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[WiiN Ed. Note: This may have been the first book in the history of the world to address women's real sexuality.
This is Chaper 2 of Marie Stopes's groundbreaking book that opened the door to honest and realistic awareness of women's sexuality. Presented by Women's Internet Information Network. -- Irene Stuber]
physiological reason, a reciprocal need
for enjoyment and benefit from union (sex) in marriage...
What shall be done to quiet the
heart-cry of the world? How answer the dumb appeal for help we so often
divine below eyes that laugh?
Dreaming of happiness, feeling that at last they have each found the one who will give eternal understanding and tenderness, the young man and maiden marry.
(MS Postscript: In this, and in most of the generalisarions found in this book, I am speaking of things as they are in Great Britain. While, to a considerable extent, the same is true of America and the Scandinavian countries, it must be remembered all through that I am speaking of the British, and primarily of our educated dames.)
At first, in the time generally called the honeymoon, the unaccustomed
freedom and the sweetness of the relation often does bring real happiness.
In the first joy of their union it is hidden from the two young people
that they know little or nothing about the fundamental laws of each other's
But so long as the first illusion that each understands the other is
supported by the thrilling delight of ever-fresh discoveries, the sensations
lived through are so rapid and so joyous that the lovers do not realize
that there is no firm foundation of real mutual knowledge beneath their
But about the much more fundamental and vital problems of sex, there
is a lack of knowledge so abysmal and so universal that its mists and shadowy
darkness have affected even the few who lead us, and who are prosecuting
research in these subjects.
Nearly all those whose own happiness seems to be dimmed or broken count themselves exceptions, and comfort themselves with the thought of some of their friends, who, they feel sure, have attained the happiness which they themselves have missed.
It is generally supposed that happy people, like happy nations, have
no history - they are silent about their own affairs.
Leaving out of account "femmes incomprises" and all the innumerable neurotic, super-sensitive, and slightly abnormal people, it still remains an astonishing and tragic fact that so large a proportion of marriages lose their early bloom and are to some extent unhappy.
For years many men and women have confided to me the secrets of their
lives; and of all the innumerable marriages of which the inner circumstances
are known to me, there are tragically few which approach even humanly attainable
Where the bride is, as are so many of our educated girls, composed of
virgin sweetness shut in ignorance, the man is often the first to create
"the rift within the lute" but his suffering begins almost simultaneously
Yet I think, nevertheless, it is true that in the early days of marriage
the young man is often even more sensitive, more romantic, more easily
pained about all ordinary things, and he enters marriage hoping for an
even higher degree of spiritual and bodily unity than does the girl or
On the other hand, the woman is slower to realize disappointment, and more often by the sex-life of marriage is of the two the more profoundly wounded, with a slow corrosive wound that eats into her very being.
Perfect happiness is a unity composed of a myriad essences; and this one supreme thing is exposed to the attacks of countless destructive factors.
Were I to touch upon all the possible sources of marital disappointment and unhappiness, this book would expand into a dozen bulky volumes.
As I am addressing those who I assume have read, or can read, other books written upon various ramifications of the subject, I will not discuss the themes which have been handled by many writers, nor deal with abnormalities, which fill so large a part of most books on sex.
In the last few years there has been such an awakening to the realization of the corrosive horror of all aspects of prostitution that there is no need to labour the point that no marriage can be happy where the husband has, in buying another body, sold his own health with his honor, and is tainted with disease.
Nor is it necessary, in speaking to well-meaning, optimistic young couples,
to enlarge upon the obvious dangers of drunkenness, self- indulgence, and
the cruder forms of selfishness.
In the state of ignorance which so largely predominates today, the first
sign that things are amiss between the two who thought they were entering
paradise together, is generally a sense of loneliness, a feeling that the
one who was expected to have all in common is outside some experience,
some subtle delight, and fails to understand the needs of the loved one.
Then, so strange is the mystical inter-relation between our bodies, our minds, and our souls, that for crimes committed in ignorance of the dual functions of the married pair, and the laws which harmonize them, the punishments are reaped on planes quite diverse, till new and ever new misunderstandings appear to spring spontaneously from the soil of their mutual contact.
Gradually or swiftly each heart begins to hide a sense of boundless
This profound sense of misunderstanding finds readier expression in
the cruder and more ordinary natures. The disappointment of the married
is expressed not only in innumerable books and plays, but even in comic
papers and all our daily gossip. Now that so many 'movements are abroad,
folk on all sides are emboldened to express the opinion that it is marriage
itself which is at fault.
And even when once learnt, the Art of Love takes time to practice. As Ellen Key says, "Love requires peace, love will dream; it cannot live upon the remnants of our time and our personality."
There is no doubt that Love loses, in the haste and bustle of the modern
turmoil, not only its charm and graces, but some of its vital essence.
Now physical passion, so swiftly stimulated in man, tends to override
all else, and the untutored man seeks but one thing the accomplishment
(MS Postscript: So many people are now born and bred in artificial and false surroundings, that even the elementary fact that the acts of love should be joyous is unknown to them. A distinguished American doctor made this amazing statement: "I do not believe mutual pleasure in the sexual act has any particular bearing on the happiness of life." (American Medical Association Report. 1900.) This is, perhaps, an extreme case, yet so many distinguished medical men, gynaecologists and physiologists, are either in ignorance or error regarding some of the profoundest facts of human sex-life, that it is not surprising that ordinary young couples, however hopeful, should break and destroy the joy that might have been their life long crown.)
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