Third International Congress for Sexual Reform on a Scientific Basis
Second Congress of the World League for Sexual Reform (WLSR), London 1929



Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is 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.
Another 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.
It 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 sociological considerations.
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 ".
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 in the 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.
It 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.
The 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.
Sexual 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.
Persons whose 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 Sexualis. 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.
Leaving aside 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.
One's 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.
The 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.
Sexual 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.
Such 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.
It 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 field.
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.