WHEN we speak of sexual self-control, what is really meant? What must we control? First of all, we must devote our attention to the material basis of our sexual life, i.e., to the new-formation of the reproductive cells. But in order that all influences may be brought out as clearly as possible, I shall begin by dealing with the male sexual life, and for the time being only speak of the production of the semen. The same applies in principle to the female organism as to the male (as we have shown in extenso in Part II), only in woman it is less frequently apparent.
The essential constituent of the seminal fluid is the microscopic sperm-cells, harvest of an embryonic tumour, which we have already dealt with in .Chapter 3. What laws and regulations govern the release of these cells from the period of puberty onwards, whether this function proceeds continuously and regularly of itself, or is associated with daily, monthly or yearly periods, or whether it is more or less influenced by our absorption of food or by voluptuous impressionswe must withhold the answer to all these questions for the present.
But our attention has been drawn of recent years to the enormous importance of some organochemical substances which are at work in our blood stream; especially such of them as originate in the testes or ovaries. As has been experimentally proved, these substances are of decisive importance not only for the production of reproductive cells but also for the arousing of the sexual instinct and for the direction of the impulse (see chapter 4).
Normally this chemical factor remains so far quite beyond our influence). Only in the most desperate pathological cases the question may arise whether it is not preferable, in persons with deep-seated hereditary taint, to deprive them of their capacity for reproduction by operative section of the sperm-ducts (vasectomy) 2 or egg-ducts (salpingectomy). Vice versa many cases of defective sexuality which now receive no care or treatment might possibly be cured by operations for the transplanting of normal “glands,” or similar procedures.
I mention this in respect of many cases of nervous depression, melancholy, mental deficiency and loss of vital energy. But one should be most cautious with such operative interventions, because the symptoms mentioned are frequently only the secondary indications of deeper mischief, that is to say Nature’s healing method, to ensure the necessary rest.
Amongst ordinary pharmaceutical drugs there are some which have an effect on the sexual system. Quinine and salicylic preparations, and also alcohol in excessive doses,(3) not only weaken the sexual impulse, but appear also from their toxic effect on the protoplasm to be able to inhibit the production of healthy reproductive cells.
Here we have a warning that we should always be most cautious in the use of such powerful poisons, and if possible leave them alone altogether, so as not to undermine the vital energy.
Healthy reproductive cells are best guaranteed by all-round health and strength, combined with a good heredity.
The other components of the semen, which form quantitatively by far the greater part of the contents of the seminal vesicles, such as mucous, epithelial cells, crystalline substances and water, are all typical secretions of the mucous membrane which lines the vesicles and other excretory passages; and it is also not improbable that the quantity of their production depends largely on the same causes that influence other mucous membranes. Just as all mucous secretions are perceptibly stimulated by such powerfully exciting substances as alcohol, hops, cantharides (Spanish fly), spirits of turpentine, balsams and many essential oils and spices, it is not at all unlikely that the same drugs influence the production of these constituents of the seminal fluid to a marked degree, and increase it. We cannot be certain about this; but it is known that some of these drugs are very poisonous, and may cause cystitis, and even acute nephritis with haemorrhage from the kidney.
As we see, medical science stands abashed in these fundamental questions.
The constituents and quantity of our urinary secretion has been laboriously studied for centuries; and these we can pretty well control, if we only pay strict attention to our diet and avoid irritating spices. And our intestinal functions can be regulated to the nicest degree by means of modern hygiene.
Very often the contrary seems to occur; because under the influence of stimulating quantities of alcohol many an unwanted child is bred.
But here, where the vital question of sexual production is concerned, we are still in complete ignorance.
If we desire to judge of the normal or abnormal production of semen, we should work out methods of chemical and microscopic examination such as are usual with the urine, and with the counting of the red and white corpuscles in the blood. A substance can only be properly and scientifically studied if it can be measured, counted and weighed.
If only one half of the time that has been wasted for centuries past in dissertations and theories had been spent in actual investigation of cause and effect, who knows what progress might already have been made towards voluntary control of this function, such as we have long since learned to exercise over so many other originally involuntary ones.
It is certain that we should have organized our food and dress more appropriately long ago we should then no longer force our children at the critical time of puberty to remain sitting so many hours per day in positions which render their circulation stagnant, but we should see that they alternated their hours of study with suitable energetic muscular exercise.
The connection between sexual and social abuses would not then remain so long unheeded; we should zealously do our best to render it possible for every adult to realise an appropriate fulfillment of his sexual ideal; the sexual life would then become ennobled; love would be the highest virtue, But just as the astrologers have sought in vain to read the course of all earthly events from the starry skies, so men have always attempted to subdue the sexual from the spiritual side, instead of beginning from the material foundation.
And we might approach a little nearer to a solution of this problem by enquiring a little more closely into premature and retarded development in plants, animals and men. In Chapter 40, dealing with sexual evolution, we shall refer to this more in detail.
1 In the next chapter when dealing with secretory stimulants we shall refer to the effects of a meat diet, which is perhaps here partly responsible.
2 After this the sperm-cells can no longer be expelled, and the production of the reproductive cells soon eeases; just as in the female organism the production of ova always stops as soon as an increased resistance in the tissue of the ovary prevents the escape of the ova. This occurs easily in virulent suppuration. After the section of the seminal duct the interstitial tissue of the testis is produced in far greater quantity, whereby (at any rate at first) sexual desire and potency are increased. In castration, i.e., the removal of both testes or both ovaries, on the contrary the production of these important organochemical substances would cease, and the physical and mental condition of the patient would become permanently defective.
3 Chemotactically all unicellular organisms are repelled by alcohol, probably on account of its coagulating effect on their albumen. This is also fraught with con. sequences for the successful combination of the fecundating cells in conception; children conceived or begotten by drunken parents often prove defective in mind or body.