Typos p. 4: Palæzoic [= Palæozoic]
- p. 3 -
The Inequality of the Sexes Part I
1 At all events the change in the structures in the male from the reptilian to the mammalian type is very far from being as complete as that of the female.
In this sense the mammalian female's rôle, with a great part of what it now signifies, is probably younger, more recent, more lately evolved than the male's. To put it in a nutshell, whereas the male function has been the fertilization of the female for say ten million, the female has been bringing forth her young alive and suckling them only for two million years. 1
Thus the male is probably the senior of the highest order of living creatures a conclusion strangely anticipated by the account of the creation in Genesis.
But the consequences of this difference are more interesting than the difference itself. For, in the first place, it means that the female's sex adaptation to the male alone is incalculably older than her extended sex adaptation to her live progeny. And, if we attempt to trace the changes that came over her life through the modifications in her structure and functions which constituted her a member of the mammalian order, we shall see that they were not only far-reaching but also differentiated her very much more than she had been differentiated theretofore, from the male of her species.
During the existence of the reptilian and reptiloid quadrupeds which inhabited the earth in the Palæzoic and Mesozoic ages, the egg-laying female led a life which, for independence of action and freedom from bodily constraints, was presumably very much more like that of her male partner than it became after the appearance of the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous mammals. She probably left her eggs to be hatched by the sun, and, caring no more about them, shared her partner's wanderings and other adventures, almost like another
1 These figures bear no relation whatsoever to facts, they are simply chosen arbitrarily to give a graphic idea of the seniority of the male sex concentration.
Now what did this transformation mean? It meant not only a greater differentiation from the male in structure, function and life-habits, than had hitherto existed in the reptilian and reptiloid species, but also a change for the worse in comparison with her former greater parity with him, through the gradually increasing drain which these modifications imposed upon her system. Once almost as free and unconstrained as the male; once subjected to sexual exertions only slightly, if at all, heavier than his own, she first suffers the constraints and the toll on her physical resources, which suckling involves, and finally is subjected to the further constraints and heavier toll which placental gestation brought in its train.
Thus the greater differentiation between male and female which appeared with the advent of the first mammals, was not only one of structure and function, but also of life-habits, and consisted chiefly of greater disabilities for the female and greater strains upon her strength and physical resources. It is important to remember this, for we shall see that it is a tendency in evolution which manifests itself by a
It is not improbable, indeed, that the mammalian female has never been able to recover the ground that was lost when first lactation and then placental gestation imposed these strains upon her remote ancestors in the course of evolution; and the fact that, generally speaking, the female of the mammalia is more like the young of her species than the male a peculiarity which can and has been explained as the result of arrested development may be due to the heavy toll upon her physical resources which the preparation for these extra burdens first demanded of her reptiloid forerunners. 1
Meanwhile not only had the male to suffer no extra
1 There is some evidence for this view, though the effects of sexual selection have blurred the facts to some extent. The comparative anatomy of the male and female in the lower animals has apparently not been studied with nearly the same care as that of the human species or the apes. In the latter the adult female, as all authorities seem to agree, is nearer to the young in bodily form and in the shape of the skull than the adult male; and, when we come to discuss the secondary sexual characteristics of the adult human female we shall find a large number of facts pointing to the same approximation of her form to the child's. At all events, it seems clear that generally speaking, there is less differentiation between the male and female of fishes, reptiles and saurians, than there commonly is in the mammalia. There are, for instance, no well-marked differences between male and female tortoises and turtles. This appears to be true also of the crocodiles. The differences increase among many of the birds, but they are confined chiefly to plumage and size, and anatomical differences do not appear to have been the object of very much study. The precocity and early arrestation of growth which have been observed among some of the females of the mammalia (vide Darwin on the precocity of marsupials, bitches and the quadrumana, Descent of Man, Ed. 1883, pp. 515, 517, 558, also Brehm on the precocity of the female mandrill, Works, Ed. 1876, Vol. I, p. 171) may possibly afford evidence in favour of the view that development is arrested sooner in the female than the male mammal. It is also interesting to bear in mind, in this connection, that Darwin suggested that "the great waste of vital power" which would have attended the development of horns in female deer, and tusks in female elephants, may have tended to their being eliminated in the female through natural selection, provided, of course, they were of no use to her. (Op. cit., p. 603.)
Like the differences established between the various species by unlike life-habits and functions, the differences established between the sexes by unlike conditions are as follows:
(a) Differentiation of the two organisms, male and female: the possession by each of a particular and suitable physical form, 1 and the resulting experiencing by each of a particular kind of existence. This is exemplified by the characteristics external and internal which distinguish the sexes in mammals, and by the different habits of life which their specialized functions impose upon them.
(b) The necessity that each sex is under to select and
1 Subsequently, and apparently through heredity, there occurs a certain amount of exchange between male and female, of their distinguishing bodily structures, and each may acquire a number of the other's secondary or primary sex-characteristics in a more or less rudimentary form. Thus extinct species of giraffes reveal the fact that the female originally had no horns, whereas, in existing species, the female has horns like the male. This has occurred with other male characteristics. The males of all mammals, on the other hand, reveal, among other female structures, rudimentary dugs, a fact which led Darwin to suggest (Descent of Man, 2nd Ed., p. 163) that long after the progenitor of the whole mammalian class had ceased to be androgynous, both sexes may have yielded milk and nourished their young. But, among the other difficulties besetting this hypothesis, it may be asked why, if the disuse of the supernumerary dugs in the later ancestors of Homo sapiens caused these dugs to disappear in the female, disuse has not done the same by man's two mammæ. Does not this seem to point to some influence other than the original use of lactiferous mammæ being responsible for the presence of two rudimentary mammæ on the male breast? The maximum of exchange of structure is revealed in the hermaphrodite. But this is a rare and morbid phenomenon, and, as a rule, the exchanges do not interfere with survival.
(c) That the instincts, emotions and mental powers of each sex bear a close relationship to the kind of need it feels, or, in other words, these instincts, emotions and mental powers will be associated with the life-function. Thus, while the male, as the active participator in coition, will require to be the wooer, the capturer and the initiator, and will develop the qualities of mind and disposition compatible with these three rôles, the female will develop the complementary traits initial coy resistance or prudery, inclination to surrender and yield, or abandonment, and readiness to subject herself to the active initiation of the male and to receive his contribution to procreation, or sequaciousness and receptivity. (It should be noted that these traits in each sex which arise from the relationship of male and female alone, are much older than the mammalia themselves, and have therefore a far deeper hold upon the natures of male and female than those arising out of the presence of progeny.) While the male will develop no instinct to suckle, succour and tend the young, the female, on the contrary, will feel the need, and will possess the instinct to do so. Whereas the male will not necessarily feel any emotions at the sight of the young, the female will respond to their presence instantly, with the emotions that her rôle as their custodian, nurse and educator stimulates. Whereas the male will not necessarily concern himself about their safety, the female will display her greatest bravery, not in protecting herself, but precisely in protecting them. Whereas the active rôle of the male in procreation will lead him into rivalry with other males, and the law of battle will ensue, the
(d) The finding of pleasure in the consequences of the concentration.
In the sex-life we behold male and female each pursuing happiness, or, to state it biologically adaptation, not by breaking the bounds of his or her rôle, but by trying to fulfil the specialized functions that derive from it, by trying to select and reject in the preordained way, and by exercising those instincts and mental powers, and experiencing those emotions which harmonize with the part which each plays. If the object be to make either sex miserable, this cannot be more speedily and effectively achieved than by compelling it to break bounds, that is to say, by thwarting the rooted instincts and emotions of its own adaptation. It is only in fantasy or romantic fiction that we find this denial associated with happiness. 1 Desire itself thus becomes the need to perform a specialized function, the pleasure that is anticipated by endeavouring to live in harmony with the demands of a particular living destiny. And, since the preservation of the species depends upon the two sexes and their union, and it was of the utmost importance for survival that the need for this union should lay a fast hold upon animals, we may, to speak teleologically for a moment, say that Nature deliberately made the sex functions exquisitely pleasurable, in order that there might be no attempt, no possibility of an attempt (except in aberrant individuals), to break bounds, or to depart from the limitations that each sex imposes. Thus
1 An elementary and convincing example of this law is to be found in La Fontaine's fable of the fox and the stork, in which, with his unfailing realism, La Fontaine makes the incompatibility of the couple end in unhappiness to each.
If we examine the lives of living creatures for a moment, we can judge how much happiness they associate with remaining within the bounds of their sex-rôle from their determination to fulfil their specialized function.
Thus most male animals are ready to incur considerable risk in the pursuit and apprehension of the female, and when she is seized, menaces and buffets and blows, which at other times would cause both sexes to turn tail and flee, are endured with heroic equanimity. The back legs of frogs and toads in the act of coition have been amputated without disturbing them, or diverting them from the vital act. It is related of the foxes in Egypt that they run great risks when copulating, and sometimes allow man to approach so close that they fall a prey to him. The same phenomenon has been seen in Europe though less often. 1 Some male spiders face death every time they approach the female with the intention of fertilizing her, but this does not deter them, while the mole when he is moved by sexual ardour, performs feats in his subterranean pursuit of the female, which for their magnitude are almost incredible. When they are in season, female animals also display much "restless activity" 2 and show great eagerness and "desire for the male." 2 If the wooing has been successful that is to say, in most cases, if the unfamiliarity of the male's presence is overcome they will offer themselves to him again and again, assuming suitable and frequently quite uncustomary attitudes (i.e. attitudes never assumed except when they are in season) and practising all the arts of exhibitionism and allurement. They will find pleasure in their adaptation just as he
1 A. C. Brehm, Thierleben (Ed. 1876, Vol. I, p. 662).
2 F. H. A. Marshall, Sc.D., D.Sc., F.R.S., The Physiology of Reproduction, pp. 31 and 57.
Moreover, the attachment between male and female is sometimes so great that it seems to equal if not to excel the love of human beings. Male moles have been found dead beside the traps in which their mates were caught. Female bears have been known to allow their young to die, if their mates were taken from them. A wild male monkey is said to have come quite close up to a traveller's tent, howling and moaning, after his female had been shot, and to have refused to go away until her dead body was given to him. Thus he overcame his fear of the strangers in order to recover his mate, and bore her sorrowing away when her body was handed out of the tent. We have only to read the works of Büchner, 3 Boelsche 4 and Romanes, 5 to learn how widespread this
1 Op. cit., p. 383.
2 Op. cit., p. 370.
3 Liebe und Liebesleben in der Thierwelt (a book full of interesting facts and well written).
4 Das Liebesleben in der Natur (also interesting, but exasperatingly prolix and discursive).
5 Animal Intelligence, which is full of instances of devotion between the sexes. See also Remy de Gourmont's Physique de l'amour; but this book contains many inaccuracies and is at times a little fantastic.
If we leave aside the remote androgynous ancestors of the mammalia, the instincts which draw male to female and female to male are the oldest of the instincts associated with the sex functions. The emotions that accompany their operation are likewise among the oldest consequences of the sex-life incalculably older, as we have seen, than maternal and paternal affection. And that is perhaps why both these instincts and emotions have such a fast and deep hold upon the two forms whose destiny they sway. Compared with them, the claims of mammalian maternity are not only an innovation, but, in a sense, a disturbance of the single-minded preoccupation of male by female and female by male.
Far from there being any inclination on the part of either male or female to break bounds in the sex-adaptation, both, as we have seen, show the greatest eagerness to abide by the limitations their particular structure and its accompanying functions impose. In both the sex relationship is a need and a source of pleasure, and the happiness thus achieved appears to be so great that, certainly among the males, death is frequently faced in the attempt to experience it.
With regard to the female mammal's further extension and distribution of the sex instincts and emotions, in her relationship to the young which she bears and suckles, everybody knows that her devotion and eagerness to fulfil her functions amount to a proverb. The performance of a vital function is a need. When the structures on which the function depends are sound, vigorous and normal, this need is pressing, and the meeting of it brings so much happiness, that it is an object worth fighting for, and worth running great risks for. The process of lactation, with the whole of the duties it involves, besides being a physiological need and pleasure to the female, is also a function rooted in the instincts, emotions and mental powers resulting from her particular sex-rôle,
It is not denied that in some species, particularly in the apes, the monkeys and the cats, there is a period subsequent to lactation, during which the young are fed and cared for. There is also no doubt about the fact that the mere fondling and caressing of the young, apart from feeding them, affords great pleasure to the female and sometimes even the male. And here we behold the beginnings of that devotion to and pride in offspring which among civilized human beings extends over the whole lifetime of the parent and may be said to die only with his or her death. Generally speaking, however, Brehm's words are true, and as fast as the young grow up the colder becomes the relationship between mother and child.
Again, in this consequence of the female mammal's sex-rôle, there is no attempt on the part of the animal to break bounds on the contrary, the determination to remain within bounds is often fought for at great risk to the creature's life, and as long as health and vigour
1 Brehm, Op. cit., p. 34. "Je mehr das junge heranwächst, um so kälter wird das Verhältnis zwischen Mutter und Kind." Even among some members of the human species and by no means the most savage, interest in the offspring dies when lactation ceases. (See Capt. Sir Richard Burton, A Mission to Gelele, King of Dahome, Ed. 1893, Vol. II, p. 126.)
2 According to my experience and I have bred cats continuously for six years there is less attachment to the young among large headed females of male appearance, and it is in these females, as a rule, that the milk supply is poor. They tend to neglect their litters, even when these are artificially reduced, and leave the basket for long prowls many days before a good milker can be tempted to do so. Apparently similar traits have been observed in large-headed cows, with high back-bones, drawn up bellies, and small udders and teats. (See Jouatt's Cattle, p. 244, and Wedge's Cheshire, p. 251.)
That the males among some of the higher mammals sometimes develop very genuine paternal feelings has often been observed, and there is much evidence to show that, particularly among the larger cats and the primates, these feelings lead to acts of great devotion and solicitude. The lion, for instance, protects and helps to feed the brood. The gorilla, the chimpanzee and the orang-utang protect their mate and young, and, like many of the monkeys, fight for them when they are in danger. The male magot, or barbary macaque, has been observed throughout a whole summer helping to carry his young about, and disciplining them long after the weaning.
There is, however, another aspect of this pleasing relationship of the adult male and the young. For, just as the stag or buffalo, which is the leader and master of the herd, resents the younger males interfering with his harem, and only yields up his position of sire when he is too feeble or too aged any longer to be able to overcome a younger rival, so among the apes and many of the monkeys, there appears to be a great jealousy between the leading males and the males of a younger generation. If the latter persist in their attentions to the females before they are able to hold their own against the tyrant, they are not infrequently killed by him, and it is only when he grows decrepit or is removed by accident or by sickness, that they come into their own. The preponderance of females resulting from this kind of persecution of youthful males has been noticed by many travellers. 1
1 For general information about paternal duties and feelings in the apes and monkeys, and about their protection of their families see Brehm, or Lyddeker (the latter in the Royal Natural History, Ed. 189394, Vol. I, gives, however, less exhaustive details than Brehm, and Brehm actually kept monkeys).