Professor Paolo Mantegazza, Anthropological Studies of Sexual Relations of Mankind, Anthropological Press, New York. 1932. (The book states that there are 1500 copies in this edition, of which my copy is number 136).

Most of this book is given over to lists of practices of various peoples with respect to initiation rites, degrees of modesty, types of marriage and so on. Presumably some of the practices mentioned actually exist, or did when the book was written. Others would seem to be hearsay at best, and in many cases the speakers were apparently the sworn enemies of peoples discussed and the descriptions consist of the vilest calumny. For example, at page 41, he repeats the slander that manicheans "spread their seed, as if it were butter, on their bread at the celebration of the 'Last Supper.'" He also repeats some racial stereotypes about a variety of peoples. In addition to the popular ones, he states that the sexual organs of polygamous peoples, "as a result of the greater use, are stronger and more powerful." p. 54. Presumably he means the men, because he credits women in polygamous countries with being champion masturbators, due to the length between their opportunities for sex with their husbands. p. 89.

Of course, I am more interested in the sexual attitudes of the author than in the peoples that he studies. And he does not disappoint.

For starters, it is possible that he is even more disturbed by the concept of masturbation than even his contemporaries. While recognizing that that "onanism is so spontaneous and natural with man who has no woman and with woman who has no man, that it has been prevalent in all times and in all countries," p. 88, he nevertheless describes it as a "physical and moral defect which suffices to indicate the position of decadence and descent of a nation or race," p. 89. Odd that it should be a marker of the dissolution of society, when, according to him, the institutions that have moved society forward over time, "convents, colleges, schools and all such institutions that bring young people together in privacy," are really "hotbeds of onanism." p. 88. Apparently the very creation of society is its undoing, as is its continuation, since he feels that the young are the prime practitioners of this "perversion," especially young men, as a result of the "terrifying continual erections during the puberty of the male." p. 89 (To be fair, the book was not written in English, so the true oddity of this sentence may not exist in the original).

He also has some bizarre ideas about homosexuality, beginning with the conclusion that male homosexuality could be caused by an "anatomical anomaly" in which the nerves of the spinal cord that "serve coitus" are attached to the rectum instead of to the genitalia, p97, and ending with the idea that it is a disease which can and should be cured, p. 99. He discusses the proposition that an Australian woman who had sex with a white man could not thereafter procreate with men of her own race. He rejects it, noting that while it is rare, European women have managed to have children with Australian men. But the fact that he discusses it, rather than rolling on the floor laughing, is enough to convince me that none of his scientific pronouncements need be listened to.

His discussion of modesty starts with the reasonably proposition that modesty is not related to the amount of clothing worn, but to the attitudes of the people to that clothing, so that a people that wear very little clothing may be very modest, while one that wears complicated costumes may be thoroughly immodest. However, he then proudly described how his group imposed clothing on a population in order to "civilize them" and "lift them from their miserable position." p 26-27.

He also has rather bizarre ideas about sexual hygiene and respect for women. He describes as "superior" to the European practice, that of a tribe which he says requires that a woman married during the time of menstruation sleep alone in front of the fireplace and not be allowed to consume food or drink with others or to prepare it for them. p. 68-69. And in case you are thinking that the flaw must be in the translation, he continues that "we Europeans, however clean and polite we may be, do not respect the woman at the time of their periods," p. 69. If that is respect I'll skip it.

Among the other bits of information that can be found in this book are that the Kamstshadalas believe that the missionary position is a serious sin and that the woman should lie sidewards because this is the custom among the fish, their preferred food. p. 51-52. That "in more modern times the family dog has usurped the place of goat to woman's adoration." p. 100. And that "all persons having high ideals praise virginity to the skies." p 56.

He concludes that Western civilization should teach its young more about the art of love as he states is done in the East. p. 256. I am not about to disagree, but remain mystified as to how the book itself leads to that conclusion.