As to the part which civilization plays in mitigating sexual abuses I cannot do better than quote the words of one of the clearest thinkers on this theme that recent times have produced. " Contact with a higher culture has proved pernicious to the morality of savage peoples; and we have some reason to think that irregular connections between the sexes have, on the whole, exhibited a tendency to increase along with the progress of civilization. Moreover, free sexual intercourse previous to marriage Is quite different from promiscuity, which involves a suppression of individual inclination. The most general manifestation of the former is prostitution, which is rare among peoples living in a state of nature, untouched by foreign influence. Customs which have been interpreted as acts of expiation for individual marriage, a sort of religious prostitution found in the East; the jus prima; noctia 1 granted to the friends of the bridegroom, or to all the guests at a marriage, or to a particular person, a chief or priest, and the practice of lending wives to visitors, may be far more satisfactorily explained otherwise."1
The savage imagination prefers the clear and concrete to the abstract and metaphysical. This is why rules and laws to govern the sexual life have so uniformly miscarried among unenlightened peoples. They cannot understand why an instinct, as natural as thirst or hunger, should be subjected to arbitrary laws, which, however salutary from a sociological point of view, can hardly be expected to find a ready sympathy with people who have been accustomed from time immemorial to invest even their deities with human passions and sexual attributes. Hence polygyny has always been a feature of ethnicism, as monogamy has been of Christianity; one being a purely spiritual cult and the other severely physical. But if we examine closely pagan customs in this respect, we shall doubtless be surprised to find therein a principle, analogous to our civilized law of chivalry; one which makes it exceedingly disgraceful among almost all savage peoples for a man to many more wives than he can properly maintain, a hint pregnant of meaning to a certain class of our own citizens, and which brings us properly to a consideration of the chief incentive to, and condition of, marriage itself, which is sexual selection.
1 "Law of the first night." "Among the Nasamonians and Augils, Libyan tribes, the first night with the bride was accorded to all the guests at a marriage." (Herodotus, book tv ch. 172). In the province of Manta, Peru, the bride yielded herself first to the relatives and friends of the bridegroom, the friends being presumably exceedingly numerous about that time, (Vid. De la Vega n, 442.)
1 Westermarck, toe. tit., p. 539.