Surface indications of the truth of this statement are easily discovered. The literature which before the war ran riot with athletic heroines pictured them with wind-blown hair and flushed cheeks receiving the offer of their male companion’s heart and hand. The golf course or the summer camp was simply a charming new setting for the development of the eternal love theme. Even fashion has conspired to emphasize the feminine charm of the girl who goes in for sports, as a glance at the models of bathing costumes, silken sweaters, and graceful “sport” skirts plainly reveals.
Just as the love which is directed in accordance with an emotional reaction conditioned to respond to some erotic fetishism or to a parent ideal may be productive of individual unhappiness, so it is also entirely a matter of chance whether or not it leads to a eugenic mating. Like romantic love, it is quite as apt to focus upon a person who does not conform to eugenic ideals as upon one who does. The mate selected upon the basis of these unconscious motives is very likely to bequeath a neurotic constitution or an otherwise impaired physical organism to the offspring of the union, since those possibilities were not taken into consideration in making the choice.
It becomes apparent that while certain forces in the life of the individual and in the social inheritance have united to condition the emotional reactions of the sex life, these conditionings have not always been for the benefit of the race. Indeed, it would almost seem that society has been more concerned with the manner of expression of the love life in the individual members than in its effects upon the next generation. In its neglect or ignorance of the significance of artificial modifications of the emotions, it has permitted certain dysgenic influences to continue in the psychic life of generation after generation, regarding with the utmost placidity a process of sexual selection determined by irrational and irresponsible motives.
The most potent dysgenic influence in the present phase of the sex problem is the conflict between the interests of the individual and the group regulations. The traditional type of marriage and family life has a cramping effect upon the personal ambitions which lessens its attractiveness materially. The enterprising young business or professional man has no desire to restrict his opportunities by the assumption of the responsibilities that accompany family life. He must be free to stake all his resources on some favourable speculation without the thought that he cannot take chances on impoverishing his wife and children. Or if he has professional aspirations, he must be able to take the long difficult pathway of scientific research with no anxiety about the meagre salary that is insufficient for the support of a home. Thus the most vital and aggressive male stocks as well as the most highly intelligent tend to avoid the hampering effects of family life, and their qualities are often lost to the next generation, since even if they marry they will feel that they cannot afford offspring.