Studies in the Psychology of Sex

Havelock Ellis: Studies in the Psychology of Sex



Excerpts from Volume IV, Part 2: Smell


The Primitiveness of Smell—The Anatomical Seat of the Olfactory Centres—Predominance of Smell among the Lower Mammals—Its Diminished Importance in Man—The Attention Paid to Odors by Savages.

The first more highly organized sense to arise on the diffused tactile sensitivity of the skin is, in most cases, without doubt that of smell. At first, indeed, olfactory sensibility is not clearly differentiated from general tactile sensibility; the pit of thickened and ciliated epithelium or the highly mobile antennae which in many lower animals are sensitive to odorous stimuli are also extremely sensitive to tactile stimuli; this is, for instance, the case with the snail, in whom at the same time olfactive sensibility seems to be spread over the whole body.[24] The sense of smell is gradually specialized, and when taste also begins to develop a kind of chemical sense is constituted. The organ of smell, however, speedily begins to rise in importance as we ascend the zoological scale. In the lower vertebrates, when they began to adopt a life on dry land, the sense of smell seems to have been that part of their sensory equipment which proved most useful under the new conditions, and it developed with astonishing rapidity. Edinger finds that in the brain of reptiles the "area olfactoria" is of enormous extent, covering, indeed, the greater part of the cortex, though it may be quite true, as Herrick remarks, that, while smell is preponderant, it is perhaps not correct to attribute an exclusively olfactory tone to the cerebral activities of the Sauropsida or even the Ichthyopsida. Among most mammals, however, in any case, smell is certainly the most highly developed of the senses; it gives the first information of remote objects that concern them; it gives the most precise information concerning the near objects that concern them; it is the sense in terms of which most of their mental operations must be conducted and their emotional impulses reach consciousness. Among the apes it has greatly lost importance and in man it has become almost rudimentary, giving place to the supremacy of vision.

Prof. G. Elliot Smith, a leading authority on the brain, has well summarized the facts concerning the predominance of the olfactory region in the mammal brain, and his conclusions may be quoted. It should be premised that Elliot Smith divides the brain into rhinencephalon and neopallium. Rhinencephalon designates the regions which are pre-eminently olfactory in function: the olfactory bulb, its peduncle, the tuberculum olfactorium and locus perforatus, the pyriform lobe, the paraterminal body, and the whole hippocampal formation. The neopallium is the dorsal cap of the brain, with frontal, parietal, and occipital areas, comprehending all that part of the brain which is the seat of the higher associative activities, reaching its fullest development in man.

"In the early mammals the olfactory areas form by far the greater part of the cerebral hemisphere, which is not surprising when it is recalled that the forebrain is, in the primitive brain, essentially an appendage, so to speak, of the smell apparatus. When the cerebral hemisphere comes to occupy such a dominant position in the brain it is perhaps not unnatural to find that the sense of smell is the most influential and the chief source of information to the animal; or, perhaps, it would be more accurate to say that the olfactory sense, which conveys general information to the animal such as no other sense can bring concerning its prey (whether near or far, hidden or exposed), is much the most serviceable of all the avenues of information to the lowly mammal leading a terrestrial life, and therefore becomes predominant; and its particular domain—the forebrain—becomes the ruling portion of the nervous system.

"This early predominance of the sense of smell persists in most mammals (unless an aquatic mode of life interferes and deposes it: compare the Cetacea, Sirenia, and Pinnipedia, for example) even though a large neopallium develops to receive visual, auditory, tactile, and other impressions pouring into the forebrain. In the Anthropoidea alone of nonaquatic mammals the olfactory regions undergo an absolute (and not only relative, as in the Carnivora and Ungulata) dwindling, which is equally shared by the human brain, in common with those of the other Simiidae, the Cercopithecidae, and the Cebidae. But all the parts of the rhinencephalon, which are so distinct in macrosmatic mammals, can also be recognized in the human brain. The small ellipsoidal olfactory bulb is moored, so to speak, on the cribriform plate of the ethmoid bone by the olfactory nerves; so that, as the place of attachment of the olfactory peduncle to the expanding cerebral hemisphere becomes removed (as a result of the forward extension of the hemisphere) progressively farther and farther backward, the peduncle becomes greatly stretched and elongated. And, as this stretching involves the gray matter without lessening the number of nerve-fibres in the olfactory tract, the peduncle becomes practically what it is usually called—i.e., the olfactory 'tract.' The tuberculum olfactorium becomes greatly reduced and at the same time flattened; so that it is not easy to draw a line of demarcation between it and the anterior perforated space. The anterior rhinal fissure, which is present in the early human foetus, vanishes (almost, if not altogether) in the adult. Part of the posterior rhinal fissure is always present in the 'incisura temporalis,' and sometimes, especially in some of the non-European races, the whole of the posterior rhinal fissure is retained in that typical form which we find in the anthropoid apes." (G. Elliot Smith, in Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of the Physiological Series of Comparative Anatomy Contained in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, second edition, vol. ii.) A full statement of Elliot Smith's investigations, with diagrams, is given by Bullen, Journal of Mental Science, July, 1899. It may be added that the whole subject of the olfactory centres has been thoroughly studied by Elliot Smith, as well as by Edinger, Mayer, and C. L. Herrick. In the Journal of Comparative Neurology, edited by the last named, numerous discussions and summaries bearing on the subject will be found from 1896 onward. Regarding the primitive sense-organs of smell in the various invertebrate groups some information will be found in A. B. Griffiths's Physiology of the Invertebrata, Chapter XI.

The predominance of the olfactory area in the nervous system of the vertebrates generally has inevitably involved intimate psychic associations between olfactory stimuli and the sexual impulse. For most mammals not only are all sexual associations mainly olfactory, but the impressions received by this sense suffice to dominate all others. An animal not only receives adequate sexual excitement from olfactory stimuli, but those stimuli often suffice to counterbalance all the evidence of the other senses.

We may observe this very well in the case of the dog. Thus, a young dog, well known to me, who had never had connection with a bitch, but was always in the society of its father, once met the latter directly after the elder dog had been with a bitch. He immediately endeavored to behave toward the elder dog, in spite of angry repulses, exactly as a dog behaves toward a bitch in heat. The messages received by the sense of smell were sufficiently urgent not only to set the sexual mechanism in action, but to overcome the experiences of a lifetime. There is an interesting chapter on the sense of smell in the mental life of the dog in Giessler's Psychologie des Geruches, 1894, Chapter XI, Passy (in the appendix to his memoir on olfaction, L'Année Psychologique, 1895) gives the result of some interesting experiments as to the effects of perfume on dogs; civet and castoreum were found to have the most powerfully exciting effect.

The influences of smell are equally omnipotent in the sexual life of many insects. Thus, Féré has found that in cockchafers sexual coupling failed to take place when the antennae, which are the organs of smell, were removed; he also found that males, after they had coupled with females, proved sexually attractive to other males (Comptes Rendus de la Société de Biologie, May 21, 1898). Féré similarly found that, in a species of Bombyx, males after contact with females sometimes proved attractive to other males, although no abnormal relationships followed. (Soc. de Biol, July 30, 1898.)

With the advent of the higher apes, and especially of man, all this has been changed. The sense of smell, indeed, still persists universally and it is still also exceedingly delicate, though often neglected.[25] It is, moreover, a useful auxiliary in the exploration of the external world, for, in contrast to the very few sensations furnished to us by touch and by taste, we are acquainted with a vast number of smells, though the information they give us is frequently vague. An experienced perfumer, says Piesse, will have two hundred odors in his laboratory and can distinguish them all. To a sensitive nose nearly everything smells. Passy goes so far as to state that he has "never met with any object that is really inodorous when one pays attention to it, not even excepting glass," and, though we can scarcely accept this statement absolutely,—especially in view of the careful experiments of Ayrton, which show that, contrary to a common belief, metals when perfectly clean and free from traces of contact with the skin or with salt solutions have no smell,—odor is still extremely widely diffused. This is especially the case in hot countries, and the experiments of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition on the sense of smell of the Papuans were considerably impeded by the fact that at Torres Straits everything, even water, seemed to have a smell. Savages are often accused more or less justly of indifference to bad odors. They are very often, however, keenly alive to the significance of smells and their varieties, though it does not appear that the sense of smell is notably more developed in savage than in civilized peoples. Odors also continue to play a part in the emotional life of man, more especially in hot countries. Nevertheless both in practical life and in emotional life, in science and in art, smell is, at the best, under normal conditions, merely an auxiliary. If the sense of smell were abolished altogether the life of mankind would continue as before, with little or no sensible modification, though the pleasures of life, and especially of eating and drinking, would be to some extent diminished.

In New Ireland, Duffield remarks (Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 1886, p. 118), the natives have a very keen sense of smell; unusual odors are repulsive to them, and "carbolic acid drove them wild."

The New Caledonians, according to Foley (Bulletin de la Société d'Anthropologie, November 6, 1879), only like the smells of meat and fish which are becoming "high," like popoya, which smells of fowl manure, and kava, of rotten eggs. Fruits and vegetables which are beginning to go bad seem the best to them, while the fresh and natural odors which we prefer seem merely to say to them: "We are not yet eatable." (A taste for putrefying food, common among savages, by no means necessarily involves a distaste for agreeable scents, and even among Europeans there is a widespread taste for offensively smelling and putrid foods, especially cheese and game.)

The natives of Torres Straits were carefully examined by Dr. C. S. Myers with regard to their olfactory acuteness and olfactory preferences. It was found that acuteness was, if anything, slightly greater than among Europeans. This appeared to be largely due to the careful attention they pay to odors. The resemblances which they detected among different odorous substances were frequently found to rest on real chemical affinities. The odors they were observed to dislike most frequently were asafoetida, valerianic acid, and civet, the last being regarded as most repulsive of all on account of its resemblance to faecal odor, which these people regard with intense disgust. Their favorite odors were musk, thyme, and especially violet. (Report of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits, vol. ii, Part II, 1903.)

In Australia Lumholtz (Among Cannibals, p. 115) found that the blacks had a keener sense of smell than he possessed.

In New Zealand the Maoris, as W. Colenso shows, possessed, formerly at all events, a very keen sense of smell or else were very attentive to smell, and their taste as regarded agreeable and disagreeable odors corresponded very closely to European taste, although it must be added that some of their common articles of food possessed a very offensive odor. They are not only sensitive to European perfumes, but possessed various perfumes of their own, derived from plants and possessing a pleasant, powerful, and lasting odor; the choicest and rarest was the gum of the taramea (Aciphylla Colensoi), which was gathered by virgins after the use of prayers and charms. Sir Joseph Banks noted that Maori chiefs wore little bundles of perfumes around their necks, and Cook made the same observation concerning the young women. References to the four chief Maori perfumes are contained in a stanza which is still often hummed to express satisfaction, and sung by a mother to her child:—

"My little neck-satchel of sweet-scented moss,
My little neck-satchel of fragrant fern,
My little neck-satchel of odoriferous gum,
My sweet-smelling neck-locket of sharp-pointed taramea."

In the summer season the sleeping houses of Maori chiefs were often strewed with a large, sweet-scented, flowering grass of powerful odor. (W. Colenso, Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, vol. xxiv, reprinted in Nature, November 10, 1892.)

Javanese women rub themselves with a mixture of chalk and strong essence which, when rubbed off, leaves a distinct perfume on the body. (Stratz, Die Frauenkleidung, p. 84.)

The Samoans, Friedlander states (Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie, 1899, p. 52), are very fond of fragrant and aromatic odors. He gives a list of some twenty odorous plants which they use, more especially as garlands for the head and neck, including ylang-ylang and gardenia; he remarks that of one of these plants (cordyline) he could not himself detect the odor.

The Nicobarese, Man remarks (Journal of the Anthropological Institute, 1889, p. 377), like the natives of New Zealand, particularly dislike the smell of carbolic acid. Both young men and women are very partial to scents; the former say they find their use a certain passport to the favor of their wives, and they bring home from the jungle the scented leaves of a certain creeper to their sweethearts and wives.

Swahili women devote much attention to perfuming themselves. When a woman wishes to make herself desirable she anoints herself all over with fragrant ointments, sprinkles herself with rose-water, puts perfume into her clothes, strews jasmine flowers on her bed as well as binding them round her neck and waist, and smokes udi, the perfumed wood of the aloe; "every man is glad when his wife smells of udi" (Velten, Sitten und Gebrauche der Suaheli, pp. 212-214).

[24] Emile Yung, "Le Sens Olfactif de l'Escargot (Helix Pomata)," Archives de Psychologie, November, 1903
[25] The sensitiveness of smell in man generally exceeds that of chemical reaction or even of spectral analysis; see Passy, L'Année Psychologique, second year, 1895, p. 380.

[for sections II and III: see PDF]


The Influence of Perfumes—Their Aboriginal Relationship to Sexual Body Odors—This True even of the Fragrance of Flowers—The Synthetic Manufacture of Perfumes—The Sexual Effects of Perfumes—Perfumes perhaps Originally Used to Heighten the Body Odors—The Special Significance of the Musk Odor—Its Wide Natural Diffusion in Plants and Animals and Man—Musk a Powerful Stimulant—Its Widespread Use as a Perfume—Peau d'Espagne—The Smell of Leather and its Occasional Sexual Effects—The Sexual Influence of the Odors of Flowers—The Identity of many Plant Odors with Certain Normal and Abnormal Body Odors—The Smell of Semen in this Connection.

So far we have been mainly concerned with purely personal odors. It is, however, no longer possible to confine the discussion of the sexual significance of odor within the purely animal limit. The various characteristics of personal odor which have been noted—alike those which tend to make it repulsive and those which tend to make it attractive—have led to the use of artificial perfumes, to heighten the natural odor when it is regarded as attractive, to disguise it when it is regarded as repellent; while at the same time, happily covering both of these impulses, has developed the pure delight in perfume for its own agreeableness, the aesthetic side of olfaction. In this way—although in a much less constant and less elaborate manner—the body became adorned to the sense of smell just as by clothing and ornament it is adorned to the sense of sight.

But—and this is a point of great significance from our present standpoint—we do not really leave the sexual sphere by introducing artificial perfumes. The perfumes which we extract from natural products, or, as is now frequently the case, produce by chemical synthesis, are themselves either actually animal sexual odors or allied in character or composition, to the personal odors they are used to heighten or disguise. Musk is the product of glands of the male Moschus moschiferus which correspond to preputial sebaceous glands; castoreum is the product of similar sexual glands in the beaver, and civet likewise from the civet; ambergris is an intestinal calculus found in the rectum of the cachelot.[53] Not only, however, are nearly all the perfumes of animal origin, in use by civilized man, odors which have a specially sexual object among the animals from which they are derived, but even the perfumes of flowers may be said to be of sexual character. They are given out at the reproductive period in the lives of plants, and they clearly have very largely as their object an appeal to the insects who secure plant fertilization, such appeal having as its basis the fact that among insects themselves olfactory sensibility has in many cases been developed in their own mating.[54] There is, for example, a moth in which both sexes are similarly and inconspicuously marked, but the males diffuse an agreeable odor, said to be like pineapple, which attracts the females.[55] If, therefore, the odors of flowers have developed because they proved useful to the plant by attracting insects or other living creatures, it is obvious that the advantage would lie with those plants which could put forth an animal sexual odor of agreeable character, since such an odor would prove fascinating to animal creatures. We here have a very simple explanation of the fundamental identity of odors in the animal and vegetable worlds. It thus comes about that from a psychological point of view we are not really entering a new field when we begin to discuss the influence of perfumes other than those of the animal body. We are merely concerned with somewhat more complex or somewhat more refined sexual odors; they are not specifically different from the human odors and they mingle with them harmoniously. Popular language bears witness to the truth of this statement, and the normal and abnormal human odors, as we have already seen, are constantly compared to artificial, animal, and plant odors, to chloroform, to musk, to violet, to mention only those similitudes which seem to occur most frequently.

The methods now employed for obtaining the perfumes universally used in civilized lands are three: (1) the extraction of odoriferous compounds from the neutral products in which they occur; (2) the artificial preparation of naturally occurring odoriferous compounds by synthetic processes; (3) the manufacture of materials which yield odors resembling those of pleasant smelling natural objects. (See, e.g., "Natural and Artificial Perfumes," Nature, December 27, 1900.) The essential principles of most of our perfumes belong to the complex class of organic compounds known as terpenes. During recent years a number of the essential elements of natural perfumes have been studied, in many cases the methods of preparing them artificially discovered, and they are largely replacing the use of natural perfumes not only for soaps, etc., but for scent essences, though it appears to be very difficult to imitate exactly the delicate fragrance achieved by Nature. Artificial musk was discovered accidentally by Bauer when studying the butyltoluenes contained in a resin extractive. Vanillin, the odoriferous principle of the vanilla bean, is an aldehyde which was first artificially prepared by Tiemann and Haarmann in 1874 by oxidizing coniferin, a glucoside contained in the sap of various coniferae, but it now appears to be usually manufactured from eugenol, a phenol contained in oil of cloves. Piperonal, an aldehyde closely allied to vanillin, is used in perfumery under the name of heliotropin and is prepared from oil of sassafras and oil of camphor. Cumarine, the material to which tonka bean, sweet woodruff, and new-mown hay owe their characteristic odors, was synthetically prepared by W. H. Parkin [sic] in 1868 by heating sodiosalicylic aldehyde with acetic anhydride, though now more cheaply prepared from an herb growing in Florida. Irone, which has the perfume of violets, was isolated in 1893 from a ketone contained in orris-root; and ionone, another ketone which has a very closely similar odor of fresh violets and was isolated after some years' further work, is largely used in the preparation of violet perfume. Irone and ionone are closely similar in composition to oil of turpentine which when taken into the body is partly converted into perfume and gives a strong odor of violets to the urine. "Little has yet been accomplished toward ascertaining the relation between the odor and the chemical constitution of substances in general. Hydrocarbons as a class possess considerable similarity in odor, so also do the organic sulphides and, to a much smaller extent, the ketones. The subject waits for some one to correlate its various physiological, psychological and physical aspects in the same way that Helmholtz did for sound. It seems, as yet, impossible to assign any probable reason to the fact that many substances have a pleasant odor. It may, however, be worth suggesting that certain compounds, such as the volatile sulphides and the indoles, have very unpleasant odors because they are normal constituents of mammalian excreta and of putrefied animal products; the repulsive odors may be simply necessary results of evolutionary processes." (Loc. cit., Nature, December 27, 1900.)

Many of the perfumes in use are really combinations of a great many different odors in varying proportions, such as oil of rose, lavender oil, ylang-ylang, etc. The most highly appreciated perfumes are often made up of elements which in stronger proportion would be regarded as highly unpleasant.

In the study and manufacture of perfumes Germany and France have taken the lead in recent times. The industry is one of great importance. In France alone the trade in perfumes amounts to 4,000,000 pounds.

It is doubtless largely owing to the essential and fundamental identity of odors—to the chemical resemblances even of odors from the most widely remote sources—that we find that perfumes in many cases have the same sexual effects as are primitively possessed by the body odors. In northern countries, where the use of perfumes is chiefly cultivated by women, it is by women that this sexual influence is most liable to be felt. In the South and in the East it appears to be at least equally often experienced by men. Thus, in Italy Mantegazza remarks that "many men of strong sexual temperament cannot visit with impunity a laboratory of essences and perfumes."[56] In the East we find it stated in the Islamic book entitled The Perfumed Garden of Sheik Nefzaoui that the use of perfumes by women, as well as by men, excites to the generative act. It is largely in reliance on this fact that in many parts of the world, especially among Eastern peoples and occasionally among ourselves in Europe, women have been accustomed to perfume the body and especially the vulva.[57]

It seems highly probable that, as has been especially emphasized by Hagen, perfumes were primitively used by women, not as is sometimes the case in civilization, with the idea of disguising any possible natural odor, but with the object of heightening and fortifying the natural odor.[58] If the primitive man was inclined to disparage a woman whose odor was slight or imperceptible,—turning away from her with contempt, as the Polynesian turned away from the ladies of Sydney: "They have no smell!"—women would inevitably seek to supplement any natural defects in this respect, and to accentuate their odorous qualities, in the same way as by corsets and bustles, even in civilization, they have sought to accentuate the sexual saliencies of their bodies. In this way we may, as Hagen suggests, explain the fact that until recent times the odors preferred by women have not been the most delicate or exquisite, but the strongest, the most animal, the most sexual: musk, castoreum, civet, and ambergris.

In that interesting novel—dealing with the adventures of a Jewish maiden at the Persian court of Xerxes—which under the title of Esther has found its way into the Old Testament we are told that it was customary in the royal harem at Shushan to submit the women to a very prolonged course of perfuming before they were admitted to the king: "six months with oil of myrrh and six months with sweet odors." (Esther, Chapter II, v. 12.)

In the Arabian Nights there are many allusions to the use of perfumes by women with a more or less definitely stated aphrodisiacal intent. Thus we read in the story of Kamaralzaman: "With fine incense I will perfume my breasts, my belly, my whole body, so that my skin may melt more sweetly in thy mouth, O apple of my eye!"

Even among savages the perfuming of the body is sometimes practiced with the object of inducing love in the partner. Schellong states that the Papuans of Kaiser Wilhelm's Land rub various fragrant plants into their bodies for this purpose. (Zeitschrift fur Ethnologie, 1899, ht. i, p. 19.) The significance of this practice is more fully revealed by Haddon when studying the Papuans of Torres Straits among whom the initiative in courtship is taken by the women. It was by scenting himself with a pungent odorous substance that a young man indicated that he was ready to be sued by the girls. A man would wear this scent at the back of his neck during a dance in order to attract the attention of a particular girl; it was believed to act with magical certainty, after the manner of a charm (Reports of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to Torres Straits, vol. v, pp. 211, 222, and 328).

The perfume which is of all perfumes the most interesting from the present point of view is certainly musk. With ambergris, musk is the chief member of Linnaeus's group of Odores ambrosiacae, a group which in sexual significances, as Zwaardemaker remarks, ranks besides the capryl group of odors. It is a perfume of ancient origin; its name is Persian[59] (indicating doubtless the channel whence it reached Europe) and ultimately derived from the Sanskrit word for testicle in allusion to the fact that it was contained in a pouch removed from the sexual parts of the male musk-deer. Musk odors, however, often of considerable strength, are very widely distributed in Nature, alike among animals and plants. This is indicated by the frequency with which the word "musk" forms part of the names of animals and plants which are by no means always nearly related. We have the musk-ox, the musky mole, several species called musk-rat, the musk-duct, the musk-beetle; while among plants which have received their names from a real or supposed musky odor are, besides several that are called musk-plant, the musk-rose, the musk-hyacinth, the musk-mallow, the musk-orchid, the musk-melon, the musk-cherry, the musk-pear, the musk-plum, muskat and muscatels, musk-seed, musk-tree, musk-wood, etc.[60] But a musky odor is not merely widespread in Nature among plants and the lower animals, it is peculiarly associated with man. Incidentally we have already seen how it is regarded as characteristic of some races of man, especially the Chinese. Moreover, the smell of the negress is said to be musky in character, and among Europeans a musky odor is said to be characteristic of blondes. Laycock, in his Nervous Diseases of Women, stated his opinion that "the musk odor is certainly the sexual odor of man"; and Féré states that the musk odor is that among natural perfumes most nearly approaching the odor of the sexual secretions. We have seen that the Chinese poet vaunts the musky odor of his mistress's armpits, while another Oriental saying concerning the attractive woman is that "her navel is filled with musk." Persian literature contains many references to musk as an attractive body odor, and Firdusi speaks of a woman's hair as "a crown of musk," while the Arabian poet Motannabi says of his mistress that "her hyacinthine hair smells sweeter than Scythian musk." Galopin stated that he knew women whose natural odor of musk (and less frequently of ambergris) was sufficiently strong to impart to a bath in less than an hour a perfume due entirely to the exhalations of the musky body; it must be added that Galopin was an enthusiast in this matter.

The special significance of musk from our present point of view lies not only in the fact that we here have a perfume, widely scattered throughout nature and often in an agreeable form, which is at the same time a very frequent personal odor in man. Musk is the odor which not only in the animals to which it has given a name, but in many others, is a specifically sexual odor, chiefly emitted during the sexual season. The sexual odors, indeed, of most animals seem to be modifications of musk. The Sphinx moth has a musky odor which is confined to the male and is doubtless sexual. Some lizards have a musky odor which is heightened at the sexual season; crocodiles during the pairing season emit from their submaxillary glands a musky odor which pervades their haunts. In the same way elephants emit a musky odor from their facial glands during the rutting season. The odor of the musk-duck is chiefly confined to the breeding season.[61] The musky odor of the negress is said to be heightened during sexual excitement.

The predominance of musk as a sexual odor is associated with the fact that its actual nervous influence, apart from the presence of sexual association, is very considerable. Féré found it to be a powerful muscular stimulant. In former times musk enjoyed a high reputation as a cardiac stimulant; it fell into disuse, but in recent years its use in asthenic states has been revived, and excellent results, it has been claimed, have followed its administration in cases of collapse from Asiatic cholera. For sexual torpor in women it still has (like vanilla and sandal) a certain degree of reputation, though it is not often used, and some of the old Arabian physicians (especially Avicenna) recommended it, with castoreum and myrrh, for amenorrhoea. Its powerful action is indicated by the experience of Esquirol, who stated that he had seen cases in which sensory stimulation by musk in women during lactation had produced mania. It has always had the reputation, more especially in the Mohammedan East, of being a sexual stimulant to men; "the noblest of perfumes," it is called in El Ktab, "and that which most provokes to venery."

It is doubtless a fact significant of the special sexual effects of musk that, as Laycock remarked, in cases of special idiosyncrasy to odors, musk appears to be that odor which is most liked or disliked. Thus, the old English physician Whytt remarked that "several delicate women who could easily bear the stronger smell of tobacco have been thrown into fits by musk, ambergris, or a pale rose."[62] It may be remarked that in the Perfumed Garden of Sheik Nefzaoui it is stated that it is by their sexual effects that perfumes tend to throw women into a kind of swoon, and Lucretius remarks that a woman who smells castoreum, another animal sexual perfume, at the time of her menstrual period may swoon.[63]

Not only is musk the most cherished perfume of the Islamic world, and the special favorite of the Prophet himself, who greatly delighted in perfumes ("I love your world," he is reported to have said in old age, "for its women and its perfumes"),[64] it is the only perfume generally used by the women of a land in which the refinements of life have been carried so far as Japan, and they received it from the Chinese.[65]

Moreover, musk is still the most popular of European perfumes. It is the perfumes containing musk, Piesse states in his well-known book on the Art of Perfumery, which sell best. It is certainly true that in its simple form the odor of musk is not nowadays highly considered in Europe. This fact is connected with the ever-growing refinement in accordance with which the specific odors of the sexual regions in human beings tend to lose their primitive attractiveness and bodily odors generally become mingled with artificial perfumes and so disguised. But, although musk in its simple form, and under its ancient name, has lost its hold in Europe, it is an interesting and significant fact that it is still the perfumes which contain musk that are the most widely popular.

Peau d'Espagne may be mentioned as a highly complex and luxurious perfume, often the favorite scent of sensuous persons, which really owes a large part of its potency to the presence of the crude animal sexual odors of musk and civet. It consists of wash-leather steeped in ottos of neroli, rose, santal, lavender, verbena, bergamot, cloves, and cinnamon, subsequently smeared with civet and musk. It is said by some, probably with a certain degree of truth, that Peau d'Espagne is of all perfumes that which most nearly approaches the odor of a woman's skin; whether it also suggests the odor of leather is not so clear.

There is, however, no doubt that the smell of leather has a curiously stimulating sexual influence on many men and women. It is an odor which seems to occupy an intermediate place between the natural body odors and the artificial perfumes for which it sometimes serves as a basis; possibly it is to this fact that its occasional sexual influence is owing, for, as we have already seen, there is a tendency for sexual allurement to attach to odors which are not the specific personal body odors but yet are related to them. Moll considers, no doubt rightly, that shoe fetichism, perhaps the most frequent of sexual fetichistic perversions, is greatly favored, if, indeed, it does not owe its origin to, the associated odor of the feet and of the shoes.[66] He narrates a case of shoe fetichism in a man in which the perversion began at the age of 6; when for the first time he wore new shoes, having previously used only the left-off shoes of his elder brother; he felt and smelt these new shoes with sensations of unmeasured pleasure; and a few years later began to use shoes as a method of masturbation.[67] Nacke has also recorded the case of a shoe fetichist who declared that the sexual attraction of shoes (usually his wife's) lay largely in the odor of the leather.[68] Krafft-Ebing, again, brings forward a case of shoe fetichism in which the significant fact is mentioned that the subject bought a pair of leather cuffs to smell while masturbating.[69] Restif de la Bretonne, who was somewhat of a shoe fetichist, appears to have enjoyed smelling shoes. It is not probable that the odor of leather explains the whole of shoe fetichism,—as we shall see when, in another "Study," this question comes before us—and in many cases it cannot be said to enter at all; it is, however, one of the factors. Such a conclusion is further supported by the fact that by many the odor of new shoes is sometimes desired as an adjuvant to coitus. It is in the experience of prostitutes that such a device is not infrequent. Nacke mentions that a colleague of his was informed by a prostitute that several of her clients desired the odor of new shoes in the room, and that she was accustomed to obtain the desired perfume by holding her shoes for a moment over the flame of a spirit lamp.

The direct sexual influence of the odor of leather is, however, more conclusively proved by those instances in which it exists apart from shoes or other objects having any connection with the human body. I have elsewhere in these "Studies"[71] recorded the case of a lady, entirely normal in sexual and other respects, who is conscious of a considerable degree of pleasurable sexual excitement in the presence of the smell of leather objects, more especially of leather-bound ledgers and in shops where leather objects are sold. She thinks this dates from the period when, as a child of 9, she was sometimes left alone for a time on a high stool in an office. A possible explanation in this case lies in the supposition that on one of these early occasions sexual excitement was produced by the contact with the stool (in a way that is not infrequent in young girls) and that the accidentally associated odor of leather permanently affected the nervous system, while the really significant contact left no permanent impression. Even on such a supposition it might, however, still be maintained that a real potency of the leather odor is illustrated by this case, and this is likewise suggested by the fact that the same subject is also sexually affected by various perfumes and odorous flowers not recalling leather.[70]

It has been suggested to me by a lady that the odor of leather suggests that of the sexual organs. The same suggestion is made by Hagen,[72] and I find it stated by Gould and Pyle that menstruating girls sometimes smell of leather. The secret of its influence may thus be not altogether obscure; in the fact that leather is animal skin, and that it may thus vaguely stir the olfactory sensibilities which had been ancestrally affected by the sexual stimulus of the skin odor lies the probable foundation of the mystery.

In the absence of all suggestion of personal or animal odors, in its most exquisite forms in the fragrance of flowers, olfactory sensations are still very frequently of a voluptuous character. Mantegazza has remarked that it is a proof of the close connection between the sense of smell and the sexual organs that the expression of pleasure produced by olfaction resembles the expression of sexual pleasures.[73] Make the chastest woman smell the flowers she likes best, he remarks, and she will close her eyes, breathe deeply, and, if very sensitive, tremble all over, presenting an intimate picture which otherwise she never shows, except perhaps to her lover. He mentions a lady who said: "I sometimes feel such pleasure in smelling flowers that I seem to be committing a sin."[74] It is really the case that in many persons—usually, if not exclusively, women—the odor of flowers produces not only a highly pleasurable, but a distinctly and specifically sexual, effect. I have met with numerous cases in which this effect was well marked. It is usually white flowers with heavy, penetrating odors which exert this influence. Thus, one lady (who is similarly affected by various perfumes, forget-me-nots, ylang-ylang, etc.) finds that a number of flowers produce on her a definite sexual effect, with moistening of the pudenda. This effect is especially produced by white flowers like the gardenia, tuberose, etc. Another lady, who lives in India, has a similar experience with flowers. She writes: A scent to cause me sexual excitement must be somewhat heavy and penetrating. Nearly all white flowers so affect me and many Indian flowers with heavy, almost pungent scents. (All the flower scents are quite unconnected with me with any individual.) Tuberose, lilies of the valley, and frangipani flowers have an almost intoxicating effect on me. Violets, roses, mignonette, and many others, though very delicious, give me no sexual feeling at all. For this reason the line, 'The lilies and languors of virtue for the roses and raptures of vice' seems all wrong to me. The lily seems to me a very sensual flower, while the rose and its scent seem very good and countrified and virtuous. Shelley's description of the lily of the valley, 'whom youth makes so fair and passion so pale,' falls in much more with my ideas. "I can quite understand," she adds, "that leather, especially of books, might have an exciting effect, as the smell has this penetrating quality, but I do not think it produces any special feeling in me." This more sensuous character of white flowers is fairly obvious to many persons who do not experience from them any specifically sexual effects. To some people lilies have an odor which they describe as sexual, although these persons may be quite unaware that Hindu authors long since described the vulvar secretion of the Padmini, or perfect woman, during coitus, as "perfumed like the lily that has newly burst."[75] It is noteworthy that it was more especially the white flowers—lily, tuberose, etc.—which were long ago noted by Cloquet as liable to cause various unpleasant nervous effects, cardiac oppression and syncope.[76]

When we are concerned with the fragrances of flowers it would seem that we are far removed from the human sexual field, and that their sexual effects are inexplicable. It is not so. The animal and vegetable odors, as, indeed, we have already seen, are very closely connected. The recorded cases are very numerous in which human persons have exhaled from their skins—sometimes in a very pronounced degree—the odors of plants and flowers, of violets, of roses, of pineapple, of vanilla. On the other hand, there are various plant odors which distinctly recall, not merely the general odor of the human body, but even the specifically sexual odors. A rare garden weed, the stinking goosefoot, Chenopodium vulvaria, it is well known, possesses a herring brine or putrid fish odor—due, it appears, to propylamin, which is also found in the flowers of the common white thorn or mayflower (Crataegus oxyacantha) and many others of the Rosaceae—which recalls the odor of the animal and human sexual regions.[77] The reason is that both plant and animal odors belong chemically to the same group of capryl odors (Linnaeus's Odores hircini), so called from the goat, the most important group of odors from the sexual point of view. Caproic and capryl acid are contained not only in the odor of the goat and in human sweat, and in animal products as many cheeses, but also in various plants, such as Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), and the Stinking St. John's worts (Hypericum hircinum), as well as the Chenopodium. Zwaardemaker considers it probable that the odor of the vagina belongs to the same group, as well as the odor of semen (which Haller called odor aphrodisiacus), which last odor is also found, as Cloquet pointed out, in the flowers of the common berberry (Berberis vulgaris) and in the chestnut. A very remarkable and significant example of the same odor seems to occur in the case of the flowers of the henna plant, the white-flowered Lawsonia (Lawsonia inermis), so widely used in some Mohammedan lands for dyeing the nails and other parts of the body. "These flowers diffuse the sweetest odor," wrote Sonnini in Egypt a century ago; "the women delight to wear them, to adorn their houses with them, to carry them to the baths, to hold them in their hands, and to perfume their bosoms with them. They cannot patiently endure that Christian and Jewish women shall share the privilege with them. It is very remarkable that the perfume of the henna flowers, when closely inhaled, is almost entirely lost in a very decided spermatic odor. If the flowers are crushed between the fingers this odor prevails, and is, indeed, the only one perceptible. It is not surprising that so delicious a flower has furnished Oriental poetry with many charming traits and amorous similes." Such a simile Sonnini finds in the Song of Songs, i. 13-14.[78]

The odor of semen has not been investigated, but, according to Zwaardemaker, artificially produced odors (like cadaverin) resemble it. The odor of the leguminous fenugreek, a botanical friend considers, closely approaches the odor given off in some cases by the armpit in women. It is noteworthy that fenugreek contains cumarine, which imparts its fragrance to new-mown hay and to various flowers of somewhat similar odor. On some persons these have a sexually exciting effect, and it is of considerable interest to observe that they recall to many the odor of semen. "It seems very natural," a lady writes, "that flowers, etc., should have an exciting effect, as the original and by far the pleasantest way of love-making was in the open among flowers and fields; but a more purely physical reason may, I think, be found in the exact resemblance between the scent of semen and that of the pollen of flowering grasses. The first time I became aware of this resemblance it came on me with a rush that here was the explanation of the very exciting effect of a field of flowering grasses and, perhaps through them, of the scents of other flowers. If I am right, I suppose flower scents should affect women more powerfully than men in a sexual way. I do not think anyone would be likely to notice the odor of semen in this connection unless they had been greatly struck by the exciting effects of the pollen of grasses. I had often noticed it and puzzled over it." As pollen is the male sexual element of flowers, its occasionally stimulating effect in this direction is perhaps but an accidental result of a unity running through the organic world, though it may be perhaps more simply explained as a special form of that nasal irritation which is felt by so many persons in a hay-field. Another correspondent, this time a man, tells me that he has noted the resemblance of the odor of semen to that of crushed grasses. A scientific friend who has done much work in the field of organic chemistry tells me he associates the odor of semen with that produced by diastasic action on mixing flour and water, which he regards as sexual in character. This again brings us to the starchy products of the leguminous plants. It is evident that, subtle and obscure as many questions in the physiology and psychology of olfaction still remain, we cannot easily escape from their sexual associations.

[53] H. Beauregard, Matière Médicale Zoologique: Histoire des Drogues d'origine Animate, 1901.

[54] Professor Plateau, of Ghent, has for many years carried on a series of experiments which would even tend to show that insects are scarcely attracted by the colors of flowers at all, but mainly influenced by a sense which would appear to be smell. His experiments have been recorded during recent years (from 1887) in the Bulletins de l'Académie Royale de Belgique, and have from time to time been summarized in Nature, e.g., February 5, 1903.

[55] David Sharp, Cambridge Natural History: Insects, Part II, p. 398.

[56] Mantegazza, Fisiologia dell' Amore, 1873, p. 176.

[57] Mantegazza (L'Amour dans l'Humanité, p. 94) refers to various peoples who practice this last custom. Egypt was a great centre of the practice more than 3000 years ago.

[58] Hagen, Sexuelle Osphrésiologie, 1901, p. 226. It has been suggested to me by a medical correspondent that one of the primitive objects of the hair, alike on head, mons veneris, and axilla, was to collect sweat and heighten its odor to sexual ends.

[59] The names of all our chief perfumes are Arabic or Persian: civet, musk, ambergris, attar, camphor, etc.

[60] Cloquet (Osphrésiologie, pp. 73-76) has an interesting passage on the prevalence of the musk odor in animals, plants, and even mineral substances.

[61] Laycock brings together various instances of the sexual odors of animals, insisting on their musky character (Nervous Diseases of Women; section, "Odors"). See also a section in the Descent of Man (Part II, Chapter XVIII), in which Darwin argues that "the most odoriferous males are the most successful in winning the females." Distant also has an interesting paper on this subject, "Biological Suggestions," Zoologist, May, 1902; he points out the significant fact that musky odors are usually confined to the male, and argues that animal odors generally are more often attractive than protective.

[62] R. Whytt, Works, 1768, p. 543.

[63] Lucretius, VI, 790-5.

[64] Mohammed, said Ayesha, was very fond of perfumes, especially "men's scents," musk and ambergris. He used also to burn camphor on odoriferous wood and enjoy the fragrant smell, while he never refused perfumes when offered them as a present. The things he cared for most, said Ayesha, were women, scents, and foods. Muir, Life of Mahomet, vol. iii, p. 297.

[65] H. ten Kate, International Centralblatt fur Anthropologie, Ht. 6, 1902. This author, who made observations on Japanese with Zwaardemaker's olfactometer, found that, contrary to an opinion sometimes stated, they have a somewhat defective sense of smell. He remarks that there are no really native Japanese perfumes.

[66] Moll: Die Kontrare Sexualempfindung, third edition, 1890, p. 306.

[67] Moll: Libido Sexualis, bd. 1, p. 284.

[68] P. Nacke, "Un Cas de Fetichisme de Souliers," Bulletin de la Société de Médecine Mentale de Belgique, 1894.

[69] Psychopathia Sexualis, English edition, p. 167.

[70] Philip Salmuth (Observationes Medicae, Centuria II, no. 63) in the seventeenth century recorded a case in which a young girl of noble birth (whose sister was fond of eating chalk, cinnamon, and cloves) experienced extreme pleasure in smelling old books. It would appear, however, that in this case the fascination lay not so much in the odor of the leather as in the mouldy odor of worm-eaten books; "faetore veterum liborum, a blattis et tineis exesorum, situque prorsus corruptorum" are Salmuth's words.

[71] Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vol. iii, "Appendix B, History VIII."

[72] Sexuelle Osphrésiologie, p. 106.

[73] Mantegazza, Fisiologia dell'Amore, p. 176.

[74] In this connection I may quote the remark of the writer of a thoughtful article in the Journal of Psychological Medicine, 1851: "The use of scents, especially those allied to the musky, is one of the luxuries of women, and in some constitutions cannot be indulged without some danger to the morals, by the excitement to the ovaria which results. And although less potent as aphrodisiacs in their action on the sexual system of women than of men, we have reason to think that they cannot be used to excess with impunity by most."

[75] Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, 1883, p. 5.

[76] Cloquet, Osphrésiologie, p. 95.

[77] In Normandy the Chenopodium, it is said, is called "conio," and in Italy erba connina (con, cunnus), on account of its vulvar odor. The attraction of dogs to this plant has been noted. In the same way cats are irresistibly attracted to preparations of valerian because their own urine contains valerianic acid.

[78] Sonnini, Voyage dans la Haute et Basse Egypte, 1799, vol. i. p. 298.

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