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Modern Views of Sexual Emotion - Emil Lucka

( Originally Published 1957 )

Lucka is the historian of sexual love. He was chiefly interested in the evolution, from its beginnings, of the sex relationship. Writing at a time (1915) when, as he said, ". . . all the world is content to look upon the sexual impulse as the source of all erotic emotion, and to regard love as nothing more nor less than its most exquisite radiation," (26) he saw himself as "hopelessly `old-fashioned'," in his idea that amorous emotion was, instead, altogether independent of the sexual impulse.

The key to Lucka's thinking is similar to that of Moll's. The genital impulse, at first without direction, on the one hand, and personalized interest in the opposite sex, on the other, appear during growth as separate experiences, different in quality. They finally merge into harmonious union when, and if, sexual maturity in ideal form is reached.

It is the historical form of this development that makes the theme of his book, Eros. In the beginning was the sexual impulse; the early world knew nothing else, he thinks, between man and woman. In its primitive form it was impersonal sensuality, without trace of tendency to fix enduringly upon a particular person. There was little awareness of individuality. During the Middle Ages "something unprecedented, something of which the race had as yet no experience," appeared. It was a new emotion, distinct from sensual interest. In the arousal of this emotion, the personality of the loved one was the supreme factor, and the entire goal of desire. This development was it-self, according to Lucka, a consequence of the emergence, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, of a heightened awareness of the meaning and value of personal individuality. Only in a society highly conscious of individuality could modern sexual love arise. The absence of such consciousness in the Orient, and in western antiquity is, he thinks, the chief reason for the absence of this emotion in these cultures.

The new emotion of "chaste love" first appeared (as has often been told) in the lyrics of the early troubadours. The personalized and the sensual emotions could not be reconciled, and became deeply opposed. Very different moral values became linked with them: nobility of character with one, baseness and carnality with the other. The conflict continued; "spiritual" and sensual feelings could not be blended: they could not even be centered upon the same person. Amorous emotion became adoration, and acquired a religious flavor. It was during the eighteenth century, Lucka thinks, that the final phase began, with the appearance of "a tendency to find the sole source of every erotic emotion in the personality of the beloved," and to fuse sensual and spiritual desire into a harmonious whole. It was "personality" that was to "knit body and soul together in a higher synthesis." The first signs of this trend, which led to the modern sentiment, may be traced, Lucka finds, in the writings of Rousseau and of Goethe.

The completely modern as well as emotionally complete sexual relationship is one in which personalized amorous and sensual feelings are blended so fully that the line between them vanishes. This union of the physical and the personal is the ultimate erotic ideal. In its highest, and by no means rare, form ". . . the bodily union is not realized as anything distinct ... it does not occupy a prominent position in the complex of love; sensuous pleasure, the universal inheritance from the animal world, has been vanquished by personality."

None of this, however, has reference to woman. The evolution of sex emotion was exclusively a phase of male psychology. Woman's sexuality has no history; she has always been as she is now. Her lover was "never merely a means for the gratification of the senses, nor, on the other hand, a higher being to whom she looked up and whom she worshipped with a purely spiritual love; but at all times he possessed her undivided love, unable in its naive simplicity to differentiate between body and soul. . . . She is hardly conscious of the chasm between sexual instinct and personal love." (30) The fusion of sensual and amorous feeling, which evolved so slowly in man, has always been part of woman's emotional nature. Exceptions to this among women, Lucka thinks, may be viewed as deviations from sexual normality.

The study offers several points of interest. The proposal that sexual love is not a universal and aged "instinct," but a new and fairly recent appearance in human experience, was anticipated by Finck. Evidence that genital and amorous feelings appear separately during childhood and youth will be reviewed at a later place. The suggestion that there is a kind of conflict between them will also be encountered again. Lucka not only regards them as unlike but tends to treat them as "opposed principles." He speaks of the genital impulse as being "neutralized" by amorous feeling, and of the "triumph" of one over the other. As he sees it, the conflict, in its history, was grounded on religion and on morals. Whether it is really to be traced to these sources or may have a deeper root in sex aesthetics is an issue not touched in Lucka's treatment.

The steady emphasis on "personality" in Lucka's discussion raises another and more vital question: exactly what is it about personality that becomes "the sole . . . source of eroticism?" Are we to suppose that the traits he stresses, like "virtue," purity and kindness, somehow become, in themselves, sources of amorous arousal when linked with a difference in sex? We can hardly assume that kindness, in itself, may arouse a sexual (amorous) emotion, and it has yet to be shown that the appreciation of virtues of character is equivalent to being "in love." Something appears to be missing here, hidden somewhere in the term "personality." No answer will be found, how-ever, if we take this word, as so often it is taken, to mean a mysterious kind of personal influence that cannot be analyzed. If the "love factor" is somehow contained in the whole of personality, then we need to know in what way these wholes differ that some of them are amorously attractive while others are not. If the factor lies in a particular trait or trait complex, then these will need to be specified as far as possible.

On these matters Lucka provides no enlightenment. Seemingly he prefers to regard individuality as an unapproachable and somewhat sacred mystery. Its wholeness is not to be violated. It is the personality of the beloved, he states, "regardless as to whether she be the bringer of weal or woe, whether she be good or evil, beautiful or plain, wise or foolish," that is the sole essential source of attraction. Such a statement, in the very effort to exalt "personality," robs the term of its meaning.

The aesthetic factor, which has been given so prominent a place in some sex psychologies, is almost lost to view here. "Aesthetic pleasure in the beauty of the human form," comprises, along with the genital impulse, only the first and most primitive phase of development, when individualized feeling is largely absent. Lucka makes a brief statement concerning the relative status of the sexes but finds no further meaning in it. This is: that the first period of sex evolution is one of male dominance; the second (woman-worship ), of submissiveness of man to woman, while the last is one of equality of the sexes.

Lucka has traced with rich illustration some of the history of the amorous emotion, but leaves its psychological sources obscure.

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