SO far we have studied the causes of erection, and how it is called forth through muscular antagonism, congestion and nervous impulses; we shall now enquire further into the significance of this phenomenon. An erection occurring during defecation is of no consequence, when urinating it may be injurious; for it has not developed any further in connection with these two functions. It has developed into the curious and striking complications with which we are all acquainted, only in connection with the seminal secretion.
It is a game of ebb and flow in our circulation which of itself fills us with pleasure and delight. But erection is of quite special significance for the seminal secretion: it shows us in the simplest possible manner how we can be freed from the tension of the secretion; it spurs us distinctly on to massage, and thereby arouses in this organ, which has hitherto experienced only a desire to urinate, an entirely new impulse.
I speak of this by analogy with other swellings. The tension and redness of inflammation, the pain and tension of a bruise, the pimple and itching produced by an insect sting, are all related cases, in which tension and swelling almost invariably drive us to massage.
Now we begin to perceive how it is possible that the sexual stimulus can be so raised to the climax of passion and delight, and is far more impulsive than any of our other bodily needs. The more we yield to these acute massage-motives, the more passionate their character is seen to be. If we just think of a tiny swelling caused by an insect sting, when we start to rub it the irritation becomes more and more intense, until we have scratched it open and fluid exudes. So also the seminal pressure, with its accompanying resistance, its congestive erection and massage-motives, excites our circulation and respiration and our whole being far more intensely than any other cause.
We are especially excited by the convulsive movements we have already referred to (chapter 10) and it is these convulsions which fill us with pleasure; for each one brings us a step nearer to climax, or tends to do so. They give us some idea how supremely happy the final convulsion will make us in the act of copulation if we can only reach this point.
If, however, one fine day, tired of struggling, we want to permit the secretory catastrophe, simply because we wish to give up further resistance, we shall soon see that it is not so simple a matter as it was with urination.
Now try just for once to evacuate the seminal vesicles voluntarily. These organs are much too small for that, and lie too deep; and besides, the resistance is much too great, even when they are overdistended. Even if prizes were to be won by it, the man is not yet born who could evacuate his semen to order, no matter how much strength he may exert in the attempt. The first condition necessary for the evacuation is erection; but in order finally to expel the semen, the erection alone does not suffice; even the convulsive movements to which we have referred cannot alone effect this.
Because during adult life seminal secretion and erection are always coincident, it has always been teleologically understood that erection facilitates ejection. But such is not the case! Quite the contrary. The erection even increases resistance, because as a true function of the external occlusory muscles, the calibre of the urethra can only be diminished by the congestive swelling thus produced. Just try for once to pass urine during a strong erection!
Now we come to a fatal incongruency. The more the erection drives us to massage, the worse the state of things becomes, for all massage and especially the massage of coition, increases the erection and thus carries the resistance to its culminating point. Only the magic wand of Nature is needed to give relief when the acme of despair has been reached. Well, Nature accomplishes this miracle.
A similar thing happens at the climax of the procreative act. The erection which has spasmodically increased, suddenly becomes an excretory function, because the spasm of the excessive erection driven to its extreme point by the movements of coitus is diverted to the ejaculation-centre situated a little higher in the spinal cord. Then the resistance of the external occlusory muscles is immediately relieved as well as the intensity of the erection, while the strength of emission is doubled. With a few convulsive movements all is over.
This commotion is so sudden and powerful that one really feels the relief and pleasure as if it came from the spinal cord itself.
However, it is not in our power to press out the few drops of thick semen. Here it is only the diverted reflex that can save us.
It is especially during our sleep, when resistance is absent, that the whole thing can happen so gently that we scarcely dream of it and do not wake at all. In rare and exceptional cases, e.g., if it takes too long to satisfy the wife, in the act of coitus, on account of semi-anaesthesia and total exhaustion of resistance, it can happen so automatically that we scarcely notice it. Normally, however, it is typical that the more erection is reflexly increased through lively movements in coitus, the nearer one comes to the moment when the excitement, increased to the point of madness, becomes an excretory function.
Then there is no more delay, no gradual diminution of resistance, no curve of fatigue which heralds defeat, but just as in the above-mentioned instances of diverted reflexes we have this sudden paradox: the greater the spasmodic resistance, the stronger is the sudden ejaculation. Then the semen will be thrown as high up the vagina as possible. Similarly in the wife the analogous erection of the clitoris and mutual massage movements have caused meanwhile the most voluptuous sensations, the same catastrophe happens in her case. The erection was needed to successfully call forth this manifestation. Although, or perhaps because, it betokens an increased resistance, it possesses such great value for this catastrophic secretory function. The more tightly Cupid’s bow is drawn, the more deeply the arrow sinks into the heart.