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Feldman, A.B. (1960). The Pattern of Promiscuity Seen in Schnitzler's “Round Dance”. Psychoanal. Rev., 47A(1):24-34.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Review, 47A(1):24-34

The Pattern of Promiscuity Seen in Schnitzler's “Round Dance”

A. Bronson Feldman

There is an old theory that the earliest mode of sexual relations enjoyed, or at any rate practiced, by the human race was promiscuity: casual, choiceless intercourse between strangers, who joined and sundered with no lasting curiosity about each other's characters. The theory was expounded with well-marshalled evidence and reasoning by the fathers of the science of anthropology, Jakob Bachofen and Lewis Morgan, whose ghosts haunt the libraries and laboratories of their modern antagonists in every civilized land.

Later explorers of culture—not all of them cynics (for example, Robert Briffault and Logan Clendenning)—have contended that humanity never demoted this indiscriminate copulation from the prime place which they allege it occupies in the affection of our species. Economic necessity, they say, and religious terror, plus the police, have thrown up dikes against the oceanic propulsion to promiscuity, but these dikes (marriage, celibacy, romance, and their tabus or penalties) are always dissolving and everywhere in danger of breaches and leaks. Other researchers in the history of human nature, notably Edward Westermarck and Havelock Ellis, deny that men and women are essentially choiceless in sex and have no fundamental aim but the animal one of oestrus, stark blind rut. These investigators argue that humanity, like the other major primates, obeys an impulse to limit mating as a rule, to select the sexual partners with care and cling to them and linger with them exclusively until forces beyond mortal control finally part them. According to this outlook, promiscuity means disease, a breakdown or running amok of the basic instinct.

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