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Modern Views of Sexual Emotion - Alfred Binet

( Originally Published 1957 )

Why are we attracted to one person rather than to another? The foremost question about sexual love concerns the motives that cause us to choose as we do, according to Binet. What inspires the amorous emotion is certainly not the desire for a genital contact. "It would be quite ridiculous to think that if men die for the love of a woman whom they are unable to possess, it is because they have sought of her, in vain, a small bodily sensation which the first woman who comes along would be able to give them." (4)

The truth of the matter is, Binet believes, that the amorous emotion cannot be satisfied in a directly physical way at all, and this is because it is, in its essence, the pursuit, the adoration and courtship, of beauty in its various sexual forms.

He hastens to add to this that "beauty" is a word with many meanings and that every person will interpret it in his own way. Each one of us has his own special preferences and susceptibilities in the matter of sexual attractiveness. Each one has his own "way of loving" as he has his way of thinking and of walking, and such preferences may sometimes be extraordinarily unlike those commonly exhibited. The attraction of beauty in this sense is not, however, entirely "aesthetic"; it is also related to genital excitement; there are actually two "orders" of sentiment here, and they often become mixed to the point where it is difficult to distinguish them. One of these orders is far more ancient than the other, and Binet here agrees with Ellis that the courtship displays which, among the lower animals, are preludes to mating, are sexual in a sense other than the aesthetic. Binet's distinction between two modes of sexual sensibility, and the tracing of amorous emotion to one of them, will be seen again in other sex psychologies. His highly important study of sexual choice will be considered in detail in the chap-ter to follow.

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