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In Praise of Ellis

(Article published in the Sep 30, 2009 issue of Manila Standard Today) 

 Ellis knew his sex. Boldly, he declared that “Sex lies at the root of life, and we can never learn to reverence life until we know how to understand sex.” Thus, it is with clinical detachment, that true to his science and in conformity with his skill, he could be imagined as saying, “I love making love in the morning, slow and languorous as my mind is clear with no alcohol in my system.  No oral sex though because that would mean a shower before which would wake me up fully.  Night is for adventure and to explore. Afternoons are usually spontaneous and quick before a siesta.”

 And sex to him is not to be limited to the immediate physical occurrence of concourse. It could be found everywhere.  To Ellis, sex could be seen both in the most explicitly carnal as well as in the more remote objects of nutrition.  “The omnipresent process of sex, as it is woven into the whole texture of our man's or woman's body, is the pattern of all the process of our life,” he wrote.

 When perchance or by choice, Ellis had no companion to do sex with, he would not be without recourse.  In the unromantic act of eating alone, for instance, his mind could nevertheless see sex in the humble biscuit. Thus, it would thus not be a surprise if he had at one time written, “Awoke about 30 minutes ago and lay in bed reading.  This ‘lying in bed’ illness seems to be spreading! Having tea and biscuits and I can’t remember the last time I had a biscuit. The biscuits have a cream centre between two biscuits and I remember as a child, I used to split the biscuit and lick the cream off before eating it.  That’s where I must have got my “licking” skills from.” Ellis proclaims, “Man lives by imagination.”


Ellis knew his psychology.  And he dishes out good advice, particularly on how to handle gossip mongers.  He may have said to the girl he wanted to cohabit with at the time he was trying to get her: “Don’t worry about people talking, they will.”  His advice to the woman on how she was to handle talk could have been, “…all I can say is what cannot be cured, must be endured.  Since we cannot stop the talk, we must plan on how to handle this.  The best defense as I have always said is offence.”  Accordingly, he can be imagined to be coaching his love to, by way of pre-emptive attack against the malicious gossipers, ask them “if they think that because I am the CEO, should I not have a smoking buddy or best friend” and to “show them that you are irritated with their insinuations.” The expected reaction is that “they will back off” even without the aggressive finger just inches away from the face of an equally profit-motivated operator.

“You,” Ellis can be thought to instruct, “can emphasize on the regular smoking timings (if the vulgar crowd is asking about their smoking at the same time), and yes, admit (that’s the ultimate in boldness) I call you sometimes when I have stress to relieve.”

 Since he was not averse to enjoying women albeit he was already married to Mary, he had, I assume, perfected the art of deceit, a skill that is obviously inconsistent with a job that requires being “fit and proper.”  “You should change my name on the telephone…” Ellis can be expected to say, “I should stop texting early in the morning because if your son has access to your phone, then so does your husband and he’ll wonder who is setting texts regularly and so early.  That should be enough to make him suspicious.”

 When the illicit love sends out a long list of hurts, or of instances she was terribly misunderstood, Ellis, if so confronted, would refuse to be embroiled in the details and harp instead on the “big picture.”  This put-off has the effect of disposing of her complaints and at the same time gives the false impression that he is not trivializing her real hurts. Thus, Ellis can be expected to say, “I have no problem with anything you have said and would like to reply tomorrow.”  He would then be able to end with a flourish: “I will never let you go.  I need you and love you.  So you don’t have to wait till tomorrow. You are mine and I hope I am yours. Good night and love you so much it hurts.”

 If that does not work, and the illicit love writes further, pressing for more solid commitment on such questions as whether he would get a divorce, or just separate from his wife, or they would just live together, whether publicly or in secret as in a “de-facto” marriage, then Ellis, the consummate psychologist, is bound to make a reply that elevates the discourse to a higher place.  He would say, “This is getting rather technical! Let’s discuss face to face because it’s a move scenario peppered with “what ifs”.  Please leave it for now and we can talk it through …”  To soften the blow of deliberate postponement, Ellis would likely end “Love you.”

 Ellis (more precisely Henry Havelock Ellis) was happy in Australia and longed to get back there. Wistfully, he relates,  “In Australia, I gained health of body, I attained peace of soul, my life task was revealed to me, I was able to decide on a professional vocation, I became an artist in literature…these five points covered the whole activity of life in the world.”

Those activities covered a life span that started on February 2, 1859 in Corydon, London and ended on July 8, 1939 in Hintlesham, Suffolk.  Ellis was an outspoken sexologist who despite the Victorian mores of his time viewed sexual activity as the healthy and natural expression of love, and he sought to dissipate the fear and ignorance that characterized many people’s attitudes toward human sexuality. His works, particularly the multi-volume Psychology of Sex, helped foster the open discussion of sexual problems. 

Of such problems, he was no stranger.  He was impotent until the age of 60. Then he discovered what would make him rise to the occasion.  It was “baba baba baba …” since then.