Ladies and Gentlemen,
sixteen years since I last delivered an address at an International
Congress in London. In 1913 there was held here a Congress of
biologists and medical men which was attended by many thousands of
distinguished scientists from all parts of the world. It was a
remarkable gathering, unforgettable by anyone who had the good fortune
to take part in it. To me, the most cherished memories are of meeting
so many distinguished personalities on that occasion. Three names stand
out above all others, the names of three great English men of Science
whose work is the more important because it was not only theoretically
sound, but has led to results of practical value. The first is that of
the distinguished Cambridge biologist, William Bateson, who gave a
memorable lecture on the principles of Mendelism, which he had recendy
re-discovered. The second is that of the noble old man, Edward
Carpenter, whose kindly eyes have recently closed for ever. The third
is that of Havelock Ellis, who is fortunately still with us, though
nowadays his work is done far from the hubbub of city demonstrations.
experience at that Congress has remained fixed in my memory. As Sir
Edward Grey, then a member of the Cabinet, was delivering his address
of welcome, the cry " Votes for Women " rang out through the Albert
Hall. Those of us who were foreigners were very interested in seeing
the famous "suffragettes ", about whom we had heard so much, and we were
rather amazed at the formidable array of police who had been provided
to deal with them and at the somewhat violent manner in which the
intruders were hustled from the hall.
That which at that time
was regarded as eccentric and Utopian has now come to be accepted as a
matter of course in nearly all civilized countries. How can we account
for this change ? The terrible catastrophe of the European War may have
contributed to accelerating the change in opinion, but it can scarcely
be said to have been responsible for it. The reasons for the change are
much more fundamental. They are based on the facts of Nature. The
Woman's Suffrage Movement has triumphed because the pioneers were able
to demonstrate that their claims were objectively valid : that the male
and female halves of the human race, each of which plays an equal part
in the production of the next generation are equally entitled to share
in all the public activities which serve the development of the race.
is no mere chance that the first of the demands made at the Copenhagen
Congress of the World League for Sexual Reform on a Scientific basis
runs as follows : " Political, economic and sexual equality of
men and women." This ideal has, as yet, by no means been attained in
all countries. We regard this demand as being based on the findings of
sexology. It is called for on sexual-biological grounds, not merely on
This brings me to the immediate
subject of my address, with which, as one of the three Presidents of
the W.L.S.R., it is my duty to open the present congress. My subject is
" The scope and various departments of sexology ".
has developed to the dignity of an independent science only since the
beginning of the present century. Its development was stimulated by die
publication somewhere about 1900 of a number of comprehensive books on
sex life. The three most deserving of mention are the Studies
Psychology of Sex, by Havelock Ellis, The Sexual
Question, by August
Forel, and the Sexual Life of our Time, by Iwan
Bloch. It was a fact of
some significance, but one which had certain unfortunate consequences
later, that the author of one of these books was a psychiatrist and of
another a specialist in venereal disease. But many other departments of
science besides these have made contributions to sexology. I may
mention genetics, embryology, endocrinology, gynecology
psycho-analysis, as well as general psychology, ethnology and sociology.
gradually became clear that the whole body of sexology could be
conveniently divided into four departments : (1) sexual biology; (2)
sexual pathology; (3) sexual ethnology; and (4) sexual sociology.
basis of sexual biology is sexual anatomy. This is concerned with the
structure of the actual sexual apparatus and also with all anatomical
differences between the sexes from the sperm and ovum up to every organ
on the body. Closely related to it we have sexual physiology, which has
for its subject all the sexual, functions and processes in the body. An
important branch is sexual chemistry, dealing with the effect of the
ductless glands on sexual processes. Another part of sexual biology is
sexual psychology. This has to deal not only with the afferent and
efferent nervous impulses relating to sex but also with die many
complicated relations between the sexual life and the mental life.
anatomy, sexual physiology and sexual psychology are chiefly concerned
with the adult human being. The human organism passes the greatest part
of its life in this condition and it is during this stage that it is
capable of creative energy in both the physical and the mental spheres.
It is therefore natural that we should be most interested in this stage
of life, but we should not forget that sexual evolution, the
psycho-physical development of the individual in sexual respects also
deserves attention. So also do the phenomena of sexual periodicity and
sexual involution. No less important than the sexual biology of the
individual is the study of comparative sexual biology, of the various
sexual types which exist. This is an indispensable part of sexology.
When we study the sexual evolution of the race we are struck, even more
forcibly than when considering the individual, with the important truth
that the fundamental law of all development is a simultaneous process
of improvement and differentiation.
The more deeply we study
the physiology of love the better we are able to judge what things
should be regarded as advantageous and what are disadvantageous, what
are harmful and what are not. This leads us to another department, that
of sexual hygiene. This is a subject which is in urgent need of
revision, for we cannot fail to see that much that has been written on
the subject (and there is a great deal) is not scientifically sound. An
important branch of sexual hygiene is the prevention of venereal
disease, sexual prophylaxis in the narrower sense of the word. Another
branch is eugenics which, although historically derived from genetics,
is closely related to sexology. It is necessary to refer only to "
sexual advisory bureaux ", which can only do sound work, whether they
are concerned with marriage or birth control, if those directing them
have a sound knowledge of sexual hygiene.
impulse departs very widely from the normal must be regarded as
unsuited either for marriage or for reproduction. Marriage is not a
cure-all. It is apt to be so regarded. The physician who recommends it
as such does more harm than he realizes, especially to the other party
to the marriage; this brings us to the next great branch of sexology,
which is that of sexual pathology.
Sexology would be
incomplete as a science if it failed to study those individuals whose
sexual life is abnormal. But we should not allow ourselves to be led
into overemphasizing this department of the subject by the circumstance
that it has been more extensively written about than any other
department since Krafft-Ebing's pioneer work Psychopathia
This has been due partly to the public interest aroused by certain
sensational criminal trials. The importance of sexual abnormalities
should not be exaggerated nor should it be underestimated. Above all
sexual abnormalities should not be ignored in a conspiracy of silence.
Even sexual minorities have certain rights.
venereal disease, which is a study in itself, sexual pathology is
concerned essentially with anomalies in the sexual impulse. Firstly, we
have those of strength (deficiency or excess); then come the abnormal
sexual constitutions, of which the infantile and the intersexual are
the most important.
It is often difficult to decide, and
indeed no definite objective principle can be laid down, as to whether
sexual abnormalities should be regarded as pathological or as
biological variations. Opinions on the subject vary with the
individual, indeed they vary almost as extensively as do the
abnormalities in question. It can however be stated as certain that
between the normal and pathological type there is a range of border
line cases which must be regarded as biological variations. The
dividing line may be drawn so as to make this class very extensive or
very limited. I believe that we should extend our idea of the range of
biological variations and limit the conception of pathological cases.
In this matter I follow Mantegazza rather than Lombroso.
view as to what is pathological and what is not, as to whether a sexual abnormality
is merely a variation or a sign of degeneracy is important both from the
therapeutic standpoint and from that of the criminal law.
This is seen in medical practice. Some practitioners try to "
cure ", others to help; some try to adjust the individual to society,
others to adapt life to the individual. But the attitude of the
legislator is still more dependent on the point of view taken in the
matter. Both a historical survey of the laws prevailing at different
times in one society and a geographical survey of those prevailing in
different societies at any one time shows a degree of variety which
proves that no objective principles have as yet been established in
this matter. Many sexual offences were punishable with death up to the
age of enlightenment at the end of the eighteenth century. After the
French Revolution they ceased to be regarded as offences at all. The
Council of Trent actually condemned all acts of sexual intercourse
other than those between parties who had been married in church.
third great department of sexology is sexual ethnology. This deals with
the sexual life of the human race from prehistoric times up to our own.
Such a study teaches us that in spite of all the restraints imposed
upon it sex has everywhere and at all times been the central fact,
around which the life of the individual and the community and all
cultural life has been built. But the laws which have existed at
different times and in different places vary extraordinarily and are
often contradictory. This applies both to written and to unwritten
laws, to customs and to ideas of morality. To find some fundamental
principle in this chaos is the task of the sexual sociologist. Morality
should not be dependent on accidents of time and place nor should it be
based on supernatural considerations. It should be based on what nature
teaches; and the mouthpiece of nature is science. A sexual ethics based
on science is the only sound system of ethics.
and sexual criminal law are two branches of sexual sociology. A third
is " sexual statesmanship ". This involves the provision of asexual
code dealing not only with marriage and divorce but all sexual
relations, including those of unmarried persons, the difficult problem
of prostitution, and above all the scientific regulation of birth.
then is the scope of sexology. We rejoice that this congress is being
held in a country in which many of the pioneers of sexology have lived
and worked. We may mention among many Malthus (the founder of
Malthusianism), Josephine Butler (the pioneer of " abolitionism"),
Charles Darwin, and Francis Galton (the founder of Eugenics). What
distinguished all of these great pioneers was their strong sense of
responsibility, their knowledge, and their serious purpose. These are
still the essential qualities for the student of sexology, which has
now become a broad stream from the confluence of its many tributaries.
is thirty years since I published my first modest contribution to
sexology, Sappho and Socrates, in 1896. On that
occasion I received two
letters from England which gave me great pleasure. One was from the
famous Oxford Sanskrit scholar, Max Muller, the other from Robert Ross,
the friend of Oscar Wilde. In those days ignorance was synonymous with
innocence, and silence on all sexual subjects was regarded as sacred.
Many changes have taken place since then and to-day we realize that in
sexual matters ignorance is not innocence but guilt, and that it is
our sacred duty to break through the conspiracy of silence. Francis
Bacon's famous saying, " Knowledge is power," is also true in this
In a lifelong fight against ignorance and injustice in
sexual matters I have had as my motto " Per scientiam ad justitiam ".
This aim has not yet been attained. But it shall be attained. The power
of truth once it has been recognized and spoken guarantees that it
shall be so. I conclude with the hope that this congress will mark a
step in the attainment of this ideal. I wish to thank all those who
have done so much and worked so energetically in preparation for it,
above all Dr. Norman Haire and Dora Russell. I hope that all those
present will always look back with pleasure on the days they spend here
in this wonderful and hospitable country. I declare the Third
International Congress for Sexual Reform on a Scientific Basis open.