Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 8.djvu/21

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

of every woman has been to establish a permanent relation to some man based upon involuntary sexual emotions. So long has this been in existence, so much power has it acquired by the increment of the forces of heredity, that it has become an organic law of society. This is a factor which enters into every woman's existence; by it her sexual life is made to exceed in intensity the intellectual. Ceaseless indwelling upon what every woman is taught to regard as both a necessity and an honor has tended to give undue force to every thing that relates both mentally and physically to her sexual existence. This is the manner in which society has made the way easy for woman's sexual error. Reflecting upon this, I confess to admiration for a sex which in the face of these difficulties has ever maintained such a well-deserved reputation for purity, and shown us that mankind turns instinctively to good rather than evil. Punishment is part of the crime, with society. To women for a sexual offense it measures out a punishment relentless and life-long. They are banished and hang on the outermost skirts of the inexorable law-giver as "Scarlet Letter" ones, for whom, in all their lives, there is no further hope.

Prepared in this fashion for infanticide, can it be wondered at that the ratio for this crime is 1,320 women to 100 men?[1] It is clearly an alternative of either social banishment and a total defeat of her selected destiny, or an attempt to conceal her error by crime. With an obliteration of one set of moral feelings there must be necessarily a weakening of the general moral character. She is therefore prepared to violate all the emotions and consciousness which have their origin in the very condition, through the undue development of which she met disaster. Infanticide appeal's to the woman's consciousness less formidable and repellent than her certain punishment by society. Her training has prepared her to place this lessened value upon the crime. Quetelet gives prominence to shame as an impelling motive to the crime. I can give it no such value. That sense of shame or modesty which exists as a phase of sexual cerebration in every mentally healthy woman, and that induces her to guard so jealously the casket after the jewel has been stolen or rather bestowed, is the part of her mental life to which the most violence has been done by her social error. What the French philosopher ought to refer to, is not the sexual quality of shame, but a sense of degradation which is common in an equal degree to both sexes. It is the sense that the good opinion of those we know, and whose esteem we value, has been forfeited. When we connect this sense of forfeiture with the fact that the interests in life which women are educated to hold most sacred, await but detection to be lost forever, I think we have found sufficient reason why this crime, which so antagonizes all womanly qualities, should exist to such a degree as to alter nearly one-half the ratio of the sexes in relation to crimes which involve human life. In ana-

  1. Quetelet, loc. cit.