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Table of contents
PREFACE
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-1.1
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-1.2
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-2.1
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-2.2
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-2.3
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-2.4
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-2.5
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-3.1
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-3.2
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-3.3
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-3.4
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-3.5
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-4.1
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-4.2
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-4.3
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-5.1
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-5.2
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-5.3
EROTIC SYMBOLISM-6
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-1.1
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-1.2
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-1.3
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-1.4
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-2.1
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-2.2
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-2.3
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-2.4
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-3.1
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-3.2
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-4.1
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-4.2
THE MECHANISM OF DETUMESCENCE-4.3
THE PSYCHIC STATE IN PREGNANCY-1
THE PSYCHIC STATE IN PREGNANCY-2
THE PSYCHIC STATE IN PREGNANCY-3
THE PSYCHIC STATE IN PREGNANCY-4
HISTORIES OF SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT HISTORY-1.1
HISTORIES OF SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT HISTORY-1.2
HISTORIES OF SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT HISTORY-2.1
HISTORIES OF SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT HISTORY-2.2
HISTORIES OF SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT HISTORY-3-4
HISTORIES OF SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT HISTORY-5.1
HISTORIES OF SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT HISTORY-5.2
INDEX OF AUTHORS

 

The hymen has played a very definite and pronounced part in the social and 

moral life of humanity. Until recently it has been more difficult to 

decide what precise biological function it has exercised to ensure its 

development and preservation. Sexual selection, no doubt, has worked in 

its favor, but that influence has been very limited and comparatively very 

recent. Virginity is not usually of any value among peoples who are 

entirely primitive. Indeed, even in the classic civilization which we 

inherit, it is easy to show that the virgin and the admiration for 

virginity are of late growth; the virgin goddesses were not originally 

virgins in our modern sense. Diana was the many-breasted patroness of 

childbirth before she became the chaste and solitary huntress, for the 

earliest distinction would appear to have been simply between the woman 

who was attached to a man and the woman who followed an earlier rule of 

freedom and independence; it was a later notion to suppose that the latter 

woman was debarred from sexual intercourse. We certainly must not seek the 

origin of the hymen in sexual selection; we must find it in natural 

selection. And here it might seem at first sight that we come upon a 

contradiction in Nature, for Nature is always devising contrivances to 

secure the maximum amount of fertilization. "Increase and multiply" is so 

obviously the command of Nature that the Hebrews, with their usual 

insight, unhesitatingly dared to place it in the mouth of Jehovah. But the 

hymen is a barrier to fertilization. It has, however, always to be 

remembered that as we rise in the zooelogical scale, and as the period of 

gestation lengthens and the possible number of offspring is fewer, it 

becomes constantly more essential that fertilization shall be effective 

rather than easy; the fewer the progeny the more necessary it is that they 

shall be vigorous enough to survive. There can be little doubt that, as 

one or two writers have already suggested, the hymen owes its development 

to the fact that its influence is on the side of effective fertilization. 

It is an obstacle to the impregnation of the young female by immature, 

aged, or feeble males. The hymen is thus an anatomical expression of that 

admiration of force which marks the female in her choice of a mate. So 

regarded, it is an interesting example of the intimate manner in which 

sexual selection is really based on natural selection. Sexual selection is 

but the translation into psychic terms of a process which has already 

found expression in the physical texture of the body. 

 

It may be added that this interpretation of the biological 

function of the hymen is supported by the facts of its evolution. 

It is unknown among the lower mammals, with whom fertilization is 

easy, gestation short and offspring numerous. It only begins to 

appear among the higher mammals in whom reproduction is already 

beginning to take on the characters which become fully developed 

in man. Various authors have found traces of a rudimentary hymen, 

not only in apes, but in elephants, horses, donkeys, bitches, 

bears, pigs, hyenas, and giraffes. (Hyrtl, _Op. cit._, vol. ii, 

p. 189; G. Gellhoen, "Anatomy and Development of the Hymen," 

_American Journal Obstetrics_, August, 1904.) It is in the human 


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