that human physical uncleanliness of which it is an odorous constituent. As disgust becomes analyzed, and as self-respect tends to increased physical purity, so the factor of disgust in modesty is minimized. The factor of ceremonial uncleanness, again, which plays so urgent a part in modesty at certain stages of culture, is to-day without influence except in so far as it survives in etiquette. In the same way the social-economic factor of modesty, based on the conception of women as property, belongs to a stage of human development which is wholly alien to an advanced civilization. Even the most fundamental impulse of all, the gesture of sexual refusal, is normally only imperative among animals and savages. Thus civilization tends to subordinate, if not to minimize, modesty, to render it a grace of life rather than a fundamental social law of life. But an essential grace of life it still remains, and whatever delicate variations it may assume we can scarcely conceive of its disappearance.

In the art of love, however, it is more than a grace; it must always be fundamental. Modesty is not indeed the last word of love, but it is the necessary foundation for all love's most exquisite audacities, the foundation which alone gives worth and sweetness to what Sénancour calls its "delicious impudence."[74] Without modesty we could not have, nor rightly value at its true worth, that bold and pure candor which is at once the final revelation of love and the seal of its sincerity.


Even Hohenemser—who argues that for the perfect man there could be no shame, because shame rests on an inner conflict in one's own personality, and "the perfect man knows no inner conflict"—believes that, since humanity is imperfect, modesty possesses a high and, indeed, symptomatic value, for "its presence shows that according to the measure of a man's ideal personality, his valuations are established."

Dugas goes further, and asserts that the ideals of modesty develop with human development, and forever take on new and finer forms. "There is," he declares, "a very close relationship between naturalness, or sincerity, and modesty, for in love, naturalness is the ideal attained, and modesty is only the fear of coming short of that ideal. Naturalness is the sign and the test of perfect love. It is the sign of it, for, when love can show itself natural and true, one may conclude that it is purified of its unavowable imperfections or defects, of its alloy of wretched and petty passions, its grossness, its chimerical notions, that it has become strong and healthy and vigorous. It is the ordeal of it, for to show itself natural, to be always true, without shrinking, it must have all the lovable qualities, and have them without seeking, as a second nature. What we call 'natural,' is indeed really acquired; it is the gift of a physical and moral evolution which it is precisely the object of modesty to keep. Modesty is the feeling of the true, that is to say, of the healthy, in love; it long exists as a vision, not yet attained; vague, yet sufficiently clear for all that deviates from it to be repelled as offensive and painful. At first, a remote and seemingly inaccessible ideal, as it comes nearer it grows human and individual, and emerges from the region of dream, ceasing not to be loved as ideal, even when it is possessed as real.

"At first sight, it seems paradoxical to define modesty as an aspiration towards truth in love; it seems, on the contrary, to be an altogether factitious feeling. But to simplify the problem, we have to suppose modesty reduced to its normal functions, disengaged from its superstitions, its variegated customs and prejudices, the true modesty of simple and healthy natures, as far removed from prudery as from immodesty. And what we term the natural, or the true in love, is the singular mingling of two forms of imaginations, wrongly supposed to be incompatible: ideal aspiration and the sense for the realities of life. Thus defined, modesty not only repudiates that cold and dissolving criticism which deprives love of all poetry, and prepares the way for a brutal realism; it also excludes that light and detached imagination which floats above love, the mere idealism of heroic sentiments, which cherishes poetic illusions, and passes, without seeing it, the love that is real and alive. True modesty implies a love not addressed to the heroes of vain romances, but to living people, with their feet on the earth. But on the other hand, modesty is the respect of love; if it is not shocked by its physical necessities, if it accepts physiological and psychological conditions, it also maintains the ideal of those moral proprieties outside of which, for all of us, love cannot be enjoyed. When love is really felt, and not vainly imagined, modesty is the requirement of an ideal of dignity, conceived as the very condition of that love. Separate modesty from love, that is, from love which is not floating in the air, but crystallized around a real person, and its psychological reality, its poignant and tragic character, disappears." (Dugas, "La Pudeur," Revue Philosophique, Nov., 1903.) So conceived, modesty becomes a virtue, almost identical with the Roman modestia.



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[72]

Freud remarks that one may often hear, concerning elderly ladies, that in their youth in the country, they suffered, almost to collapse, from hæmorrhages from the genital passage, because they were too modest to seek medical advice and examination; he adds that it is extremely rare to find such an attitude among our young women to-day. (S. Freud, Zur Neurosenlehre, 1906, p. 182.) It would be easy to find evidence of the disappearance of misplaced signs of modesty formerly prevalent, although this mark of increasing civilization has not always penetrated to our laws and regulations.

[73]

"Disgust," he remarks, "is a sort of synthesis which attaches to the total form of objects, and which must diminish and disappear as scientific analysis separates into parts what, as a whole, is so repugnant."

[74]

Sénancour, De l'Amour, 1834, vol. i, p. 316. He remarks that a useless and false reserve is due to stupidity rather than to modesty.


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THE PHENOMENA OF SEXUAL PERIODICITY.

I.
The Various Physiological and Psychological Rhythms—Menstruation—The Alleged Influence of the Moon—Frequent Suppression of Menstruation among Primitive Races—Mittelschmerz—Possible Tendency to a Future Intermenstrual Cycle—Menstruation among Animals—Menstruating Monkeys and Apes—What is Menstruation—Its Primary Cause Still Obscure—The Relation of Menstruation to Ovulation—The Occasional Absence of Menstruation in Health—The Relation of Menstruation to "Heat"—The Prohibition of Intercourse during Menstruation—The Predominance of Sexual Excitement at and around the Menstrual Period—Its Absence during the Period Frequently Apparent only.




Throughout the vegetable and animal worlds the sexual functions are periodic. From the usually annual period of flowering in plants, with its play of sperm-cell and germ-cell and consequent seed-production, through the varying sexual energies of animals, up to the monthly effervescence of the generative organism in woman, seeking not without the shedding of blood for the gratification of its reproductive function, from first to last we find unfailing evidence of the periodicity of sex. At first the sun, and then, as some have thought, the moon, have marked throughout a rhythmic impress on the phenomena of sex. To understand these phenomena we have not only to recognize the bare existence of that periodic fact, but to realize its implications.

Rhythm, it is scarcely necessary to remark, is far from characterizing sexual activity alone. It is the character of all biological activity, alike on the physical and the psychic sides. All the organs of the body appear to be in a perpetual process of rhythmic contraction and expansion. The heart is rhythmic, so is the respiration. The spleen is rhythmic, so also the bladder. The uterus constantly undergoes regular rhythmic contractions at brief intervals. The vascular system, down to the smallest capillaries, is acted on by three series of vibrations, and every separate fragment of muscular tissue possesses rhythmic contractility. Growth itself is rhythmic, and, as Malling-Hansen and subsequent observers have found, follows a regular annual course as well as a larger cycle. On the psychic sides attention is rhythmic. We are always irresistibly compelled to impart a rhythm to every succession of sounds, however uniform and monotonous. A familiar example of this is the rhythm we can seldom refrain from hearing in the puffing of an engine. A series of experiments, by Bolton, on thirty subjects showed that the clicks of an electric telephone connected in an induction-apparatus nearly always fell into rhythmic groups, usually of two or four, rarely of three or five, the rhythmic perception being accompanied by a strong impulse to make corresponding muscular movements.[75]

It is, however, with the influence—to some extent real, to some extent, perhaps, only apparent—of cosmic rhythm that we are here concerned. The general tendency, physical and psychic, of nervous action to fall into rhythm is merely interesting from the present point of view as showing a biological predisposition to accept any periodicity that is habitually imposed upon the organism.[76] Menstruation has always been associated with the lunar revolutions.[77] Darwin, without specifically mentioning menstruation, has suggested that the explanation of the allied cycle of gestation in mammals, as well as incubation in birds, may be found in the condition under which ascidians live at high and low water in consequence of the phenomena of tidal change.[78] It must, however, be remembered that the ascidian origin of the vertebrates has since been contested from many sides, and, even if we admit that at all events some such allied conditions in the early history of vertebrates and their ancestors tended to impress a lunar cycle on the race, it must still be remembered that the monthly periodicity of menstruation only becomes well marked in the human species.[79] Bearing in mind the influence exerted on both the habits and the emotions even of animals by the brightness of moonlight nights, it is perhaps not extravagant to suppose that, on organisms already ancestrally predisposed to the influence of rhythm in general and of cosmic rhythm in particular, the periodically recurring full moon, not merely by its stimulation of the nervous system, but possibly by the special opportunities which it gave for the exercise of the sexual functions, served to implant a lunar rhythm on menstruation. How important such a factor may be we have evidence in the fact that the daily life of even the most civilized peoples is still regulated by a weekly cycle which is apparently a segment of the cosmic lunar cycle.

Mantegazza has suggested that the sexual period became established with relation to the lunar period because moonlight nights were favorable to courting,[80] and Nelson remarks that in his experience young and robust persons are subject to recurrent periods of wakefulness at night which they attribute to the action of the full moon. One may perhaps refer also to the tendency of bright moonlight to stir the emotions of the young, especially at puberty, a tendency which in neurotic persons may become almost morbid.[81]

It is interesting to point out that, the farther back we are able to trace the beginnings of culture, the more important we find the part played by the moon. Next to the alteration of day and night, the moon's changes are the most conspicuous and startling phenomena of Nature; they first suggest a basis for reckoning time; they are of the greatest use in primitive agriculture; and everywhere the moon is held to have vast influence on the whole of organic life. Hahn has suggested that the reason why mythological systems do not usually present the moon in the supreme position which we should expect, is that its immense importance is so ancient a fact that it tends, with mythological development, to become overlaid by other elements.[82] According to Seler, Quetzalcouatl and Tezeatlipoca, the two most considerable figures in the Mexican pantheon, are to be regarded mainly as complementary forms of the moon divinity, and the moon was the chief Mexican measurer of time.[83] Even in Babylonia, where the sun was most specially revered, at the earliest period the moon ranked higher, being gradually superseded by the worship of the sun.[84] Although such considerations as these will by no means take us as far back as the earliest appearance of menstruation, they may serve to indicate that the phases of the moon probably played a large part in the earliest evolution of man. With that statement we must at present rest content.

It is possible that the monthly character of menstruation, while representing a general tendency of the human race, always and everywhere prevalent, may be modified in the future. It is a noteworthy fact that among many primitive races menstruation only occurs at long intervals. Thus among Eskimo women menstruation follows the peculiar cosmic conditions to which the people are subjected; Cook, the ethnologist of the Peary North Greenland expedition, found that menstruation only began after the age of nineteen, and that it was usually suppressed during the winter months, when there is no sun, only about one in ten women continuing to menstruate during this period.[85] It was stated by Velpeau that Lapland and Greenland women usually only menstruate every three months, or even only two or three times during the year. On the Faroe Islands it is said that menstruation is frequently absent. Among the Samoyeds, Mantegazza mentions that menstruation is so slight that some travelers have denied its existence. Azara noted among the Guaranis of Paraguay that menstruation was not only slight in amount, but the periods were separated by long intervals. Among the Indians in North America, again, menstruation appears to be scanty. Thus, Holder, speaking of his experience with the Crow Indians of Montana, says: "I am quite sure that full-blood Indians in this latitude do not menstruate so freely as white women, not usually exceeding three days."[86] Among the naked women of Tierra del Fuego, it is said that there is often no physical sign of the menses for six months at a time. These observations are noteworthy, though they clearly indicate, on the whole, that primitiveness in race is a very powerless factor without a cold climate. On the other hand, again, there is some reason to suppose that in Europe there is a latent tendency in some women for the menstrual cycle to split up further into two cycles, by the appearance of a latent minor climax in the middle of the monthly interval. I allude to the phenomenon usually called Mittelschmerz, middle period, or intermenstrual pain.


Since the investigations of Goodman, Stephenson, Van Ott, Reinl, Jacobi, and others, it has been generally recognized that menstruation is a continuous process, the flow being merely the climax of a menstrual cycle, a physiological wave which is in constant flux or reflux. This cycle manifests itself in all a woman's activities, in metabolism, respiration, temperature, etc., as well as on the nervous and psychic side. The healthier the woman is, the less conscious is the cyclic return of her life, but the cycle may be traced (as Hegar has found) even before puberty takes place, while Salerni has found that even in amenorrhœa the menstrual cycle still manifests itself in the temperature and respiration. (Rivista Sperimentale di Freniatria, XXX, fasc. 2-3.)

For a summary of the phenomena of the menstrual cycle, see Havelock Ellis, Man and Woman, fourth ed., revised and enlarged, Ch. XI; "The Functional Periodicity of Women." Cf. Keller, Archives Générales de Médecine, May, 1897; Hegar, Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie, 1901, Heft 2 and 3; Helen MacMurchy, Lancet, Oct. 5. 1901; A. E. Giles, Transactions Obstetrical Society London, vol. xxxix, p. 115, etc.

Mittelschmerz is a condition of pain occurring about the middle of the intermenstrual period, either alone or accompanied by a slight sanguineous discharge, or, more frequently, a non-sanguineous discharge. (In a case described by Van Voornveld, the manifestation was confined to a regularly occurring rise of temperature.) The phenomenon varies, but seems usually to occur about the fourteenth day, and to last two or three days. Laycock, in 1840 (Nervous Diseases of Women, p. 46), gave instances of women with an intermenstrual period. Depaul and Guéniot (Dictionnaire Encyclopédique des Sciences Médicales, Art., "Menstruation," p. 694) speak of intermenstrual symptoms, and even actual flow, as occurring in women who are in a perfect state of health, and constituting genuine "règles surnuméraries." The condition is, however, said to have been first fully described by Valleix; then, in 18725 by Sir William Priestley; and subsequently by Fehling, Fasbender, Sorel, Halliday Croom, Findley, Addinsell, and others. (See, for instance, "Mittelschmerz," by J. Halliday Croom, Transactions of Edinburgh Obstetrical Society, vol. xxi, 1896. Also, Krieger, Menstruation, pp. 68-69.) Fliess (Die Beziehungen zwischen Nase und weiblichen Geschlechts-Organen, p. 118) goes so far as to assert that an intermenstrual period of menstrual symptoms—which he terms Nebenmenstruation—is "a phenomenon well known to most healthy women." Observations are at present too few to allow any definite conclusions, and in some of the cases so far recorded a pathological condition of the sexual organs has been found to exist. Rosner, of Cracow, however, found that only in one case out of twelve was there any disease present (La Gynécologie, June, 1905), and Storer, who has met with twenty cases, insists on the remarkable and definite regularity of the manifestations, wholly unlike those of neuralgia (Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, April 19, 1900). There is no agreement as to the cause of Mittelschmerz. Addinsell attributed it to disease of the Fallopian tubes. This, however, is denied by such competent authorities as Cullingworth and Bland Sutton. Others, like Priestley, and subsequently Marsh (American Journal of Obstetrics, July, 1897), have sought to find the explanation in the occurrence of ovulation. This theory is, however, unsupported by facts, and eventually rests on the exploded belief that ovulation is the cause of menstruation. Rosner, following Richelet, vaguely attributes it to the diffused hyperæmia which is generally present. Van de Velde also attributes it to an abnormal fall of vascular tone, causing passive congestion of the pelvic viscera. Others again, like Armand Routh and MacLean, in the course of an interesting discussion on Mittelschmerz at the Obstetric Society of London, on the second day of March, 1898, believe that we may trace here a double menstruation, and would explain the phenomenon by assuming that in certain cases there is an intermenstrual as well as a menstrual cycle. The question is not yet ripe for settlement, though it is fully evident that, looking broadly at the phenomena of rut and menstruation, the main basis of their increasing frequency as we rise toward civilized man is increase of nutrition, heat and sunlight being factors of nutrition. When dealing with civilized man, however, we are probably concerned not merely with general nutrition, but with the nervous direction of that nutrition.

At this stage it is natural to inquire what the corresponding phenomena are among animals. Unfortunately, imperfect as is our comprehension of the human phenomena, our knowledge of the corresponding phenomena among animals is much more fragmentary and incomplete. Among most animals menstruation does not exist, being replaced by what is known as heat, or œstrus, which usually occurs once or twice a year, in spring and in autumn, sometimes affecting the male as well as the female.[87] There is, however, a great deal of progression in the upward march of the phenomena, as we approach our own and allied zoölogical series. Heat in domesticated cows usually occurs every three weeks. The female hippopotamus in the Zoölogical Gardens has been observed to exhibit monthly sexual excitement, with swelling and secretion from the vulva. Progression is not only toward greater frequency with higher evolution or with increased domestication, but there is also a change in the character of the flow. As Wiltshire,[88] in his remarkable lectures on the "Comparative Physiology of Menstruation," asserted as a law, the more highly evolved the animal, the more sanguineous the catamenial flow.

It is not until we reach the monkeys that this character of the flow becomes well marked. Monthly sanguineous discharges have been observed among many monkeys. In the seventeenth century various observers in many parts of the world—Bohnius, Peyer, Helbigius, Van der Wiel, and others—noted menstruation in monkeys.[89] Buffon observed it among various monkeys as well as in the orang-utan. J. G. St. Hilaire and Cuvier, many years ago, declared that menstruation exists among a variety of monkeys and lower apes. Rengger described a vaginal discharge in a species of cebus in Paraguay, while Raciborski observed in the Jardin des Plantes that the menstrual hæmorrhage in guenons was so abundant that the floor of the cage was covered by it to a considerable extent; the same variety of monkey was observed at Surinam, by Hill, a surgeon in the Dutch army, who noted an abundant sanguineous flow occurring at every new moon, and lasting about three days, the animal at this time also showing signs of sexual excitement.[90]


The macaque and the baboon appear to be the non-human animals, in which menstruation has been most carefully observed. In the former, besides the flow, Bland Sutton remarks that "all the naked or pale-colored parts of the body, such as the face, neck, and ischial regions, assume a lively pink color; in some cases, it is a vivid red."[91] The flow is slight, but the coloring lasts several days, and in warm weather the labia are much swollen.

Heape[92] has most fully and carefully described menstruation in monkeys. He found at Calcutta that the Macacus cynomolgus menstruated regularly on the 20th of December, 20th of January, and about the 20th of February. The Cynocephalus porcaria and the Semnopithecus entellus both menstruated each month for about four days. In the Macaci rhesus and cynomolgus at menstruation "the nipples and vulva become swollen and deeply congested, and the skin of the buttocks swollen, tense, and of a brilliant-red or even purple color. The abdominal wall also, for a short space upward, and the inside of the thighs, sometimes as far down as the heel, and the under surface of the tail for half its length or more, are all colored a vivid red, while the skin of the face, especially about the eyes, is flushed or blotched with red." In late gestation the coloring is still more vivid. Something similar is to be seen in the males also.

Distant, who kept a female baboon for some time, has recorded the dates of menstruation during a year. He found that nine periods occurred during the year. The average length between the periods was nearly six weeks, but they occurred more frequently in the late autumn and the winter than in the summer.[93]

It is an interesting fact, Heape noted, that, notwithstanding menstruation, the seasonal influence, or rut, still persisted in the monkeys he investigated.


In the anthropoid apes, Hartmann remarks that several observers have recorded periodic menstruation in the chimpanzee, with flushing and enlargement of the external parts, and protrusion of the external lips, which are not usually visible, while there is often excessive enlargement and reddening of these parts and of the posterior callosities during sexual excitement. Very little, however, appears to be definitely known regarding any form of menstruation in the higher apes. M. Deniker, who has made a special study of the anthropoid apes, informs me that he has so far been unable to make definite observations regarding the existence of menstruation. Moll remarks that he received information regarding such a phenomenon in the orang-utan. A pair of orang-utans was kept in the Berlin Zoölogical Gardens some years ago, and the female was stated to have at intervals a menstrual flow resembling that of women, and during this period to refrain from sexual congress, which was otherwise usually exercised at regular intervals, at least every two or three days; Moll adds, however, that, while his informant is a reliable man, the length of time that has elapsed may have led him to make mistakes in details. Keith, in a paper read before the Zoölogical Society of London, has described menstruation in a chimpanzee; it occurred every twenty-third or twenty-fourth day, and lasted for three days; the discharge was profuse, and first appeared in about the ninth or tenth year.[94]

What is menstruation? It is easy to describe it, by its obvious symptoms, as a monthly discharge of blood from the uterus, but nearly as much as that was known in the infancy of the world. When we seek to probe more intimately into the nature of menstruation we are still baffled, not merely as regards its cause, but even as regards its precise mechanism. "The primary cause of menstruation remains unexplained"; "the cause of menstruation remains as obscure as ever"; so conclude two of the most thorough and cautious investigators into this subject.[95] It is, however, widely accepted that the main cause of menstruation is a rhythmic contraction of the uterus,—the result of a disappointed preparation for impregnation,—a kind of miniature childbirth. This seems to be the most reasonable view of menstruation; i.e., as an abortion of a decidua. Burdach (according to Beard) was the first who described menstruation as an abortive parturition. "The hypothesis," Marshall and Jolly conclude, "that the entire pro-œstrous process is of the nature of a preparation for the lodgment of the ovum is in accordance with the facts."[96] Fortunately, since we are here primarily concerned with its psychological aspects, the precise biological cause and physiological nature of menstruation do not greatly concern us.

There is, however, one point which of late years has been definitely determined, and which should not be passed without mention: the relation of menstruation to ovulation. It was once supposed that the maturation of an ovule in the ovaries was the necessary accompaniment, and even cause, of menstruation. We now know that ovulation proceeds throughout the whole of life, even before birth, and during gestation,[97] and that removal of the ovaries by no means necessarily involves a cessation of menstruation. It has been shown that regular and even excessive menstruation may take place in the congenital absence of a trace of ovaries or Fallopian tubes.[98] On the other hand, a rudimentary state of the uterus, and a complete absence of menstruation, may exist with well-developed ovaries and normal ovulation.[99] We must regard the uterus as to some extent an independent organ, and menstruation as a process which arose, no doubt, with the object, teleologically speaking, of cooperating more effectively with ovulation, but has become largely independent.[100]