Typos p. 231: Nationnal [= National]; p. 231: prefering [= preferring]; p. 231: heresay [= hearsay]; p. 231: L'asymetrie de l'eroticsme male et femele cree des problemes insolubles [= L'asymétrie de l'éroticsme male et femelle crée des problèmes insolubles]; p. 232: concomittant [= concomitant]; p. 232: contsituting [= constituting]
Woman: man's equal *
Anthony M. Ludovici
The International Journal of Sexology 8, 195455, pp. 230233
- p. 230 -
In order to be quite fair, I shall try to substantiate this remark by a few outstanding examples. In Chap. 6, the author says of the granting of the franchise to women: "Surely there was no logical basis for excluding women from the vote." Here, the word "logical" has little meaning except as a quasi-learned term to intimidate all pusillanimous and uneducated objectors. For Logic is only a technique for ensuring sound reasoning. It assumes no principles or doctrines and postulates no premises as either wise or sound. It merely supplies the rules for drawing correct conclusions from premises already to hand. So that in order to be able to say that no "logical basis" existed "for excluding women from the vote" we should have to know what the premises were from which this conclusion was drawn, and then by the rules of logic determine whether it was rightly drawn. And strange to say, Sir Adolphe himself actually indicates that one at least of the available data on women's ability to vote, reflects serious doubt upon the conclusion in question; for he implies (Chap. 2) that since the subjectivity of women handicaps them for intellectual activities requiring great objectivity, this weakness should have stood against their being allowed to participate in any such objective undertakings as electing M.Ps. and serving on juries. So that we may suppose Sir Adolphe's logical reasoning to have run more or less as follows:
Voting, whether at Elections or at deliberations of juries requires great objectivity;
Women have no objectivity;
Therefore they are unfit to vote at Elections or deliberations of juries.
How can this be reconciled with the sentence quoted from Chap. 6? As I suggest, it is no more than a cant-phrase, which he has repeated (as all cant-phrases are repeated in England) without any serious thought whatsoever, merely as a means of scaring a possible opponent.
In the same Chap. 6, he makes another remark which also comes near to an empty cant-phrase. He says, "Historical sources indicate that women were superior to men in days of matriarchal culture."
But there are no such historical sources! Since the day when Bachofen in DAS MUTTERRECHT, through his misleading use of the term "gynokokratische Familienrecht", gave rise to the popular belief that merely matrilineal or matrilocal customs, whether in remote antiquity or among primitive races, argued some sort of feminine superiority and dominance, every ill-informed Feminist, male and female, has been fervently professing this popular belief, although anthropologists long ago abandoned it. It is therefore all the more surprising that a trained scientist in 1954 should still be able to subscribe to it, and seems to show that despite all their alleged "scientific" training, men of science, as I suggested years ago, are just as subject to the frivolous repetition of unfounded parrot-cries as are their less expensively educated fellows.
In Chap. 9, there is a further statement which, coming from a medical graduate above all, strikes a strange note, and the fact that it in no way conflicts with erroneous popular conceptions about women, now prevalent in England, entitles one to class it as merely popular clap-trap.
"If women are allowed unrestricted entry into all types of work," says Sir Adolphe, "on equal terms with men, they may well find marriage less attractive and a consequent fall in the birth-rate may become a national danger."
Boiled down to essentials, this amounts to subscribing to a belief, acceptable only to slap-dash thinkers, although much too common in sexphobic England, that marriage for women is "attractive" merely as an economic solution of their lives. But surely it was the duty of a medical man to point out what even poor ignorant girls all over England are left to discover for themselves viz., that marriage is first and foremost a biological solution of their lives. Its economic aspects are secondary, even if the biological solution may sometimes be contingent on the satisfactory
* Sir Adolphe Abrahams, M.D., Woman: Man's Equal, London: Christopher Johnson, Crn. 8vo. Pp. 176, Price: 10/6.
Truth to tell, even ignorant young women from whom the scientific grounds for this conclusion have been withheld by our Nationnal Health Service, still fortunately decide the issue instinctively in favour of the biological solution. But to imply, as Sir Adolphe does, without qualification or even a proviso to the effect that his words apply only to those women (now admittedly numerous in England) whose psycho-physical condition would make marriage a serious risk for them to imply that economic security may make marriage "less attractive" to women, is to throw the weight of his scientific authority on the side of a tendency already too prevalent in this country, ill-informed as it is especially regarding the profound disparity of the sexual functions of Man and Woman, to relegate the importance of the normal reproductive functioning of the female to the background. This may be popular and harmonize with popular misconceptions; but it is not sound science.
Finally for I have deliberately selected only the more glaring of Sir Adolphe's unconscious borrowings from popular opinion in Chap. 12 our medical Knight assures us that in marriage "both partners try to find the corrective of their own defects, each prefering a temperament the reverse of their own if their temperament is a decided one. The union of really complementary opposites results in perfect harmony."
To every word of which every serious student of modern matrimony can heartily and unhesitatingly cry: "Trash!"
But and here I reiterate my original stricture it is strictly popular trash; for there is hardly a nit-wit in England to-day, male or female, who, despite countless episodes at home that have proved beyond all doubt that disparities in temperament and character have been responsible for the worst of their quarrels and hatreds, does not believe it, or has not been taught to believe it, or whose unaided slap-dash intellect would not lead him or her to a similar conclusion.
I have certainly heard this scientific heresay stated as solemn truth ever since I was a child. And yet it does not even require to be narrowly scrutinized in order to be classed immediately as a myth: for it has not a fact or a figure to support it. It is sheer Bunkum. Unfortunately it is not an innocuous form of Bunkum; because it leads thousands, not to say millions, of ignoramuses into tragic error.
The fact is, that the incompatibility of the sexes is great enough already without any need of widening the gulf to which it gives rise by adding further incompatibilities of temperament, type, training, taste and tradition.
When Simone de Beauvoir, as I have already pointed out in these pages, observed that "L'asymetrie de l'eroticsme male et femele cree des problemes insolubles," she was not exaggerating. Are we to aggravate the difficulties of the situation by multiplying the asymmetries?
As a medical man, Sir Adolphe is aware of the sometimes fatal results that arise from incompatibilities of blood and from disparities in the morphology of couples (apart of course from those dependent upon sex). He must also be aware of that form of disparity between couples which may extend even to the point of making conception impossible although both parties are normally constituted. Thus, Dr. G. I. M. Swyer, speaking of "the wife's cervical hostility to the husband's semen", mentions cases "where the husband's spermatozoa, though unable to invade his wife's mucus, can invade someone else's; while his wife's mucus may be readily invaded by someone else's spermatozoa a veritable and baffling form of marital incompatibility!" Dr. Swyer adds "that occasionally incompatibility may exist between the gametes themselves, the husband's spermatozoa being unable to fertilize his wife's ova." (REPRODUCTION AND SEX, 1954, Chaps. XII & XIII). These are extreme cases. There must, however, be innumerable gradations of incompatibility leading up to these critical consequences of it, which are nevertheless serious enough to be the cause of both physical and psychological conflict and friction. It is as if Nature herself here warned us against the consequences of unlikeness in mating. For we now know the swindle that Socrates tried to perpetrate, and no longer believe that body and "soul" can be separated and treated as independent one of the other. Therefore, we do not require to be told that for every disparity in the physical, there is an equivalent disparity in the psychological, sphere. But if the former disparities are known to be harmful, what entitles us to postulate that the latter are harmless and do not lead to serious conflict? Everybody, in fact, knows that they do lead to conflict. But Sir Adolphe's amiable myth about complementary opposites and the harmony they generate, helps us to forget and overlook the deplorable state of extreme differentiation which every one of us, as
Is it possible that Sir Adolphe has never heard of the untoward results of associating incompatible types in schools and lunatic asylums, where, presumably, the inmates by being less controlled and more subjective than either adults or sane people, arc more prone to react unfavourably to provocative stimuli? The fact that they do react unfavourably however, indicates that the stimuli are provocative. At any rate, Dr. Shelden "has pointed to the danger of indiscriminately mixing children of different types in schools"; whilst Dr. M. S. Sullivan "has written of the particularly good results obtained in acute cases of schizophrenia by the simple device of providing the patients in asylums with attendants who are themselves of schizothymic type."
Besides, has it never occurred to Sir Adolphe to ask himself whether there might possibly be some connection between the staggering increase in divorces and marital separations which lie notices, and the concomittant vast increase in recent times of type-miscegenation? How the conspicuous differentiation of individual men and women has come about in England, to the extent of making every one of us well-nigh unique of his or her kind, has not yet been satisfactorily explained. It may be that the stupendous development of transport facilities in recent times has been a substantial contributory cause and that the unwise stress laid on "LOVE" as a sufficient pretext for a life union has been another. For this "LOVE" which is too often merely a sudden impulse of LUST, unsupported by any deep mutual sympathies based in affinities of psycho-physical constitution, is quickly dissipated, only to leave disillusionment and bitterness behind.
Be the cause what it may, however, the fact remains that to-day we are all so sharply differentiated that even siblings arc often as divided by insuperable barriers of individual characteristics as arc utter strangers. Now, Sir Adolphe must have noticed this fact. He would certainly have noticed it in a flock of sheep or a poultry yard. Has he never on his walks or travels about England, observed the striking disparities of type, size, pigmentation, build, endocrine equipment etc., that are too often displayed by married and engaged couples? And, having noticed this, has it never occurred to him to notice further that modern England is populated by males and females so extremely atomized by disparities between every possible bodily character that even if a poor girl did try to seek her psycho-physical affinity, in order to ensure the real harmony of human association, and even if a poor young man tried to do the same, both would, as things are, find it quite impossible?
Then, following this line of reasoning might not Sir Adolphe have been led to suspect that even differences of language are as nothing compared with the barriers of incomprehension and bewilderment that confront a spouse whose mate, in pursuance of his or her unique psycho-physical make-up, suddenly behaves in a way for which the contemplating party can find no key, no clue, in his or her own personality?
Truth to tell, there is much evidence to show that among people so nearly standardized as to present the minimum of disparities (apart of course from those inseparable from sex and the constant individual variation usual in Nature) between couples, happiness in marriage and a low incidence of divorce and separation de corpes, are much more common than among a people like ourselves, each of whom is a unicum quite unable to meet or marry his or her affinity.
Even from the point of view of the offspring of these modern disparate couples, the policy of mating "complementary opposites" is equally deplorable. For, as Sir Adolphe should know, most parts of the human organism are inherited independently from either of the two parents. Consequently, unless the separate sources from which a child derives its various and multifarious characters are approximately standardized and uniform as to type etc., it cannot be free from more or less pronounced disproportions and disharmonies, which not only interfere with smooth and uneventful functioning, psychological serenity and integration, but also impair looks and comeliness of build. The fact, for instance, that the shape of the human nose may be determined by "four hereditary factors inherited independently" provides an explanation of the strange phenomenon, noticeable by any attentive observer, of the frequent plainness, not to say actual ugliness, of children of parents who individually are quite good-looking in their disparate way. The same may be said of the ears, the shape and length of which "are controlled by many different independent hereditary factors"; whilst we are assured that the chin is also probably inherited independently of the parts contsituting the angle of the jaw. When we consider these facts alone, we are better able to understand the reason of the pervasive plainness, often extending to repellent ugliness, of modern Western people, including the English, who have long been mating disparately as regards type, stature, endocrine equipment, pigmentation, body build etc. Nor can we doubt that similar disharmonies, concealed but nevertheless unfavourable, are dispersed over the whole organisms of people thus bred. When, therefore, Sir Adolphe grasps these important facts, he will need to be an exceptionally stubborn and hidebound Socratic, if
Where, in any case, is Sir Adolphe's evidence in favour of the popular cant belief about "complementary opposites" and the "perfect harmony" they are supposed to secure? It does not exist. All the evidence points the other way. But, apparently, Sir Adolphe is so susceptible to infection from cant-phrases, that he quite inadvertently gives them the hallmark of his scientific authority. But most scientists are doing the same. He is by no means the only sinner. Prevailing public opinion ultimately overpowers even the men who have been trained to think inductively and to rely rather on facts than upon popular sentiment and myth.
All this is not to say that Sir Adolphe writes in the same superficial way all the time. He does not. There is much wisdom distributed over his pages, even if it is not always original. It was refreshing, for instance, to come across one modern Englishman, who has been able to resist the temptation to use the tag about "a sense of humour". For nowhere does he state, as everybody else with lavish sequaciousness now does, that a sense of humour is necessary for conjugal harmony, or that a lack of it spells conjugal disaster. Like myself, he has probably known too many divorcees with aggressive senses of humour any longer to subscribe to that modern racket. This was indeed an immense relief, as one gets positively cloyed with the incessant repetition in all modern literature about the desirability of a sense of humour and the extreme virtue of those who possess it. In one book recently read, I found 18 remarks of this sort. Here again, we have a popular cant-phrase that no one dreams of scrutinizing narrowly, least of all of doubting, before he repeats it. By the fact that he does not use it Sir Adolphe achieves a rare and highly creditable distinction. It is all the greater pity, therefore, that where in other respects he is equally wise and anti-popular, he is not more bold, outspoken, insistent and emphatic; and where he is original, as in the use of the plural "genii" for "geniuses" he is not more sure of his ground.
In conclusion it is perhaps necessary to state that I have gone to the trouble of expatiating at what may appear disproportionate lengths on the blemishes of his latest work, not because I find any pleasure in mere captiousness, but because I feel that a man who has reached Sir Adolphe's undoubted eminence should regard it as incumbent upon him, especially as a scientist and in respect of sexology, concerning which there is still too much resolute ignorance in England, to be most punctilious about both his language and his teaching, and prefer to remain silent rather than to give the impression that a popular tag about an important matter contains or conveys the whole truth about it.