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Sex And Energy

( Originally Published 1936 )

DIABETES is a familiar and unemotional subject which will serve to introduce, by comparison, a subject which is made difficult with emotional involvements.

Diabetes is caused by the failure of the pancreas, one of the ductless glands, to manufacture sufficient insulin, the glandular secretion which helps the tissues to absorb digested starches and sugars. The diabetic patient has a great excess of sugar in his blood and yet he is ravenous because his tissues cannot feed themselves from this sugar. The entire system is upset because of the failure of this one gland.

Now, why did the pancreas fail ? There are various causes of diabetes, such as worry and nervous fatigue and several diseases. But foremost among causes is overeating. One authority states that 75% of diabetics have a history of overweight prior to the diabetic condition. In countries suffering from poor nutrition during the World War the number of diabetics decreased.

How does overeating cause the pancreas to fail ? It overworks it. The pancreas is a dual gland which also has ducts and manufactures a digestive fluid which is poured through these ducts into the duodenum. This is a complex fluid containing four important digestive enzymes : steapsin, which splits and emulsifies fat ; trypsin, which digests proteins ; amylopsin, which digests starches ; and a milk-curdling enzyme. An excess of almost any food, therefore, overworks the digestive function of the pancreas. The more energy you spend doing one thing the less you have for another, and that rule apparently is true also of the pancreas. When its digestive function is chronically over-worked it fails in its function of manufacturing insulin, its ductless secretion, and diabetes is the result.

Sexual excess.

The reproductive glands resemble the pancreas in that they have a dual function. They manufacture re-productive elements and liberate them through ducts ; another part of these glands, known as interstitial tissue, manufactures an internal secretion which goes into the blood. The reproductive elements are specifically for reproductive purposes and take no part in bodily economy. However, as in the pancreas, excessive production of the external secretion interferes with the manufacture of the internal or ductless secretion. Upon this fact hinges our first interest in sex as a factor which may be managed in such a way as either to increase or decrease energy. I shall treat it, as I have other things, purely in the light of increasing energy.

This internal secretion of the reproductive glands plays an important part in promoting oxidation, or the conversion of food into energy, and in that respect has a general effect upon all tissues and energies. The ox and the eunuch become fat instead of muscular, placid instead of vital and enthusiastic, indicating a general effect upon muscular growth and tone and upon what we might call spirit. The great changes in mind, body and emotion at adolescence indicate the tremendous part these internal secretions play in our lives. We do not yet know in detail how many parts are specifically affected, in how many ways, by these secretions. Only recently, for instance, it has been discovered that acne is sometimes caused by a shortage of these secretions. Some day we may know enough to diagnose and pre-scribe accurately in regard to sex and its hygiene and habits. To date we have not much accurate and de-tailed information concerning this popular subject, and no equivalent of insulin to medicate the results of pernicious habits.

But we have good general principles which can hardly lead us in the wrong direction. In their studies of eunuchs both Mobius and Varonoff stress lowered vitality, arrested emotional development, enfeeblement of mind and character. On the other hand, both Ter-man and Kirch report greater reproductive vigor among the intelligent classes than among the less intelligent. I think we have sufficient of such knowledge to apply in a general way toward selecting intelligent habits. Many years of study and observation lead me to believe that some of the milder eunuchoid characteristics which are fairly prevalent, the soft bodies and unenthusiastic minds, are caused by careless sexual habits. And I have made experiments which show that restraint will contribute to physical energy and mental enthusiasm. On that general basis I think we are safe in making some practical application.

In all fairness I must mention that some of the results which seem to be due specifically to sex are more general results arising from the co-operative relation of sex in the chain of energy glands. For instance, when acne is caused by poor reproductive function it is usually treated by giving the patient pituitary extract, since this stimulates reproductive function. The thyroid also works co-operatively with the reproductive glands and is thought by some to have once been a reproductive gland. The adrenal cortex arises from the same embryological source as the reproductive glands and resembles them histologically. Weakness of any of these glands therefore affects the reproductive glands, and conversely a weakness of the reproductive glands affects the rest of the chain. While this may mean that apparent sexual weaknesses are sometimes due to thyroid failure, for example, it means that thyroid disturbances may also be caused by sexual weakness or habits. It reminds us that no part of the body can be isolated and considered for its own sake alone, and that it is not correct to think of sex as a function only for reproduction. It is this relation to other parts and functions which makes it wise to consider the total welfare, as well as sex in particular, in regulating our habits.

As I have inferred, sexual excess does reduce the internal secretion, and consequently all energies and functions to which reproductive vitality contributes. This has been common knowledge in a general way for a long time : the physical trainer, for instance, has known the impossibility of conditioning the débauché, even though he did not understand the part sex plays in creating muscular energy and tone. It is even known in some savage tribes where religious priests have used great extremes of excess to produce functional emasculation, or destruction of the cells of internal secretion, and all the characteristics of the eunuch. This ancient knowledge was first made scientific and traced to its source by Steinach, who got remarkable results in rejuvenation by cutting and tying the ducts which liberate the reproductive elements and therefore preventing excess in this direction with consequent increase of internal secretion. He reports cases where semi-invalids returned to hard labor.

Sexual expression.

This rule of restraint arrives at absurdity if carried to extremes, so now we turn to the balancing factor of sexual expression. This also may be managed in such a way as to offer returns of energy and impulsion. Restraint offers energy in what we might call a purely physical way by increasing the glandular chemistries of emotional energy. Happier sexual expression may be said to increase energy in a more psychological way, contributing to the stimulation of many pleasant and constructive emotions.

"Diet" once had a flavor of water and crusts. Now our nutritionists insist that we make food-pleasure a foremost aim of eating, that it is the greatest aid to digestion, and that wise eating will add to specific food pleasure even while contributing greatly to general welfare. Sex represents a somewhat parallel biological appetite, and must be treated in much the same way. The general aim must be in harmony with the specific aim.

I therefore take the stand that we should make sex a greater rather than a lesser specific pleasure, and that in so doing we shall gain greater energy and impulsion from it. It has been demonstrated many times that the greater the reward the harder a man not only will work, but the harder he actually can work. Sex, as one of the great life purposes and rewards, can through increased quality or desirability add to total vigor and will. The greater the aim we have for sex, the more we glorify it with rich sentiments, the more it awakens energy and enthusiasm for the attainment of that goal.

If that goal is a part of the larger life and ambition, which it almost necessarily is, then we may be said to harness the tremendous force of sex in behalf of the larger life ; to share the great impulsion of sex with the mind of relatively feeble impulsion.

To the contrary, if we nourish sentiments of disgust toward sex, or even reduce it to the level of a simple biological necessity, we lose both in sexual pleasure and in impelling force.

Thus it is that, even as in nutrition, wise manage-ment and ultimate pleasure are harmonious. They work together and not to defeat each other. Decent restraint certainly enhances the great consummation. The great consummation certainly makes it easier to resist the lesser for the greater promise. In this way we avoid the absurdity of both the ascetic and the promiscuous ideals, and make biology and aesthetics mutually contributory.

In case you should question this view on any philosophic or practical basis, I want to point out that my two fundamental principles amount to no more than an appeal for the intelligent control and guidance of sex toward its greater specific aim and our greater life aims in general. It amounts to no more, philosophically, than using the mind to select the best food habits. The only question raised is whether intelligence is a better directing agent than instinct. I am not going to pretend that the details involved by this view are very well known, and shall leave them rather general and pliable for individual application. I think intelligent thought in this direction will have good results, and that the bewildering details have often obscured the principles.

The method of restraint.

But we often know better than we manage to achieve, so let us consider the chief facts involved in the practical attainment of these suggested aims.

Restraint is really the wrong word to use regarding the control of sex. Suppose a bridge were washed out on one fork of a road and you had to prevent cars from entering that fork. Coming around the curve at sixty miles an hour on a wet night, cars would be difficult to stop. You will find it easier to flag traffic over to the other fork of the road.

That is pretty much what is to be done with reproductive energy when the straight road seems undesirable. It is real energy, and energy which is restless for an outlet, so it is easier to offer it another outlet in-stead of merely prohibiting outlet. That not only is easier, but achieves a major purpose of restraint by putting the energy to valuable use. In short, you throw your emotional enthusiasms into your work if you feel that you have too much sex but not enough success. The emotional enthusiasm leads all the glandular energies to that outlet, greatly reducing the probability that they will seek an instinctive outlet. And, since any enthusiasm is generally pleasant and occupies the mind, sex can be forgotten and pleasant feeling exchanged for the sullen or miserable reaction of sex in rebuke.

If this seems like a rhetorical flight, or a psychological fancy, let me point out the physiology of it. We have seen that the internal secretion of the reproductive glands is used by the entire body. This secretion also is responsible for sexual desire. It becomes obvious that if other parts call for an extra amount of this internal secretion to support extra activity, then there is less to support sexual desire. That view is widely accepted and needs no defense. You can use more or less sexual vitality for general purposes even as you can use more or less adrenal vitality.

Since interest follows attention, as we saw in the previous chapter, the simplest way to look at this rule of direction instead of restraint is that emotional energy largely follows attention. This is as true of sexual energy as it is of other glandular energies. If you think about food your mouth "waters" and you get hungry. If you are fat and wish to reduce, the first rule is not to think about food. The best way to do that is not to repeat, "I will not think about food —a thick steak and mashed potatoes with gravy — gosh, there I go — I will not think . . ." The best way to forget food is to get interested in something else. If you get sufficiently interested in something else you actually change the chemistry of desire ; your mouth gets dry and you may even forget to eat at the proper time. You have not prohibited desire ; you have for-gotten it and removed it. All emotional appetites follow this rule. On the other hand, if restraint is desired, it is sheer foolishness to turn the mind to sex and stimulate it. In short, the mind is a better guiding organ than prohibiting organ, and we work best and are happiest when action and mind work together in-stead of in opposition. I think one of our most common mistakes is disregarding this law and allowing ourselves "just to think about" things which we do not want to do. It adds unnecessary, often insurmountable, obstacles to choosing our actions.

It seems necessary to point out that this rule of keeping sex out of the mind can also be carried to extremes beyond the practical. Something of that sort has led people at times to absurd attempts to clothe sex in many yards of petticoats and shape it unbecomingly with hoops. While I think there is no doubt that unnecessary stimulation and temptation and commercial exploitation are undesirable, ordinary sense demands that we meet decency half way with decent minds of mature and sensible views. If the mind wishes, it can make a mountain out of an accidentally uncovered ankle. Furthermore, decent selection is as much an obligation of the individual as of the public censors and guardians, and supply will be only in pro-portion to individual demand.

Now I suppose I should say something about the delicate subject of how much restraint. It would be impossible to make exact rules without thousands of careful experiments, so other than a few general re-marks I must leave that to your own intelligence. Broadly speaking, restraint must be governed by ambition ; by ambition for sex in itself and by the amount of enthusiastic energy you want to divert to general ambition. Personally, I think the young person who has so fine an ideal for sex and so much enthusiastic interest and ambition that he has little desire or energy to waste, is to be envied his prospects for happiness and success. Older people who have established their interests and secured their place in the world are of course more ready to gather their fruits. At any age it is probably worth while to remember that it is easy to get in the habit of interpreting all restlessness as purely sexual desire, and that this may lead to habits which waste excess energy and enthusiasm as soon as they accrue. At least some of this surplus energy should be diverted to keep life and work on their toes, so to speak, instead of dull with fatigue and emotional lassitude.

The greatest sexual expression.

Achieving the greatest sexual success for its own sake is a still more difficult question which will have to be treated still more flexibly.

Even a general selection of the goals as love, marriage and the home can be confounded by many horrible examples. However, it seems inescapable that the horrible examples are made horrible largely by falling short of our feeling of what these institutions should be. Nor do we have to confine our definitions of these institutions to any one age, as men in all ages have tried these things in one form or another. If we have arrived at a fairly uniform application, it is likely that social evolution has been more adapted to the needs of man than otherwise. I know that some have held that these forms are forced upon us by society because they are the only practical forms which we have discovered. But that leads us to ask why they are practical forms, and the answer is probably because they are best suited to the nature of man.

Of his own accord man has gravitated toward these things, his monogamous sentiments on the one hand enforced by rivalries and jealousies on the other, so there is no reason to call them artificial notions of a civilized morality. And nothing has been more perennial in arts and letters than the dream of love, so we may also list that as an integral part of the cultural man : it is the meeting ground of mind and instinct, enriching both.

Modern sciences have explained some of the values of these institutions. Love is defined as a sentiment weaving sex into a larger and more satisfying fabric than simple animal desire, so that for love we build castles where animals burrow in the mud for passion. Marriage and children and the resultant family give an outlet to the many branches of the reproductive instinct beside passion, and from this variety come greater returns and a safe division of passionate intensity. The home of course has more scientific champions every day : times have grown more gregarious than they began and the home represents almost the last strong-hold of individuality, the modern substitute for the primeval cave where a man owned and ruled his own world and could speak his true mind. Apart from these defences based upon instinct, modern sciences of course trace considerable of our culture and progress to the influences of the social forms which the reproductive instinct has evolved.

At any rate, I am going to take the stand that progress in this direction will probably be a perfection of these forms rather than a discovery of better ones. Naturally, they are the most general of outlines and your individual intelligence will have to modify them to fit.

Making them fit exactly is a matter as long and involved as life. Sexual success exists, as any art or success, only as a possibility to be achieved. I believe that if we think of it as an achievement, and as a worthy and desirable achievement, and make just a little pro-vision for achieving it rather than believing the popular song about "love will come to everyone, the best things in life are free," then we shall do a lot better with very little effort.

I am not going to tell you how to fall in love or anything like that. The important thing to remind people, it seems to me, is that we should keep sexual success a possibility and not do things which make it an impossibility. Since the greater successes of this instinct are based upon the simple subject of sex, our attainment of them depends much upon our feeling toward sex. Nourishing a mental attitude that sex is anything but fine and beautiful, or having sexual experiences which impress us as other than those, are the chief things which make sex less than it should be, less worth striving for and less worth having when attained.

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