The Role Of Husband And Wife In The Sex Act
( Originally Published 1940 )
IT is far more distinctly recognisable in woman than in man, that the reproductive cells originate from a tumour, in this case, the ovary. Here there is no such system of excretory ducts as in a glandular function. Only after the egg-cell has reached the neighboring excretory system of the rudimentary pronephros do the same purely secretory processes take place as is man.
While in man the first escape of sperm-cells from the cell aggregation does not produce the least sensation or excitement, and sexual excitement is only felt after the seminal canals and vesicles have been subjected to considerable pressure; in the female organism on the contrary, a deep-seated stimulus must be produced, though perhaps an unconscious one, every time an egg-cell forces its way out of the ovarian tissue, like a tiny abscess (see chapter 3). This occasions discomfort and spasmodic pains, which are simply at. tributed to the troubles of menstruation. Furthermore, in the two egg-ducts and the uterine cavity the same secretory character as in man finds its expression, because the ovum mixes with the mucus, and later with mucus and blood from the genital passages. The uterine wall is far more muscular than the walls of the seminal vesicles; and on this account the monthly expulsion of the sexual discharge, composed of this mixture, may occasion the most severe spasmodic contractions.
It therefore results that in woman, no less than in man, the entire genital sphere works in a state of labile equilibrium, with muscular contractions and congestions; an ebb and flow manifested in man on a considerable scale by erections, but in woman on a smaller scale by the less striking erection of her clitoris. It is, however, a moot question in which of the two sexes the influences and stimuli are the more powerful and intimate!
The females of the lower animals give expression to these acute sensations of tension and pain by their peculiar cries; the cow for instance by a loud cry indistinguishable from her lowing when she wants to be milked.
But it is coitus which in woman, as in man, causes the deepest and most agreeable emotions. In both sexes this occurrence forms not only the climax of erection, but also the climax of the secretory function.
In extensive falling of the womb (prolapsus uteri) in which the mouth of the womb becomes visible, it has actually been observed under the influence of artificially induced sexual excitement, that a drop of mucus is first pressed out of this organ and then, on cessation of the uterine contractions, is aspirated again inwards. We thus see that at the critical moment a violent contraction of the uterus takes place, analogous to that of the seminal vesicles in the male.
This outward and inward movement of the drop of mucus, although certainly very efficacious in facilitating conception, is, however, not absolutely indispensable; for the sperm-cells are active enough to find their way up alone, even if they have only been deposited at the entrance to the vagina. It is not infrequent that a young girl is rendered pregnant, although she was not at all aware of having experienced proper coitus.
This condemns the so-called Spanish method as unreliable, a mode of copulating which is often used in Spain with the object of avoiding pregnancy, and officially tolerated by the Catholic church, because according to Aristotle the "virtus attractive" of the womb is sufficiently powerful to lead to conception if the semen is deposited anywhere in the vagina (Sanchez: "De sacramento matrimonii"). This mode of copulating consists of the following: just before the ejaculation the partners change their positions, so that instead of the woman's legs being spread apart, she holds them close together, and the man's are outside hers. Now if the woman squeezes her thighs close together it is impossible for the man to penetrate far inside.
And still more convincing are the cases, not at all infrequent, in which a woman finds herself pregnant although penetration into the vagina was quite impossible, either on account of the narrowness of the vagina or for some other reason.
In this connection it is most important to enquire whether in normal coitus the amount of fluid secreted by the female canal at the orgasm is not much greater than one would be inclined to think from the above-mentioned experiment. Reports of trials made with "Karezza," in which a much longer time of enjoyment is allowed the female partner, seem to me to bear this out.
Karezza, also called Zugessant's discovery, is a mode of copulation in which both partners lie so still in mental ecstasy, that there is no ejaculation at all; so that they can have intercourse in this way as often and as long as they like. Those who have practised it describe it as a continuous revclling in voluptuous sensation, just as in their courting days, though at that time they had never been able to have enough of it. But this practice is scarcely reliable enough to be classed as a preventive method; only the man can, when ultimately his feelings overpower him, use the so-called French method, and withdraw before late; or he may, as a guarantee against surprise, wear a sheath.
In any case the sperm-cells generally find a sufficiency of moisture within the walls of the vagina after sexual intercourse to enable them to swarm up, attracted also by the favourable thermic and chemotactic conditions. So it is easy to understand why the chances of impregnation are greatest when both partners experience the orgasm at the same moment.
And then if fertilisation really takes place it becomes apparent how much secretion the uterus may contain-far more than the seminal vesicles. Some nine months later, through overdistension, the muscular wall of this container is stimulated to contractions compared with which all the secretory activities of the male are but child's play.
The question, "To what extent in the sexual life of woman can the orgasm appear as abruptly as in man?" is, with many married couples, an extremely delicate one. We men always seem to think that there can he only one right mode of intercourse that gives satisfaction, and that is the method we are in the habit of practicing personally. We then expect the impossible from our wives; yet the excretory canal of the pronephros is quite different from that of the primordial kidney.
In the female organism the clitoris too has only a limited power of erection, consequently the orgasm never takes on the impetuous and violent character that it does with us men. And there is another difference too. Internally, instead of two tiny seminal vesicles, the woman possesses a large muscular organ of thick red muscle, the uterus. So it is not surprising that it takes much longer for her to reach the climax; but when once she reaches the congestive condition, and the nervous centre which actuates her uterine contractions is set in motion, her excitement will not be so easily calmed as that of man, who sinks immediately after he has reached the climax into a sort of impotence.
I am fully aware that there are certain women who reach their culminating point just as abruptly as men, and this may be accompanied by an internal sensation of pulsation; but in the majority of women the curve of voluptuous sensation follows another and more symmetrical course. If we make a graph of both curves we shall find that man's rises sharply to fall again, like the outline of the steeple of a church, while that of woman is a long and gradual curve like the indented roof of a cathedral, with wavy lines due to peristalsis. I therefore think it much better to give two different names to these manifestations in the two sexes, and to speak of the man's culminating point and the woman's sexual ecstasy.
A very profound difference in the sexes is here concerned, and in the ultimate consequences of the act of the coitus the essential differences may well be observed: as soon as the rapidly accomplished act is completed, the man is finished and is not personally concerned any further; but the woman now begins to feel first the anxiety of uncertainty, and later a world of maternal solicitude and devotion?
It is highly interesting to note in this connection that, as ethnography teaches us, in every case where there is a question of functional power, woman shows more staying capacity, while man is capable of a greater momentary effort. In the scheme of reproduction the sexual division of labour goes back to the hermaphroditic period; it is indeed the oldest division of labour in the world, and analogously in the history of man, the first economic division of labour was made when the man went hunting or fighting, while the woman stayed at home to keep things in order. So from the earliest times our sexual organisation has been the ruling factor in every detail of our lives. Indeed even before birth we see a picture of the sexual life in miniature, how manfully the sperm-cell marches forward, while the egg-cell stays quietly at home.
1 The Art of Sexual Love is essentially a readjustment of the sexual differences of man and wife to the end of reaching a mutual climax at the same time.