While the importance of the preservation of sexual chastity in a society can hardly be overestimated, it being probably one of the earliest causes of communal legislation, that society cannot be too careful in its function as the defender of morality, to avoid committing a moral wrong. It is one of the clearest facts, in connection with the treatment of sexual criminals, that punishment exercises not the slightest influence upon them. If a man be the victim of psychical sexual inversion, it certainly cannot improve matters, nor prevent the indulgence of his habits, to remove him from the possibility of material contact; and to imprison a masturbator, is only to afford him the solitude he so much seeks to practise his vice. The moralist, and particularly the physician, sees in these sad facts startling evidence, not only of the weakness of human nature, but the absolute helplessness of human law in dealing with that weakness.
Law cannot determine, when the normal sexual desire has been so intensified as to manifest itself in criminal violence, whether that intensification is due to congenital or acquired mental weakness; but the physician can.
Law cannot determine, when that desire is so increased, whether it is due to psychical exaltation or to weakened mental inhibition; but the physician can.
Law cannot recognize, when the sexual instinct is reversed, and social offences are committed, shocking to society and wholly beyond the limits of ordinary experience, that psychical degeneration is present; but the physician can.
Law cannot identify those instances of moral defect, and sexual delinquency, which ought never to be condoned on the ground of irresponsibility; but the physician can.
Law cannot tell, transitions from a neurosis to a psychosis being easy and frequent, what elementary sexual disturbances are common to the former, and what to the latter; but the physician can.
Hence, it becomes not only of legal but of ethical importance that sexual acts, undergoing trial, should be examined by the jurist through the eyes of the medico-legal expert.
The man who committed suicide in Chicago (April, 1906), for love of a statue of Venus, would doubtless have been pronounced, by nine out often jurists, as simply insane; and yet our study of sexual pygmalionism has shown us that brain disturbance in such cases is quite the exception, and that the erotomania is closely related to that which is engendered by the allurements of simple feminine beauty. Inanimate, as well as living beauty, possesses a powerful charm for the cultured mind; and the idea of indecency, which certain persons associate with the nude human form, is always that of the ignorant and uncultured. The fact that, in the case mentioned, the love was sufficiently strong to prompt self-destruction, only proves its strength, not its morbid character, nor cerebral origin. To determine that demands, also, the skill of the medical expert.