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 Modern psychology is throwing so much light upon human behavior that concerning delinquency one cannot do better than follow the teaching of Spinoza, “Neither condemn nor ridicule but try to understand.” Such an attitude led to the establishment of the first mental clinic in connection with a court, where Doctor William Healy revealed astonishing facts regarding causes and cures of delinquency; such an attitude led to this sociological study of delinquency. Having learned from Doctor Healy the relation between mental conflict and misconduct and the possibility of cure by the freeing of blocked emotion, social workers were somewhat prepared for one of the unusual situations brought about by the war,—namely, the wholesale arrests of girls and women on suspicion of venereal disease, with effort on the part of the government not only to cure the physical disease but to rehabilitate the individual. The gathering of data by the Girls’ Protective Bureau of the United States Interdepartmental Social Hygiene Board gave a basis for study which years of private practice or philanthropy could not assemble. One felt about these young prostitutes that mere suppression by force would not reach the root of the matter,—that causes and conditions must be studied. With this in mind certain lines of research were undertaken, primarily to gather and interpret data which would lead to less unjust vitreatment than is at present accorded so-called delinquent women, by changing public opinion and especially altering procedure in our courts, jails and hospitals. It was hoped that such data might also tend toward a better understanding of human relations and indicate marriage standards based upon biology and psychology rather than on economics.
A profound statement of Mr. Thomas’s is, “Statistics in themselves are nothing more than the symptoms of unknown causal processes. A social institution can be understood and modified only if we do not limit ourselves to the study of its formal organization but analyze the way in which it appears in the personal experience of various members of the group and follow the influence it has on their lives.” It was just the sudden knowledge of the effect of our custom, law and court procedure as they influenced the lives of individual girls which brought critical questioning of such justice as had been meted out to them. It seemed as if society had been systematically wrecking women.
The government program acted as a searchlight flashed upon the farce of our dual system of morality. In the case of a child suffering assault or rape she might be detained in an old type of reform school till her majority gave her freedom—a poor preparation for later life—while the man, were he convicted, rarely had a long sentence. Of two parents of a child conceived out of wedlock, for the girl abortion is classed as crime; motherhood brings shame and condemnation; while the part of the man passes as a biological necessity. Whereas in some hospitals fifty per cent of the women arrested on suspicion of disease were found to be not infected, it was suggested in one city that prophylactic stations be established in men’s clubs and even in viiboys’ schools,—the futility of fine and jail for the woman, freedom for the man.
This war measure brought hundreds of girls to our courts for whom in some States there was no proper provision. This emergency developed rapid establishment of correctional schools of most approved type, showing marked success in the rehabilitation of girls, even with some seeming psychopathic cases. Little girls unfortunate enough to have a sex experience called to the attention of the court, who in the past would have been confined behind bars, are now placed in the country, given good food and opportunity for free happy activity. Formerly for the unmarried mothers the psychological values of pregnancy were ignored, and in the effort to save the reputation by concealing motherhood the mind and character were often weakened.
If fear in soldiers could produce pathological symptoms both mental and physical, curable by psychiatry, might not some of this apparent feeble-mindedness be a hysteria resulting from shock? Most case histories showed early sex experience treated, especially when pregnancy resulted, with utmost scorn, contempt and condemnation. Surely the world offers to these little unmarried mothers as menacing a front as was faced by the soldiers in France. For girls passing through Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles, right environment is provided where they receive friendly care and encouragement. As a psychologist said of the soldiers, “Morale is pumped into them.” The fact that they have shown during pregnancy an advance in intelligence quotient amounting in some cases to ten points demands a reconsideration of opinion till further data give scientific basis for judgment.
viiiIn the introduction to Kammerer’s study of “The Unmarried Mother”, Doctor Healy questions whether such a constructive act as bringing a child into the world should ever be classed as a crime. Life, legal or illegal, must be respected.
One grows to love the incorrigible girl. She has many fine qualities. A protective officer was escorting to a State institution a girl thought too bad for a House of the Good Shepherd. A train wreck occurred and she thought, “Here is where my girl escapes me.” On the contrary, the “incorrigible” turned to and helped as many as possible of those injured. The biologist tells us it is just this superabundant vitality that is necessary for the evolution of higher types.
In the autumn of 1919 at the International Conference of Women Physicians held in New York under the auspices of the National Y. W. C. A. for discussion of the physical, mental and social health of women, many valuable contributions were made to our problem. The relation between sex shock and nervous disease was plainly given by the psychoanalysts, and their theory of retarded emotion and fixation of infantile affection explained varied phases of behavior. Most encouraging of all was Freud’s hypothesis of sublimation.
Those who, in Freud’s teaching of the danger of sex repression to mental health, find merely sanction for license miss the point of his wonderful message. This theory that life force, libido, creative energy, follows the Law of Conservation true of Physical force—that as motion may become heat, light or electricity, so this inner power may be transmuted from procreative effort to creative work of hand and brain—would seem to explain much of the modern success in the rehabilitation ixof the young prostitute. This transmutation of sex force into art and religion had been noted in the past by Jacob Boehme and James Hinton. Myers hinted it in a line of poetry, “Forge and transform my passion into power”, but it remained for Freud to bring it to common understanding. James Hinton, the English surgeon, said just after our Civil War, “Prostitution will pass as has slavery when it becomes too great a burden for humanity to carry.” That time has come and prostitution must pass. Prostitution and promiscuity will be eliminated not by force but through sublimation.
Further analysis of this hypothesis of sublimation shows that life energy or libido may be manifested physically, psychically, socially, spiritually:
Physically in motion, eating, drinking and in sex acts;
Psychically in art, science, literature, anything which uses one’s wits;
Socially in service to others;
Spiritually in meditating upon Infinite Power or seeking one’s relation to The Whole.
Though these divisions give somewhat roughly general group types, humanity shows infinite variety of expression, and individuals may change from time to time according to influence and environment. Each may be developed through her special abilities. One notes with interest that associated with physical sex expression there is frequently great cleverness in cookery and crochet. Each must be stabilized on her own level.
An interesting report comes from El Retiro, the experimental school for correctional education established by the city and county of Los Angeles during xthe war. Of two hundred girls passing through this institution during the first three years, only two have drifted to the underworld, these being drug addicts when they came from the court. One hundred and ninety-eight are functioning socially in the community. These girls were all under twenty-one years. On arriving at El Retiro each girl is studied by a group consisting of the referee of the court, the psychologist, the superintendent, the teacher and the head of student government. So soon as her interests and special abilities are discovered, a project is chosen which will prepare her for constructive living in the community. The girls are stimulated to mental expression of energy, not set to hours of dull routine, scrubbing floors or paring potatoes. Not punishment but responsibility develops power and leads to higher expression and achievement. Science is teaching us that man is an epitome of the past,—that in each human being is retained the impress of prehuman behavior. As one analyst puts it, “Each day is an adjustment between the higher nerve centers and the spinal column.” We must study this conservation of life force that we may strengthen those manifestations which show ascending effort and decrease the tendency to revert to action patterns of earlier forms.
A dictum of the percipient mind of the biologist-sociologist, Lester Ward, should startle us into fresh appraisal of life’s values. Shortly before his death he said, “The day will come when society shall be as much shocked at the crime of perpetuating the least taint of hereditary disease, insanity or other serious defect, as it is now at the comparatively harmless crime of incest.”
As an equation is solved more simply by algebra xithan arithmetic, so any subject carried up into the next higher universe of discourse becomes clarified, falls into proper perspective, and is more easily understood. This thought in conjunction with the statement of Lester Ward shows the need of extending our discussion to include women both in and out of wedlock, and instead of differentiating the good from the bad by legal definition, the ethics of human mating must be based upon those laws of nature which secure the finest human v............
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