Modern Methods Of Sex Education
( Originally Published 1940 )
For the majority of parents and teachers the sexual life is a terrifying apparition: for sexual maturity makes young people not only energetic and independent, but often obstinate as well; and what is to be done then? Even in adolescence it is difficult to direct the awakening sexual life; and how easily later on may a quite unexpected caprice of love suddenly spoil everything that has been so laboriously attained by a careful education! Most parents try to keep their children ignorant and naive in this respect as long as possible; they would be glad if children would always remain children.
But children soon become aware of this negative standpoint and then lose all confidence in their parents; they feel instinctively that the parents have not really got the good of their children in view, but are rather obeying a traditional dogma which is hated by the children and drives them to resistance. They now begin to seek explanations elsewhere, and are most likely to get them from impure sources. But they keep all this a secret from their parents, and when the latter notice evil tendencies in their children, the proper time for their protection is already past.
Has not the time arrived when parents should be reasonable, and instead of honouring the rule to "hide whatever you can," should at last do the contrary, and develop, ennoble and further the sexual life and direct it into the proper paths! Young people would then be able to trust their parents and prize their advice in all things; and if they perhaps made one false step, they would be honest about it to their parents, and would never be so depressed as is now so often the case.
With boys an asexual training almost always fails; with girls, owing to the more hidden situation of their organs, it often succeeds only too well. Thus unnatural, weak-minded girls are brought up, who remain children even when grown up; and having been purposely kept in such ignorant simplicity, as soon as they are exposed to the temptations of ordinary life, they fall only too easy victims to the seducer. I have often seen such cases in rescue work among unmarried mothers.
And then when these ignorant girls marry they may be very unhappy; this does not only occur in novels. Medical men often see cases like the following, especially in strict Catholic circles.
A young lady was brought up from childhood to regard everything sexual with horror, and soon after leaving a strictly kept boarding school, she married. The moment she was married, she was frightened by her husband's sexuality, he was rough, brutal and vulgar, as she had learnt to fear. The first night was a night of tears; the bride felt deeply wounded and insulted; for years she bore the unbearable with the resignation of a martyr...until at last a distant relative appeared, who understood her better, comforted her, fell in love with her, and gradually awakened a reciprocal passion in her.
These are the fruits of such a carefully guarded training! And it must not be thought that this is an exceptional case, or that I have painted it too black. Extraordinary and almost incredible, is another incident which actually happened a few years ago in the village of H...
In this case a little girl was perhaps three years old when her mother had a little baby boy. The girl was already no doubt imbued with the idea that a certain organ was something very improper and shameful. Imagine, however, the mother's horror, when she came into the room one day, to find during her absence the little girl had cut off her baby brother's member with the scissors! In the child's mind it was quite logical to remove what was hateful and wrong! A neighbor was called, from whom I learnt the whole story later, but the poor little infant bled to death in a few minutes. What a warning against such teaching!
Poor parents who in entire ignorance of the beauty and sacredness of the sexual life, are so naive as to choose a foundation on which to build the honour and chastity of their sons, a horror of everything that is naked or strange, or that excites a feeling of immodesty! They forget that as soon as their sons have learnt to understand this association of repulsion and pleasure, the repulsion will more easily turn to pleasure than the pleasure to repulsion. Indeed, then it will be the more repulsive and dirty the more pleasurable. Thus it happens when the parents try to be more clever than Nature. And if the normal sexual act is constantly represented to them as something so repulsive, they will be led to prefer masturbation and homosexual practices.
Sexual education is only a part, though a very important part, of our whole education. We should master our reflexes; first in ourselves and then in little children.
In the very first days of its life the doctor often notices quite well that the tiny baby is spoilt and tended immoderately, that it is nursed and fed the moment it cries, even when it cries because it has been given too much! How can people expect that the little one will be able to control its reflexes later on?
The usual rules of bodily cleanliness prepare us for sexual purity.
With regard to his childish erections, the little boy may be taught later from what accidental causes these may arise, although at this age no sexual need exists; he will then later on not fall into the general error of which we spoke in Chapter 20.
He should learn to control himself in the years of puberty; he who cannot force himself to continence in his youth, feels miser-able later when he is married. And the younger one acquires this virtue the better; for the more one is accustomed to indulgence the harder will he find the task.
To what extent one should demand absolute, and to what extent rational standards when the sons are grown to manhood, is one of the most difficult questions the parents must decide for themselves. Views on this question and our ideals differ too greatly for any general rule to be laid down.
Control is the first educational step towards inculcating good habits in children; we have already shown in Chapter 34 how their own free will can be directed into the right paths. That this task is so difficult and always only partly successful, is due to the intricacy of the problem. So we must be satisfied even with partial success. And in regard to many points, each generation must go a step further than its fathers and forefathers went. This often appears to us to indicate a failure, but it really gives the best proof that our training was right.
In this work we have dealt with *lost sexual details in their proper order. The most effective method for all sexual education is the co-education of both sexes from the very beginning. We often think this to be a modern ideal, but in reality it is only what we nearly all had, when we grew up in a family as boys and girls together, to the great advantage of both. Only now this same principle is to be carried a little farther; education as a whole has become more of a public institution.
The artificial separation of the sexes during childhood is one of the greatest mistakes of the dualistic view of life, recalling the medieval monastic ideals.
Practically it is a very convenient way of simplifying super-vision. But it artificially excites curiosity, and provokes an exaggerated sexual consciousness. And precisely on account of the diminished necessity for supervision, other evils often flourish unhindered.
Fortunately this artificial separation is less practiced in recent times. This is more necessary because the number of children in families is on the average less than formerly, and so it becomes less common for many brothers and sisters to be brought up together at home. So much the better, for to grow up with other children gives much broader education, and a better preparation for all the social virtues, than the former narrow-minded family egotism, when "we" and other children were sharply contrasted.
Especially during adolescence, in the grammar-school or the college, and later at the university, during the last century co-education has brought about a fundamental change in the mutual relationships of the sexes. In the good old times people spoke either of "friendship" or of "being in love," and the hero of many a novel worries himself with the question: "Is it love or friendship that I feel!" Now, however, every school-boy has 100 girl-friends, and every girl 100 man-friends, with all the intermediate stages from 1% of being in love and 99% of friendship, to 1% of friendship and 99% of being in love. And then there are scores of degrees of dislike as well ! And if finally one of them gets engaged it is generally with someone else altogether, or with one of whom he had always said: "I'm sure I can't bear her!"
Yet there are still people who are terribly afraid of co-education, and they talk about the most dreadful things that have happened as a consequence; yes, even of most shocking cases. As if terrible and shocking cases had never happened before the institution of co-education! Even between members of the same family one some-times sees the most ridiculous things.
Once when I was attending a dying infant, and the mother was standing by the cradle with me, I saw in a bed behind her a boy of about 8 and a girl of 5 (they were born in the East Indies) making the movements of coitus, quite naively, like lambkins playing in a meadow.
The same thing happens in older children.
I remember a well-to-do but somewhat. dissipated family, where the daughter had to be locked in her room every night because her brother would not let her alone. In another careless family the son was lying in bed with a broken leg in plaster bandages, and his grown-up sister was nursing him. One day when I called in unexpectedly, I found the big sister shamefacedly hiding under the bed-clothes instead of being on her chair at the bedside.
Of course, as long as children are children, they should be looked after, with or without co-education.
People who are entirely against co-education should not have more than one child in the family, but that would indeed be going too far, for nothing spoils a child's character more than loneliness and boredom. This is a far greater danger than co-education. Indeed, the proverb "loneliness is worse than vulgarity" is right. A babbling brook will often carry slime and dirt along with it, but a stagnant pond becomes ever more foul.
The opponents of co-education insist that children should only associate with their own sex, but then they would only get their first sexual impressions from members of their own sex, and we know how decisive first impressions are for the whole after-life. Thus the separation of the sexes is the surest method of confirming homosexual tendencies in young people, if they have any pre-disposition of that sort.
The difference in sex is specially shown in children by the difference in dress; but one should always display tact in this matter, not to draw attention to the difference too early or in too striking a manner. Only when the distinction is very discreetly made, is it a means of paving the way for the later essential distinction.
Most parents, however, are rather easily tempted to exaggerate the difference in sex somewhat too early.
Mamma finds it so delightful for little Louise to behave like a little coquette, or for tiny Karl in his first pair of breeches to stalk proudly up and down and imitate his father. Many parents go a step further and add to the unnecessarily exaggerated difference in dress, a difference in rights and duties, in the freedom of movement of the two children and even in the amount of pocket-money. So they purposely cause envy and disappointment on the one side and a brutally domineering spirit on the other. And all this because the parents thought it at first so funny.
It is still worse if the parents carry their nonsense with their children's clothes so far as to dress up a boy like a girl and curl his hair; they then run the danger of developing the failings of both sexes in him, and of making him a pert and arrogant creature. And if the girls are dressed Iike boys there is the same risk, but in this case there is at least the advantage that the girls get rid of a lot of prejudices, and are freed from many conventional and unhygienic restrictions.
Furthermore this formal duplicity may really disturb the sexual differentiation, which should never be artificially disturbed, especially if there is a possible homosexual tendency present. From Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld's celebrated book, "Die Tranvestiten" we see what a preponderant role dress plays in homosexuality. It is true, as we have seen in Chapter 4, that the sexual urge is a pre-disposition caused by particular organochemical substances, but this urge is not always so absolutely differentiated in the one or the other sense, that it may not be modified by youthful impressions, example, habit, training and self-training, and either diminished or reversed.
While we are on the subject of clothing I wish to mention that tightly fitting clothes should always be avoided for reasons of hygiene; there should be no tight bodices for girls nor tight trousers for boys.
Nor should the circulation in the pelvic organs be interfered with by too long sitting, as is often the case in schools. This not only occasions artificial irritation of the genitals, but also interferes with the metabolism in these organs, preventing them from properly developing, which is of such great importance for girls, because it may make child-bearing such a martyrdom in later life. For organs can only develop in proportion to their metabolism.
In this chapter we have spoken all the time of the parents, but this does not mean that they have the success of the education in their power. In the sexual sphere in particular, there are other influences of far-reaching effect which one cannot always anticipate. The older children grow, the less do they remain under their parents' influence, while economic and social influences make them-selves continually more felt.
The children's permanent character is only finally formed when they have to go out into the work-a-day world and struggle for existence. The parents have only been able to lay down the general lines. Pain and difficulties can never be avoided, and even a broken engagement may leave behind it a precious treasure of experience of life.