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woman deserved no credit
for her beauty at sixteen, but beauty
at sixty (is) her own soul's doing.
A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties
by Dr. Marie Stopes
Modesty and Romance
A person can therefore no more promise
to love or not to love than he can promise to live long. What he can promise
is to take good care of his life and of his love.
Artists clearly, and poets in veiled language,
have in all ages, expressed the glory of the naked human body. Before the
Venus of Milo in her Paris home, even the empty-headed and ridiculously
dressed creatures of fashion stand for a moment with a catch in the throat
and a sense that here is something full of divine secrets.
One day, when I was doing my reverence before
this ancient goddess, drinking in strength and happiness from the harmonies
of her curves, a preposterously corseted doll came up to the statue, paused,
and said with tears in her voice to the man beside her: "Hasn't
she got the loveliest figure!"
If cold marble so stirs us, how much more the
warmth and vitality of living beauty!
Any well-formed young man or woman is immeasurably
more graceful when free from the clinging follies of modem dress, while
a beautiful woman's body has a supernal loveliness at which no words short
of a poetic rapture can even hint.
Our race has so long neglected the culture
of human beauty that a sad proportion of mature men and women are unattractive;
but most young people have the elements of beauty, and to them chiefly
this book is addressed.
A young man or woman perfectly naked cannot
The fripperies, the jagged curves and inharmonious
lines and colors of the so-called "adornments" are surmounted,
and the naked figure stepping from their scattered pile is seen in its
How charming even the raggedest little street
urchins become when they leave their rags on the bank and plunge into the
It is therefore not surprising that one of the
innumerable sweet impulses of love should want to reveal, each to each,
this treasure of living beauty.
To give each other the right to enter and enjoy
the sight which most of all sights in the world draws and satisfies the
artist s eyes.
This impulse, however, is, on the part of the
woman, swayed by two at least of the natural results of her rhythmic tides.
For some time during each month, age-long tradition
that she is "unclean," coupled with her obvious requirements,
have made her withdraw herself from even her husband's gaze.
But, on the other hand, there regularly come
times when her body is raised to a higher point of loveliness than usual
by the rounding and extra fullness of the breasts. (This is one of the
regular physiological results of the rhythmic processes going on within
Partly or wholly unconscious of the brilliance
and full perfection of her beauty, she yet delights in its gentle promptings
to reveal itself to her lover's eyes when he adores.
This innocent, this goddess-like self-confidence
retreats when the natural ebb of her vitality returns.
How fortunate for man when these sweet changes
in his lover are not coerced into uniformity!
For man has still so much of the ancient hunter
in his blood that beauty which is always at hand and ever upon its pedestal
must inevitably attract him far less than the elusive and changing charms
of rhythmic life.
In the highly evolved and cultivated woman,
who has wisdom enough not to restrict, but to give full play to the great
rhythms of her being, man s polygamous instinct can be satisfied and charmed
by the ever- changing aspects of herself which naturally come uppermost.
And one of her natural phases is at times to retreat,
to experience a profound sex indifference, and passionately to resent any
encroachment on her solitude.
This is something woman too often forgets.
She has been so thoroughly "domesticated"
by man that she feels too readily that after marriage she is all his.
And by her very docility to his perpetual demands,
she destroys for him the elation, the palpitating thrills and surprises,
of the chase.
In the rather trivial terms of our sordid modern
life, it works out in many marriages somewhat as follows: The married pair
share a bedroom, and so it comes about that the two are together not only
at the times of delight and interest in each other, but during most of
the unlovely and even ridiculous proceedings of the toilet.
Now it may enchant a man once perhaps even
twice or at long intervals to watch his goddess screw her hair up into
a tight and unbecoming knot and soap her ears.
But it is inherently too unlovely a proceeding
to retain indefinite enchantment.
To see a beautiful woman floating in the deep,
clear water of her bath that may enchant for ever, for it is so lovely,
but the unbeautiful trivialities essential to the daily toilet tend only
to blur the picture and to dull the interest and attention that should
be bestowed on the body of the loved one.
Hence, ultimately, everyday association in
the commonplace daily necessities tends to reduce the keen pleasure each
takes in the other.
And hence, inevitably and tragically, though
stealthily and unperceived, to reduce the keenness of stimulation the pair
exert on each other, and thus to lower their intensity of the consummation
of the sex act, and hence to lower its physiological value.
(MCS notes: A quotation from Thomas (p. 112
of William Thomas book Sex and Society. 1907, pp. 314) is here very apt,
though he had been speaking not of man, but of the love play and coyness
shown by female birds and animals.
We must also recognize the fact that
reproductive life must be connected with violent stimulation, or it would
be neglected and the species would become extinct; and on the other hand,
if the conquest of the female were too easy, sexual life would be in danger
of becoming a play interest and a dissipation, destructive of energy and
fatal to the species. Working, we may assume, by a process of selection
and survival, nature has both secured and safeguarded reproduction.
The female will not submit to seizure
except in a high state of nervous excitation (as is seen especially well
in the wooing of birds), while the male must conduct himself in such a
way as to manipulate the female; and, as the more active agent, he develops
a marvellous display of technique for this purpose.
This is offset by the coyness and coquetry
of the female, by which she equally attracts and fascinates the male, and
practices upon him to induce a corresponding state of nervous excitation.
In short, the overcoming of her personal modesty,
which is generally looked on as an essential result in marriage where the
woman becomes wholly the man's, has generated among our women a tradition
that before their husbands they can perform any and all of the details
of personal and domestic duties.
Correspondingly, they allow the man to be neglectful
of preserving some reticence before-them.
This mutual possession of the lower and more
elementary experiences of life has been, in innumerable marriages, a factor
in destroying the mutual possession of life's higher and more poetic charms.
And woman s beauty wanes too often more through
neglect than through age.
The man, with the radiant picture of his bride
blurred by the daily less lovely aspects, may cease to remind her by acts
of courtship that her body is precious.
But many men by whom each aspect of their wives
is noted, are often hurt by woman's stupidity or neglect of herself.
Women lose their grace of motion by relying
on artificial bones and stiffenings, and clog their movements with heavy
and absurdly fashioned garments.
They forget how immeasurably they can control
not only their clothed appearance but the very structure of their bodies
by the things they eat and do, by the very thoughts they think.
A wise man once said that a woman deserved no
credit for her beauty at sixteen, but beauty at sixty was her own soul's
I would that all the world so thirsted for beauty
that we molded the whole race into as lovely forms as the Greeks created.
In this respect I am inclined to think that man
suffers more than woman.
For man is still essentially the hunter, the
one who experiences the desires and thrills of the chase, and dreams ever
of coming unawares upon Diana in the woodlands.
On the other hand, the married woman, having
once yielded all, tends to remain passively in the man s companionship.
Though it may appear trivial beside the profound
physiological factors considered in recent chapters, I think that, in the
interests of husbands, an important piece of advice to wives is: Be always
Escape the lower, the trivial, the sordid.
So far as possible (and this is far more possible
than appears at first, and requires only a little care) and rearrangement
in the habits of the household ensure that you allow your husband to come
upon you only when there is delight in the meeting.
Whenever the finances allow, the husband and
wife should have separate bedrooms.
No soul can grow to its full stature without
spells of solitude.
A married woman's body and soul should be essentially
her own, and that can only be so if she has an inviolable retreat.
But at the same time the custom of having separate
rooms should not mean, as it often does, that the husband only comes to
his wife s room when he has some demand to make upon her.
Nothing is more calculated to inhibit all desire
for union in a sensitive wife than the knowledge of what her husband wants
when he comes, however lovingly, to her side.
Every night, unless something prevents, there
should be the tender companionship and whispered intimacies which are,
to many people, only possible in the dark.
The 'good-night should be a time of delightful
forgetting of the outward scars of the years, and a warm, tender, perhaps
playful exchange of confidences.
This is not incompatible with what has been
said in the previous chapters, and when this custom is maintained it overcomes
the objection some people make to separate rooms as a source of estrangements.
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