Medical science cannot but recognize, in such cases as the latter, impulses depending on morbid mental conditions, prodromal or pathognomonic of senile dementia, and frequently unconnected with any other abnormal manifestation of the cerebral processes. Lust, in those passing into senile dementia, is most usually exhibited in lascivious speech, gesture, and indecent display; but less frequently in the attempted act itself. I have a friend, a gentleman of excellent character, otherwise, aged about eighty, who in street cars, and other public places, cannot refrain from pressing indecently against women, their privates or their breasts, and otherwise manifesting those indications of sexual dementia which are as foreign to bis real character as shameful to his friends.
Such men are not strictly criminal; and the law should not so regard them. Although society must be protected from their assaults, it should be by other methods than punitive ones; but the saddest and most dangerous feature of such cases is that, while women have the power of protection within themselves, children, being both destitute of that power, and more easy of association, are usually made not only the victims but the prosecutors of such unfortunates.
A distinguished writer records the case of a very infirm man who made an unsuccessful assault upon a girl. He had a wife, and large family, and had lived a hitherto blameless sexual life; but at the trial confessed to the crime, saying he could not explain it. He was sentenced to five years in the penitentiary, where, on examination by competent physicians, he was found far advanced in senile dementia. Legal question concerning his mental condition had never been raised—simply because he had confessed that he committed the crime.1 And even while I write, the papers are being cried out, announcing the conviction, and death-sentence, of a man* who, during a paroxysm of erotic frenzy, killed his wife because she refused to permit his intercourse with her.
Such cases call loudly for a more intelligent legal treatment than they usually receive, and while society, as I have said, must have an adequate measure of protection, it does seem that the infliction of the death penalty in such an instance as that last recorded—no element of premeditation having been established—is a measure of barbarity strangely inconsistent with our boasted civilization.
1 Frank Raiainger, Shiloh, New Jersey, convicted at Bridgeton, Jan. 11, 1905, and executed within the same year.
Acts which may be regarded as physiologically impossible, normally, and so distinguished by legal medicine, are—exhibition of the genitals,3 lustful handling of the sexual organs of children, inducing them to perform manustu-pration upon the seducer, or performing masturbation or flagellation upon the victim.4 These enormities, recognized by English and American, as well as French law, as prima facia evidence of mental unsoundness, may yet be accompanied by sufficient intelligence as to plan secrecy, although the moral sense is too weak to resist the impulse; but as the disease progresses even that is lost, and acts of the most shameful character are committed without the slightest regard to public decency. In fact, as the sexual power wanes, the demented impulse takes on, usually, more violent forms of gratification; until, as Tarnowsky points out,5 pederasty, masturbation, assaults upon geese, chickens, and all the lower animals, as well as the whole host of homosexual vices, result.
Few there are who cannot recall at least one case of a previously upright, and outwardly moral man, who, during the decline of life, suddenly manifested a strange desire for prostitutes, street-walking, brothels, either asking every woman he met to marry him, or suggesting sexual intercourse with her; and who, from a position of honor and respect, fell, by such practices, to social contumely and degradation before death. The most flagrant case of this kind, coming under my personal notice, was that of a man seventy years of age, who, in the final stage of his dementia, took on a most intractable satyriasis, which continued until his death. He frequently masturbated—under the bed clothing at first, but openly at last; delighted in the most lascivious conversation, spoke only of the women he had "been with," and on two occasions tried to assault female relatives who called to see him. Such cases are not at all rare in both sexes; and Schopenhauer shows very conclusively that in such forms of dementia perversions of sexuality are the rule.1
Krafft-Ebing records a case which illustrates the truth of this statement; and almost every physician could add to it indefinitely. A gentleman who had always been somewhat sensually inclined, of uncontrollable temper, and confessedly preferring masturbation to natural intercourse, yet exhibited no sign of contrary sexual feeling, further than that the family history showed that a brother was suspected of love for men, and that a nephew had become insane from excessive masturbation. The gentleman kept a number of mistresses, reared a child by one, and, up to the age of 80, when sexual aberration first appeared, lived the life of a respectable but somewhat amorous man. Then he began to manifest affection for certain male servants, particularly a gardener's boy, whom, having by bribes and favors seduced, he used to surround with every luxury and mark of favor that a lover could bestow upon his mistress. He awaited the hour of rendezvous with all the sexual excitement of a boy waiting for a girl for the same purpose; sent the family away, that he might be alone with his favorite, and after hours of such privacy would be found lying on his bed utterly exhausted.
Besides this "grand passion," he had occasionally intercourse with others of the male servants, enticed them, asked them for kisses, induced them to manipulate his genitals, and practised with them mutual masturbation. Yet the patient seemed completely destitute of appreciation of his sexual perversity; and no other course remained to the family than to place him in an asylum. No erotic inclination towards the opposite sex was manifested, although he slept in the same apartment with his wife; and so defective was his moral sense, and his notions of right and wrong, that he severely lectured one of the servant girls whom he suspected of having a Lover.
Indeed I think it is the conclusion arrived at by Mr. Ellis, who has made possibly the most elaborate modern study of sexual inversion, that it is most likely to occur at those periods of life—youth and senility—when psychic influences are most strongly felt; and when, as in old age, the mental desire is accentuated by decline of the physical forces. The positive statement as regards youth is Mr. Ellis's;1 the inferential one, as to old age, is my own.