Sexual Life of Primitive People
The Project Gutenberg eBook, Sexual Life of Primitive People, by HansFehlinger, Translated by S. Herbert and Mrs. S. Herbert
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Title: Sexual Life of Primitive People
Author: Hans Fehlinger
Release Date: December 15, 2018 [eBook #58475]
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SEXUAL LIFE OF PRIMITIVE PEOPLE
S. HERBERT, M.D., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P.
AUTHOR OF "AN INTRODUCTION TO THE PHYSIOLOGY AND
PSYCHOLOGY OF SEX," "FUNDAMENTALS IN SEXUAL ETHICS," ETC.
MRS. S. HERBERT,
AUTHOR OF "SEX LORE."
A. & C. BLACK, LTD.
4, 5 & 6 SOHO SQUARE, LONDON, W. 1
To most lay people the established order of sex relationships andmarriage seems something so self-evident and stable that they cannotconceive the possibility of a variation in the established order. Yethere, as in all things, the law of evolution applies. Our sexual systemis the outcome of a long continuous series of changes beginning with thevery dawn of human history. To understand the modern sex problem rightlyit is essential to know its origin and gradual development.
Most of the material about the sex life of primitive people isinaccessible to the ordinary reader, being hidden away in learnedtreatises and ponderous scientific works. The translators are,therefore, glad to have found in Fehlinger's book a short comprehensiveoutline of the subject, which may serve as a convenient introduction.
|I.||MODESTY AMONG PRIMITIVE PEOPLE||1|
|II.||PRE-MARITAL FREEDOM AND CONJUGAL FIDELITY||13|
|V.||BIRTH AND FETICIDE||76|
|VI.||IGNORANCE OF THE PROCESS OF GENERATION||93|
|VII.||MUTILATION OF THE SEX ORGANS||103|
|VIII.||MATURITY AND DECLINE||119|
SEXUAL LIFE OF
I MODESTY AMONG PRIMITIVE PEOPLE
In cold and temperate climates, it is necessary to clothe the body as aprotection against cold. In hot parts of the world, the need forprotection against the effects of the weather by means of clothingdisappears, and therefore in those regions primitive people go aboutnaked. It is only when they come under the influence of foreigncivilisation that they put on clothing. It is erroneous to assume thatclothing came into use because of an inborn sexual modesty. InAustralia, in the Indonesian and Melanesian islands, in tropical Africa,and in South America, there are still many peoples that go about naked.It is true that many of them cover their sex organs; but thecontrivances used for this purpose are not in reality intended to hidethe sex region, though to our mind they seem to do so.
Primitive people do not cover their bodies out of modesty; "thesinfulness of nakedness" is unknown to them. Karl von den Steinen (pp.190, 191) says[Pg 2] that the naked Indian tribes of the Xingu region ofBrazil know no secret parts of the body. "They joke about these parts inwords and pictures quite unabashed, so that it would be foolish to callthem indecent. They are envious of our clothing, as of some preciousfinery; they put it on and wear it in our presence with a completedisregard of the simplest rules of our own society, and in completeignorance of its purpose. This proves that they still possess thepristine guilelessness of Adam and Eve in Eden. Some of them celebratethe advent of puberty in members of both sexes by noisy festivals, whenthe 'private parts' come in for a good deal of general attention. If aman wishes to inform a stranger that he is a father, or a woman that sheis a mother, they gravely denote the fact by touching the organs fromwhich life springs, in a most spontaneous and natural manner. It is,therefore, not possible to understand these people properly unless weput aside our conception of 'clothing,' and take them and their mannersin their own natural way."
The absence of sexual modesty in our sense also struck von Steinen whenquestions about words arose. If he asked about a word which to our mindsmight give cause for shame, the reply was given without hesitation orany semblance of shame. Nevertheless, conversations about sexualsubjects gave the Indians, men and women, decided pleasure; but theirmerry laughter was "neither impudent, nor did it give the[Pg 3] impression ofhiding an inward embarrassment. It had, however, a slightly erotic tone,and resembled the laughter aroused by the jokes in our ownspinning-rooms, by games of forfeits, and by other harmless jokesexchanged in intercourse between the sexes, although the occasions andaccompanying circumstances must be so very different among trulyprimitive people."
Naked savages are, however, not devoid of sexual modesty. It showsitself immediately when any remark addressed to them can be construed asan invitation to sexual intercourse, or when coarse jokes are made aboutsexual subjects. This is clearly shown in an account by Koch-Grünberg(I., p. 307). His European companion wanted to perform a kind of stomachdance before some savage Indians of the Upper Rio Negro, such as isdanced in places of ill repute in Brazilian towns. The very indecentmovements of the dancer caused the women and girls to retire shyly. TheEuropean in his attempt to "entertain" the company failed completely.Yet one can converse quietly with these Indians on all sexual subjectsso long as they are natural; it is only obscenity that shocks them.
According to Eylmann, the Australians, at least the men, show no modestyin sex matters, though they are by no means devoid of it in otherrespects. Thus, e.g., they are ashamed of any mutilation of theirbodies. Young men do not cover their sex organs, but the old[Pg 4] ones doso, because they seem to be aware that this part of the body, of whichthey were once so proud, bears signs of old age. The women also rarelymake use of an apron, yet they show clearly marked sexual modesty. Awoman is always very careful not to expose the external sex organs whenshe sits or lies down in the presence of men. The greatest decency isobserved during the time of menstruation.
In Indonesia the feeling of modesty among those tribes that are inconstant contact with Europeans is essentially different from that ofthe tribes less under foreign influence. Thus Nieuwenhuis (I., pp. 133,134) mentions, for instance, the Bahaus and Kenyas of Central Borneo. Ofthese the latter are only slightly influenced by the Mohammedan Malays,the former, however, relatively much more so. Although members of bothtribes bathe completely naked, yet the Bahaus dress immediately afterthe bath, whilst the Kenyas go naked to and from the bath. The Kenyawomen also go naked to the spring to bring water and to bathe theirchildren. Whilst getting the boats through the rapids the Kenya men takeoff their loin-cloths, but the Bahau men never do this. WhenNieuwenhuis' expedition stayed some time among the Kenyas, it wasnoticed that the people got out of the habit of going about naked attimes. This was only because the Malays and Bahaus belonging to theexpedition had told the Kenyas that the white people objected to thenaked appearance of the natives (which was not[Pg 5] correct). Nieuwenhuisadds: "It can thus be seen what a great rôle acquired modesty plays inthe evolution of clothes." The clothing of the present-day Dyaks servesas a protection against the heat of the sun, and in the mountainsagainst cold, and as a prevention of the darkening of the skin (which,particularly in women, is considered ugly); it is also used as anornament and to scare enemies, but never for the concealment of thebody. The Dyaks show shame when made embarrassed before other people; onsuch occasions they blush right down to the breast. Nieuwenhuis made useof this circumstance in the case of the Bahaus in order to make themkeep their promises and do their duties (II., p. 296).
The Eskimos in the far north of America are, as a rule, thickly clothed;but it is quite usual for them to go about naked in their snow hutswithout any thought of offending against decency.
Whoever lives for a time among naked savages becomes accustomed to theirnakedness, and does not feel anything objectionable in it. Æstheticallythere is this disadvantage, that the sick and the aged look veryrepulsive in their decline; but then again youth and strength show offto great advantage in nakedness.
If the origin of clothing is not due to sexual modesty, it would atfirst appear strange that so many naked savages cover their sexualorgans either completely or partly, wearing a pubic apron or somesimilar arrangement. The contrivances used are sometimes[Pg 6] so small thatthey can hardly have been intended as coverings. Thus the women of theKaraib, Aruak, and Tupi tribes in the Xingui region all wear atriangular piece of bark bast not more than 7 centimetres wide and 3centimetres high. The lower end of the triangle runs into a perinealstrip of hard bark about 4 millimetres wide. Two narrow cords comingfrom the two upper ends pass along the groins, and meet the narrowperineal strip coming from the lower end of the triangle. These ulurionly just cover the beginning of the pubic cleft, pressing tightly onit. The triangle does not reach the introitus vaginæ, which is, however,closed, or at least kept inwards, by the pressure exerted by thetightened strip of bast running from front to back. Similar binders areused by the Indian women of Central Brazil. The binder used by theTrumai women is twisted into a cord, serving still less as a cover. Infact, none of these binders serve as covers, but they are intended toclose up and to protect the mucous membrane. This also applies to thebinders used by the various peoples living on the islands of the PacificOcean, as, e.g., by the Mafulus of Papua.
Various contrivances are also to be met with among many primitive menwhich seem to have the purpose of protecting the penis, and which reallyachieve that end. Among certain tribes of Brazil penis wraps made frompalm straw are worn; other tribes use a T-shaped bandage, which is alsovery common in