The History of Human Marriage - Vol. 1

By Edward Westermarck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
COURTSHIP

WHEREVER we are able to observe an external difference between the male and the female reproductive cells of plants, the male cell behaves actively in the union and the female cell passively.1In this respect there is an analogy between plants and many of the lower animals. In the case of some lowly-organised animals, which are permanently affixed to the same spot, the male element is invariably brought to the female. There are other instances in which the females alone are fixed, and the males must be the seekers. Even when the males and females of a species are both free, it is almost always the males that first approach the females. 2

As Darwin points out, we can see the reason why, in the first instance, the male plays the active part:--"Even if the ova were detached before fertilisation, and did not require subsequent nourishment or protection, there would yet be greater difficulty in transporting them than the male element, because, being larger than the latter, they are produced in far smaller numbers."3He adds, however, that, with respect to forms of which the progenitors were primordially free, it is difficult to understand why the males should invariably have acquired the habit of approaching the females, instead of being approached by them. Perhaps the explanation may be that the seeker is more exposed to danger than the one sought after, and that the death of a male at the pairing time is less disadvantageous for the existence of the species than the death of a female. At any rate, we

____________________
1
Sachs, Text-Book of Botany, p. 897.
2
Darwin, Descent of Man, i.343sq.
3
Ibid. i. 343.

-455-

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