Review of Sex and Society

Clark Wessler

Sex and Society. Studies in the Social Psychology of Sex. By WILLIAM I. THOMAS. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1907. 12, 366 pp.

This book is chiefly a collection of special articles published from time to time in periodicals. The chapter headings are : Organic Differences in the Sexes, Sex and Primitive Social Control, Sex and Social Feeling, Sex and Primitive Industry, Sex and Primitive Morality, The Psychology of Exogamy, The Psychology of Modesty and Clothing, The Adventitious Character of Woman, The Mind of Woman and the Lower Races.

The general anabolic and katabolic conception of the sexes is accepted by the author at the start as the organic basis of society. While this is now the traditional view in biology and sociology, the author presents arguments in support of this sex antithesis as expressed in psychic and social activities. On the social side the male is considered as unsocial, or disposed to wander about detached, while the female because of her association with children forms the nucleus of a social group. In a general way the theory of maternal descent is accepted, but the author rejects the idea that promiscuity is implied in such a condition for the tie binding the woman and the children is a real, if not the real, social bond. However, the ever prevailing tendency toward male social authority is considered

( 398) the logical consequence of his katabolic disposition, and in turn tends to make men social or at least amenable to domestication. The author attempts to show that men are in many respects still anti-social in the struggles of economic life.

It is considered that social feeling has an organic basis in the instinctive reflexive activities involved in the care of children. The general accepted ethnological view that women seem to have developed most of the industrial arts is introduced as additional support to the view that the mother is the real psychological and organic nucleus around which social conventionalities concentrate. The primitive division of labor, about which so much sentiment has been diffused, is treated as a social habit fallen into by men and women yielding to their instincts. Because of children and the instincts set off by their presence, the house became the habitual province of the women. Then the home with its women and industrial comforts developed monogamy, a habit fallen into by men and women in response to their conscious sexual life and the needs of the woman's family during the long growing period of the children. Exogamy is treated at length as due to psychological factors, such as preference for the unfamiliar, love of adventure, etc.

The book is in a way summed up in the last two chapters. As an adventitious character in society woman reveals the factors and conditions previously discussed. On the strictly psychological side the author is disposed to waive all race differences and also all sex differences, with the consciousness however that on a practical basis there are decided race and sex differences and that they are none the less real because social. According to the position taken, women are better equipped for social life than men and there is no apparent reason why they may not some time become the intellectualists and economic producers of society.

The above resume is too brief to do full justice to the author's plan of treatment. The parts of the book likely to be of greatest interest to the readers of this journal are the chapters on industry, exogamy, and mental differences.

The author's method is the more or less conventional one of the sociologist, which like all methods has many limitations. However, into the procedure of this method have been introduced the results of psychological methods and in this sense the author has made some important contributions to the subject as seen from the anthropological point of view. For example, the conscious factors in sexual activity as opposed to a pairing season and in turn the promiscuity have rarely received consideration in the classical works on marriage and the family. Without

( 399) taking this into account the arguments pro and con fall short of result. Again, the demand of our psychophysical life for powerful stimuli, or the conditions for the functioning of the emotions, can not be neglected and in this the author finds an explanation for the apparent relation between sexual and religious activities. The reviewer is not entirely in sympathy with the sociological method that takes general biological conceptions as points of departure in the construction of social theories. It should be noted, however, that the author, while outwardly conforming to that method, has insisted upon a human being with a complement of instincts as the point of departure, regardless of any conceptions as to the origin of the same. CLARK WESSLЕR.


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