Up to the middle of the last century two directly opposing currents of opinion prevailed concerning the comparative strength of the sexual passion in women and men. Gall, Tait, Lombroso, Windscheid, Moll, Krafft-Ebing, Fehling, and Lowenfeld, may be cited as fairly representative of the negative side of the argument; and Brie ire de Boismont, Benecke, Coltman, Venette, Vedeler, Duncan, Mantegazza and Eulenburg, of the affirmative. The view that woman is fully as passionate as man, tersely if not elegantly expressed in the old Arabic proverb—"the longing of the woman for the penis is greater than that of the man for the vulva," is undoubtedly the view of antiquity; founded in part on those erroneous conceptions of female character heretofore noted; and which, before the extension of the Renaissance movement in Europe brought about a more just and sympathetic appreciation of woman's place in society, relegated her to a condition of chattelage and servitude, little better than that of animals. But even at a later date we find the sentiment cropping out. Montaigne, while pointing out that men have imposed their own rule of life and ideals upon women, demanding from the latter opposite and contradictory virtues, argues that women are incomparably more ardent in love than men, and that they know far more than men can teach them; for it is a discipline born in their veins.1
It cannot be denied that in matters of sexual love women, as Venette asserts,1 are more lively in imagination, and romance, and have usually greater leisure to indulge the play of both than men; but as to the question whether men or women derive the greater pleasure from the sexual embrace, the same writer could only reply that "man's pleasure is greater but woman's lasts longer."
In the Kcenigsberg district, near the Baltic, where sexual intercourse before marriage is quite the rule, it has been found that the girls, along with being entirely willing for the act, are not infrequently the seducing parties; and in Koslin, Pomerania, where intercourse between the girls and boys is equally common, the former visit the latter's rooms quite as frequently as the latter do those of the former. In some of the Dantzig districts, says Ellis, the girls give themselves quite freely to the youths, sometimes seducing them, and that not always with a view to marriage.1
1 H. Ellis, lac. at., in, 160.
As a proof that woman is not infrequently the temptress in such matters, it is recorded of Anton Sua Caracalla that, sotting his mother-in-law, a handsome woman, with her breasts exposed, he exclaimed: Ah, si liceret—"oh that Tmight!" To which she amorously replied—Quicquid libel lictt—"thou may est if thou wilt!" and Isaiah's picture of the whore, with her "bracelets and sweet-balls, and ear-rings, and wimples, and veils, and crisping-pins," was surely not founded on a conception of the sex's coldness. "When she goes along," remarks another of these old cynics, "sh* ruffle* her clothes to make men look at her; her shoes creak; her breasts are tied up; her waist is pulled in, to make it look small; she shows her stocking, or her leg, pulling up her petticoat, and fires men's passion with the languorous glamour of her lascivious eyes. Springes to catch woodcocks," as the saintly Chrysostom wamingly remarks.
As physical sex is of course a large factor in the life of women, it should not be astonishing that the psychical element is equally large; but notwithstanding what has been said, and the admittedly dominant function of reproduction in woman, her intense relationships to life, feeling, sympathy, maternal emotions, and love, it is extremely doubtful whether she is, under any condition, susceptible to the same erotic passions as are felt by man. At least all, or nearly all, modern writers agree that sexual anesthesia is commoner in women than men; meaning, of course, that the physical element of pleasure in, and desire for, intercourse is less in the former than the latter. Investigators of the subject are, however, frequently misled by the statements of women themselves, who, fearing by too free admission of their passion to provoke suspicions of impurity, very often deny the feeling entirely. I have found this to be in many cases a practice of design among young wives, to inspire their husbands with the greater confidence in them; and while it may be frequently used as a cloak for sexual depravity, there is hardly a doubt that it is more frequently either partially true or perfectly innocent in motive.
On the other hand, in most of the modem "realistic" novels, written chiefly by the "new woman," this longing for maternity is only used as a thin veil to disguise the sexual desire; and however men may declaim wing scraping the ground and all his feathers ruffled, is the analogue of the young dandy showing off before his sweetheart; and although it has been discovered by a careful observer 1 that a few birds, such as the stone-curlew, have dances which are not distinctly nuptial, even in these, when participated in by both of a pair, the dance is immediately followed by sexual intercourse.
When two male birds fight, which they frequently do, for one female, with violent passion on one side, and willing preference for the stronger on the other, the only way to account rationally for so much swelling, crowing and strutting, is by comparing it all to the essentially human male vanity which delights in parading its prowess before the eyes of the female; and it is interesting to note how almost rational is the instinct of the male to utilize those points of physical perfection in which he most excels in courting the favor of his feathered lady-love. Those which, like the eagle and turkey, are strong and vigorous, display only their strength; those of gaudy plumage, their beauty; while those possessing little of either, but gifted with the power of song, rely wholly upon sweetness of sound.
The love-making of birds is very interesting, and has been closely observed by Forbes, Hudson, Schreiner and other naturalists; but is too extended a subject to enter on here. It may be remarked, however, that many of them, particularly the ostrich, have a strange habit of courtship known as waltzing. After running some distance, with extended wings, they will suddenly stop and begin to spin rapidly, until they become so giddy that they fall to the ground. Frequently very vicious cocks will "roll" when challenging to combat, or when wooing the hen, inflating the neck, drooping the tail, erecting the plume and expanding the wings in such a way as to display to the very best advantage whatever of beauty of plumage they may possess.