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things are it is impossible
for both sexes to get what they want.
One must be sacrificed. And it is better
for society that it should be the woman."
A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties
by Dr. Marie Stopes
Love worketh no ill to his neighbor.
-- St. Paul
In the average man of our race desire knows no season beyond the slight
slackening of the winter months and the heightening of spring.
Some men have observed in themselves a faintly
marked monthly rhythm; but in the majority of men desire, even if held
in stern check, is merely slumbering.
It is always present, ever ready to wake at
the lightest call, and often so spontaneously insistent as to require perpetual
It would go ill with the men of our race had woman retained the wild
animals infrequent seasonal rhythm, and with it her inviolable rights in
her own body save at the mating season.
Woman, too, has acquired a much more frequent
rhythm; but, as it does not equal man's, he has tended to ignore and override
it, coercing her at all times and seasons, either by force, or by the even
more compelling power of divine authority and social tradition.
If man s desire is perpetual and woman's intermittent;
if man s desire naturally wells up every day or every few days, and woman's
only every fortnight or every month, it may appear at first sight impossible
for the unwarped needs of both natures simultaneously to be satisfied.
The sense that a satisfactory mutual adjustment is not within the realms
of possibility has, indeed, obsessed our race for cen tunes.
The result has been that the supposed need
of one of the partners has tended to become paramount, and we have established
the social traditions of a husband's rights and wifely duty.
As one man quite frankly said to me: "As
things are it is impossible for both sexes to get what they want. One must
be sacrificed. And it is better for society that it should be the woman."
Nevertheless, the men who consciously sacrifice the women are in a minority.
Most men act in ignorance.
Our code, however, has blindly sacrificed not
only the woman, but with her the happiness of the majority of men, who,
in total ignorance of its meaning and results, have grown up thinking that
women should submit to regularly frequent, or even nightly, intercourse.
For the sake of a few moments of physical pleasure
they lose realms of ever-expanding joy and tenderness; and while men and
women may not realize the existence of an untrodden paradise, they both
suffer, if only half consciously, from being shut out from it.
Before making some suggestions which may help
married people to find not only a pita media of mutual endurance, but a
via perfecta of mutual joy, it is necessary to consider a few points about
the actual nature of man's desire.
In the innumerable books addressed to the young which I have read, I
have not found one which gives certain points regarding the meaning of
the male sex-phenomena which must be grasped before it is possible to give
rational guidance to intelligent young men.
The general ground plan of our physiology is
told to us in youth because it so obviously is right for us to know it
accurately and in a clean scientific way, rather than to be perpetually
perplexed by fantastic imaginings.
But the physiology of our most profoundly disturbing
functions is ignored in my opinion, criminally ignored.
To describe the essentials, simple, direct
and scientific language is necessary, though it may surprise those who
are accustomed only to the hazy vagueness which has led to so much misapprehension
of the truth.
Every mating man and woman should know the following: The sex organs
of a man consist not only of the tissues which give rise to the living,
moving, ciliated cells, the sperms, and of the penis through which they
pass and by means-of which they are directed into the proper place for
their deposition, the woman's vagina.
Associated with these primary and essential
structures there are other tissues and glands which have numerous subsidiary
but yet very important parts to play; some of which influence almost every
organ in the body. Man's penis, when unstimulated, is soft, small and drooping.
But when stimulated, either by physical touch
which acts through the nerves and muscles directly, or indirectly through
messages from the brain, it increases greatly in size, and becomes stiff,
turgid and erect.
Many men imagine that the turgid condition of an erection is due to
the local accumulation of sperms, and that these can only be naturally
got rid of by an ejaculation.
This is entirely wrong.
The enlargement of the penis is not at all
due to the presence of actual sperm, but is due to the effects of the nervous
reaction on the blood-vessels, leading to the filling, principally of the
veins, and much less of the arteries.
As the blood enters but does not leave the
penis, the venous cavities in it fill up with venous blood until the whole
When rigid this organ is able to penetrate
the female entrance, and there the further stimulation calls out the sperms
from their storehouses, the seminal vesicles in the testes, and they pass
down the channel (the urethra) and are expelled.
If this is clear, it will be realized that
the stiffening and erection does not necessarily call for relief in the
ejaculation of sperm.
lf the veins can empty themselves, as they
naturally do when the nervous excitement which restricted them locally
passes, the erection will subside without any loss of sperms, by the mere
passing back of the locally excessive blood into the ordinary circulatory
This can happen quite naturally and healthily
when the nerves are soothed, either physically or as a result of a sense
of mental peace and exaltation.
When, on the other hand, the local excitement culminates in the calling
up and expulsion of the sperms, after it has once started the ejaculation
becomes quite involuntary and the sperms and the secretions associated
with them pass out of the system and are entirely lost.
Of what does this loss consist? It is estimated that there are somewhere
between two and five hundred million sperms in a single average ejaculation.
Each single one of these (in healthy men) is
capable of fertilizing a woman's egg-cell and giving rise to a new human
being. (Thus by a single ejaculation one man might fertilize nearly all
the marriageable women in the world!)
Each single one of those minute sperms carries
countless hereditary traits, and each consists very largely of nuclear
plasm the most highly specialized and richest substance in our bodies.
It is not surprising, therefore, to find that
the analysis of the chemical nature of the ejaculated fluid reveals among
other things a remarkably high percentage of calcium and phosphoric add
both precious substances in our organization.
It is therefore the greatest mistake to imagine
that the semen is something to be got rid of frequently all the vital energy
and the precious chemical substances which go to its composition can be
better utilized by being transformed into other creative work on most days
of the month.
And so mystic and wonderful are the chemical
transformations going on in our bodies that the brain can often set this
alchemy in motion, particularly if the brain is helped by knowledge.
A strong will can often calm the nerves which
regulate the blood supply, and order the distended veins of the penis to
retract and subside without wasting the semen in an ejaculation.
But while it is good that a man should be able to do this often, it
is not good to try to do it always.
The very restraint which adds to a man s strength
up to a point, taxes his strength when carried beyond it.
It is my belief that just sufficient restraint
to carry him through the ebb-tides of his wife's sex-rhythm is usually
the right amount to give the best strength, vigor, and joy to a man if
both are normal people If the wife has, as I think the majority of healthy,
well-fed young women will be found to have, a fortnightly consciousness
or unconscious potentiality of desire, then the two should find a perfect
mutual adjustment in having fortnightly unions; for this need not be confined
to only a single union on such occasion.
Many men, who can well practice restraint for
twelve or fourteen days, will find that one union only will not then thoroughly
satisfy them; and if they have the good fortune to have healthy wives,
they will find that the latter, too, have the desire for several unions
in the course of a day or two. If the wave-crests (on the charts) are studied,
it will be seen that they spread over two or three days and show several
small minor crests.
This is what happens when a woman is thoroughly
well and vital; her desire recurs during a day or two, sometimes even every
few hours if it does not, and sometimes even when it does, receive satisfaction.
Expressed in general terms (which, of course, will not fit everybody)
my view may be formulated thus: The mutually best regulation of intercourse
in marriage is to have three or four days of repeated unions, followed
by about ten days without any unions at all, unless some strong external
stimulus has stirred a mutual desire.
I have been interested to discover that the
people known to me who have accidentally fixed upon this arrangement of
their lives are happy: and it should be noted that it fits in with the
charts I give which represent the normal, spontaneous feeling of so many
There are many women, however, who do not feel, or who may not at first
recognize, a second, but have only one time of natural pleasure in sex
in each moon-month. Many men of strong will and temperate lives will be
able so to control themselves that they can adjust themselves to this more
restrained sex- life, as do some with whom I am acquainted.
On the other hand, there will be many who find
this period too long to live through without using a larger amount of energy
in restraining their impulse than is justifiable.
It seems to me never justifiable to spend so much energy and will power
on restraining natural impulses, that valuable work and intellectual power
and poise are made to suffer.
If, then, a strongly sexed husband, who finds
it a real loss to his powers of work to endure through twenty-six days
of abstinence, should find himself married to a wife whose vitality is
so low that she can only take pleasure in physical union once in her moon-month
(in some it will be before, in some a little time after, her menstrual
flow), he should note carefully the time she is spontaneously happy in
their union, and then at any cost restrain himself through the days immediately
following, and about a fortnight after her time of desire he should set
himself ardently to woo her.
Unless she is actually out of health he is
more likely then than at any other time to succeed not only in winning
her compliance, but also in giving her the proper feeling and attaining
The husband who so restrains himself, even if it is hard to do it, will
generally find that he is a thousand-fold repaid not only by the increasing
health and happiness of his wife, and the much intenser pleasure he gains
from their mutual intercourse, but also by his own added vitality and sense
A fortnight is not too long for a healthy man
to restrain himself with advantage. Sir Thomas Clouston says (Before
I Wed, 1913, page 84):
"Nature has so arranged matters that the
more constantly control is exercised the more easy and effective it becomes.
It becomes a habit. The less control is exercised the greater tendency
there is for a desire to become a craving of an uncontrollable kind, which
is itself of the nature of disease, and means death sooner or later."
This conclusion is not only the result of the intellectual and moral
experience of our race, but is supported by physiological experiments.
While a knowledge of the fundamental laws of
our being should in the main regulate our lives, so complex are we, so
sensitive to a myriad impressions, that clock-work regularity can never
Even where the woman is strongly sexed, with
a well-marked recurrence of desire, which is generally satisfied by fortnightly
unions, it may not infrequently happen that, in between these periods,
there may be additional special occasions when there springs up a mutual
longing to unite.
These will generally depend on some event in
the lovers lives which stirs their emotions; some memory of past passion,
such as an anniversary of their wedding, or perhaps will be due to a novel,
poem, or picture which moves them deeply.
If the man she loves plays the part of tender
wooer, even at times when her passion would not spontaneously arise, a
woman can generally be stirred so fundamentally as to give a passionate
But at the times of her ebb-tides the stimulus
will have to be stronger than at the high tides, and it will then generally
be found that the appeal must be made even more through her emotional and
spiritual nature and less through the physical than usual.
The supreme law for husband is: Remember that each act of union must
be tenderly wooed for and won, and that no union should ever take place
unless the woman also desires it and is made physically ready for it.
While in most marriages the husband has to restrain himself to meet
the wife's less frequently recurrent rhythm, there are, on the other hand,
marriages in which the husband is so undersexed that he cannot have ordinary
union save at very infrequent intervals without a serious effect on his
If such a man is married to a woman who has
inherited an unusually strong and over-frequent desire, he may suffer by
union with her, or may cause her suffering by refusing to unite.
It is just possible that for such people the
method of Karezza (see Dr A. Stockman s book Karezza on the subject) might
bring them both the health and peace they need; conserving the man's vital
energy from the loss of which he suffers, and giving the woman the sense
of union and physical nerve-soothing she requires.
But the variations in the sex-needs and the
sex-ideas of different healthy people are immense, far greater than can
be suggested in this book.
Ellis states that the Queen of Aragon ordained that six times a day
was the proper rule in legitimate marriage!
So abnormally sexed a woman would today probably
succeed in killing by exhaustion a succession of husbands, for the man
who could match such a desire is rare, though perhaps less exceptional
than such a woman.
Though the timing and the frequency of union
are the points about which questions are oftenest asked by the ignorant
and well-meaning, and are most misunderstood, yet there are other fundamental
facts concerning coitus about which even medical men seem surprisingly
Regarding these, a simple statement of the physiological facts is essential.
An impersonal and scientific knowledge of the
structure of our bodies is the surest safeguard against prurient curiosity
and lascivious gloating.
This knowledge at the back of the minds of
the lovers, though not perhaps remembered as such, may also spare the unintentioned
cruelty of handling which so readily injures one whose lover is ignorant.
What actually happens in an act of union should be known.
After the preliminaries have mutually roused
the pair, the stimulated penis, enlarged and stiffened, is pressed into
the woman 's vagina.
Ordinarily when a woman is not stimulated,
the walls of this canal, as well as the exterior lips of soft tissue surrounding
it, are dry and rather crinkled, and the vaginal opening is smaller than
the man s extended penis.
But when the woman is what is physiologically
called tumescent (that is, when she is ready for union and has been profoundly
stirred) these parts are flushed by the internal blood supply and to some
extent are turgid like those of the man, while a secretion of mucus lubricates
the channel of the vagina.
In an ardent woman the vagina may even spontaneously
open and close. (So powerful is the influence of thought on our bodily
structure, that in some people all these physical results may be brought
about by the thought of the loved one, by the enjoyment of tender words
and kisses, and the beautiful subtleties of wooing.)
It can therefore be readily imagined that when
the man tries to enter a woman whom he has not wooed to the point of stimulating
her natural physical reactions of preparation, he is endeavoring to force
his entry through a dry-walled opening too small for it.
He may thus cause the woman actual pain, apart
from the mental revolt and loathing she is likely to feel for a man who
so regardlessly uses her.
On the other hand, in the tumescent woman the
opening, already naturally expanded, is lubricated by mucus, and all the
nerves and muscles are ready to react and easily accept the man's entering
This account is of the meeting of two who have been already married.
The first union of a virgin girl differs, of
course, from all others, for on that occasion the hymen is broken.
One would think that every girl who was about
to be married would be told of this necessary rupturing of the membrane
and the temporary pain it will cause her; but even still large numbers
of girls are allowed to marry in complete and cruel ignorance.
It should be realized that a man does not woo
and win a woman once for all when he marries her: he must woo her before
every separate act of coitus, for each act corresponds to a marriage as
other creatures know it.
Wild animals are not so foolish as man; a wild animal does not unite
with his female without the wooing characteristic of his race, whether
by stirring her by a display of his strength in fighting another male,
or by exhibiting his beautiful feathers or song.
And we must not forget that the wild animals
are assisted by nature; they generally only woo just at the season when
the female is beginning to feel natural desire.
But man, who wants his mate all out of season
as well as in it, has a double duty to perform, and must himself rouse,
charm, and stimulate her to the local readiness which would have been to
some extent naturally prepared for him had he waited till her own desire
To render a woman ready before uniting with her is not only the merest
act of humanity to save her pain, but is of value from the man s point
of view, for (unless he is one of those relatively few abnormal and diseased
variants who delight only in rape) the man gains an immense increase of
sensation from the mutuality thus attained, and the health of both the
man and the woman is most beneficially affected.
Assuming now that the two are in the closest mental and spiritual, as
well as sensory harmony: in what position should the act be consummated?
Men and women, looking into each other's eyes, kissing tenderly on the
mouth, with their arms round each other, meet face to face.
And that position is symbolic of the coming
together of the two who meet together gladly.
It seems incredible that today educated men
should be found who apparently on theological grounds refuse to countenance
any other position.
Yet one wife told me that she was crushed and nearly suffocated by her
husband, so that it took her hours to recover after each union, but that
on principle he refused to attempt any other position than the one he chose
to consider normal.
Mutual well-being should be the guide for each pair.
It is perhaps not generally realized how great
are the variations of size, shape, and position of all the sex parts of
the body in different individuals, yet they differ more even than the size
and characters of all the features of the face and hands.
It happens, therefore, that the position which suits most people is
unsatisfactory for others.
Some, for instance, can only benefit by union
when both are lying on their sides.
Though medically this is generally considered
unfavourable or prohibitive for conception, yet I know women who have had
several children and whose husband has always used this position.
In this matter every couple should find out
for themselves which of the many possible positions best suits them both.
When the two have met and united, the usual
result is that, after a longer or shorter interval, the man s mental and
physical stimulation reaches a climax in sensory intoxication and in the
ejaculation of semen.
Where the two are perfectly adjusted, the woman simultaneously reaches
the crisis of nervous and muscular reactions very similar to his.
This mutual orgasm is extremely important,
but in many cases the man s climax comes so swiftly that the woman's reactions
are not nearly ready, and she is left without it.
Though in some instances the woman may have
one or more crises before the man achieves his, it is, perhaps, hardly
an exaggeration to say that 70 or 8o per cent of our married women (in
the middle classes) are deprived of the full orgasm through the excessive
speed of the husband's reactions, or through some maladjustment of the
relative shapes and positions of the organs.
So deep-seated, so profound, are woman's complex
sex-instincts as well as her organs, that in rousing them the man is rousing
her whole body and soul.
And this takes time.
More time, indeed, than the average, uninstructed husband gives to it.
Yet woman has at the surface a small vestigial
organ called the clitoris, which corresponds morphologically to the man's
penis, and which, like it, is extremely sensitive to touch-sensations.
This little crest, which lies anteriorly between
the inner lips round the vagina, enlarges when the woman is really tumescent,
and by the stimulation of movement it is intensely roused and transmits
this stimulus to every nerve in her body.
But even after a woman's dormant sex-feeling
is aroused and all the complex reactions of her being have been set in
motion, it may even take as much as from ten to twenty minutes of actual
physical union to consummate her feeling, while two or three minutes often
completes the union for a man who is ignorant of the need to control his
reactions so that both may experience the added benefit of a mutual crisis
A number of well-meaning people demand from men absolute "continence
save for procreation only."
They overlook the innumerable physiological
reactions concerned in the act, as well as the subtle spiritual alchemy
of it, and propound the view that "the opposition
to continence, save for procreation only, has but one argument to put forward,
and that is appetite, selfishness." (The Way of God in Marriage.)
I maintain, however, that it should be realized that the complete act
of union is a triple consummation.
It symbolizes, and at the same time actually
enhances, the spiritual union; there are a myriad subtleties of soul-structures
which are compounded in this alchemy. At the same time the act gives the
most intense physic4 pleasure and benefit which the body can experience,
and it is a mutual, not a selfish, pleasure and profit, more calculated
than anything else to draw out an unspeakable tenderness and understanding
in both partakers of this sacrament; while, thirdly, it is the act which
gives rise to a new life by rendering possible the fusion of one of the
innumerable male sperms with the female egg-cell.
It often happens nowadays that, dreading the expense and the physical
strain of child-bearing for his wife, the husband practices what is called
coitus interruptus that is, he withdraws just before the ejaculation,
but when he is already so stimulated that the ejaculation has become involuntary.
In this way the semen is spent, but, as it
does not enter the wife's body, fertilization and, consequently, procreation
cannot take place.
This practice, while it may have saved the
woman the anguish of bearing unwanted children, is yet very harmful to
her, and is to be deprecated.
It tends to leave the woman in mid-air as it
were; to leave her stimulated and unsatisfied, and therefore it has a very
bad effect on her nerves and general health, particularly if it is done
The woman, too, loses the advantage (and I
am convinced that it is difficult to overstate the physiological advantage)
of the partial absorption of the man s secretions, which must take place
through the large tract of internal epithelium with which they come in
If, as physiology has already proved is the
case, the internal absorption of secretions from the sex organs plays so
large a part in determining the health and character of parts of the body,
it is extremely likely that the highly stimulating secretion of man's semen
can and does penetrate and affect the woman's whole organism.
Actual experiment has shown that iodine placed
in the vagina in solution is so quickly absorbed by the epithelial walls
that in an hour it has penetrated the system and is even being excreted.
It still remains, however, for scientific experiments
to be devised which will enable us to study the effects of the absorption
of substances from the semen.
On the other hand, coitus interruptus is not always harmful for
the man, for he has the complete sex-act, though a good many men think
its effects on them are undesirable, and it may lead to lack of desire
or even impotence toward his wife in a man who practices it with her, or,
on the other hand, to a too swift fresh desire from the lack of complete
resolution of nervous tension.
It is certainly bad when its safety from consequences
induces him to frequent indulgence, for thus wastefully to scatter what
should be creative power is to reduce his own vitality and power of work.
By those who have a high appreciation of the value of their creative
impulse, and who wish to know the mutual pleasure and enhancement of sex-union
without wasting it, this method should not be practiced.
It should never be forgotten that without the
discipline of control there is no lasting delight in erotic feeling.
The fullest delight, even in a purely physical sense, can only be attained
by those who curb and direct their natural impulses.
Dr. Saleeby s words are appropriate in this
connection (Introduction to Fore's Sexual Ethics, 1908): "Professor
Fore speaks of subduing the sexual instinct. I would rather speak of transmuting
"The direct method of attack is often
futile, always necessitous of effort, but it is possible for us to transmute
our sex-energy into higher forms in our individual lives, thus justifying
the evolutionary and physiological contention that it is the source of
the higher activities of man, of moral indignation, and of the "restless
energy" which has changed the surface of the earth.
"Fore says (The Sexual Question,
1908): 'Before engaging in a life-long union, a man and woman ought to
explain to each other their sexual feelings so as to avoid deception and
incompatibility later on.' "
This would be admirable advice were it possible for a virgin girl to
know much about the reactions and effects upon her mind and body of the
act of coitus, but she does not.
Actually it often takes several years for eager
and intelligent couples fully to probe themselves and to discover the extent
and meaning of the immensely profound physiological and spiritual results
Yet it is true that a noble frankness would
save much misery when, as happens not infrequently, one or other of the
pair marry with the secret determination to have no children.
So various are we all as individuals, so complex
all the reactions and inter-actions of sex relations, that no hard-and-fast
rule can be laid down.
Each couple, after marriage, must study themselves, and the lover and
the beloved must do what best serves them both and gives them the highest
degree of mutual joy and power.
There are, however, some laws which should
Their details can be gathered from the preceding
pages, and they are summed up in the words: "Love
worketh no ill to the beloved."
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