IN THE previous chapter, in which we treated of the formation of the sexual substance, the result was an “ignoramus” (we do not know); and now that the question is whether we can govern the secretion of this substance, the state of things is much worse, for we must confess we cannot (“non possumus”).
The sexual urge, which can cause us such torture, is not called forth by the semen as such, this emulsion being of itself almost without influence, but from tension in the seminal vessels and ducts, which forces itself on our consciousness by the congestive manifestation which we term erection.
What do we expect to accomplish by self-control? No matter how loudly we may declare in our pride that we can control everything by our consciousness, our science, and our strength of will, the formation of semen goes on steadily, constantly increasing, and the seminal secretion will always be and remain a periodic function. Although the formation of semen is not a conditio sine qua non of our life (such as the secretion of urine, for instance) yet because its amount continually increases, its expulsion finally becomes as imperative as that of the urine, although its volume is far less.
Both these secretory functions go on whether we wish it or not; if not in our waking hours, then during our sleep, these substances are secreted. The question is then not “are you sexual or not sexual?”, but only “in what paths does your sexuality run?” The product of the sexual secretion surprises us, either sunken in dreams or in the intoxication of love; voluntarily called forth, or repressed as strongly as possible, it springs forth however much we should like to prevent it. We can school ourselves to avoid every kind of sexual activity, to abstain from masturbation or copulation, but it does not he in our power to stop the secretion. Herein lies our “non possumus.”
As regards the urinary secretion we can always postpone the evacuation of the bladder for some little time by strong contractions of our voluntary external occlusory muscles; but if we try to do the same thing with our spermatic secretion we should only increase the erection. Will power and mental superiority are powerless here.
So if it does not lie in our power to regulate the tension in our seminal vesicles and ducts at our pleasure, well and good, let us al least not voluntarily permit tension and congestion to be increased by accidental influences; we should carefully avoid all such as produce the effect. If we are temperate and discreet in these matters we can really achieve much success. We will now endeavour in this chapter to discover what these accidental influences are.
Erections that give the alarm-signal, are a function of the external occlusory muscles, as we have explained in Chapter 20. They can also be occasioned or aggravated by pressure from an over-full bladder or rectum. Above all we must avoid all tension in these related functions. And on this account we have already dealt with the control of the other two functions in such a detailed fashion in Chapters 16 and 17. Although the subject may appear far from idealistic, if we can only thoroughly control the urinary and intestinal functions, we shall have fulfilled one of the most important conditions for a regular sexual life.
From our childhood even, before any sexual urge exists, we should be careful of the connection between urinary and intestinal tension and erections, and begin to practice self-control. And we should begin early to observe what other causes of erection there may be. Then as we reach puberty we shall not fall into the common error of regarding every erection as a call of Nature to the exercise of our sexual function. For we know from our own experience how greatly many different kinds of excitants may contribute to it and lead us to despair.
And all mechanical factors also, which accidentally increase the internal pressure in the abdomen from time to time, will at the same time increase the tension in the seminal vessels and the venous stasis. Overfilling of the bladder and rectum acts powerfully in this sense; and if both cavities are overfull at the same time, the seminal vesicles are compressed between the two distended organs. This must be regarded as of the greatest practical importance.
Similarly the pressure in the seminal vesicles is mechanically increased by too hearty eating or drinking, especially at bedtime. And if we remain seated too long at a time, the abdomen is doubled up, especially if we bend forward; fatal symptoms of congestion and venous stasis may even occur.
I may also mention the wearing of tight clothes which is still the barbarous custom among females; the corset has been largely responsible for prolapsis uteri and excessive menstruation.)
On the other hand, congestion of the pelvic organs may be very effectively relieved by physical exercises and muscular exertion, especially if these be performed in’ the open air.
On the other hand, monotonous mental strain may only too easily occasion congestion of the brain, especially of these centres which govern our sexual functions.
Besides these mechanical stimuli which cause increased pressure in the seminal vesicles and blood-vessels there are also chemical substances which, taken as spices, medicaments or poisons, excite spasmodic contractions in the seminal vesicles and ducts because through their chemical effect they stimulate or even inflame the mucous membranes involved?
These substances are all known to the laity as aphrodisiacs. Everyone who has ever suffered from catarrh of the bladder (see chapter 19) knows what it is to irritate the epithelial surfaces; in this condition the presence of even a few drops of urine in the bladder causes spasmodic pain, just as if the bladder were full to bursting. So, too, in conjunctivitis, the smallest moisture causes smarting and burning as if there were a grain of sand in the eye. In the same way the sexual mucous membranes will be extremely irritated by such chemical irritants, and the organs in question stimulated to the most intense contractions, even if they are almost empty.
Important in this connection are those substances, which we have named in Chapter 16 as exciting the production of urine, and in Chapter 19 as exciting its excretion, and which we have also considered as possible stimulants of sperm-cells, or at least of the production of the other components of the seminal fluid. There is ample evidence of these drugs being able to excite us sexually, for they irritate the mucous membranes, increase antagonism and cause congestion. Meanwhile we may mention that the effect of these substances may vary greatly according to the dose, the combinations, the accessory circumstances and particularly the mental associations; there may also exist individual idiosyncrasies owing to which certain persons are peculiarly sensitive to one or another substance.
In order to discover these chemical influences and to judge them individually there is nothing better than the degree of erection produced. This blood pressure manometer is extremely sensitive. Every adult can thus ascertain(3) for himself what drugs or spices, foods or drinks stimulate his sexual feelings, and then he can accordingly employ or avoid them as he desires.
The effect of alcohol and of all alcoholic dishes, sweets and perfumes on the sexual feelings is most complicated. The elevating effect of small quantities always produces the impression of raising a man’s spirits but even at this stage a diminution of inhibition and coordination is evident, which is very dangerous.
And it is specially the finer ethical motives of self-control which are swamped by even small doses of alcohol. Let us imagine a polite gathering of relatives or friends. Everybody, of course, would be careful to avoid all sexual improprieties, especially if unmarried persons were present, for whom sexual abstinence is already sufficiently troublesome.
But as soon as they all get a little elevated from the effects of a little alcohol, and one of them makes a rather daring joke, they all follow suit, because each individual criticism is paralysed by the alcohol. The best proof is the following: if in such a party there is only one abstainer, who will not join in even “par complaisance,” the one aim and object of all the others is to drag him into it, so that he shall not continue to be a “spoil sport.” Later, if they have drunk a great deal more alcohol they will present a much less tempting picture, and finally throw off all reserve.
And yet alcoholic beverages are almost always served on occasions when a maximum power of resistance is vital. Most young people who have gone to ruin for sexual reasons, have failed through this combination of sexual excitement with the loss of their powers of resistance through indulgence in alcohol.
We must now devote a few words to the use of meat as food, as the flesh of animals may in various ways act as a sexual stimulant. Firstly, the extractive matter of the meat acts as a stimulant to the nervous system, and in particular stimulates the heart causing a quickened pulse and increased blood-pressure. For that reason we drink a cup of beef-tea before a meal, or a strong meat soup at dinner. This effect agrees exactly with what we mentioned in Chapter 4 about the organochemical substances and we know quite well how greatly the sexual life may be stimulated by the latter. Secondly, this extractive matter keeps us awake, like tea, coffee or chocolate, which only heightens the misery of loneliness at night. Thirdly, it has been empirically established that meat and soups and dishes prepared from it, have a constipating effect, and we have already seen in what way this affects continence.(4) Fourthly, the intimate psychic connection between carnivorous cruelty and sexual recklessness can be fatal to higher ethics and as the saying goes: animal food makes beasts of us.
In the question of meat diet we not only have to take into consideration the extractives of muscle fibres; but in adult animals the organochemical metabolic products of the thyroid glands, testes, ovaries, etc., are carried into the circulation; a most important category of secretions which exerts an extremely powerful effect on our whole sexual system.(5)
If later it is found that these metabolic products are allied to toxins, the parallel drawn in Chapter 5 will be still more illuminating. It would be of interest to enquire whether the effect of the meat differs if it comes from a male or from a female animal. In this connection there may be a deeper reason than we suspected for doctors ordering veal for certain patients rather than beef.
The current belief that the eating of eggs specifically increases sexuality, seems to me to be only symbolical. Their great nutritious value would of course have some effect; but as far as I am aware, there have been no scientific researches to support this opinion.
One thing is certain, and that is that the ordinary diet of many unmarried people and of travellers is the least calculated to encourage sexual purity. Wine or beer at table, together with meat and hot condiments; after the meal stimulating coffee and a good cigar or cigarette perhaps containing opium…Can we be surprised if after a stimulating evening’s enjoyment, the brothel seems to be the only remedy indicated?
The principal point in every scheme of diet is moderation, and at the same time a certain regularity, by means of which in the course of time at least, a certain amount of immunity may be acquired against such damaging influences as cannot be entirely avoided. And if one has accidentally absorbed a too highly spiced or irritating dish, the evil effect can always be diminished by drinking a lot of water after it, or by taking a weak solution of Epsom salts, which cools the blood, and acts as a slight laxative.
Do we possess in contrast to the aphrodisiacs, drugs or food sub-stances which have a calming or depressing action on the sexual system? We certainly do (see chapter 34), such as some salicylic and quinine preparations, bromide of potassium which is very lowering, etc. Chronic nicotine poisoning from excessive smoking may also end in impotence; but all these remedies not only depress the sexual system, but the entire vital energy suffers from their use, so that the remedy is worse than that disease. And it is still question-able if extract of the pineal gland, which has been prescribed in cases of satyriasis and nymphomania, does not produce undesirable effects in other directions.
But the occasional use of volatile substances such as camphor and validol seems to be free from objection.
Besides the mechanical increase in pressure and the stimulating drugs, there is an important category of exciting causes whereby sexual congestion to an unlimited extent may be voluntarily called forth, viz: all local skin-stimuli. Thermal and mechanical skin-stimuli are most powerful in producing congestive symptoms; their effect is prompt and sure. Nowhere is the causal nexus so clear. Through warmth and an alternation of pressure and non-pressure a congestion can be created at any part of the skin-surface; but most easily of course in the sexual organs which are so easily congestible, and are so little accustomed to change of temperature and mechanical stimulation.
What powerful congestion of the skin is produced by a hot bath, or by the reaction after a cold one, and locally through rubbing and scratching! For this reason it is always advisable to practice cold water treatment and rubbings in the morning, and never in the evening just before going to bed. Warm clothing, overheated rooms, and too hot bed-clothes of a night greatly increase the sexual irritability, and for this reason rich people and town-dwellers are often more excited sexually than country folks who suffer much privation and exposure to the weather.
How very effective mechanical stimulation of the skin may be in this respect, is best illustrated by the birching of naughty boys at school in the old days, which nearly always caused strong erection. In certain so-called massage establishments similar treatment is extended to elderly impotent men for the same purpose.
In general the frequency and intensity of our erections depend more on accidental skin irritation than on an actual overfilling of the seminal vesicles. The most trifling causes may often produce the most powerful erections, even when the seminal vesicles have only been emptied a few moments before. This sensitiveness to thermal and mechanical stimuli rivals the sensitiveness of our finest physical instruments.
But all this is far surpassed by the sensitiveness of our nervous system. Let us consider how the sexual system reacts to nerve-excitement. We have explained at length in Chapter 20 how intimately the sexual muscle contractions and sexual congestion are functionally associated with the central nervous system and also the brain.
These mutual influences are, however, so extremely sensitive that in the majority of cases we really do not notice the connection between cause and effect, and so we are not conscious of its existence. So anyone thinking of erection would surely suppose that the seminal vesicles were terribly full, whereas perhaps only a remote association of ideas has occurred. And vice versa, anyone thinking exclusively of the psychic emotions would imagine that the sexual impulse was only a psychic one. The latter go so far that they regard the bodily sexual function as a desecration of coarse materialisation of love. If, however, we attempt thus to separate the love-life from its material basis, a just judgment of the causes and effects becomes simply impossible; and thereby all rational self-control disappears.
It is a well known natural law that the mental image of a physiological function may produce to some extent the same effect as the function itself, only it a lesser degree, e.g., if a dog sees a piece of meat, his mouth begins to water just as if he already had the bit of meat in his jaws.
So the most powerful erections may be caused by the sight of any sexual act, or even by merely thinking of such. The Roman Catholic clergy, rendered hyper-sensitive through sexual abstinence, believe it is not possible to see any part of the body naked without thereby being sexually excited.
There appears to be a wide field for self-control in the psychological sphere, if we notice particularly which associations and suggestions are specially fraught with fateful consequences for each of us. Loneliness and darkness are specially dangerous for one person, while another is excited most by brilliant light, heat and a crowd of people.
Exciting causes which we cannot abolish may sometimes be diverted into other directions. Just as thermal and mechanical stimuli of the genital organs may be diverted by similar counter stimuli of distant parts of the body, so psychic sexual stimuli may be diverted by giving one’s psychic interest to other subjects. Music and agreeable conversation with people of strict morals, but sociable and kind, are among the best remedies for keeping us from excessive sexuality. Also memories of our childhood, when we were not yet sexual, and the encouragement of higher ideals, are very helpful as counterexcitants. Useful work and efforts carried out amongst sympathetic people, especially if these aim at the well-being of others, have a still more powerful effect.
In concluding this chapter I would like to mention a stimulant with which I really ought to have begun, because it is a prototype of what is physiologically called a stimulant, and that is the sting of an insect, as this gives rise to intense local itching.
From the flowers it is now generally known what an important part insects play in fertilisation. But the parasites of the human skin play an equally important part. With our asexual or antisexual training, what would become of our sexuality if we did not learn from our earliest youth, especially through occasional insect-bites, to relieve local irritation by rubbing, and if we did not notice as we grow older that certain portions of the body are particularly sensitive to this sort of massage, and that the genitalia are especially differentiated for this purpose? The proper development of these specially appropriate organs depends on this practice. For I have often found, that persons specially sensitive to insect stings or bites, are sexually most sensitive, and vice versa.
There is, however, a greater danger attached to this practice. Massage is a useful corrective in all ordinary, slight and uncomplicated irritations of the skin, as by every involuntary movement we bring this massage to bear all day long with instant good effect; but if after an insect sting, the sting itself or a trace of formic acid is left in our skin, then in a case thus complicated every movement only increases the irritation and renders it unbearable. So the first timid movements of a child may prove a useful schooling for self-consciousness; but so soon as the sexual urge becomes too powerful in us and remains unsatisfied, even in childhood, these irritating movements become a passionate habit, and it is then true that with every voluntary movement the state of things becomes less bearable.
1 I remember the case of an elderly lady patient of mine, who frequently came to me to have her prolapse-pessary cleaned, until one fine day she happened to leave her corset off, with the result that the trouble suddenly disappeared. And how many women and girls there are who complain of menorrhagia and yet will not discontinue wearing corsets.
2 See once more Chapter 5 where a parallel is drawn between the onset of puberty and an inflammation.
3 In the female organism we find the same erectability in the spongy tissue of the clitoris, with its congestive phenomena, but here the whole apparatus is on a smaller and finer scale (like a lady’s watch).
4 We can readily convince ourselves by experiment that even if we compensate the constipating effect by laxatives the stimulating effect on the nervous system remains. So the latter is not entirely dependent on the constipating effect.
5 In regard to these products, harmones, endocrine substances, etc., see Dr. A. Weil’s recent book, “Die Innere Sekretion”, Julius Springer, Berlin.
6 The following makes a very mild aperient water: Epsom salts 1 oz., Glauber