THE question of human sexuality has always been regarded, more or less, as something to be handled only with literary tongs. Even professionally, although the taboo has been measurably lifted within recent years, the subject is still looked at askance; and it would not be difficult to find, to-day, both in England and America, physicians who could not be induced to touch it for either love or money.
Before the publication of Moll's, Ulrichs' and Tillier's able treatises first called attention to the fact that the sexual field was practically terra incognita to medical science, the writer who felt called on to invade it, even casually, was always careful to provide himself with a portentous array of French and Latin phrases, dashes and asterisks; which, while both vulgarly suggestive, and ridiculously irrational, seemed, nevertheless, marvelously soothing to his professional prudery.
It need not be remarked that such ultra-refined dilettantism was both silly and unscientific; and, in electing to dissect my subject without either kid gloves or lavender salts, neither courting nor avoiding, but using, wherever needful, those virile Anglo-Saxonisms which, it requires only a superficial knowledge of any science to convince us, are commonly the strongest and readiest vehicles of sense, I have done ao with the conviction that the language which Chaucer and Shakespeare wrote in, and which is the medium of divine revelation to the most enlightened part of mankind, is good enough for me and good enough for my theme.
As to the theme itself, I am on surer ground. That which constitutes the beginning, end and substance of my book—the force and universality of sexual law—is in itself sufficient guarantee that any attempt, however feeble, to define, analyze, or illuminate that law, must, in the very nature of things, meet with a considerable degree of human interest.
The sex-problem appeals to all. To the physician, professionally; to the moralist, ethically; to the anthropologist, sociologically; and, to no small part of the human race, purely sensually. Therefore, if there be found any lack of interest in the following pages the writer should be, and is, fully prepared to assume the blame.
But, as the work will necessarily fall into the hands of many non-profesaional readers, teachers, lay-students, and advanced thinkers generally, both male and female, some of whom may not yet be entirely emancipated from the fetters of early conventions, a little further comment on my policy of calling a spade a spade may not be out of place.
"The physician," remarks that philosophical old thinker, Tardieu, "in that he sees all things ought to be permitted to say all things."1 But society is, unfortunately, not founded in philosophy. It has certain pet prejudices, fads and conventions,which the writer, if he cannot respect, is at least bound in some measure to observe; just as we humor an hysterical woman; but this is precisely what makes both difficult and delicate investigations like this present, in which freedom, strength, and accuracy of thought, just as the diamond loses weight by too much polishing and cutting, are frequently, indeed as a rule, hampered by an enforced deference to certain literary forms and moral susceptibilities, which might be found, on closer examination, little worthy of such consideration.
But this too fastidious prudery is only one of the quirks, foibles and inconsistencies of our dear humanity; inconsistencies which would be more truly amusing were they not sometimes both pitiable and contemptible. As an instance: since the Creator's first invocation to light the parrot-cry of humanity has never ceased imitating Him. "Let there be light, more light!" But God help the light-bringer! Christ and Paul, and Socrates and Galileo, could tell something of how the world has used him. But we need not go back to them; modern instances are plentiful. Luther saw the light, and Religion hounded him through Europe. Savonarola saw it, and was burned on the bridge of Florence. Columbus caught its gleam from the Western waters, and wore the fetters of Bobadilla as tokens of his nation's gratitude. Kossuth saw it in Hungary, and had to flee for his life; and Father Gapon and Maxim Gorky, trying to transmit its rays to benighted Russia, are shot down and trampled by Cossacks in the streets of Lodz and Moscow. Oh, yes; light-bringing has proved a grand and profitable business in the past, and promises to be equally so in the future!
Only a short time ago, as good a man as the present writer, surely a better scholar, was put into jail in England for writing a far less Rectal surgery is not an inviting nor a savory subject; neither is midwifery, nor cancer, nor venereal disease; but what would be thought of the physician who would decline to discuss either on the ground of modesty? Such a stickler for conventionality would equal the man who, about to be operated upon for appendicitis, insisted that a minister be sent for, so that he could be " opened with prayer." plainly spoken book than this, on the same subject; a book since adopted by many of our beat colleges; and if the first part of that author's fate— for I dare not hope the second—shall befall unworthy me at the hands of my appreciative countrymen, I can only console myself with the reflection that "I am of his brethren the prophets," and equally prepared to "suffer hardness" for the faith that is in me; for, though the heavens fall, I am resolved to speak my mind plainly and fearlessly on this matter before me.
1 " Aucune misère physique en morale, aucune plaie, quelque corrompue qu'elle soit, ne doit effrayer celui qui s'est voué a la science de l'homme et le ministère sacré du médecin, en l'obligeant à tout voir, lui permet aussi de tout dire." Des attentats aux moeurs.
The physician who hesitates in the performance of what he conceives to be a professional duty, through fear either of adverse criticism or public misapprehension, is not only a sorry citizen, and still sorrier Christian, but unworthy to take that vow which Juhel-Ren6y tells us every young physician once took before the statue of Hippocrates;1 an oath which bound him irrevocably to truth, and which made probity, honesty and fearlessness, the very shibboleth of his calling.