CHAPTER I. SEX
The happiness of all human beings, men and women, depends largely on their rational solution of the sexual problem. Sex and the part it plays in human life cannot be ignored. In the case of animals sex plays a simpler and less complex rôle. It is a purely natural and instinctive function whose underlying purpose is the perpetuation of the species. It is not complicated by the many incidental phenomena which result, in man's case, from psychologic, economic, moral and religious causes. Climate, social conditions, individual modes of life and work, alcohol, wealth and poverty, and other factors affect sexual activity in human beings.
Sexual love, which is practically unknown to the animals, is a special development of the sex urge in the human soul. The deeper purpose of the sex function in human beings, likewise, is procreation, the reproduction of species.
The average man, woman and child should know the essential sex facts in order to be able to deal with the sex problems of life. Of late years there has been a greater diffusion of such knowledge. To a large extent, however, children and adolescents are still taught to look on all that pertains to sex as something shameful and immodest, something not to be discussed. Sex is an “Avoided Subject.”
This is fundamentally wrong. Sex affects the very root of all human life. Its activities are not obscene, but Nature's own means to certain legitimate ends. The sex functions, when properly controlled and led into the proper channels, are a most essential and legitimate form of physical self-expression. The veil of secrecy with which they are so often shrouded tends to create an altogether false impression regarding them. This discussion of these “Avoided Subjects,” in “Plain English,” is intended to give the salient facts regarding sex in a direct, straightforward manner, bearing in mind the true purpose of normal sex activities.
The more we know of the facts of sex, the right and normal part sex activities play in life, and all that tends to abuse and degrade them, the better able we will be to make sex a factor for happiness in our own lives and that of our descendants. Mankind, for its own general good, must desire that reproduction—the real purpose of every sexual function—occur in such a way as to perpetuate its own best physical and mental qualities.
THE LAW OF PHYSICAL LIFE
It is a universal rule of physical life that every individual being undergoes a development which we know as its individual life and which, so far as its physical substance is concerned, ends with death. Death is the destruction of the greater part of this individual organism which, when death ensues, once more becomes lifeless matter. Only small portions of this matter, the germ cells, continue to live under certain conditions which nature has fixed.
The germ cell—as has been established by the microscope—is the tiny cell which in the lowest living organisms as well as in man himself, forms the unit of physical development. Yet even this tiny cell is already a highly organized and perfected thing. It is composed of the most widely differing elements which, taken together, form the so-called protoplasm or cellular substance. And for all life established in nature the cell remains the constant and unchanging form element. It comprises the cell-protoplasm and a nucleus imbedded in it whose substance is known as the nucleoplasm. The nucleus is the more important of the two and, so to say, governs the life of the cell-protoplasm.
The lower one-celled organisms in nature increase by division, just as do the individual cells of a more highly organized, many-celled order of living beings. And in all cases, though death or destruction of the cells is synonymous with the death or destruction of the living organism, the latter in most cases already has recreated itself by reproduction.
We will not go into the very complicated details of the actual process of the growth and division of the protoplasmic cells. It is enough to say that in the case of living creatures provided with more complicated organisms, such as the higher plants, animals and man, the little cell units divide and grow as they do in the case of the lower organisms. The fact is one which shows the intimate inner relationship of all living beings.
THE LADDER OF ORGANIC ASCENT
As we mount the ascending ladder of plant and animal life the unit-cell of the lower organisms is replaced by a great number of individual cells, which have grown together to form a completed whole. In this complete whole the cells, in accordance with the specific purpose for which they are intended, all have a different form and a different chemical composition. Thus it is that in the case of the plants leaves, flowers, buds, bark, branches and stems are formed, and in that of animals skin, intestines, glands, blood, muscles, nerves, brain and the organs of sense. In spite of the complicated nature of numerous organisms we find that many of them still possess the power of reproducing themselves by division or a process of “budding.” In the case of certain plants and animals, cell-groups grow together into a so-called “bud,” which later detaches itself from the parent body and forms a new individual living organism, as in the case of the polyps or the tubers in plant life.
A tree, for instance, may be grown from a graft which has been cut off and planted in the ground. And ants and bees which have not been fecundated are quite capable of laying eggs out of which develop perfect, well-formed descendants. This last process is called parthenogenesis. It is a process, however, which if carried on through several generations, ends in deterioration and degeneracy. In the case of the higher animals, vertebrates and man, such reproduction is an impossibility.
These higher types of animal life have been provided by nature with special organs of reproduction and reproductive glands whose secretions, when they are projected from the body under certain conditions, reproduce themselves, and increase and develop in such wise that the living organism from which they proceed is reproduced in practically its identical form. Thus it perpetuates the original type. Philosophically it may be said that these cells directly continue the life of the parents, so that death in reality only destroys a part of the individual. Every individual lives again in his offspring.
THE TRUE MISSION OF SEX
This rebirth of the individual in his descendants represents the true mission of sex where the human being is concerned. And reproduction, the perpetuation of the species, underlies all rightful and normal sex functions and activities. The actual physical process of reproduction, the details which initiate reproduction in the case of the human being, it seems unnecessary here to describe. In the animal world, into which the moral equation does not really enter, the facts of conjugation represent a simple and natural working-out of functional bodily laws, usually with a seasonal determination. But where man is concerned these facts are so largely made to serve the purposes of pruriency, so exploited to inflame the imagination in an undesirable and directly harmful way that they can be approached only with the utmost caution.
The intimate fact knowledge necessary in this connection is of a peculiarly personal and sacred nature, and represents information which is better communicated by the spoken than by the printed word. The wise father and mother are those naturally indicated to convey this information to their sons and daughters by word of mouth. By analogy, by fuller development and description of the reproductive processes of plant and animal life on which we have touched, the matter of human procreation may be approached. Parents should stress the point, when trying to present this subject to the youthful mind, that man's special functions are only a detail—albeit a most important one—in nature's vast plan for the propagation of life on earth. This will have the advantage of correcting a trend on the part of the imaginative boy or girl to lay too much stress on the part humanity plays in this great general reproductive scheme. It will lay weight on the fact that the functional workings of reproduction are not, primarily, a source of pleasure, but that—when safeguarded by the institution of matrimony, on which civilized social life is based—they stand for the observance of solemn duties and obligations, duties to church and state, and obligations to posterity. Hence, parents, in talking to their children about these matters should do so in a sober and instructive fashion. The attention of a mother, perhaps, need not be called to this. But fathers may be inclined, in many cases, to inform their sons without insisting that the information they give them is, in the final analysis, intended to be applied to lofty constructive purposes. They may, in their desire to speak practically, forget the moral values which should underlie this intimate information. Never should the spirit of levity intrude itself in these intimate personal sex colloquies. Restraint and decency should always mark them.
In making clear to the mind of youth the fact data which initiates and governs reproduction in animal and in human life, the ideal to be cultivated is continence, the refraining from all experimentation undertaken in a spirit of curiosity, until such time as a well-placed affection, sanctioned by the divine blessing, will justify a sane and normal exploitation of physical needs and urges in the matrimonial state. To this end hard bodily and mental work should be encouraged in the youth of both sexes. “Satan finds work for idle hands to do,” has special application in this connection, and a chaste and continent youth is usually the forerunner of a happy and contented marriage. And incidentally, a happy marriage is the best guarantee that reproduction, the carrying on of the species, will be morally and physically a success. Here, too, the fact should be strongly stressed that prostitution cannot be justified on any moral grounds. It represents a deliberate ignoring of the rightful function of sex, and the perversion of the sane and natural laws of reproduction. It is in marriage, in the sane and normal activities of that unit of our whole social system—the family—that reproduction develops nature's basic principle of perpetuation in the highest and worthiest manner, in obedience to laws humane and divine.