Sex And Common-Sense
A. Maude Royden

Part 2 out of 2

some kind, and to people who have suffered so, I want, above all, to say
this: light and understanding are needed more by you, perhaps, than by
anyone else, and to you, above all, they have been denied. Loneliness,
isolation, the loss of self-respect, the darkness of ignorance have
surrounded those to whom the sacrifice has been hardest, and, therefore,
the repression, whether racial or individual, most disastrous. You can,
if you choose, leave the world a nobler place because you let light in on
these dark places. Do not say to yourselves that your suffering is useless
and purposeless because it is no good to anyone: no one knows of it: no
one understands it: and, therefore, it has all the additional bitterness of
being to no purpose. That need not be true. Ignorance need not continue.
If you will try to make your suffering of service to the world, it is not
difficult to measure how great may be our advance in fundamental morality
in this present generation.

We do not know yet of what human nature is capable, and those who are
studying the human mind are perhaps the greatest of all pioneers at the
present moment. Some of you have trusted me, and by your trust have enabled
me to help other people. Others of you, perhaps, have yourselves become or
will become students of psychology. You will advance a little further in a
science which is as yet only making its first uncertain steps. Even if you
do none of these things, yet if you will try to understand yourselves, by
the mere fact that you understand, you will find that you are able to help
other people--other people whose condition is most tragic, most lonely--to
face with courage the problem they share with you.[D] Try to solve it, as
you can. You will gain in understanding and strength, so that those in yet
greater need will instinctively come to you for help. Base your own moral
standard on all that is noble, and wise and human, and you will find that
in you the spiritual begins so to dominate the physical that others will
see its power and come to you for help.

[Footnote D: This subject is more fully dealt with in the next chapter.]

"With aching hands and bleeding feet,
We toil and toil; lay stone on stone.
Not till the light of day return
All we have built shall we discern."

Now let us turn to the other side of the problem--the more normal relations
of men and women who are lovers, who are husbands and wives. May I again
recapitulate what appears to be the history of many married people, even in

Let me remind you first that this contract of marriage is the most
important, probably, in the whole life of the man and woman who undertake
it; that it concerns human personality as perhaps no other relation in the
world does, so deeply, so closely, so intimately, that those who enter into
it are very near either to heaven or hell. The nearer you come to any
other human personality, the nearer you get to the supreme happiness or the
supreme failure. And when people enter on this relationship, how are they
prepared? Many of them are ignorant--and in the case of women often wholly
so--of what marriage actually involves. I find it difficult to speak in
measured terms of those parents who deliberately allow their daughters to
take a step which involves the whole of their future life and happiness,
and that of another human being also, in ignorance of what they are doing.
This relationship, which requires all the love and all the wisdom of men
and women--so much so that even those who do not call themselves Christians
often desire to go to a church and ask for the grace of God to enable
them to carry out so great an undertaking--is entered upon by people who
literally do not know what, from the very nature of marriage, is required
of them. I suppose many people will say that I speak of a state of things
which passed a generation ago. No, I do not. I speak of a state of things
that is only too common at this present time. I have known marriage after
marriage wrecked by the almost unbelievable ignorance that has been present
on both sides. I say both sides. First of all, there is the girl. To her,
marriage comes sometimes as so great a shock that her whole temperament is
warped and embittered by it. Then there is the man, equally ignorant--very
often, probably less ignorant of himself, but equally ignorant of her--not
realizing how she should be treated. They are often quite ignorant of each
other's views on marriage; of what sort of claims they are going to make
on each other; what each thinks about the duty of having children. These
elementary facts of human life, which must confront those who marry, are
faced by them without any kind of preparation, without the most rudimentary
knowledge of each other's point of view. And that there are so many happy
marriages in spite of all this makes one realize how extraordinarily loyal,
fine and courageous, on the whole, human nature is.

Only the other day I was speaking in a town in the north of England on this
very subject, and I got a letter afterwards to say that the writer had very
greatly enjoyed my address at the time. She had found it, she assured me,
inspiring and elevating. But she felt bound to write and tell me afterwards
(what she was sure would both shock and distress me) that she had found
that some of the people in my audience were actually acting on what I
said! I suppose every public speaker comes up against that sort of thing
sometimes--the calm assurance that you are merely talking in the air and
have not the slightest desire that anyone should act on what you say.
So this lady wrote to say that, though she and her husband had both been
greatly impressed by what I said, they were horrified to find that, as
a result, people were actually discussing with one another, before they
married, certain points which she mentioned to me and which she said they
ought never to discuss until they _were_ married. Is it not amazing
that anyone should seriously contend that it is better to arrive at an
understanding with the person he or she is about to marry _after_ marriage
than before? That people who would not dream of betraying anyone into any
kind of contract about which they were not satisfied that its terms were
understood should be willing to betray others--I deliberately call it
a betrayal--into a contract of such infinite importance, and positively
desire that they shall be ignorant of its nature?

It really seems sometimes as if pains were positively taken to mislead
those who are going to be married. One of the most amazing statements on
this subject, for instance, is contained in the marriage service of the
Church of England, where the bride and bridegroom are told that marriage
was ordained that "such persons as have not the gift of continency might
marry and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ's body." That there
should be anyone in the twentieth century who does not know that a man or
a woman who has not the gift of continency is totally unfit for marriage is
really rather startling. What such a person requires is both a divine and a
physician; but that he should be told that he is fit for marriage and
that marriage was expressly designed for him is not only misleading, it is
absolutely horrifying. It explains the tragic wreck which so many marriages
become after a comparatively short time.

I would urge, then, for the future, that we should not concentrate all
our moral, ethical, religious, and social force on perpetuating the tragic
failure of an empty marriage, but, rather, should concentrate our efforts
on trying to make people understand what marriage is; what their own
natures are; what marriage is going to demand from them; what they need in
order to make it noble. I urge, moreover, that the same principle should
apply to those who do not marry--that they also should learn in the
light what their difficulties are going to be; how to face their
own temperaments; how to deal with their own minds and bodies. Your
temperament, men and women, does not decide your destiny; it does decide
your trials. To know how to deal with it and how to make it your servant,
how so to enthrone spiritual power in your nature that it shall dominate
all that is physical, not as something base, but as a sacred and a
consecrated thing--it is on this that the teachers of to-day should
concentrate with all their power. It is true that when we have learnt
all that is possible from teaching, there is still something to learn. In
marriage is it possible to know finally until the final step is taken?
No, I do not think so. But when you consider how we have struggled against
ignorance, how many pitfalls have been put in the path of those who
desired knowledge, how we have, as it seems, done our best to make this
relationship a failure, surely it is worth while, at least, to try what
knowledge, and understanding, and education, and training _can_ do. We
cannot know all. That is no reason why we should not know all that we can.

Surely marriage must be a divine institution, since we have done so much
to make it a failure, and yet one sees again and again such splendid love,
such magnificent loyalty and faith! "You advocate," someone wrote to me the
other day, "you advocate that people should leave each other when they are
tired of each other." No, I do not advocate that anyone should accept
a failure. I advocate that every human being should do all that is
possible--more perhaps than is possible without the grace of God--to
make marriage the noble and lovely thing it should be. I think those are
faint-hearted who easily accept the fact that it is difficult, and from
that drift swiftly to the conclusion that for them it is impossible. I
advocate that the greatest faith and loyalty should be practised. I believe
in my heart that there is perhaps no relationship which cannot be redeemed
by the love and devotion and the grace of God in the hearts of those who
seek to make it redeemable. What I do say is that in Church and State we
should concentrate all our efforts on helping men and women to a wise,
enlightened, noble conception of marriage before they enter upon it, and
not on a futile and immoral attempt to hold them together by a mere legal
contract when all that made it valid has fled.

I believe that the more one knows of human nature the more one reverences
it. I believe that the vast majority of human beings strain every nerve
rather than fail in so great a responsibility. Do you remember reading in
Mr. Bertrand Russell's book, "Principles of Social Reconstruction," of
a little church of which it was discovered, not, I think, very long
ago, that, owing to some defect in its title, marriages which had been
celebrated there were not legal? Mr. Bertrand Russell says that there were
at that time I forget how many couples still living who had been married
in that church, who found that, by this legal defect, they were not legally
bound. Do you know how many of those married people seized the opportunity
to desert each other and go and marry somebody else? Not a single one!
Every one of those couples went quietly away to church and got married

Religious people do sometimes think such mean things of human nature, and
human nature is, for the most part, so much nobler, so much more loyal, so
much more loving than we imagine. "Lift up your eyes unto the hills from
whence cometh your help." "He that walketh in the light, stumbleth not, for
he seeth the light of the world."

Let us face the future courageously, with great reverence for other
people's opinions and views. Let us not join that mob of shouters who are
prepared to howl at everyone who desires to say something that is not quite
orthodox, but which is their serious and considered contribution to a great
and difficult problem. Let us greet them with respect, however much we may
differ from them. Let us look forward without fear. Believe me, below all
the froth and scum of which we make so much, human nature is very noble.

Let us give that example to the world which is worth a thousand
arguments--the example of a noble married life, the example of a noble
single life. Those of you who are alone can do infinitely more for virtue
by being full of gentleness, wisdom, sanity, and love than by any harsh
repression of yourselves. It is by what you can make of celibacy that the
world will judge celibacy. And so of married lovers. Believe me, it is not
the children of married lovers who are rebels against a lofty standard.
Those who have seen with their eyes a lovely, faithful and unwavering love
are not easily satisfied with anything that is less. "Lift up your eyes
unto the hills. From whence cometh your strength." And in the light of a
great ideal, in the light of knowledge, sincerity and truth, in the light
of what I know of human nature, I, for one, am not afraid for the future
moral standard of this country.



"Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and
in their death they were not divided: they were swifter than
eagles, they were stronger than lions. Ye daughters of Israel,
weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet, with other
delights, who put on ornaments of gold upon your apparel. How
are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Oh Jonathan,
thou wast slain in thine high places. I am distressed for thee,
my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy
love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women. How are
the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!" (II. Sam.
i. 23-27.)

"And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law; but Ruth clave unto her.
And she said, Behold thy sister-in-law has gone back unto her
people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister-in-law.
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from
following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and
where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my
people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and
there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if
ought but death part me and thee." (Ruth i. 14-17.)

People have sometimes discussed with me whether it is right to have as
intense and absorbing a love for a friend of one's own sex as exists
between lovers. The word "absorbing" is perhaps the difficulty in their
minds. All love is essentially the same, and it has been pointed out that
the great classic instances of great love have been almost as often between
friends as between lovers. But the test of love's nobility remains
the same. If it is in the strict sense "absorbing"--if, that is, it is
exclusive, if it narrows one's interests instead of enlarging them, if it
involves a failure in love or sympathy with other people, it is wrong--it
is not in the true sense "love"; but if it enriches the understanding,
widens interest, deepens sympathy--if, in a word, to love one teaches us to
love others better, then it is good, it is love indeed. A friendship which
is of such character that no one outside it is of any interest, a maternal
love which not only concentrates on its own but wholly excludes all other
children, even a marriage which ultimately narrows rather than widens and
is exclusive in its interests, is a poor caricature of love. A young mother
may, in the first rapture of her motherhood, seem wholly absorbed; but,
as a matter of fact, she generally ends by caring more for _all_ children
because she loves one so deeply. Even lovers, after the first absorption of
newly-discovered joy, must learn to share their happiness and the happiness
of their home with others if it is not to grow hard and dull. And friends
may easily estimate the worth of their friendship by the measure with which
it has humanized their relations to all other human beings.

There is another test also for love: Does it express itself naturally and
rightly? This test is much more difficult to apply. One may believe
that all love is essentially the same, but it is certain that all human
relationships are not the same, and, therefore, love cannot always be
expressed in the same way; but it is not possible to lay down any exact
rule between the sort of "expression" legitimate to each. Everyone
must have suffered sometimes from a sense of having forced undesired
demonstrations on other people, or having them forced on oneself. One's
suffering in the first instance is intensified by the knowledge of the
extremity of revolt created by the second. There is nothing, I suppose,
more acutely painful than the sense of being compelled to accept
demonstrations of affection to which one cannot in the same way respond.
I believe that this shrinking from expressions which seem unnatural,
is rightly intensified a hundredfold when the sense of wrongness or
"unnaturalness" is due not to the individual but to the relationship

The love which unites the soul to God, children to their parents, mothers
and fathers to sons and daughters, lovers to one another, friend to friend,
the disciple to his master, is all one. You cannot divide Love. But to each
belongs its right and natural expression, and to parody the love of lovers
between friends revolts the growing sense of humankind. The very horrors
of prostitution create a less shuddering disgust than the debauching of
a young boy by an older man, though with a tragically common injustice
society is more apt to be disgusted by the unfortunate victim, bearing
all the marks of his moral and physical perversion, than by the more
responsible older man who profits by or even creates it.

Yet it is, as I have said, only by the _growing_ sense of humanity that
such things are condemned. They were not always so in every case. On the
contrary it has sometimes been maintained that friendship between men was
so much nobler than the love of men and women that even when it demanded
physical expression it was still the finest of all human relationship. This
idea was, of course, widely held by the Greeks during the noblest epochs
of their history, and Plato, though he does not, as is commonly believed,
justify such expression as good in itself, evidently regards it as
practically inevitable and, therefore, to be condoned. And though from this
indulgent attitude there has been a very general revolt in modern times,
the reaction has not always been very discriminating in its condemnation
or very just in its reprisals. Now--in consequence, no doubt, of this
injustice--there has arisen another attempt to assert the superior nobility
of friendship over love,[E] and even to claim a superior humanity for
people who are more attracted by members of their own sex.

[Footnote E: I am using the terms "friendship" and "love" in their
ordinarily accepted and narrow sense, as meaning respectively the love of
friends and the love of lovers. This is arbitrary, but I cannot find other
words except by using long phrases.]

There is not in this any question of the bestial depravity which
deliberately debauches the young and innocent: it is a question of the
kind of friendship glorified by Plato. And those who uphold the Platonic
view are not always debauchees but sometimes men and women who, however
incomprehensibly, still sincerely believe that they and not we who oppose
them are the true idealists. This is why it is worth while to state our
reasons for our profound disagreement, and to do so as intelligently and
fairly as possible. It is also worth while because no one has suffered more
cruelly or more hopelessly than those whose temperament or abnormality has
been treated by most of us as though it were _in itself_, and without
actual wrong-doing, a crime worthy of denunciation and scorn.

First, then, let it be remembered that the highest types humanity has
evolved have been men and women who are really "human," that is to say
who have not only those qualities which are generally regarded as
characteristic of their sex, but have had some share of the other sex's
qualities also. A man who is (if such a thing could be) wholly and
exclusively male in all his qualities would be repulsive; so would a woman
wholly and exclusively female. One has only to look at history to realize
it. Compared with the exquisite tenderness and joy of a St. Francis
of Assisi, the courage and determination of a St. Joan of Arc, the
intellectual power of a St. Catherine of Siena or St. Theresa of Spain,
the "brute male" who is wholly male, the "eternal feminine" with her
suffocating sexuality seem on the one hand inhuman, on the other subhuman.
It is not the absence of the masculine qualities in a man, or of the
feminine qualities in a woman which raises them above the mass; it is the
presence in power of both; and no man is truly human who has not something
of the woman in him--no woman who has not something of the man. Here is a
certain truth. And its supreme example is Christ Himself--Christ in Whom
power and tenderness, strength and insight, courage and compassion were
equally present--Christ Who is in truth the ideal of all humanity without
distinction of race, class or sex.

This is true. But its truth has been misunderstood by teachers like Edward
Carpenter. Beauty and strength in human nature as elsewhere depend on
harmony, and in such characters as I have cited that harmony is found. For,
in fact, there is no instance in nature of a male wholly male or a female
entirely female. Even physically the elements are shared. And if we say
with confidence that where these elements are most fully shared there is
found the fullest humanity, we are not committed to adding that where
the body has one predominating character and the spirit another there is
something finer still!

For harmony of life and temperament the body should be the perfect
instrument and expression of the spirit. When you have the temperament
of one sex in the body of another, this cannot be. There is at once a
disharmony, a dislocation, a disorder--in fact, a less perfect not a more
perfect type. Humanity does, I believe, progress towards a fuller element
of the woman in the man, the man in the woman, and the best we have
produced so far confirm the truth of this. But it is not an advance to
produce a type in which the temperament and the body are at odds. This is
not progress but perversion.

It is the same consciousness of dislocation which makes us condemn
homosexual practices. Here it is a dislocation between the means and
the end. The instinct of sex, to whatever use it may have been put, is
fundamentally the creative instinct. It is not by an accident, it is not as
a side-issue, that it is through sexual attraction that children are born.
And however sublimated, however enriched, restrained and conditioned, the
creative power of physical passion remains at once its justification and
its consecration. To use it in a relationship which must for ever be barren
is "unnatural" and in the deepest sense immoral. It is not easy to define
"immorality," because morality is one of the fundamentals which defy
definition; but though it is not easy to define, it is not hard to
recognize. All the world knows that it is immoral to prostitute the
creative power of genius to mere commercialism, for money or for fame. No
one can draw a hard and fast line. No one will quarrel with a great artist
because he lives by his art, or because he will sometimes turn aside to
amuse himself, his public, or his friends. Michaelangelo is not blamed
because, one winter's afternoon, he made a snow-statue for Lorenzo de
Medici! Yet all will admit that _merely_ to amuse, _merely_ to make money,
_merely_ to gain popularity is a prostitution of genius. Why? Because it
is to put to another than its real purpose the creative power of a great

In the same way, to use the power of another great creative impulse--that
of sex--in a way which divorces it wholly from its end--creation on
the physical as well as the spiritual plane--is immoral because it is
"unnatural." Again and again it will be found to lead to a violent reaction
of feeling--a repulsion which is as intense and violent as the devotion
which was its prelude.

What then should those do who have this temperament? No one, perhaps, can
wisely counsel them but themselves. They alone can find out the way by
which the disharmony of their being can be transcended. That it can be so
I am persuaded. That modern psychology has already made strides in the
knowledge of this problem we all know. What is due to arrested development
or to repression can be set right or liberated: what is temperamental
transmuted. But I appeal to those who know this, but who have suffered and
do still suffer under this difficulty, to make it their business to let in
the light, to help others, to know themselves, to learn how to win harmony
out of disharmony and to transcend their own limitations. Let them take
hold of life there where it has hurt them most cruelly, and wrest from
their own suffering the means by which others shall be saved from suffering
and humanity brought a little further into the light. Who knows yet of what
it is capable? Who knows what is our ultimate goal? It may be that out of
a nature so complex and so difficult may come the noblest yet, when the
spirit has subdued the warring temperament wholly to itself.

And to the others I would say this. If the homosexual is still the most
misunderstood, maltreated, and suffering of our race, it is due to our
ignorance and brutal contempt. How many have even tried to understand? How
many have refrained from scorn? Other troubles have been mitigated, other
griefs respected if not understood. But this we refuse even to discuss.
We are content to condemn in ignorance, boasting that we are too good
to understand. In consequence, though a few here and there have preached
homosexuality as a kind of gospel, far more have suffered an agony of
shame, a self-loathing which makes life a hell.

To be led to believe that one is naturally depraved!--to be condemned as
the worst of sinners before one has committed even a single sin! Is that
not the height and depth of cruelty? Do you wonder if here and there one
of the stronger spirits among these condemned ones reacts in a fierce,
unconscious egotism and proclaims himself the true type of humanity, the
truly "civilized" man? How shall they see clearly whom we have clothed in
darkness, or judge truly who are so terribly alone?

To have a temperament is not in itself a sin! To find in your nature a
disharmony which you must transcend, a dislocation you have to restore
to order, is not a sin! Whose nature is all harmony? Whose temperament
guarantees him from temptation? Is there one here who is not conscious of
some dislocation in his life that he must combat? Not one!

It is a disharmony to have an active spirit in a sickly body. It is a
disharmony to have, like one of the very greatest of Christ's disciples, "a
thorn in the flesh to buffet him." Who shall deliver us from this body of
death? When you hear of a Beethoven deaf or of a Robert Louis Stevenson
spitting blood, are you not conscious of disharmony? Where there is perfect
harmony--_perfect_, I say--such a dislocation could not be. Epilepsy has
been called "la maladie des grands," because some great ones have suffered
from it. Perhaps St. Paul did. It is not possible to imagine Christ doing
so. In Him there existed so perfect a harmony of being that one can no more
associate Him with ill-health than with any other disorder or defect.
Yet we do not speak (or think) with horrified contempt of the disharmony
present in St. Paul or in Beethoven. Rather we reverence the glorious
conquest of the spirit over the weakness and limitations of the flesh. Some
of us have even rushed to the opposite extreme and preached ill-health as a
kind of sanctity, in our just admiration for those who have battled against
it and shown us the spirit dominant over the flesh.

But, it will be urged, ill-health is quite another kind of disharmony than
vice. We are not responsible for it, and cannot be blamed.

I am not prepared to admit that this is altogether true, but I will not
discuss it now. The point I want to make clear, if I make nothing else
clear, is that to be born with a certain temperament is not in itself a
sin nor does it compel you to be a sinner. "Your temperament decides your
trials; it does not decide your destiny." It is no more "wicked" to have
the temperament of a homosexual than to have the weakness of an invalid. It
is difficult for the spirit to dominate and to bring into a healthy harmony
a body predisposed to illness and disorder. The greater the glory to those
who succeed! Let us confess with shame that in this other and far harder
case we have not only ignored the difficulty and despised the struggler,
but--God forgive us--have, so far as in us lay, made impossible the



"If there is one result or conclusion that we may pick out from
the science of sex which has developed so rapidly of recent
years, as thoroughly established and permanently accepted, it
is that the old notion of the sinfulness of the sex process,
_in se_, is superstitious, not religious; and must be discarded
before ethical religion can assert its full sway over
humanity's sex life. And, most assuredly, the conception
narratives [of the New Testament], by retaining the sex process
to the important extent of normal pregnancy and parturition,
foreshadowed and hallowed this development of ethical thought.
They make it clear that the Spirit of God and the spirit of
woman, in conscious union, refuse to justify superstitious and
paralyzing fears, refuse to allow that the sex process is
irredeemable; they render possible and imperative the working
out of the ethical problems directly concerned with sex."

_Northcute: Christianity and Sex Problems_, _pp._ 415, 416.

During the course of these addresses I have more than once, and with more
than common urgency, pleaded for the light of knowledge, that we may
in future not make so many disastrous mistakes from sheer ignorance
and misunderstanding. I have been asked to say more definitely what
"misunderstandings" I had in mind, and to discuss them with at least as
much courage as I have so pressingly demanded from others.

The demand is just; and I feel the less able to disregard it because I have
discussed these very difficulties with people whose lives have been wrecked
by the ignorance in which they were brought up, or saved by knowledge
wisely imparted before the difficulties arose. Knowledge cannot save us
from hardship or difficulty; it cannot make us invulnerable to attack, or
lift us above the ordinary temptations of ordinary mortals; but it can show
us where we are going; it can guide us when we wish to be guided; it can
save us, when we wish to be saved, from mistakes cruel to ourselves and
often far more cruel to other people.

For instance: it is very generally believed that the struggle for
continence is greatly eased by continual and even exhausting physical
activity. To work hard--to work even to exhaustion--is believed by some
to be a panacea. At our great public schools the craze for athleticism
is justified on the ground that, even at the expense of the things of the
mind, it does at least keep the boys from moral evil.

I believe this to be a mistake, and a mistake which is due to our looking
at sex from a too purely physical point of view. It is, of course, imbecile
to forget the physical, and deal with sex simply as a "sin"; but it is no
less stupid to forget that our bodies and souls are intimately bound
together, and that there is much more in passion than a merely physical
instinct. As a matter of fact, a tired person is not immune from
sex-hunger, and even an exhausted person is likely to find that, far from
sexual feeling being exhausted too, it turns out to be the only sensation
that will respond to stimulus at all. The exploitation of sexuality by our
theatres and Press is not successful only in the case of the idle and the
overfed; it finds its patrons also among those who are too tired to put
their minds into anything really interesting from an intellectual or
artistic point of view, but whose attention can be distracted and whose
interest held by a more or less open appeal to the primitive instincts of
sex. Tired people want to be amused and interested if possible; but they
are not easily amused by anything that appeals to the mind, because they
are tired. They want a sensation other than the customary one of fatigue,
and the easiest sensation to excite is a sexual one. They get it thinly
disguised, in a theatre or music-hall, more thickly disguised in the
form of cheap fiction, or quite undisguised elsewhere. But the idea that
sexuality is destroyed by fatigue is a very mischievous illusion which
has misled and helped to destroy some of the most honest strivers after
self-control. Such people will, with a touching belief in saws, seek to
find in exhaustion relief from temptation. But it is not amusing always
to feel tired. One desires at last something else--some other kind of
feeling--and one is too tired to make an effort. But sexual sensation is
easily excited, and in the end the unfortunate finds that he has yielded
again. His hard fight has only ended in defeat, and he either abandons the
advice as mistaken, or himself as hopelessly and uniquely depraved.

The truth is, of course, that what is needed is not physical exhaustion
any more than physical idleness and overfeeding. What is wanted is hard
and _interesting_ work--work that absorbs one's mental as well as physical
strength. A boy at a public school who really cares for games can pour
his energies into them and appear a fine example of the system; a boy who,
though games are compulsory, cannot interest himself in them at all, is not
helped by being physically exhausted. If, then, he yields to a temptation
the other has escaped, this need not be because he is more wicked or more
weak. It may quite well be because the insistence on athleticism, which has
been elevated into a cult, in our public schools, has supplied a real and
absorbing interest for the one, but has merely used the physical capacity
of the other without touching his mind or his spirit at all. When shall
we learn that every human being is a unity, and that to ignore any part of
it--body, mind or spirit--is idiotic? The muscular Christian who believes
that continence is achieved by physical fatigue is as short-sighted as he
who would treat the whole matter as a purely ethical problem. But the man
or woman who works hard at some congenial and absorbing task--especially if
it be creative work--finds the virtue of continence well within his grasp
without exhaustion and without asceticism. It is because sex is essentially
a creative--the creative--power in humanity that we have to direct its
force into some more spiritual channel than mere physical labour, if we are
to make ourselves its master.

Again, an increasing number of us believe that to master our physical
impulses is possible; and that it has seemed impossible--at least,
for men--in the past largely because so little knowledge and so little
common-sense has been used in achieving mastery. Naturally, it was simpler
to assume that it was impossible to control oneself than to find out how
to make it possible, but as we grow more civilized we cease to be perfectly
content with this simple plan, and begin to perceive its extraordinary
injustices and brutalities. It has been said that the civilization of any
people or period may be judged by the position of its women, and though
this is too simple to be quite true, it is far more true than false. If,
however, civilization does raise the position of women, and assign to them
a greater freedom of action and a wider scope for their lives than
was theirs before, it must be clearly understood that women in these
circumstances and of this type will take a quite different line on the
question of sex morals than their great-grandmothers did. It is, for
example, still urged that women must not do this, that or the other
work, because it involves working with men whose sex instincts may be
uncontrollably aroused by such collaboration. Sir Almroth Wright has
pleaded this, and it is being urged to-day against the entrance of women
into what is now almost the only sphere still closed to them--the spiritual
work of the Churches. It is urged that some men are afraid of being
sexually excited if they are addressed by a woman-preacher, and that others
cannot be within the sanctuary, with a woman near them, without similar
danger. The misunderstanding that arises here is, surely, that the cause of
this abnormal excitement is in the woman, whereas (in the cases cited)
it is in the man. There are, of course, women who find an exactly similar
difficulty in working with men: women who are transformed by the mere
presence of men, as there are men who cannot enter a room full of women
without physical disturbance. Such men, such women, are not necessarily
depraved or immoral persons, their temperament may be a source of genuine
distress to them. It may be most admirably controlled, and in thousands of
cases it is so, especially when the sufferer understands himself or--more
rarely--understands herself. All the help that psychology and medical
science can give (and it is much) should be given to and accepted by such
people. The one thing that should _not_ be yielded is the ridiculous claim
that men and women who are not so susceptible (and who are in the vast
majority) should rule their lives according to the standards of those who
are sexually over-developed or one-sidedly developed. It cannot be too
strongly insisted that this problem is the problem of the individual. He
(or she) has got to settle it. He must learn to manage himself in such a
way that he ceases to be abnormally excitable, or he must arrange his life
so that he avoids, as far as possible, the causes of excitement. He must
not expect others to cramp their lives to fit him; he must not expect
civilization to be perverted or arrested in order to avoid a difficulty
which is his own.

The only alternative to this is to revert to a form of civilization in
which it was frankly admitted that sex-impulses could not be controlled,
either by men or by women, and society was therefore organized on a basis
which, quite logically, provided for the restraint of women in a bondage
which prevented them from satisfying their impulses as they chose, and at
the same time protected them from attack by other men than their lawful
owners; and which, further, provided conveniences for the equally
uncontrollable instincts of men.

This system is quite logical; so is the one here advocated, of assuming
that the sexual instincts of both sexes can be controlled. What is not
logical is the assumption that they _can_ be controlled, but that such
control is to be exercised not by each one mastering himself, but by
the removal of all possibility of temptation! This demand is really
incompatible with our civilization, and those who make it should try to
understand that what they ask is, in fact, the reversal of all advance in
real self-control in matters of sex.

Let us abandon the pretence that it is "wicked" for either a man or a woman
to have strongly-developed sex-instincts. When we do this, we shall be
on the high way to learning how to manage ourselves without making
preposterous demands upon our neighbours or inroads upon their individual

We shall also, I believe, get rid of those perversions which darken
understanding as well as joy. One need not go all the way with Freud--one
may, indeed, suspect him of suffering from a severe "repression"
himself--while admitting, nevertheless, that much of the folly that
surrounds our treatment of sex-questions is due to the pathetic
determination of highly respectable people to have no sex nature or
impulses at all. Certainly this accounts for much that is called "prudery"
in women, whose repressed and starved instincts revenge themselves in a
morbid (mental) preoccupation with the details of vice. I am forced to the
conclusion that it has also something to do with the quite extraordinary
description that certain ecclesiastics give of their own inability to
control their imaginations even at the most solemn moments. A narrow and
dishonest moral standard has been foisted upon women in these matters, and
instead of knowing themselves and learning to control their natures, they
have been given a false idea of their own natures, and taught instead
merely to repress them. So, very often, a curiously artificial code
of manners has been accepted by the clergyman--a code which has been
crystallized in a phrase by calling the clergy "the third sex"--and he,
like the women, should be in revolt against it if he is to be saved.
Indeed, we are or should be allies, not foes. Let the priest or minister
wear the same kind of collar as other people, mix with them on equal terms,
and then, if he has a higher moral standard than they, it will be his
own standard, accepted by him because it commands his homage, and not a
standard imposed on him merely because he belongs to a certain caste. It
is always the code of morals imposed from without that does mischief, and
results in the repressions and perversions about which modern psychology
has taught us so much.

It will perhaps be urged that the peculiar dangers of which ecclesiastics
are conscious are due to the psychological fact that the erotic and
religious emotions are closely allied. That this is a fact will hardly be
doubted. But again the problem is either an individual one, _or_ it must
be solved by abandoning our present position and reverting to that of an
earlier and cruder civilization. It is possible to argue that eroticism and
religion are so nearly allied and so easily mistaken for one another, that
safety and sincerity alike demand separate worship for men and women.[F] It
is also possible to leave it to the individual to manage himself, conquer
where he can and flee where he cannot. But it is not possible, on grounds
of religious eroticism, to protect men from listening to a woman preaching,
at the cost of compelling women to listen to no one but a man; or insist on
the intolerable cruelty of compelling a man-priest to celebrate mass with a
woman server, while forcing the woman to make her confession to a man.

[Footnote F: As, _e.g._, among the Mahometans and, to a less extent, the

I am convinced that when religious people learn to refrain from cheap
"religion" based on emotional preaching and sentimental or rowdy music,
they will find that, though eroticism and religion are nearly allied and
can easily be mistaken, it is not impossible to distinguish between them.
The effort to do so should be made by our spiritual leaders, and when made
will result in a sturdier and more thoughtful religion. While for those,
whether men or women, who are honestly aware that for them certain things
are impossible there will be an obvious alternative. The man who cannot
forget the woman in the priest or preacher will not attend her church; the
woman, of whom the same is sometimes true, will avoid the ministrations of
men. There will then be less of that eroticism in religion which some of
those who--by a curious perversion of logic--oppose the ministry of women
actually quote as a reason for compelling women to go to men-priests
because there is no one else for them to go to.



"Men venerated and even feared women--particularly in their
specifically sexual aspect--even while they bullied them; and
even in corrupt and superstitious times, when the ideal of
womanhood was lost sight of, women tended to get back as
witches the spiritual eminence they had failed to retain as
saints, matrons and saviours of society."

_Northcote: Christianity and Sex Problems, p_. 326.

Chivalry is the courtesy of strength to weakness. Yet women who pride
themselves on their superior moral strength in regard to sex rarely feel
bound to show any chivalry towards the weak. I do not myself believe that
women are _as a whole_ stronger than men, or that men are _as a whole_
stronger than women; but I am sure that the sexes are relatively stronger
in certain respects and at certain points, and that where one is stronger
than the other, that one should feel the chivalrous obligation of strength
whether man or woman. Chivalry is not and ought not to be a masculine
virtue solely.

For example, it is quite common to be told of (or by) some girl who is an
artist in flirtation that she is "quite able to take care of herself." This
appears to mean that whoever suffers, she will not; and whatever is given,
she will not be the giver. It is possible to go further and say that
whatever she buys she will certainly not pay for.

What does she buy? Well, it depends, of course, on what she wants and what
is her social class. But, roughly speaking, she wants both pleasure and
homage--not only theatres and cinemas, ice-creams or chocolates, but the
incense that goes with such things--the demonstration of her triumphant
sexual charm, which evokes such offerings.

Of course, in a great deal of this there is no harm. People who like each
other will like to please each other, to give pleasure, and to enjoy it
together. But there is something beyond this which is not harmless but
detestable, and that is the deliberate playing on sexual attraction in
order to extract homage and to demonstrate power. A girl will sometimes
play on a man as a pianist on his instrument, put a strain on him that
is intolerable, fray his nerves and destroy his self-control, while she
herself, protected not by virtue but frigidity, complacently affirms that
she "can take care of herself." The blatant dishonesty of the business
never strikes her for a moment. She takes all she wants and gives nothing
in return, and honestly believes that this is because she is "virtuous."
That she is a thief--and one who combines theft with torture--never occurs
to her; yet it is true.

Observe--I do not suggest that it would be creditable if she did "pay." It
would be no more so than Herod's payment of John the Baptist's head. But
although it is wrong to take something you want and give in return what you
ought not to give, it would be a curious sort of morality that would go on
to argue that it is right to take all and give nothing. Both transactions
are immoral and one is dishonest.

On the other hand, it must be remembered that a parasite _must_ take all
and give nothing or as little as possible. That is the law of its being.
And so long as men resent the independence of women, and enjoy the position
of perpetual paymaster, so long will many women be driven to use the only
weapon they have left. Moreover, it is fair to say--and this is why I plead
for light--that many of them are genuinely ignorant that they are playing
with fire. The more frigid they are themselves, the less are they able to
gauge the forces they are arousing; the more ignorant they are, the less
possible is it for them to be chivalrous to those whose strength and
weakness they alike misunderstand. The half-knowledge, the instinctive
arts, which girls sometimes display continually mislead men into thinking
them a great deal cleverer than they are. Each is ignorant of the other's
weakness, and each puts the other in danger because of that ignorance.

I once spoke to a big meeting of girls in the neighbourhood of a big camp,
during the war; and reflecting on the difficult position of the men--their
segregation from ordinary feminine society, their distance from their
homes, their unoccupied hours, and the inevitable nervous and emotional
strain of preparing for the front--I tried to make the girls realize how
hard they could make it for the men to keep straight, if they were ignorant
or foolish themselves. I knew--and said so--that the girls were in a
difficult position too; but, after all, they prided themselves on being the
more "moral" (_i.e._ the stronger) sex, and should be chivalrous.

Afterwards I got a reproachful letter from a woman-patrol, who assured me
that if anything went wrong, it was not the fault of the girls. "They are a
rough lot," she wrote, "and, of course, they like to have a soldier to walk
out with. They like to romp with the men, and to kiss them, and perhaps
they do go rather far in letting the men pull them about. But they have no
intention whatever of going any further. If things do go further, it is the
men's fault, not the girls'."

I could hardly have a better instance of the sort of thing I mean. The
girls want to have "fun" up to a certain point, and there stop. It does
not occur to them that there may be a difference in the point at which they
propose--or wish--to stop, and that at which the man can. That there is
any physiological or psychological factor in the case which makes stopping
possible at one moment and next-door to impossible at another, and that
these factors may differ between the sexes, so that one cannot stop just
where the other can, is quite a new idea not only to factory girls but to
women-patrols--at least to some of them. A girl will cheerfully start a
man rushing down an inclined plane and then complain because he continues
rushing till he reaches the bottom. Well, in a sense, we ought not to
complain of either of them: we ought to challenge the senseless way in
which they are kept in the dark about each other.

In these days, when so much greater liberty is accorded to boys and girls
than was given in the past, the friends of liberty should insist with
obstinacy on the need for knowledge. For if liberty is unaccompanied and
unguided by knowledge, its degeneration into licence will be triumphantly
used by the lovers of bondage as an argument against liberty itself. Let me
then say boldly that I am all for liberty. I want boys and girls, men and
women, to see far more of each other and get to know each other much
better than in the past. I believe in co-education, and in _real_
co-education--not the sham that is practised in some of our universities
and colleges. I see the risks and I want to take them. I know there will be
"disasters," and I think them much less disastrous than those attending the
methods of obscurantism and restraint. I think the idea that a boy and girl
may not touch each other introduces a silly atmosphere of unreal "romance"
where commonplace friendship is what is wanted. But with all this, and
_because_ of all this, I want a girl to know that a boy's body and mind
are not _exactly_ like hers; and perhaps a boy to know that a girl's is not
totally _unlike_ his!

In what way do they differ? The male, I think, is more liable to sudden
gusts of passion, of violence so great as to be almost uncontrollable--at
least so nearly so as to make it both cruel and stupid to arouse them. A
woman's nature is not (generally) so quickly stirred. She takes longer to
move (hence the universal fact of courtship). Or rather it might be more
accurate to say that he and she may both start at the same time from the
same point, but she takes longer to reach the end, and because this is so,
is more capable of stopping before the end is reached. This she does not
understand, and expects that if _she_ can pause, so can _he_; while he also
misunderstands, and does not know that there is for her, just as much as
for him, a moment when self-control becomes impossible.

I have said so much about the lack of chivalry shown by women to men that
it is only reasonable to point out that the reverse is true, and that men
are often extraordinarily unchivalrous towards women. The cause is, of
course, the same: they do not realize what a strain they are putting on
them. There is still a very general assumption, even by those who really
know better, that women have no passions and are untempted from within. I
have often been assured by "men of the world" that "a woman can always stop
a man if she wants to." No doubt she can--some men. She can "stop them if
she wants to." The trouble is that a time comes when she cannot want to.
The bland assumption that a man has a perfect right to play on a woman's
sex-instincts till they are beyond control, and then call her the
guilty one because they _are_ beyond control, is based on the age-old
determination not to recognize the full humanity of women. They are
"different" from men. So they are. I have admitted it. But the likeness
is much greater than the difference. And neither the likeness nor the
difference makes self-control an easy thing for her. It is easier up to
a certain point, because she is more slowly moved; it is harder when that
point is reached because her whole nature is involved. She has never
learnt to say that she can give her body to one while remaining spiritually
faithful to another, and perhaps she never will learn. I at least suspect
so. She may be as fickle as a man, but it will be in a different way.

Of course, in all this I generalize very rashly from a very narrow
experience. My excuse is that these things must be discussed if we are ever
to generalize more safely, or to learn that we must not generalize at all.
And I have come to the conclusion that it is perhaps as possible to know
something of what is or is not true when one is unmarried as when one is
married. At least one escapes the snare into which so many married people
surprisingly fall, of generalizing from an experience which is not merely
as narrow as everyone's must be, but actually unique; which enables them to
pronounce with stupefying confidence that all men are as this man is; all
women as his wife; and all marriages as his marriage. When one has had the
honour of receiving the confidence of a succession of such prophets and
heard them pronounce in turn, but in an entirely different sense, upon
the difficulties or easinesses of sex-relationships, always with a full
assurance that they are right, not only in their own case but universally,
one begins to make a few tentative generalizations oneself in the hope that
they will at least provoke discussion and engender light.



"A deathless bubble from the fresh lips blown
Of Cherubim at play about God's throne
Seemed her virginity. She dreamed alone
Dreams round and sparkling as some sea-washed stone.
Then an oaf saw and lusted at the sight.
They smashed the thing upon their wedding night."

Susan Miles._

Something has been said by others of one of the most fruitful sources of
misunderstanding between men and women, where misunderstanding is likely to
have the most disastrous results--what has been called by Rosegger "the sin
of the bridegroom." Perhaps "sin" is a mistaken word. If irreparable harm
is often done on the wedding night, it is quite as much due to ignorance
as to cruelty. Nothing is more astonishing than the widespread ignorance of
men _and women_ of the fact that courtship is not a mere convention, or a
means of flattering the vanity of women, but a physiological necessity
if there is to be any difference at all between the union of lovers and a

It is all, I suppose, part of the old possessive idea which, making of
a woman something less than a human personality with wishes, desires and
temperament of her own, forbade the man to realize or even to know that
her body has its needs as well as his, and that to regard it merely as an
instrument is to be in danger of real cruelty.

You can bargain for the possession of a violin and the moment it is yours,
may play upon it. It is yours. If you are in the mood to play, it must be
ready for you. If it is not, then tune it, and it will be.[G] But a human
being cannot be treated so in any human relationship. It needs mutual
patience and mutual respect to make a relationship human.

[Footnote G: But even a violin will need to be tuned.]

This simple fact, however, has been so little understood of lovers, that
husbands have, in genuine ignorance of the cruelty they were committing,
raped their wives on their wedding night. Judging by what one knows of
wedding-days, it could hardly be supposed that there could be a more
unpropitious moment for the consummation of marriage. And when to the
fatigue and strain of the day is added--_as is still quite often the
case_--blank though uneasy ignorance as to what marriage involves, or the
thunderbolt of knowledge (_sic_) launched by the bride's mother the night
before, or the morning of the day itself, it would be difficult with the
utmost deliberation and skill better to ensure absolute repulsion and
horror on the part of the bride. I think that any man who would consider
this from the bride's point of view would see that she need not necessarily
be cold or unresponsive because, in such circumstances, she needs rest and
consideration more than passion. But I wish men could know a little more
than this, and understand that to enforce physical union when a woman's
psychical and emotional nature does not desire it, is definitely and
physically cruel. Woman is not a passive instrument, and to treat her as
such is to injure her.

Perhaps I may be forgiven for labouring this point because, in fact,
misunderstanding here is so disastrous. Marriage, after all, is a relation
into which the question of physical union enters, and if there is no
equality of desire, marriage will be much less than it might be. Women
are--idiotically--taught to believe that passion is a characteristic of the
depraved woman and of the normal man, who is shown by this fact to be on a
lower spiritual level than (normal) woman. This senseless pride in what
is merely a defect of temperament where it exists has poisoned the marital
relations of many men and women, and has led women into marrying when they
were temperamentally unfitted for such a relation, and quite unable to make
anyone happy in it. Nor ought they to be too much blamed, since they are
often unaware of what they ought to be prepared to give in marriage and
firmly convinced that their preposterous ignorance is in some inexplicable
way a virtue. Why it should be admirable, or even commonly honest, to
undertake duties of whose nature you are ignorant, neither men nor women
seem ever to have decided, and the illusion is beginning to pass. But it is
still not understood that the woman who is not temperamentally asexual may
easily be made so by being forced when she is not ready, and physically
hurt when a little patience and tenderness would have saved her. Forel,
Havelock, Ellis and others have insisted on this, but their books are
unfortunately not easily accessible to the general public; and something
may be added to the more widely read productions of Dr. Stopes.[H] Not
only the physiological but the psychological side of the problem has to be
considered, and it would be hard to decide which is the more important or
which the _vera causa_ of the other's reaction. Scientists may perhaps tell
us some day: here I want only to point out that there is a spiritual factor
in the case which needs at least to be recognized.

[Footnote H: _Married Love_, _Wise Parenthood_, and _Radiant Motherhood_.
By Marie Carmichael Stopes.]

Is passion a cause or an effect? In other words, should physical union be
the expression of spiritual union? Is it the "outward and visible sign of
an inward and spiritual grace?" Or is it a means by which that grace is
achieved? I think the first instinct of most women would be to say that
spiritual union should be _expressed_ by physical union, and that unless
this spiritual union exists the physical union is "wrong." And yet everyone
who stops to think will admit that the expression of an emotion deepens
it. One can "work oneself up into a rage" by shouting and swearing. One can
deepen love by expressing love. It is noticeable that the whole case for
birth control has repeatedly been argued from the ground that the act of
physical union not only expresses but intensifies and increases love.

Marriage is the most difficult of human relations, because it is the most
intimate and the most permanent. To live so close to another--who, in
spite of all, _remains_ another--to be brought so near, to associate so
intimately with another personality, without jarring or wounding--that
is hard. No wonder it is not invariably a success! But passion makes
it possible to many to whom, without this, it would not be possible.
Ultimately passion should be transcended since in any case it must be left
behind. Yet it has served its end, in deepening and intensifying the love
of two people for one another.

Where then lies the difficulty, since probably men and women alike would
agree that what I have said is true?

The difference of view is perhaps more in practice than in theory; yet it
is all the harder of adjustment for that. In theory, both men and women
would agree that physical union, ideally, should express a spiritual
union; and that in doing so, it deepens and intensifies it. But it is still
possible to disagree as to which of these two aspects of an admitted truth
is the more vital and fundamental.

It may be, as I have already suggested, that the woman's point of view is
due to her physiology; or it may at least be influenced by it. At least,
I am convinced that to the woman the sense that physical union is _only_
justified by already existent spiritual union, is the normal one. I believe
that, however incapable she may be of explaining it, and however her power
of reasoning may be vitiated by wrong ideas about the sexual relation, she
does instinctively recoil from its use when its reason for existence is not
there. She may attribute her reluctance to the fact that she is too womanly
(_sic_), too spiritually minded to have any desire for sexual relations at
all; her husband may attribute it to coldness of temperament or "modesty."
In fact, it is due to the cause I have stated, and if she had never been
called upon to give her body except when her own desire for the "outward
and visible sign" of an "inward and spiritual grace" demanded it, her
husband would have found that she was not temperamentally defective, but as
good a lover as he.

No one who lives in the world at all can fail to understand that in every
human relationship, and supremely in this one, there must be much mutual
accommodation, much give and take, a great gentleness to every claim made
in the name of love. All I am concerned to do here is to help to clear up
misunderstandings. It is no claim that I put forward that the woman's point
of view is superior to the man's: merely that they seem to me a little

A man who is conscious of jarring, who finds himself a little at
cross-purposes with the woman he loves, and yet knows that the jarring is
merely superficial and the love profound, may easily feel that to ask and
offer once more the supreme expression of that love is the best way to
transcend the temporary lack of sympathy and restore love to its right
place and true proportion. Who shall say that he is wrong? Is it not
certain that the expression of love does intensify and deepen love? Is not
a sacrament the means of grace as well as its symbol.

Yet let him be warned. He may easily seem to his wife to be contenting
himself with the symbol without the reality, the body without the soul. If
she understands him, she may go with him. If she does not, no yielding on
her part--no physical passion that he may arouse--will quite stifle the
protest which tells her that she suffers spiritual violation. Do you
remember the cry of Julie in "The Three Daughters of M. Dupont"? "_It is a
nightly warfare in which I am always defeated_." That her physical nature
is suborned to aid in the conquest only increases for her the sense of

This difference in point of view affects the relations of men and women
far more widely than is realized, since it is apt to arise wherever the
physical comes in at all--and where does it not? Not a touch only, or a
caress, but all deliberate appeal to sexual feeling becomes more difficult
to women as they grow more civilized. It is perhaps difficult for a man
to realize, in the atmosphere of giggles and whispers with which sex
is surrounded in the theatre, the novel and the press, how revolting it
becomes to modern women to be expected to use such means for "holding" a
lover, or extorting concessions from one who is "held." It was much easier,
I suppose, when women did not understand what they were about. One sees
that to such women it is comparatively easy to-day. And the position
is complicated by inheritance of the age-old conviction that a woman is
supremely woman when she can bend a man by precisely these means. But the
revolt is here. And--for the sake of clearness--what I am concerned to show
is that a woman is not necessarily asexual or cold because she will not use
an appeal to sexuality in order to get what she wants. She may have all the
"temperament" in the world, but she has also self-respect, and she revolts
from the idea of exploiting for advantage what should be sacramental.

I believe that a better understanding on this point would save not only
great disasters but an infinity of small jars and strains, and if I
have put the woman's point of view at some length it is partly because I
understand it better, but chiefly because it is comparatively "modern" to
admit that she has a point of view to put.

Once understood, it becomes easier to understand also the startling
successes and disastrous failures which attend the remarkable practice of
"teaching a woman to love after she is married." The extent to which social
tabus and prudery may actually inhibit a woman's natural sexual development
makes it possible, as we have seen, for her to marry in ignorance of what
marriage implies. When this happens, her love, though it may be noble,
altruistic and spiritual, does not involve her whole nature. Her husband,
if he respects her sufficiently, will be able to awaken that which sleeps,
and in accordance with the undoubted truth that expression intensifies
love, he does "teach her to love" him not only in one sense but in all.

On the other hand, if she does not already love him, he will not succeed
in "teaching" her anything but disgust if he dreams that by compelling
physical union he can create spiritual union.

Evidently it is a singularly dangerous attempt! It is to be hoped that in
future no woman will run such risks out of ignorance, but that lovers will,
before they marry, understand what each expects, what each desires to give,
and at least _start_ fair.

This is no less important with regard to other matters in which marriages
are often wrecked. Surely people who propose to spend their lives together
ought to know (for example) whether children are desired and whether many
or few; and what the attitude of either is on the vexed subject of birth
control. Imagine the case of a husband who thinks the use of contraceptives
right and wishes to use them; and a wife who thinks them absolutely wrong
and, being warned by the doctor that she must not have more children,
cheerfully, and with perfect conviction that she is acting nobly, invites
her husband to run the risk of causing her death! Yet I have known such

I do not enter into the question of birth control, because it has been and
is being discussed much more freely than in the past, and by married people
who are much better able to estimate the difficulties and advantages on
either side of the question than any unmarried person can possibly be.
Since, however, I am continually asked at least to give my personal
opinion, for what it is worth, and since it is true that I have heard a
good deal (on both sides) from those who _are_ married, I will say briefly
that it seems to me of supreme importance (1) that every child that is born
should be _desired_, and (2) that no mother's time and strength should be
so far overtaxed as to prevent her giving to each child all the love and
individual care that it requires.

This necessitates control of the birth-rate, for a baby every year means
a too-hurried emptying of the mother's arms. But I disagree--very
diffidently--with the majority of my friends and acquaintances who hold
that the right and best method is the use of contraceptives. I do not think
it the best; I do not think it ideal. Unlike some authorities who must be
heard with respect, I can say with confidence that some of the noblest,
happiest and most romantic marriages I know base their control of
conception not on contraceptives but on abstinence. They are not prigs,
they are not asexual, they do not drift apart, and they have no harsh
criticism to make on those who have decided otherwise. These are facts, and
it is useless to ignore them.

On the other hand, it is equally true that sometimes such an attempt at
self-control leads to nervous strain, irritability and alienation. These
also are facts.

Personally, I would submit marital relations to the two tests I have
proposed, and add that we have succeeded in oversexing ourselves to an
extent which cannot be ignored; that we have "repressed" till we are
obsessed; and that, before we right ourselves, we shall have to make many
experiments, try many roads, and suffer many things. It is then above all
necessary that we be very gentle to one another and even a little patient
with ourselves. I conceive it much better to use contraceptives than to
bear unwanted children; I conceive it also better to use them than to be
cruel to others or become neurotic oneself; but that it is the ideal I do
not believe.



"Those whom _God_ hath joined together let no man put asunder."

In view of what I have said[I] about our marriage and divorce laws, several
people have asked what I should actually propose in the way of reform, and
I am glad to take the opportunity of a new edition briefly to answer this

[Footnote I: See Chapter V.]

I do not wish to see reform take the line of a longer list of "causes"
for divorce, such, for example, as drunkenness, insanity, imprisonment for
life, and so on. I should prefer to abolish these lists altogether, and to
bring all divorce cases under some form of "equitable jurisdiction," each
case being decided on its merits.

It should be the business of the court to decide whether the marriage
desired to be invalidated has _in actual fact_ any validity or reality at
all; and to declare the couple divorced if it has not. In such courts men
and women (or a man and a woman) should act together as judges.

It will be urged that to decide such a question is beyond the power of any
human judgment; but I submit that in fact such decisions are being given
every day. A judge who grants a judicial separation is deciding that _a
marriage has ceased to be real or valid_, and he divorces the couple _a
mensa et thoro_, though leaving them without the power to marry again. He
actually "puts them asunder" more rigidly than a divorced couple. Since
this is possible, it cannot be impossible for him to decide that the
marriage must be wholly dissolved, with freedom of re-marriage to other
partners; though such a decision, being even more grave, should not be
reached without certain safeguards.

These safeguards should include that teaching about marriage on which I
have insisted throughout the whole of this book. Young people should know
what sex is and involves: what marriage is: how necessary to the welfare of
the race, their children and themselves are fidelity and love. They should
know that unless they believe that their love is indeed for life they ought
not to marry. They should understand that to fail here is to fail most

If, nevertheless, a man and woman believe that their marriage is a complete
and hopeless failure, their claim to be released from it should not be
granted in haste. A period of years should in any case elapse before
divorce can be obtained, and every effort should be used to reconcile the
two, to remove any removable cause of difficulty, to convince them of the
possibility of making good, by loyalty, unselfishness and a deep sense of
responsibility, even an incomplete and desecrated bond.

If, however, it is clear that for no worthy consideration can they be
induced to take up again the duties and responsibilities of marriage--if
they remain immovably and rationally convinced that their marriage is not
a real marriage--they should be released. And this because it is not moral
but immoral, not Christian, but unChristian, to pretend that a marriage is
real and sacred _when it is not_.

If there is one quality more striking than another in the teaching of
Christ, it is His emphasis on reality. It is in this that the height and
depth of His morality stand revealed. We do no service--we do a profound
dis-service--to morals when we admit that a marriage is so utterly devoid
of reality that the best thing we can do for a "married couple" is to
separate them from each other altogether--set them apart--free them from
each other's "rights"--break up their home--and yet maintain the legal lie
that they are still a married couple.

It will be asked how the interests of the children can be safeguarded.
The interests of children are best safeguarded by the education and
enlightenment of parents. They cannot be wholly saved if, after all, their
parents have ceased to love or respect one another, for nothing the law can
do will make up to them for that which is every child's right--a home ruled
by love and full of happiness. The best that can then be done is to rescue
them from the misery of a home full of unhappiness and hatred, and to
assign them to the parent who, in the judgment of the court, is best fitted
to care for them.

Let me add that, while I hold that the persistent and unconquerable
conviction of two people that they ought to be divorced ought ultimately to
entitle them to it, this should not be the case if one only of two married
people seeks release. In this case, the decision should be entirely with
the court.

To those who feel that not only our Lord's words but also the
interpretation put upon those words by the Church is of supreme importance,
the following statement will be of interest: "It is quite arguable that
relief may be granted on the grounds that what is impossible cannot be
done. It may be shown on the one hand that to such and such a person it is
morally impossible to live with such and such another person, and on the
other hand that it is morally impossible to live without marriage. In such
instances there is room for the exercise of our 'dispensation from the
impediment of the legamen' (bond). This is the practice of the Eastern
Church, which allows the innocent party to re-marry, and also grants relief
in cases of incurable insanity."

With regard to the Western Church, "Divorce and subsequent re-marriage
in pre-Reformation days were only allowed on grounds existing before the
contract was entered into. (There seems good reason for the belief that our
Lord's words as recorded by St. Matthew refer to prenuptial unchastity.)
But in spite of this apparently narrow restriction there were fourteen
grounds on which a marriage could be declared null and void before the
Reformation, and it was constantly being done. Canonists and Theologians
taught that the full and _free_ consent of parties was essential to
marriage--which teaching obviously would enable a very wide view of the
subject to be taken."[J]

[Footnote J: From a "Memorandum on Divorce," published in _The Challenge_,
July 5, 1918.]


Back to Full Books