Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/19

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9
THE RELATIONS OF WOMEN TO CRIME.

and the presence of those ties of kinship which act so powerfully as restraints. Aside from these conditions I know of no facts which show that an even proportion in numbers of the sexes has a mutually conservative effect upon morals.

Generally, those in whom there is no inherited criminal taint, or no development of the criminal habit, would not seek nor create an opportunity for offense. But this can hold true only as to crimes against property, for in the other class of offenses, revenge, jealousy, avarice, and other emotions, may act suddenly as the exciting cause.

It is evident that woman's opportunities for crime are restricted by her relations to society, except, as we have already seen, certain facilities are afforded by her occupation. The moral influence of woman upon society is powerful; but it is negative rather than positive. Woman wields a sort of moral inhibitory power. Except as she may directly incite the other sex to crime, relationship to woman restrains and tones down the more salient points of the male character. Her lessened opportunity for crime results naturally from her sexual relations. Opportunity springs from the free mingling of large numbers in the heat and action of life. It is the antagonism between interests and objects, the friction, as it were, between the rapidly-moving actors, which brings out the intensity of emotion which results in the open or secret warfare of society. The vast majority of women are, to a certain extent, removed by the restraints not by any means artificial, but those which naturally result from their sexual relations, from the opportunity for crime. But I would limit even those restraints to crimes against property, rather than against persons. Although the ratio is sixteen and thirty-two to one hundred for each of these classes respectively, yet I believe it can be shown that the diminished ratio for crimes against persons depends upon other and more specific causes than her sexual attitude to society. Domesticity in this relation shows its potency as a conservator of morals; but, standing alone and unaided by mutual dependence and interest, its power is limited to placing each subject beyond the more closely besetting opportunities to which men are exposed. It is but necessary to call attention to the fact that it is from among female domestics and operatives that the ranks of prostitution are recruited, in order to show that domesticity, which is the condition of seven-eighths of the female population, must be accompanied by other relations in order to act as a more or less complete restraint to crime. I use the word here in its broadest possible sense, as defining the position of the majority of the sex. Great as the influence of the domestic relation is, it is limited by the fact that it is not permanent. It is constantly exposed to those accidents to which all human relations are liable. The passions and discordant interests find in this relation a field for their utmost activity. The sexual relation, which is founded in the passions common to us all, finds in them the ele-