Popular Science Monthly/Volume 7/July 1875/Sexual Cerebration
|←The First and the Last Catastrophe|| Popular Science Monthly Volume 7 July 1875 (1875)
By Ely Van de Warker
|The Deeper Harmonies of Science and Religion II→|
BY sexual cerebration is meant the existence of sex in the emotional and ideo-motor psychical nature of women and men, from which originate per se emotions and states of consciousness which distinguish and give character to the intellection of the sexes. It is sex in mental, as distinguished from sex in physical development. It is to mental operations what the prism is to light—a medium of refraction; a bending, as it were, of the axis of thought.
Having postulated that certain differences exist mentally between the sexes, is it possible to determine the extent and nature of the difference? Is it also possible to trace this difference to a sexual factor? It is evident that, if we can reach the truth, approximately, in the first question, the establishment of the second is easy.
There appears to me but one way of studying this question. The old speculative method of investigating metaphysical questions must be abandoned. We must grapple with this psychological problem from a few fixed points; like points of triangulation, to measure distances which otherwise may remain unknown. We must reason from the known to the unknown. These fixed points are to be found in anatomy and physiology. We may also study certain voluntary acts of the sexes in the aggregate, and estimate the difference in the result. The relations between the sexes will also furnish facts from which mental differences may be estimated.
Accepting Dr. Carpenter as the exponent of thought upon the physiology of mental action, we shall give his estimate of the cerebrum, or "brain," as "ministering, so far as any material instrument may do, to the exercise of these psychical powers which, in man, exhibit so remarkable a predominance over the mere animal instincts." The brain, anatomically, may be classed, among the ganglia, having its function more clearly defined than is usual with great nerve-centres. It is not an assumption, then, which will provoke dissent among modern physiologists, to assume the brain as the "organ of thought;" not in the sense that it secretes thought, but that it presides in its own way over its special function, that of intellection. It is the operation of the brain in its functional capacity which gives to each individual his mental peculiarities. These differences in mental action which define the individual must represent differences in functional activity. Taking this view of the physiology of thought, it is just to say that this exhibit of mental differences is the measure of functional, if not of structural, peculiarities, in the great brain-ganglion. If this is true of several individuals, it must also be true of the sexes. The mental traits, which define the sexes intellectually, afford a measure of either functional or structural differences in the cerebral ganglion. It is very possible that, histologically, any structural differences which may exist in the ganglia of either individuals or the sexes may never be determined. But the drift of modern thought and research tends to show that such differences do exist, and it is as true approximately as the undulatory theory of light. Many of the functional attributes of sex are presided over by ganglia having special reference to these functions, and these groups of nerve-centres in the sexes, one being the analogue of the other anatomically, must differ widely in function, notwithstanding their similarity of location and structure. When we take into consideration that the forces of organic and functional life represent simply the sum of ganglionic activity, a just idea may be formed of the extent to which this activity must be differentiated in the sexes. It is simply necessary to extend the field of ganglionic action to the brain, the supreme ganglion of all, in order to realize the fact that here also functional differences must exist. That the brain possesses functions in common to the sexes in no wise renders it impossible to perform its part as an organ embraced in the sexual cycle. The relations existing between the sexes are mutually voluntary, and involve more or less of mental action. As these relations represent the opposite poles of structural and functional life, this mutuality must also represent phases of mental action which exist as sexual traits. Concerning many of these relations we know that men and women do not think alike, and that these differences are radical ones, and have existed many years, and yet continue to exist. Take the labor and the ballot questions as the most widely known of the points of disagreement, which seem to have their origin in sexual mental attributes. But, even upon these questions, we find many men and women thinking and acting alike. Yet these are the exception, and not the rule; which confirms my idea of the difference in the results reached by the mental processes of the sexes: for surely the want of agreement must be a radical one in which it is a rare exception for the two types of mind to approach each other upon matters other than the organic emotions. Keeping in view the accepted fact that the brain, as an organ, or nerve-centre, is the seat of mental action, with which its structure, either in its histological elements or its relative proportion of parts, is more or less intimately connected, it seems reasonable to refer these differences in the results of sexual mental processes to structural rather than to any ephemeral cause. If we estimate the sexual factor in brain-development by the aggregate of results attained by the sexes, the way is clearer. The known average excess in weight in the male brain is the most probable coefficient of this excess in results. The face of Nature has fairly been changed by man's labor. The vast systems of railroads, of canals, of mountains pierced by tunnels, of lines of telegraph and cables, the steamships, the vast engines of war, the great emporiums of commerce, the results reached by masterly labors in science which underlie all these grand results, and in which women have been the accessories rather than the collaborators, prove that some factor, other than superior strength of bone and muscle, has led to this vast excess in results reached by man. These results represent brain-labor; and to what cause can we assign it, if not to this great development of the brain of man over that of woman?
In the organic emotions, and in the play of those finer feelings which form distinguishing mental traits of the sexes, we have the same reason to seek for a physical basis. As these mental traits are analyzed in the course of the paper, it will become more evident that the brain in the sexes is an organ embraced structurally in the sexual cycle. With this sexual factor existing in brain-structure, can woman ever hope, in entering the field of man's labor, to do his work in man's way? Will she write sermons, draw up a brief, or treat disease with the same facts before her, in the way of man? I do not believe I show disrespect to the sex when I answer, No. Women in literature have occupied a distinctive place. A book or an article in which the sex of the writer cannot be detected, no matter how studiously concealed, forms an event in literature. When woman labors either with her hands or head, notwithstanding she reaches the same result as man, she labors in her own way. All this, I believe, points not so much to a womanly habit, as to a womanly brain as well as body. Sex is a law to body as well as brain. Sex pervades all Nature, not for the sake of the individual, but for that of the species.
In the insect-world, some bright little creature lives but a few hours, deposits its egg and dies. The sum of its life is sex. Not less do I believe does man, notwithstanding the grandeur of his intellect, conform to the same inexorable law.
Before we enter upon the more difficult part of our subject, there are certain conceded mental attributes peculiar to the sexes which are legitimate subjects of investigation. I say there are mental differences conceded; because, without thought, we include them in our ideal of women, or of men. In the same manner, we need not recall to our minds, or to the minds of others, that women are characterized nearly the world over by peculiarities of dress which distinguish them as a sex. It is part of our ideal of women, because they have ever been associated with such peculiarities. In literature and art, woman has maintained her lofty place, separated more widely from man by her mental trait than by her differences in form. It has ever been a theme more of mind than of matter which has inspired the poet to entwine women in his graceful verse. Her truth, her gentleness, her constancy, these are immortal themes; these are the chords of her nature which have found responsive vibrations in the hearts of poets, and made the monuments of their genius eternal. When the poet and the artist see more in the enticements of woman's form than in her mind, the best of men shrink from the picture. Is it not because our ideal woman in art is associated more with sexual graces of mind than of body? When that strange poet, Algernon Swinburne, clothed in his matchless English the gospel of the flesh, the world of literature recoiled. This union of the gentle nature of woman as a theme with the beautiful in literature, dates back to the cradle of art. Now, what are these conceded mental differences between the sexes.—"Soothing, unspeakable charm of gentle womanhood! which supersedes all acquisitions, all accomplishments," says George Eliot, in "Scenes of Clerical Life."
We may assume gentleness of mind as a sexual mental trait. It does not spring from any process of conscious reasoning. It has no main-spring in a sense of expediency. Unconsciousness and spontaneity are the conditions of its existence. The practical bearing of this paper is to estimate the value of these mental traits as affecting the affairs of daily life. Necessarily, therefore, we must have an approximate standard of measurement. I seek this standard in that class which usually deals with the active affairs of life the masculine type of mind. Not only for this reason do I select this criterion; but, also, this is the type women are endeavoring to reach in essaying a career in the professions. The two types of mind, masculine and feminine, by mutual contrast afford the surest indication of sexual differences in intellection. This gentleness of woman has found its way into the argument as something definite, as a descriptive trait of character, yet by itself is nameless. Relating to woman as it chiefly does, it seems to consist of a mobility and pliability of character, an unconscious avoidance of harshness and fixity of thought. Not a want of fixity as indicating fickleness of character, but implying concessions to the wishes of others. This gentleness of mental habitude in women, which so clearly isolates the psychical condition of the sexes, finds its factor in sexual differences. Unavoidably, this takes approximate force. Reasoning cannot make it clearer that this type of woman is an expression of sex in mind. We see this feminine type of mind associated with certain bodily configurations which are equally expressive of sex. We also find exceptions to this form of sexual cerebration. There are women who approach more or less nearly in positiveness and habitual harshness to the masculine type. With this there is almost invariably associated masculine development of form. Masculine brawn, bone and muscle, shaded and toned down by the irrepressible presence of sex, define this phase of the feminine mind. The voice approaches a manly compass, the down upon the upper lip becomes short, delicate hairs; the stature exceeds the average of woman's; the limbs are muscular and strong. With these bodily powers of aggression there is a natural outgrowth of mental belligerence. This is a law of Nature. The man who shrinks from a physical contest with his fellows is one of conscious bodily weakness. His body measures, therefore, the extent of mental aggressiveness. Not necessarily do these women possess the male intellect; they simply approach the male type in this single aspect of their characters, other and equally feminine attributes of mind existing in full force. But, as demonstrating a sexual origin for this traditional and actual gentleness of the female mind, the fact that certain departures from the typical feminine form are associated with equally positive analogies to the typical masculine mind, seems to me to be conclusive.
These two conditions of mind existing in full force tend to place the sexes at the opposite poles of human actions, that of demanding and yielding, that of giving and receiving. George Eliot is right in saying that this feature of mental character supersedes all acquisitions, all artificial acquirements. Education and refinement may lend it additional attractiveness, but it is a primordial sexual trait of mind—the brightest gem in woman's chaplet of mental charms, around which may cluster other and equally attractive traits without impairing its lustre.
I believe it to be evident that the opposite psychical conditions of the sexes under consideration determine for men and women their careers in society—to one the strife and struggle with the world, to the other the gentle occupations of the home. From the male sex we may obtain a forcible example of how potent is the sexual factor in shaping the mental character of the sexes. Men reduced to a condition of eunuchism afford a wonderful contrast to men in the normal condition. It is upon the cerebrum and on its function of cerebration that some of its most marked effects are to be observed. He ceases to be fit for war, and is of service only in the pursuits of peace. He is no longer capable of daring to assert his rights, and, of all beings, is a fit subject for a slave. Not only is he made a coward, but the moral senses are weakened, and he maybe safely delegated to execute the cruelty of others. It does not seem, then, to be any thing but a legitimate deduction that this radical difference, intellectually, between the normal man and eunuchism is the participation of the brain in the generic cycle, and one phase of sexual cerebration.
Through all the females of the mammalia, there exists a feeling toward their young called the maternal instinct. There is no necessity here of going into the question of instinct among animals, as to whether it partakes of the nature of an intellectual process. Whatever be its nature, it is evidently a part of generation, and as such is eminently sexual in its origin. In dealing with this feeling in the human female, although it may have a rudimentary intellectual source, yet it is lifted above the level of instinctive feeling, and becomes a part of her emotional nature. "The intimate and essential relation of emotions to the ideas, which they equal in number and variety, is sufficient to prove that the law of progress from the general and simple to the special and complex prevails in their development" (Maudsley). Thus it is that an instinctive feeling in lower animals, without which the reproductive faculty would be totally defeated, becomes the maternal emotion in its simplest form in the human being; and, by carrying on this evolution from the simple to the complex, produces a complete modification of the psychical tone. Here, also, we may gain a clearer insight into the nature of the maternal feeling by contrasting it with the paternal feeling. This emotion is a state of the mind which obtains the conditions of its existence from the same physical faculty—that of reproduction; and although it is closely related to the expression of the maternal feeling in the more developed state of the emotion, yet, in its fundamental form, it differs widely.
Thus, among the male of the mammalia in which it is not entirely absent, it mostly assumes the form of abstaining from injury, while in the female of the same species it exists as a protecting and maintaining instinct.
In the human race, the same emotion receives a shadow cast from its primal origin in animals. In the human female, in the child-bearing period, it exists as a love, active or passive, for all children; while in men, during the more active period of manhood, it exists as a gentle tolerance of children, until called out in its active form by his own paternity. Notice from this that even the lofty elevation of intellectual man, and exalted yet higher by the force of education, has not been sufficient to change beyond recognition this emotion in its relative condition and quality as it exists among animals.
We cannot separate the mental from the bodily life. When we scan the deeper relation of things in their genesis, there are displayed in closest connection continuity of parts and functions (Maudsley). The maternal emotion exists potentially in the intellection of the healthy adult woman as a natural outcome of the existence of organs and functions which render possible the occasion of its activity. As the time approaches for its full development, any observing physician can perceive the latent emotion assuming shape and direction to a definite end. Numberless cares and solicitudes, colored by the tenderest of anticipations, become dominant in her volition. Not once, but innumerably, has a star over Bethlehem shed its lucid light in the hearts of watchers, and roused from the depths of latent emotions, half stifled with agony, the infinite possibilities of a mother's love. De Quincey, who intellectually stood so near the verge of the impossible in thought, and measured the heights and fathomed the depths of hearts, looked upon this kindling of the maternal emotion, at the supremest moment of a woman's life, with the eyes of a seer. Until I read this,"Suspiria de Profundis." there always seemed an incongruity in the piercing grief of a mother over the death of her new-born. One with whom there was associated not a single earthly emotion, save that of maternity, but who was freshly linked with a hundred pangs, received upon its little, scarcely human face, the most keenly-felt of maternal tears. The reason is plain. The emotion of maternity exceeds reason, transcends imagination, and is brought forth from the depths of organic life as part of the mystery of reproduction. As from the state of eunuchism we gained a knowledge of the sexual origin of certain attributes which distinguish man intellectually, so, from the condition resulting after the operation of spaying in animals, we may obtain additional evidence of the origin of the maternal feeling. Animals so treated have a great aversion for the young of their own species; that which was the maternal instinct in the normal animal becomes an instinctive hatred in the unsexed one. Here it is evident that the presence of organs whose existence is necessary to the completion of function is a prime factor in the creation of an overruling instinct. I have already drawn attention to the great resemblance between the maternal emotion in human beings and the maternal instinct in animals, and it does not seem to be unreasonable to trace both emotion and instinct to a common and physical cause. It is not in the power of a woman, normal psychically and physically, to repress her maternal emotion in the presence of her new-born, and in this respect she is allied to her sister animals. But the analogy here ceases. The woman is gifted with intellect, the animal is not; the woman has memory, the animal has none; and thus it is that the maternal instinct ceases with the necessity of providing food for the young; the maternal emotion in the human mother ends only with her life. But yet again, how tender is the mother with her new-born babe, compared to the exhibition of the same emotion toward her half-grown child!
The differentia that exist between the maternal and paternal emotions are such as characterize other expressions of sexual cerebration. I have already called attention to some of them. Among men, as the mind assumes its higher moral and intellectual development, these emotions are more nearly alike in the sexes, so far as constancy and care are concerned. If we take into consideration the frequency of the charge against men of desertion of family and children, and the extreme rarity of this charge against woman, we perceive that the paternal emotion must be accompanied by a certain degree of moral sense in order to equal the maternal emotion, which alone, and unaided by any mental accessory, is, as a rule, capable of the most heroic sacrifice. I think I may end our study of the maternal emotion here, with no doubt in my mind, and with but little chance of valid objections on the part of others, that it is purely the result of sexual organization; that not indirectly, but directly, it is the psychical component of the reproductive faculty, and as such is notably an example of sexual cerebration.
Love is the attraction between the sexes. The word is wrongly used to express a great variety of relations and emotions. Spinoza says that, "between appetite and desire there is no difference, except so far as the latter implies consciousness; desire is self-conscious appetite." It is important that the presence of consciousness be not allowed to obscure the fundamental condition of things in the brain. Because of the affinity between vital structure and instinct or impulse, the organic reaction becomes evident as a condition of consciousness, overlooking the primary cause. "The striving after a pleasing impression, or the effort to avoid a painful one, is at bottom a physical consequence of the nature of the ganglionic cell in its relation to a certain stimulus; and the reaction or desire becomes the motive of a general action on the part of the individual, for the purpose of satisfying a want or of shunning an ill" (Maudsley). Any of these self-conscious appetites may become the main-spring of a voluntary action. A desire which so results is gradually evolved out of an unconscious organic appetite into an emotion, or a series of intelligently-connected efforts. The physiological relation existing between the sexes is a part of the organic law of reproduction. The action of this law finds its expression through the brain, instinctively or emotionally in desire. This participation of the brain in the reproductive stimulus is an absolute necessity in order to place the sexes in a relation favorable to an observance of one of the laws of their existence. With the gradual evolution of sex physically there is a corresponding evolution psychically. The one is necessary to the organic part, the other is necessary to the mental part, of reproduction. This development of the possibility of love with structural completion is one of the most striking examples of the evolution of organic life into consciousness. The mental awakening is gradual. Vague and undefined desires exist long before they have taken definite shape in the consciousness; there is a satisfaction, too obscure and gradually evolved to startle the subject into consciousness, in the society of the other sex. These undefined desires become a part of a self-conscious act when one object is selected from the many and is associated with the most sacred emotion—love. In order to prove that this emotion can exist independent of consciousness, and antedate it as it were, it is only necessary to allude to the fact that, in human beings, the instinct attains a knowledge of its aim, and even a sort of satisfaction, in dreams, before it does so in real life. Upon this Dr. Maudsley remarks as follows: "This fact might of itself suffice to teach psychologists how far more fundamental than any conscious mental state is the unconscious mental or cerebral life."
Physiologically, this is the origin of the beautiful emotion called love. In a healthy brain and body, one in which all organic impulses find a reaction in normal consciousness, the emotion of love is allied with all that is pure and noble in the character of the individual. Men find in it an incentive to exertion, and a spur to their ambitions, while women without thought array themselves in all the graces of dress and manner to attract the beloved one. But we can say of love, what Bacon says of it, that "the mind in its own nature would be temperate and staid, if the affections, as winds, did not put it in tumult and perturbation." This may be the effect of love even in its healthy manifestations. In those cases—and they are not rare—in which the organic appetites affect unduly and too persistently the consciousness, it becomes the source of great unhappiness or of bad health. It would be indeed hard to recognize as love the exhibition of this emotion in the depraved. Among this class it is exhibited as love brutalized. Revolting as it is in this form to all that is elevated in our mental character, I yet believe it to be love in its rudimentary form. It is love stripped of its refinements, of its singleness of object, of its purity. It is often said that man is but little lower than the angels; if there is any thing which tends to this imaginary elevation it is this faculty of identifying another with all earthly hopes, of making the happiness and well-being of a fellow-creature the aim and motive of a lifetime. But this same emotion, when it finds expression in these abnormal states of consciousness, allies man to the brute, and tends to show from what depths the present moral and intellectual nature of man was elevated by the slow progress of evolution.
As I have already tried to show that mentally men and women define two opposite types of mind, we shall find strong confirmation of this by contrasting love as presented in the sexes. As there is no process of vivisection or array of physical facts which will prove this, we must study this emotion as we know it to exist in the mass of men and women, and which has been verified by common experience. But, in the first place, we must bear in mind the widely-diverging paths in life followed by men and women. Men enter the world and labor bodily or mentally, and thus expend all surplus energy. This energy is used at the direct expense of the emotional life. Women, as a rule, do not have this vicarious outlet for the emotions. Love with women exists as an entity, with men as an abstraction. A study of tables of suicidal deaths in both sexes gives us some startling evidence of the difference in both the intensity and effect of this emotion in men and women. The decade between twenty-five and thirty-five years of age affords the largest number of voluntary deaths for women. It is during this period of woman's life that the demand for love is greatest. The functional life is exerting its most potent sway over mind and body. Thus it is that to love and to be loved is a physiological demand during this period, and it becomes evident that this excess of suicides is the outcome partly of a defeated sexual life. The figures for men present a remarkable contrast. The same period in the life of men is also the period of greatest sexual activity. But, whatever vicissitudes the emotion of love among men may be subjected to, it does not find expression in self-destruction. On the contrary, the period of greatest liability to suicides is postponed to the period when the sexual energies have expended their youthful ardor, so that the decade between thirty-five and forty-five years of age gives the greatest number of suicidal deaths, and during which interval it is that the business or worldly interest of men attains success, or ends in failure.
Another fact derived from the same source throws light on this interesting subject. The condition of concubinage almost trebles the number of voluntary deaths for women. It seems reasonable, from what we know of human beings, to assert that it is not the continuance, but the breaking up of these relations—which, in a monogamous state of society, must invariably occur—that leads to this result. We have here almost positive proof that this tendency to self-destruction in the relation of women to the other sex finds its factor in a defeated sexual feeling or love. It is generally understood that the mental and bodily structure and function of women develop at an earlier age than in the other sex. Now, there are twice as many suicides among girls as among boys under the fifteenth year. A leading character of the earlier development of women over the other sex is a sexual one—a capacity to love and to be loved. It is a very significant fact in comparing the degree and quality of love as we find it existing in men and women, that the two periods in woman's life in which suicidal deaths exceed those in the male are at the time of structural completion and greatest functional activity. This demonstrates the predominance of a capacity to love in woman's psychical nature, and its greater power to impress itself profoundly upon the deliberate acts of her life over that of man. Madame de Staël truly said that "love is the history of woman's life; it is an episode in man's."
Love defeated in the attainment of its object becomes in man an incident to be forgotten, or to be remembered with impatience. A defeated love with woman is too often a defeat of her intellectual life. An emotion, the misdirection or disappointment of which is capable of inducing a large per centum of insane in one sex over the other, must surely differ in degree and kind. Certainly we must credit this excess on the part of women with an important physical factor, aside from that of sex proper—being of a less hardy development than man—but these physical peculiarities permit sex to assert its most potent psychical effect to the degree of shaping the actions or destiny of woman. It will suffice, to illustrate the fact referred to, to take the figures from the report of two asylums for the insane—the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane, and the Michigan Asylum. Of 141 insane men and women received into these institutions, whose supposed cause of insanity could be traced to disappointed affections, 84 were women, and 57 were men. These figures are taken from an excess of 454 male over female inmates. Now, the figures, as we gather them from asylum reports, show that women are no more prone to insanity than men. It is natural to conclude that a specific cause leading to this excess of insanity in one sex over the other exists with greater force in one than the other, and not that one sex is less able to bear the operation of the specific cause.
There are many well-known facts in physiology, some of them brought out with remarkable force during the employment of anæsthetics, other facts obtained from a state of organic disease, and others from functional derangements, which tend to prove the sexual origin of love, but which would be out of place in a paper of this character. But there is really no doubt expressed by modern writers on physiology or psychology that this emotion is due to a sexual origin. Proof, such as I have advanced, becomes necessary from the popular scope of this paper, and that I have grouped a series of mental acts, and applied to them the name of sexual cerebration.
I offer, in conclusion, some general facts tending to define a fundamental difference in the mental operations of men and women. M. Quetelet has shown that the propensity to crime existing in a mass of people bears a mathematical ratio, both as to its degree and the sex of the perpetrators, to the total of population year by year. The certainty of this ratio is the result of law, which has its origin in the forces which cement together a mass of men under the name of society. Now, the fixed ratio existing between men and women of the same community, as to the nature and extent of the commission of crime, must be the product of the mental and physical peculiarities of sex. Thus, the author shows that the propensity to crime in men is about four times as great as in women, in France. Now, while this holds true as to crime in general, it does not as to crime in particular. In poisoning, the proportion is 91 women to 100 men, while in murder by other means the difference falls to 4 in 100. If we define the propensity to crime by the enormity of the offense, we find the ratio of M. Quetelet reduced just one-half, as the crime of parricide gives the ratio of 50 to 100. Contrasting with this last offense the wounding of parents, the ratio falls to 22. As the fact of a wound involves the necessity of a personal encounter, we perceive that women instinctively—if I may use the word—shrink from this; therefore, in estimating the means by which the parricides. so greatly exceeding the ratio of other murders, were accomplished, it is evident that some method peculiar to women entered largely into the crime. Next, taking into consideration two crimes, which may, inferentially, be attributed largely to the motive of revenge in both sexes, we find for that of incendiarism a ratio of 34, and for that of assassination a ratio of but 12 in 100. From this it is evident that the propensity to crime and the degree to which women recoil from publicity in its execution are widely different matters, and are traits which distinguish women from men in the perpetration of crime. So marked is this trait that the author, in analyzing crime in general with reference to sex, says that "their numbers diminish in proportion according to the necessity of the greater publicity before the crime can be perpetrated." There are other facts to be reached in this direction showing the extent to which women's criminal acts are affected by sexual peculiarities. In the two great divisions of crime, that against persons and that against property, we find that the sexes are engaged in almost a constant ratio. This is fixed for a series of years for the first class of crimes as 0.16, and for the second at 0.26. In connection with this is a fact, which reiterates itself with the force of a law. It is found that the proportions of the sexes engaged in the crimes against persons and property represent very nearly the same ratio as that of the strength of the two sexes, 16 to 26. The law which controls the commission of crime by the sexes evidently cannot be reduced to the formula of a difference in the propensity to crime dependent upon the relative morality of men and women, but is governed by mental and physical sexual peculiarities. All these figures relate to four years previous to 1830.
The application of this to the matter under investigation is evident. These various actions, involving more or less of thought and resolve, exhibit a radical difference, both in degree and quality, which must have their factors in mental peculiarities. It cannot be objected that there is simply a fundamental physical basis for this difference, since the mental differences of sex must have their origin in the physical differences which constitute sex. The fact that the ratio of the extent to which women perpetrate crimes against property is to crimes against persons the same as the ratio of strength between men and women, proves that her less degree of physical power, which is a sexual property, so affects mental action that her deliberate acts are capable of tabulation, and, contrasted with those of men, show a constant series of differences year by year. Were it otherwise, we would expect that these uniform ratios, which point so unerringly to the workings of a law, would disappear, and in their place we should have tabulated confusion.
We obtained an idea of love differentially as it exists in the sexes by observing the degree to which it affects men and women as a probable cause of insanity. In the same manner I think we can gain a knowledge of the comparative intensity with which emotions and states of consciousness, common to both sexes, exist in intellection, by observing the extent to which they react as a probable cause of mental alienation. For my purpose I shall use Dr. Kirkbride's report for the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane. The analysis is based upon the supposed causes of insanity in 6,899 cases. Domestic difficulties are the probable causes of mental disease in 47 men and 86 women. Nearly two to one expresses the difference in intensity in the action of this cause. Fright resulted in insanity in 16 men and 36 women. Grief affected 77 men and 256 women, a difference of more than three to one. Religious excitement acts as the cause in 79 men and 127 women, a difference of sixty-two per cent. Nostalgia, 7 women, and no men. From mental anxiety there are 164 men and 261 women insane. These causes, which present such dissimilarity, have one bond of union; they affect the emotional part of the psychical nature. From this I would not conclude that women are less able to bear the operation of these exciting causes than men; but, that the emotional nature of woman is more largely developed, and thus more exposed to the action of such causes as directly affect it. If I am right in this, we would expect to see in women the emotional forms of insanity developed in excess of the same in men; and this is just what we find. Continuing to analyze the tables of Dr. Kirkbride relating to the same cases as above, we find the number of women to be 3,220, the number of men exceeding them by 459; and yet, there are 1,032 cases of melancholia among the women to 832 in men. Prof. Maudsley defines this form of insanity as "great oppression of the self-feeling, with corresponding gloomy morbid idea."
The emotions, it is evident, are both the main recipients of the cause and the field of its morbid expression. Now, from what we know of the mental and physical constitution of woman, we should expect to find this form of insanity developed in excess of all others at the period of greatest sexual activity, and consequently of greatest emotional sensibility. And here, again, our anticipations are realized by the figures. The interval between twenty and forty years constitutes this period in women. For these ages inclusive we have 1,923 cases of insanity against 1,297 cases for all other ages. It therefore follows that more than one-half the cases of insanity for this period were of melancholia. We can gain a clearer idea of the intensity of emotional activity in women by extending further the same line of comparison in regard to men. For the ages between twenty and forty inclusive we have 2,172 cases of insanity, and but 832 cases of melancholia for all ages. This shows a marked contrast in the liability of the sexes to this form of mental disease; for, at this period, the number of male cases exceeding the female by 200, yet the percentage of melancholia is thirty-three against fifty-three per cent, for women.
I do not believe that I err when I say that this excess in the emotional nature of woman over that of man is the outcome of physical and functional sexual traits, and is, consequently, another phase of sexual cerebration.
The above throws considerable light upon that peculiarity in woman's character so gracefully alluded to by George Eliot, and which I had so much difficulty in defining in the opening part of this article. This gentleness springs from woman's exquisite emotional susceptibility, as it is from the play of the emotions that this character becomes manifest. Having in view its origin in the emotions, and reaching its greatest development at the period of completion in woman's sexual genesis, the evidence of its existence as a form of sexual cerebration becomes complete. Were it otherwise, we would expect to see it obeying laws other than those of sexual development, and not existing in equal intensity during childhood, developed in excess of the male at womanhood, to disappear in the placidity of old age.
I have been using these statistics of insanity for the purpose of showing the extent of normal differences in the mental constitution of the sexes, and consequently of normal sexual cerebration. If we were to consider this in its abnormal phases, we would have opened before us another great field of investigation, the study of which would throw much light upon many problems of sex. Puerperal and gestational mania, the singular perversion of the maternal emotion attending lactation, are of special importance with reference to abnormal sexual cerebration. Hysteria, peculiarly a feminine disease, undoubtedly has its origin in sexual functional derangement, and is a striking example of the extent to which the emotional nature may be perverted by the abnormal actions of certain organs. Those cases of the social evil which break out from the purest domestic surroundings, and which defy all attempts at reform, are evidently due to the perversion of a healthful psychical state. The services of a skilled physician are needed to reform this class, and not the sentimental aid of reform societies, or the visits of the colporteur.
But here we are dealing with the healthy evidence of sex in mind. I have referred to but few of the many recognized intellectual states or processes, and yet they are sufficient to define differentially the average mental conditions of the sexes. With these as a basis of difference, the acuteness of intuitions, the vividness of imagination, and the want of intellectual belligerence, so often spoken of as traits of the feminine mind, and the existence of a modified or opposite form of these in the mental type of the other sex, can, with equal justice, be traced to sexual differences. Sex does not exist simply as a physical state; but we find it pervading organic life, and asserting itself potentially in every mental process. I believe the relation of the sexes in society bears to sexual cerebration the relation of cause and effect. Since the beginning of the historic age, under every variety of mental and physical conditions, the sexes have preserved their moral relations to each other almost unchanged. In what way can this be explained, except as the working of a natural law? There appears to me to be no law so adequate to explain this as that of sexual cerebration.
Several of the reviewers of a former paper seem to have regarded me as the avowed enemy of woman's social and moral advancement. I have entered upon the study of the relations of the sexes to the matters of daily life, with the single purpose of arriving at truth by the use of scientific methods. I believe the field gone over in this and former papers to belong properly to the student of Nature, and not to the so-called social reformer. I cannot bring myself to use the term "woman's sphere;" women have no sphere, except as it is defined by usefulness. I concede to woman the right to essay her fortune in any profession: I simply claim the right to courteously study her in her new relations. The ethnologist cannot be called the enemy of mankind, because he studies the different natural races of men; the botanist cannot be called the enemy of the rose, because he has analyzed its parts, and assigned it its place as a thing of beauty in the scheme of Nature.
- The word "feeling" is here used, not in its idiomatic sense, but as a state of consciousness.
- "A Treatise on Man," pp. 90-92.
- "The Physiology and Pathology of the Mind," p. 320.