The Sexual Question, August Forel 1932

Yet another book full of wrong information and bizarre attitudes, but with some surprising conclusions. For starters, our friend August really does not like women very much. It was his view that there are fundamental differences in the development of the brains of the two sexes that stem from the difference in what he saw as the "correlative sexual differences proper to the male and female, disposed in a way to give the male the active role and the female the passive role." P. 50 He concluded therefrom that "from the purely intellectual point of view, man considerably excels women in his creative imagination, his faculty for combination and discovery, and by his critical mind." P. 67 And that "As a rule women are much more the slaves of their instincts and habits than men." P. 94 He added that "her intelligence is usually superficial, that she attributes an exagerrated importance to trifles, that she often does not understand the object of ideal conceptions, and remains attached by routine to all her hobbies." P.137 Not that he did not attribute any faults to men, he states that "If by the magic wand of a fairy, the male half or the female half of our humanity, such as it is today, was rendered capable and obliged to reproduce alone, men would soon degenerate owing to the weakness of their will combined with their sensual passions, and women from their incapacity to raise their intellectual level by means of creative ideas." P.70

He has virtually no respect for women's sexuality. He doesn't think that they have much, and also thinks that they shouldn't show it if they do. In fact, it is quite the fence he wants a woman to straddle to be considered "normal." He says "Active in the sexual act the man desires corresponding sentiments in the woman. But, on the other hand, all want of natural reserve, and delicate sentiment, and all cynical sexual provocation on the part of a woman, produce in the normal man a repulsive effect. The normal woman possesses an admirable instinct in these matters and knows how to betray her feelings in a sufficiently fine and delicate manner, so as not to hurt those of the man." P. 85 And "A number of absolutely normal and intelligent women remain all their life completely cold from the sexual point of view, apart from the normally passive character of the female sex in coitus. It is rather the very libidinous woman who is pathological." P. 223 And "As regards pure sexual appetite, extremes are much more common and more considerable in woman than in man. In her this appetite is developed much less often spontaneously than in him, and where it is so, it is generally later. Voluptuous sensations are usually awakened only by coitus." P.92

Normal women are also apparently masochistic. In explaining his assertion that frigid women are often flirts, he says "This is more easy to understand if we reflect that the unsatiated desires of the normal woman are less inclined toward coitus than toward the assemblage of consequences of this act, which are so important for her whole life. When the sight of a certain man awakes in a young girl sympathetic desires and transports, she aspires to procreate children with this man only, to give herself to him as a slave, to receive his caresses, to be loved by him only, that he may become both the support and master of her whole life." P. 93 And "The instinct of procreation is much stronger in woman than in man, and is combined with the desire to give herself passively, to play the part of one who devotes herself, who is conquered, mastered and subjugated. These negative aspirations form part of the normal sexual appetite of woman." P. 94 And "We have seen that the normal sexual sentiment of women is developed rather in the direction of love, and desire for children," P. 223 Nor does he deny his views: Masochism "is produced in women ... as an exaggeration in the domain of her normal sexual sensations, for it is to a great extent in His harmony with her passive sexual role." P.239

His general dislike of women, however, cannot begin to compare with his distaste for older women. He says "In this respect it is curious to note that old women possess no sexual attraction for men, while they often feel libidinous desires almost as strongly as young women. This is a kind of natural anomoly." P. 97 and "We should expect the sexual appetite in woman to diminish or cease at the menopause; but this is not usually the case, and elderly women are sometimes tormented by the sexual appetite, which is all the more painful because men are not attracted by them." P. 205 And, "As to the old maid who lives alone with her egoism, her whims and fancies generally exceed those of the old bachelor. She has not the faculty of creating anything original by her own intellect, so that, having lost love, all her mental power shrinks up. ... It is not surprising that such persons generally create a pitiable and ridiculous impression." P. 129

Perhaps these views reflect the fact that women were different then. His diagram on page 20, which is humorous but not worth the space that it would consume, and his descriptions of copulation as involving the "aperture of the penis or male organ [being] placed nearly opposite the os uteri, which facilitates the entrance of the spermatazoa into the uterus," p. 21 so that "at the acme of the erection the glans is turgid, and is applied directly against the neck of the womb [so that] the sperm is ejaculated directly against the neck of the womb," p. 57, would indicate that at the time, women were at least physically different than they are today.

Oddly enough, despite what he sees as their demonstrated inferiority, he believes that women should be given equal rights. After all, if we get out of line, they can just beat us up: "In spite of the considerable progress which has been accomplished, our modern law is still based to a great extent on the barbarous principle of the legal inequality of the sexes. The mind of man and that of woman are no doubt of different quality; nevertheless in a society which does not possess asexual individuals like ants and bees, and in which the two sexes are compelled to work together harmoniously for the social welfare, there is no reason to subordinate one sex to the other. Man may have 130 or 150 grammes more brain tissue than woman and be superior to her in his faculty of combination and invention, but this is no reason why we should only accord his wife and mother inferior social rights to his own. His bodily strength will always protect him against the possible encroachments of woman. P. 368 And "504 A third source of sexual anomalies is due to the inequality of the rights of the two sexes. This can only be attacked by the complete emancipation of women. ... The emancipation of women is not intended to transform them into men, but simply to give them their human rights, I might even say their natural animal rights. It in no way wishes to impose work on women nor to make them unaccustomed to it. It is as absurd to bring them up as spoilt children as it is cruel to brutalize them as beasts of burden." But not too free, he apparently wants them barefoot and pregnant: "Desirous of remaining young and fresh as long as possible, fearing the troubles and dangers of childbirth and the bringing up of children, the American woman has an increasing aversion to pregnancy, childbirth, suckling, and the rearing of large families. ... It is evident that this form of emancipation of women is absolutely deleterious and that it leads to degeneration, if not to extinction of the race." P. 332

He is also a racist, but is not found arguing in favor of equal rights on that front. He states that "Broca maintained that human hybrids produced by the crossing of remote races, for example, between English and negroes or Australians, were usually sterile. Westermark disputes this, but agress that these hybrids become enfeebled in a few generations. It has also been established that mixed marriage between Jews and aryans are generally less fecund; but this fact is not yet sufficiently explained. Mulattoes, or hybrids between negroes and whites, constitute a degenerate race and hardly viable, at any rate if their descendants do not return entirely to one of the original races. Half breeds between whites and American Indians, also called Ladinos, seem on the contrary to form a viable race, but one of little valor." P. 163 He ends with a rant about "How ... our Aryan race and its civilization [is] to guard against the danger of being passively invaded and exterminated by the alarming fecundity of other human races." P. 507 et seq.

It hardly need be stated that he has the usual bizarre views about masturbation. Starting from the hardly startling observation that "Sooner or later in different individuals, the boy pays attention to his erections..." p. 77 he goes on to conclude that it is demoralizing and depressing and should be avoided by everyone, which will be easy for women, who after all, have hardly any sex drive anyway. Thus, he continues "In the waking state the unsatified sexual appetite may produce such excitation that the boy applies friction to the glans penis, which cause voluptuous sensations. As soon as he has made this discovery he repeats the act and provokes ejaculation of semen artificially. This arises the bad habit of masturbation or onanism, a habit which is both depressing and exhausting, which takes an increasing hold on those who practice it. Although from the purely mechanical point of view, masturbation causes a more normal ejaculation than nocturnal emissions, which are often interrupted by awakening and the vanishing of the dream which produced them, it has a much more harmful effect, by its frequency and especially by its depressing action on sentiment and will." P. 80 And, "Compensatory masturbation [Masturbation undertaken due to lack of a sex partner] is extremely widespread, but it is as a rule neither recognized nor admitted because it is easy to conceal. Although depressing for those whose will power is overcome by excitation which they cannot conquer, it is relatively the least dangerous form of onanism. At the most it leads to a certain amount of nervous and mental exhaustion by abuse of the facility of this procuring a venereal orgasm. The loss of substance from frequent seminal ejaculations is also more or less weakening, although the secretion from the prostate plays a much greater part than the semen. But what especially affects the nervous system, is the repeated loss of will, and the failure of resolutions made many times to overcome the desire for orgasm." P. 229

But there are no excuses for women: "The active sexual appetite of man, increased by the accumulation of semen, is absent in women. She does not have nocturnal emissions accompanied by voluptuous sensations which spontaneously awaken sexual desire. For this reason a pathological sexual excitability is necessary to spontaneoulsy provoke in woman voluptuous dreams or masturbation. For the same reason we cannot speak of compensatory masturbation in woman." P. 229. And the best thing for both sexes is to skip it: "The man who, for some reason or another, cannot obtain normal coitus should content himself with nocturnal emissions and the woman with voluptuous dreams, and should both abstain from active and voluntary excitations. For my part, I consider prostitution, or 'love' which is bought, as a variety of compensatory masturbation, and not as normal copulation." P. 230 He concludes that the advice of doctor should be: "As long as he does not wish to marry, a young man should remove as far as possible all sexual ideas from his thoughts. He should be contented with nocturnal emissions, which are produced spontaneously and should avoid all the manipulations of onanism. A young girl should do the same all the more easily, because her sexual appetite is normally weaker, and is not accompanied by glandular secretions which more or less demand ejaculation. Persons unable to resist their sexual appetite should be extremely prudent in their extra-nuptial intercourse. Moreover, there is no need for this to assume the character of prostitution." P. 421

Having said all that, however, his view of the lack of sex on the personality is not positive. In addition to his slurs on "old maids" reported above, he says "The old bachelor is generally pessimistic and morose. He easily becomes the slave of his fads and hobbies, and the peculiarities of his character are proverbial. His egoism knows no bounds, and his altruistic impulses usually find too few objects or echoes."

He has distinct views on what he sees as the deterioration of society. Much of the blame he lays on women, but alcohol also comes in for its share of fault. Not to mention modern art. Explaining why humans have such difficulty giving birth he says that "This is due not only to the fact that our artificial and alcoholized civilization, with its specialized labor which disturbs vital equilibrium, has made women indolent and degenerate, but also to the enormous developent of the human brain." P. 59 "In savage races suckling at the breast lasts for two years or more. It is useless to mention here to what point the capacity for suckling and the production of milk have diminished among the modern women of civilized countries. This sad sign of degeneration is due to a large extent, as Bunge has shown by careful statistics, to the habit of taking alcoholic drinks." P. 62 "Modern art in particular often serves to excite eroticism, and we must frankly admit that it often descends to the level of pornography. Hypocritical indignation against those who dare to says this often serves only to cover in the name of art the most indecent excitants of eroticism." P. 86 "It follows from these facts that the modern tendency of women to become pleasure seekers, and to take a dislike to maternity, leads to complete degeneration of society." P. 137 "In factories and mines things are still worse. In these places there is a swarm of people continually engaged in most unhealthy occupations,and only leaving work to indulge in the most repugnant sexual excesses. The rapacity, frivolity and luxury of society lead to alcoholism, poverty, promiscuity and prostitution among the lower classes and cause complete degeneration of entire industrial populations." P. 328 "The true American citizen despises agricultural work and manual labor in general, especially for women. ... American women consider muscular work and labor in the country as degrading to their sex. This is a relic of the days of slavery, when all manual labor was left to negroes, and is so to a great extent at the present day." P. 331

His proposed solution for many of these problems, however, is a bit of a surprise. He wants to eliminate marriage, and, for the most part monogamy, at least for men. It doesn't seem to occur to them that women might enjoy nonmonogamy as well. He says, "If mental culture ever succeeds in overcoming brutality and barbarism, and if it continues to make real progress, I do not think that any of the old systems of marriage will persist in their primary form. Primitive monogamy adapted to an unsocial savage condition, is incompatible with the social requirements which become more and more imposed upon humanity. Marriage by purchase and Islamite polygamy, which regard woman as merchandise and place her entirely under the dependence of man, are barbarous customs of semi-civilized people, which have already fallen into disuse. Polyandry is contrary to human nature and to the requirements of reproduction, and its implantation is everywhere a sign of decadence. Our present religious monogamy, completed by the shameful promiscuity of prostitution, is both hypocritical and unhealthy. Till the contrary is proved, I consider the most advantageous form of marriage for the future a kind of free monogamy (eventually polygamy), accompanied by obligations relative to the procreation of children and to the children procreated. Polyandry should only have an accessory right to existence in certain pathological or exceptional cases." P. 181 And, "The term reemancipation of women is historically more correct than the simple term emancipation, for before the institution of marriage woman was free. Invented by the stronger male when he began to reason, marriage was at first only the servitude of women. To give her complete liberty, it must be transformed afresh from top to bottom." P. 188 "Monogamy is no doubt an old and well-established phylogenetic heritage, while polygamy is on the whole rather an aberration produced by individual power and wealth. But phylogenetic monogamy is by no means identical with the religious or other formality of our present legal monogamy. It assumes first of all an early marriage immediately after puberty, while our civilization has placed between this and marriage, which it only allows later as a rule, the unhealthy swamp of prostitution, which so often sows in the individual the destructive seed for his future legal union, before this has taken place. Again, phylogenetic monogamy imposes no legal constraint; on the contrary, it assumes a free, natural and instinctive inclination in each of the conjoints, when it is not the result of the brute force of the male. Lastly, it by no means excludes a change after a certain time. ... Monogamy without children has little reason for its existence and must be considered simply as a means to satisfy the sexual appetite or as a union for convenience." P. 198 And "The difference which exists between marriage and free love should gradually disappear, by instuting natural intimate relations on the basis of sentiments of social morality, instead of maintaining the pretended divine origin of a social institution." P. 377 And, "We shall not then have obligatory monogamy as at present, absolute in form, artificially maintained by the aid of prostitution, that is by the most disgusting form of promiscuity which renders monogamy illusory; but we shall have in its place a relative monogamy much more solidly built on the natural rights of the tow sexes, it is true more free in form, but fundamentally much stronger in the natural and instinctive duties dictated by a truly free and reasoned union, as well as by the duties by which parents will be bound to their children." P. 395

He generally feels that there should be no laws controlling sex between consenting adults: "The coitus of two individuals, performed with mutual deliberation and causing no harm to a third person, should be considered as a private affair, and should have no connection with either civil or penal law." P. 369 But he would outlaw procuration, "What is wanted first of all are severe laws against proxenetism, p. 319, while allowing prostitution, "As regards prostitution itself, it cannot be made a misdemeanor without opening the door too widely to complete arbitrariness. The State cannot prevent a responsible adult from disposing of his own body without introducing religion and metaphysics into legislation; but the State can require those who practice prostitution not to molest the public. It has, therefore, the right to punish psolicitation in the street by fine or imprisonment, especially in often repeated offenses. It can also give persons of both sexes, who are victims of venereal disease, the right of claiming damages by civil law." P. 320

He would also reform marriage "In my opinion, the first fundamental principles of civil marriage should be absolute legal equality of the two conjoints and complete separation of property." P. 370 "Community of property is so immoral that it should be considered invalid in case of ulterior dispute, when it has been instituted by private contract." P. 371 And "It is not enough to protect minors. It is also necessary to prevent the abuse of the persons of adults against their will. The institution of so-called Christian marriage still contains barbarous dispositions in this respect, the wife being generally obliged to surrender herself to her lord and master as often as he pleases. This is the dark side of the picture which exacts sexual fidelity in man." P.374 He suggests instead that the person who is not getting enough be able to look outside the marriage. Id.

And thus, at the end of an incredible list of wrongheaded views and ridiculous assertions, the man reaches conclusions that are not so different from my own beliefs. Kind of makes me think that it is time to re-examine them.

Sex Index