Many psychologists regard clothing as the cause or beginning of modesty. Sergi, indeed, so taught until 1894, when fuller reflection led him to attribute it rather to the excreting functions of the body.* Ellis also disputes it on the well ascertained ground "that many races which go absolutely naked possess a highly developed sense of modesty."* Such writers, it seems to me, however, lose sight wholly of the much more conclusive circumstance that, if we accept the Bible doctrine of special creation, the awakening of modesty in Eve, through her sin, prompted the wearing of the fig-leaf; while, if we prefer to pin our faith to the natural processes of evolution, as applied to man, we find, nevertheless, that "psychological modesty," as one writer terms it, is far more primitive in the human race than " anatomical modesty."
I cannot wholly dismiss a subject which bears such an important relation both to society and morals as female modesty; but as the matter has been so ably and thoroughly discussed elsewhere—notably in the works of Professors James, Westermarck, Grosse and Ribat, as well as of Darwin and Spencer—I purpose devoting to it only such space as a condensed record of the results of these writers' investigations, together with my own passing reflections, demand.
The subject is complicated by the difficulty of separating it clearly and definitely from those phenomena which, although pure instincts, of varying significance and origin, are nevertheless so closely related to true modesty as to touch and overlap it. I allude to such purely animal instincts as fear, bashfulness, shyness, etc.1
1 Comp. Westcrmarck, op. rit,, p. 205, and Goethe's Adventure in Geneva, in "Briefe aus der Schweiz."
1 Coqueter—to swagger or strut like a cock.
•Sometimes these little exhibitions of vanity on the part of the sex are rendered exceedingly ludicrous by some peculiarity of surroundings or dress. Not long ago I had the pleasure of Hitting directly behind a young lady, in a street car, whose consequential deportment was somewhat at variance with the tag attached to her bonnet— the latter evidently quite new—reading " SI.98, reduced from $6.00."
*" Dolore e Piacere," pp. 209, el scq.
• H. Ellis, ioe. cit., 1,6.
In the consideration of the question as it relates to primitive races, I desire at the outset to acknowledge my indebtedness to Mr. Havelock Ellis, whose tabulation of authorities is by far the completest that has come under my notice; and which, apart from its specific purpose, constitutes no mean contribution to anthropological science; and if I present his facts in more condensed form, it is not with a view to minimize their importance, but merely to bring my work within the limits originally laid down for it.
It is exceedingly interesting to trace the effect civilization has had in modifying savage customs as to personal adornment. The natives of the Solomon Islands, so degraded a race that they are ignorant, as Dr. Somer-ville says, of the rude arts even of weaving and pottery, have, nevertheless, the same ideas of what is decent, with regard to certain acts and exposures of body, that we ourselves have; he even finding, from their excessive modesty, considerable difficulty in ascertaining whether they practised the rite of circumcision; and the natives of Nias, in the Indian Ocean, although paying no attention to their own modesty, or that of others, are much scandalized by any attempt to go beyond the limits ordained by custom.
The Andamanese, as Man remarks, compare favorably with many civilized peoples in the matter of modesty; and their women are so scrupulous that they will not renew their fig-leaf aprons in the presence of one another, retiring to some secluded spot for the purpose; yet they wear no clothing in the ordinary sense of the term. In Australia "the feeling of decency is decidedly less prevalent among males than females, the clothed females always retiring out of sight to bathe. (Curr, "Australian Races.") The pubic tassel, a diminutive structure about the size of a silver dollar, made of a few short strands of hair, or fur, flattened out fan-shape, is curiously attached to the upper hair of the privates, constituting a garment of greater brevity than beauty, and far more adapted to invite than repel, curiosity.1
In Northern Queensland, the penis-hiders, or phallocrypts, as they are euphemistically termed, only put on by the males at stated functions and public festivals, are formed usually of pearl-shell, or opossum akin, and are worn for the purpose, presumably, of lending tone and dignity to the proceedings. Among the tribes of Torres Straits, as Haddon observes, while the men go naked, the women decorate their sexual parts with tufts of grass, or pandanus leaves, which, passing between the thighs, are fastened to another piece behind, recalling Mark Twain's remark concerning a celebrated beauty at a fashionable ball, that "she was beautifully attired with a pink ribbon round her waist."
' Com p. Dugas's "Essay on Timidity," and Dr. H. Campbell's article on "Morbid Shyness," British Medical Journal, Sept. 2ft, 1896. Frascatorius was one of the first writers to determine ("oh defectum proprium, el timorem") that blushing arises from fear, consciousness of our defects; and Macrobius, observing that blind men never blush, draws attention to the immunity which darkness gives from the peculiar manifestations of modesty. Compare, also, in this connection the undoubtedly erroneous opinioD of even Aristotle, omnis pudor ex vitio commiasa, that all our shame arises from the consciousness of some offence.
1 Spencer and Gillen, "Native Tribes of Central Australia," p. 692.
In the New Hebrides "the closest secrecy is adopted in regard to the penis; not from any sense of decency, but to avoid "Narak," the sight even of that of another man being considered most dangerous. The natives accordingly wrap the penis with yards of calico, winding and folding it until a preposterous bundle, sometimes two feet long and a couple of inches in diameter, is formed, which is then supported by a belt to the waist, the testicles being left naked. (Somerville, Journal Anthropological Institute, p. 368, 1894.)
It is regretted that Dr. Somerville has neglected to tell us what "Narak" is. Such a sight as that described is certainly enough to produce "Narak," or even a worse disease, in any man, not to speak of a woman.
In the Felew Islands, according to tradition, when the god, Irakaderugel, and his wife, were creating man and woman—he forming man and she woman—the inquisitive god, reversing the proverbial order of things, asked to have a look at his consort's handiwork. She was jealous, I suppose; remarked, possibly, that he was "too fresh," or words to that effect, and persistently concealed that part of the female organism in which he seemed so particularly interested. Therefore women ever since wear an apron of pandanus leaves, while men go naked.1
In Rotuma, in Polynesia, where women are permitted a great degree of freedom, and where as a rule married persons are faithful to each other, " the language is not chaste, according to our ideas, and there is a great deal of liberty in speaking of sexual vices, In this connection a man and his wife will speak freely before their friends, and indulge in chaff. I am informed, however, by Europeans conversant with the subject, that there are grades of language, and that certain coarse phrases are never used to any decent woman; so that probably, in their way, they have much modesty, only we cannot appreciate it."*
Roth made the very interesting discovery that, among the natives of Queensland, there is both a decent and indecent vocabulary; one word for the female genitals being proper in the best aboriginal society, while another, moaning the вате part, is considered very offensive. At Tahiti, which was a center of Polynesian social culture, nakedness was almost a religious cult. There was a funeral dance which was performed naked; and the wedding ceremony was also celebrated in the same interesting condition on the part of both bride and groom, the dance taking place before the public.1
I Kubary, quoted by Bastian, loc. cit., p. 112.
II Gardiner, toc. cit., p. 481.