WE have constantly mentioned all kinds of strong obstacles in the case of the seminal secretion, in contradistinction to the secretion of urine. The late beginning of this function, the viscous consistence of the secreted product, the minute orifice of the seminal canal, the spasmodic increase of the muscular antagonism, and finally the accessory stasis of the circulation. All these internal resistances excite us to the highest degree and drive us either to despair or to the height of ecstasy.
There is also a further great difficulty, because to perform this function correctly we need a partner.(1)
A whole army of difficulties must be surmounted before we can find a person who will put up with our little ways; and what a lot we have to go through before we have reached the point where we can make each other quite happy!
But even at the last moment when happiness seems to be in sight, we find that Nature has placed a hindrance in our way, which although very small is very confusing. According to our views, the genital organs of man and woman are very badly placed. We have already seen (chapter 9) that the genital canal in the male has its opening in the front part of the body, while in the female it is quite underneath. That is not convenient. Besides which, in woman not only is the entrance to the canal hidden between her thighs, but it is further closed by two pairs of lips, Iike double folding doors.
Connection can therefore not take place unless the two partners assume a very unusual position. And for this reason no absolutely correct position for the accomplishment of the act exists. On the contrary, in various nations and races all sorts of possible and almost impossible positions are found either usually or exceptionally: standing, lying, or sitting, facing each other, or both racing the same way. But always in a forced position of the body. Only one thing is constant, and that is that the woman must open her Iegs as far as possible,(2) so that her genital fold shall become a genital orifice. Nor must the woman lie with her head and shoulders too high, nor too deep in pillows, but rather with a cushion under her loins.
It is therefore perfectly clear that such difficulties occurring at the last moment are highly adapted to increase the excitement and the passion to madness and thus precipitate the climax.
There is another category of hindrance of a more accidental nature though more difficult to overcome, to which one may be exposed. I refer to the resistance offered by all possible forms of narrowing of the orifice of the female genital canal. The vaginal entrance is often only a trifle underdeveloped, an infantile stage of development that soon corrects itself. Sometimes too, the entrance is more or less obstructed by a small mucous membrane, a slight arrest of development, similar to the tongue-tie so often seen in newborn children. Sometimes there is a more resistant cartilaginous growth which can only be removed by operation. In very rare cases the orifice, or the entire vagina may be absent, and then one has to be content with caresses or other methods of sexual satisfaction.
The slighter variations generally disappear of themselves during childhood, if only the child is kept clean, especially in these parts. Otherwise they are overcome by the use of cleansing injections, which the adult ,maiden should always practice after each menstrual period. If this practice is neglected, however, everything goes wrong at the first attempts at connection. So the adaptation of the organs to each other, which we mentioned in Chapter 11, should be constantly maintained by each new generation, and constantly improved.
In very serious cases, of course, a doctor should be consulted; but usually it is easy to distend the soft parts by gradual and gentle stretching. But this should be done with great care, otherwise tiny cracks may be produced which in healing form scars, so that the constriction of the orifice becomes even worse, just as happens with the boys’ prepuce (see chapter 12). This wound-cicatrisation with constriction of the orifice explains many stupid stories concerning girls who have become pregnant and then at the time of delivery it was seen that they had no proper entrance at all to their genital canal; for after their rape, as the wounded surface healed, the orifice grew firmly together.
I have dealt with these constrictions of the vaginal entrance in such a detailed manner because from pure ignorance they make so many marriages a torture, when they give rise to tiny tears and abrasions in the mucous membrane at coitus. Although these abrasions and tears may be extremely minute, if they are not given rest and opportunity to heal, they will through repeated connection never remain uninfected; and in the course of time may become so fearfully painful that at each new attempt at intercourse screams of despair will break the silence of the night. Consequently this defect, so insignificant at first, may not only mar the inauguration of connubial bliss, but the terrible pain that ensues as a result of their neglect may cause an aversion to sexual intercourse and a hatred of the husband which will not entirely disappear even after surgical intervention has remedied the evil.
Spasmodic contraction of the occlusory muscles which are situated around the orifice of the vagina (see chapter 9) may render connection painful or impossible, and in rare cases interfere with withdrawal after the act is concluded. So we see that there are pitfalls here.
But even without any mechanical obstructions the woman may suffer from hyperaesthesia (excessive sensitiveness) of this organ which makes it impossible for her to allow her husband to approach her. If this nervous affection develops only as a secondary symptom, as a result of the above mentioned local suffering, local treatment is indicated and generally successful. If, however, it originates in neuroses which proceed from the central nervous system, as is often the case in hysteria, then the condition is much more serious and not always curable.
I do not want to leave the subject of these painful hindrances without again referring (see chapter 4) to the most painful of all which we encounter as the normal consequence of sexual inter-course : I mean the martyrdom of child-birth. Among savage races normal parturition occurs just like any other normal physiological function; if, however, malformation of the pelvis presents an insurmountable obstacle, the mother and child both die, and the deviation is not reproduced.
However, with our ever-increasing civilisation and the greater perfection of our means of assisting parturition, this natural selection tends to disappear; and, furthermore, owing to our unnatural manner of sitting, especially during long hours at school, not only the normal development of our internal sexual organs, but also that of the bony pelvis is still more fundamentally spoilt. This has increased to such a degree that a painless delivery is an exception,(3) indeed, for many centuries now, the pains of child-birth have become proverbial. The words of the Bible, that the pains of child-birth are a punishment for our sins, have not prevented us from committing the sin of unnatural education. And so the birth of a new human life, this most joyous of all events in living creation, has become a hellish martyrdom for the mother; and the best developed children(4) can scarcely ever be born alive.
The pain which we once caused our mothers should make it a point of honour with us to suppress this horror for the future. It is unjustifiable, calmly to continue with this cruelty and de-generation of the race. As this has developed through carelessness in the course of generations, we could with care bring about a great improvement in the course of a few generations. And yet systematic efforts to attain this object are not always made. Only lately the training of our youth, especially of our girls, begins to be a little more rational, and at least the beginning of natural selection can be seen when those women who have survived unusually difficult confinements take care of themselves through the use of preventives that they do not fall again into this desperate condition. In this way they will not further reproduce their own defective tendencies.
The more unprejudiced our study of the sexual life, the more must the obstacles mentioned in this chapter yield to the light of science.
So far we have only mentioned material obstacles in the woman, but there may also be some on the man’s side. I refer here only to impotence.
The female organism is always capable of cohabitation, the male only during erection. On account of the congestive effect of all skin stimuli and mental pictures which take effect through reflexes from the brain, the man can to some extent control this unconscious function. Indeed it is easier for him to cause an erection than to terminate a spontaneously occurring one.
However, he does not always succeed. There are many men who never get an erection (absolute impotence), and cohabitation is impossible very often because the erection does not occur at the right time or because it does not last long enough (relative impotence). In all these cases both partners are disappointed and while the wife can with some astuteness hide her frigidity, no evasion is possible for the husband, and the more worried about it he becomes, the less likely he is to succeed.
On the wedding night especially, relative impotence is a common occurrence, and is then mostly caused only by the unusual nature of the situation. Generally it is, like the tightness of the bride, a proof of chastity; one does not so soon master the technique of copulation, and easily gets lost in the rosette of folds forming the vulva.(5)
The performance of even the simplest functions requires some practice. How long, for instance, it takes for the young mother to get the newborn babe to take the breast for the first time.
This is an appropriate place to refer to a quite mistaken idea that it is necessary for the first attempt to be made on the wedding night. This over-haste may spoil everything, even all future married happiness. Especially if the couple have not confided enough in each other during their engagement, a too abrupt approach of the bridegroom may shock the bride, and even wound her feelings very deeply. It is indeed quite overpowering to think that they are facing each other now without the least restraint. External caresses, if impulsive enough, will be quite sufficient on this occasion to produce the desired satisfaction for both parties. The next time one can go a little farther, and then they both experience the real climax of the pleasures of love, and their love will only then become an ideal love for life.
Even if the relative impotence lasts more or less during the honeymoon, there is no cause for anxiety. The remedy is simple enough. A period of abstinence mutually planned and honestly kept will almost always suffice, and the period of abstinence will scarcely ever be observed to its end. As the result of habitual masturbation, there may sometimes be relative impotence on the husband’s part or frigidity on the bride’s, but these generally disappear of themselves in time, if only calm and patience are exercised, and the old habits are not resumed.
Relative impotence due to advancing years (see chapter 60), constitutional disorders, mental strain owing to worry and care, or resistance on the wife’s part, etc., is very frequently complained of. These are cases in which the physician can more readily console than cure.
Absolute permanent impotence right from the commencement of married life is rare, because the young man in such a case must be aware of his defect, and should not have married without making his fiancee acquainted with the facts, and coming to an understanding with her. Then at any rate a physician could be consulted as to whether he could do anything by improvement of the general health. Fortunately, the most passionate of wives can be sexually satisfied without regular copulation, an act for which many women are not at all adapted.
Only in the most unusual cases would one be inclined to effect a testicular transplantation or other rejuvenating treatment by Professor Steinach’s system (see chapter 4). Such a serious undertaking is especially not indicated if the trouble is a symptom of approaching age, or a premonitory symptom of a constitutional affection. In such cases the impotence is a sign from Nature that mental and bodily rest is necessary.
In desperate cases of frigidity in woman, similar operations may be undertaken for the transplantation of ovaries. But what should we say, if after the husband’s having been very disappointed over his wife’s coldness, the operation should have such a marvellous effect that in spite of all his efforts he now finds himself unable to give her all the pleasure she wants!
1 We shall treat of psychic hindrances, such as frigidity of the woman, or her dislike of everything sexual, in Chapter 57.
2 Hence the idea that it is very immodest for a woman to spread her legs apart in public; rather should she walk about in a long dress as if she had no legs at all! Many useful activities and healthful exercises have been kept from her for ages, e.g., horse-riding, as though it were impossible for her, whereas it really presents no difficulty.
3 Indeed we can entirely relieve the most painful stage of parturition by intervention under chloroform. This is not sufficiently practiced, but with such palliatives the cause of the trouble is not removed, but only maintained and rendered graver for the future through the abolition of natural selection. Twilight sleep through scopolamine is far too dangerous and only relative insensibility is produced so that the pain is forgotten; this is a poor consolation.
4 The greater mortality of little boys compared with girls must be in the main attributed to the difficult births of the boys, as on the average boys are somewhat bigger than girls.
5 When a doctor is going to examine a woman, he finds it easier to introduce his instruments if he begins the introduction on the posterior side, as here there are only two folds, and in their neighbourhood the sensibility or liability to pain is minimal.