It may be added that a proper understanding of these sexual differences in men and women is of great importance, both in the practical management of sexual hygiene and in the comprehension of those wider psychological characteristics by which women differ from men.
THE SEXUAL INSTINCT IN SAVAGES.
In the eighteenth century, when savage tribes in various parts of the world first began to be visited, extravagantly romantic views widely prevailed as to the simple and idyllic lives led by primitive peoples. During the greater part of the nineteenth century the tendency of opinion was to the opposite extreme, and it became usual to insist on the degraded and licentious morals of savages.
In reality, however, savage life is just as little a prolonged debauch as a prolonged idyll. The inquiries of such writers as Westermarck, Frazer, and Crawley are tending to introduce a sounder conception of the actual, often highly complex, conditions of primitive life in its relations to the sexual instinct.
At the same time it is not difficult to account for the belief, widely spread during the nineteenth century, in the unbridled licentiousness of savages. In the first place, the doctrine of evolution inevitably created a prejudice in favor of such a view. It was assumed that modesty, chastity, and restraint were the finest and ultimate flowers of moral development; therefore at the beginnings of civilization we must needs expect to find the opposite of these things. Apart, however, from any mere prejudice of this kind, a superficial observation of the actual facts necessarily led to much misunderstanding. Just as the nakedness of many savage peoples led to the belief that they were lacking in modesty, although, as a matter of fact, modesty is more highly developed in savage life than in civilization, so the absence of our European rules of sexual behavior among savages led to the conclusion that they were abandoned to debauchery. The widespread custom of lending the wife under certain circumstances was especially regarded as indicating gross licentiousness. Moreover, even when intercourse was found to be free before marriage, scarcely any investigator sought to ascertain what amount of sexual intercourse this freedom involved. It was not clearly understood that such freedom must by no means be necessarily assumed to involve very frequent intercourse. Again, it often happened that no clear distinction was made between peoples contaminated by association with civilization, and peoples not so contaminated. For instance, when prostitution is attributed to a savage people we must usually suppose either that a mistake has been made or that the people in question have been degraded by intercourse with white peoples, for among unspoilt savages customs that can properly be called prostitution rarely prevail. Nor, indeed, would they be in harmony with the conditions of primitive life.