THE MOON AND THE SEX DRIVE (Oct, 1964)
In honor of yesterday’s Super Moon.
THE MOON AND THE SEX DRIVE
by Albert Abarbanel, Ph.D.
A discussion of theories about how the moon’s cycle affects the rise and fall of sex desire.
The moon has always played a prominent part in people’s beliefs about sex. Primitive tribes conduct elaborate fertility rites when the moon is full. The peasants of southern Germany, southern France and Spain believe that the best time to conceive a child is during a crescent moon. Police chiefs alert their sex squads for trouble when the moon is full.
Whatever the basis for these beliefs may be, there is no doubt that they have persisted with many variations through a great deal of history.
The Botocudo tribe of East Africa, for example, worship the moon as the giver of virility to men and fertility to women. Botocudo boys go through an elaborate circumcision ritual when they reach the age of puberty and are initiated into the mysteries of sex under the light of a full moon.
Botocudo brides expose themselves to the moon before marriage and pray to it for the power to give sexual satisfaction to their husbands.
Many tribes in Africa, Eskimos in Alaska, Greenlanders and Australian bushmen believe that sexual intercourse under a full moon always results in pregnancy. To guard against this, when it is not desired, the men rub saliva on the stomachs of the women just before the period of a full moon, a treatment which is supposed to prevent the stomach from swelling—in effect, an effort to prevent pregnancy.
Some natives believe that the moon itself is a virile force. Thus, certain Nigerian tribes are of the opinion that a woman can have a baby by the moon without any help from a male.
On the other hand, among North African tribes, the belief is that the moon gives women children by making the males vigorous and fertile. One curious legend has it that the Great Moon Mother sends the man in the moon to earth to impregnate women.
In some cases, notably among the Buriats of western Mongolia, young males cultivate their virility by indulging in homosexual orgies in the moonlight. No married males are permitted to participate, but a man who has been divorced because his wife was unable to bear children may join in the orgies in the hope that his next marriage will turn out to be more productive.
The Buriats also believe that children conceived when the moon is at its height will be stronger, handsomer and more talented than children conceived at other times.
This belief is not restricted to savage tribes. Even today, in the west of England, there is a popular rhyme that runs: “Over land and sea will rule The child begot when moon is full.”
And the Nandis of Central Africa believe that all royal babies, the sons and daughters of chiefs, are conceived during a full moon.
They carry this belief so far that when a royal baby is born with some physical or mental handicap, it is considered proof that the mother has been unfaithful to the husband and may be discarded without the husband’s having to return to her family any part of the dowry that came with her.
Many of these beliefs obviously have no basis in scientific possibilities. However, the influence of the moon cannot be ruled out altogether.
Some police experts believe that their records show a rise in the number of sex crimes when the moon is full.
They point to one study of the Detroit police records which showed a 23 per cent increase in sexual assaults in the full moon period as compared with the rest of the month.
They point also to the case of “The Moonlight Monster,” who terrorized northern Italy some time ago. This was the name given to Guido Zingerle, a 48-year-old peasant, who kidnapped farm girls, took them to his hideaway in the Tyrolean mountains, and raped and tortured them to death. Every one of Zingerle’s crimes was committed when the moon was full. Zingerle vividly described how, during a full moon, it was as though the blood boiled in his veins and beat with a stepped-up rhythm.
A German psychologist Bernhard Klausner kept records of the sexual activities of 28 males ranging in age from 19 to 50. Over a 3-year period he found that over 74 per cent of their sexual activity occurred when the moon was full.
Even more interesting was the discovery that for the older men in the group the percentage was higher; and in one case, that of a man of 46, sexual potency was completely dependent on the full moor. Without it, his virility declined to zero.
But all of this is merely suggestive —it is very far from being of a scope wide enough and careful enough to constitute any scientific proof.
The most obvious connection between the moon and sex functioning would seem to be the female monthly menstrual period. Many primitive tribes thought that this process was governed by the moon, and this belief is still held by many people.
However, Dr. Ashley Montagu points out (see Sexology, July, 1963, page 823) that the lunar month during which the moon goes through its phases is about 29% days long. On the other hand, the average menstrual cycle varies from 28 to 32 days, and even varies from month to month with each woman.
“In fact,” he writes, “irregularity in menstruation is more the rule than the exception, in contrast to the precise habits of the moon.” Thus, Dr. Montagu concludes, “phases of the moon have no more effect on women than do the big league baseball schedules.”
Still, scientists hesitate to dismiss the long-held belief in a possible connection between the moon and the moods of human beings. The massive gravitational pull of the moon that results in high and low tides, they say, may very well have some effect on the chemicals in the body.
The latest findings about conditions in space suggest that we may do well to keep an open mind on this question.
According to Sir Bernard Lovell— one of England’s most distinguished astronomers—changing conditions in space may well have an effect on man’s mentality.
In the past few years, he says, “some strange and inexplicable links appear to be emerging between lunar phases, rainfall, meteoric impact, magnetic storms and mental disturbances.”
He points to a study made by 3 American scientists, which found a significant connection between magnetic storms and admissions to 8 psychiatric hospitals in New York State between 1957 and 1961. He then goes on to declare: “It almost seems that we are moving through a series of scientific fantasies to a proof of the ancient belief in the connection between the moon and lunacy.”
A psychotherapist and marriage counselor, Dr. Abarbanel was co-editor of “The Encyclopedia of Sexual Behavior” and co-author of “An Assault on Civilization” and “What Every Woman Should Know About Marriage.”