The only secure basis for a present-day State is the welding of its units in marriage: but there is rottenness and danger at the foundations of the State if many of the marriages are unhappy. It is never easy to make marriage a lovely thing; and it is an achievement beyond the powers of the selfish, or the mentally cowardly. I have some things to say about sex, which, so far as I am aware, have not yet been said, or if said will bear repeating and reëmphasizing, things which seem to me to be of profound importance to men and women who hope to make their marriage beautiful. My original contributions to the age-long problems of marriage will be found principally in Chapter IV; also in Chapters V, and VIII. I do not touch upon the many human variations and abnormalities which bulk so largely in most books on sex, nor do I deal with the many problems raised by incurably unhappy marriages.
In my own marriage I paid such a terrible price for sex-ignorance that I feel that knowledge gained at such a price should be placed at the service of humanity. This fact, which is expressed in our outward divergences of form, influences and colors the whole of our lives; and there is nothing for which the innermost spirit of one and all so yearns as for a sense of union with another soul, and the perfecting of oneself which such union brings.
With the dreams and bodily changes of adolescence, come to the youth and maiden the strange and powerful impulses of sex.
However much he may conceal it under assumed cynicism, worldliness, or self-seeking, the heart of every young man yearns with a great longing for the fulfilment of the beautiful dream of a life-long union with a mate. The search for a mate is a quest for an understanding soul clothed in a body beautiful, but unlike our own.
Very few are actually so cynical as to marry without the hope of happiness; while most young people, however their words may deny it and however they may conceal their tender hopes by an assumption of cynicism, reveal that they are conscious of entering on a new and glorious state by their radiant looks and the joyous buoyancy of their actions. The more sensitive, the more romantic, and the more idealistic is the young person of either sex, the more his or her soul craves for some kindred soul with whom the whole being can unite.
It has happened many times in human history that individuals have not only been able to conquer this natural craving for a mate, but have set up celibacy as a higher ideal. In this world our spirits not only permeate matter but find their only expression through its medium. But I would proclaim that we are set in the world so to mold matter that it may express our spirit; that it is presumption to profess to fight the immemorial laws of our physical being, and that he who does so loses unconsciously the finest flux in which wondrous new creations take their rise.
From the body of the loved one's simple, sweetly colored flesh, which our animal instincts urge us to desire, there springs not only the wonder of a new bodily life, but also the enlargement of the horizon of human sympathy and the glow of spiritual understanding which one could never have attained alone. Many reading this may feel conscious that they have had physical union without such spiritual accompaniments, perhaps even without an accession of ordinary pleasure. But about the much more fundamental and vital problems of sex, there is a lack of knowledge so abysmal and so universal that its mists and shadowy darkness have affected even the few who lead us, and who are prosecuting research in these subjects. Nearly all those, whose own happiness seems to be dimmed or broken, count themselves exceptions, and comfort themselves with the thought of some of their friends, who they feel sure have attained the happiness which they themselves have missed. Leaving out of account "femmes incomprises" and all the innumerable cases of neurotic, supersensitive, and slightly abnormal people, it still remains an astonishing and tragic fact that so large a proportion of normal marriages lose their early bloom and are to some extent unhappy. For years many men and women have confided to me the secrets of their lives; and of all the innumerable cases in which the circumstances are known to me, there are tragically few marriages which approach even humanly attainable joy. Many of those considered by the world, by the relatives, even by the loved and loving partner, to be perfectly happy marriages, are secret tragedies to the more sensitive of the pair. Where the bride is, as are most of our educated girls, composed of virgin sweetness shut in ignorance, the man is often the first to create "the rift within the lute"; but his suffering begins almost simultaneously with hers. On the other hand, the woman is slower to realize disappointment, and more often is the more profoundly wounded by the sex-life of marriage, with a slow corrosive wound that eats into her very being. In the last few years there has been such an awakening to the realization of the corrosive horror of all aspects of prostitution that there is no need to elaborate the point that no marriage can be happy where the husband has, in buying another body, sold his own health, and is tainted with disease.
In the state of ignorance which so largely predominates to-day, the first sign that things are amiss between the two who thought they were entering paradise together, is generally a sense of loneliness, a feeling that the one who was expected to have all in common, is outside some experience, some subtle delight, and fails to understand the needs of the loved one.
Then, so strange is the mystical inter-relation between our bodies, our minds, and our souls, that for crimes committed in ignorance of the dual functions of the married pair, and the laws which harmonize them, the punishments are reaped on plains quite diverse, till new and ever new misunderstandings appear to spring spontaneously from the soil of their mutual contact. Now that so many "movements" are abroad, folk on all sides are emboldened to express the opinion that it is marriage itself which is at fault. There is no doubt that Love loses, in the haste and bustle of our modern turmoil, not only much of its charm and grace, but some of its vital essence.
So many people are now born and bred in artificial and false surroundings, that even the elementary fact that the acts of love should be joyous is unknown to them. He observes that one week his tender love-making and romantic advances win her to smiles and joyous yielding, and then perhaps a few days later the same, or more impassioned, tenderness on his part is met by coldness or a forced appearance of warmth, which, while he may make no comment upon it, hurts him acutely. But it may happen, and indeed it has probably happened in every marriage once or many times, that the night comes when the man who has heroically practiced restraint, accidentally discovers his wife's tears on her solitary pillow.
Many men will not be so considerate as to follow this advice, which represents a high standard of living; but, on the other hand, there are many who are willing to go not only so far, but further than this in their self-suppression in order to attain their heart's desire, the happiness of their mate, and consequently their own life's joy. Vaguely, perhaps, men have realized that much of the charm of life lies in the sex-differences between men and women; so they have snatched at the easy theory that women differ from themselves by being capricious.
Most women have never realized intellectually, but many have been dimly half-conscious, that woman's nature is set to rhythms over which man has almost no more control than he has over the tides of the sea.
But the tenderest bridegroom finds only caprice in his bride's coldness when she yields her sacrificial body while her sex-tide is at the ebb. Welling up in her are the wonderful tides, scented and enriched by the myriad experiences of the human race from its ancient days of leisure and flower-wreathed love-making, urging her to transports and to self-expressions, were the man but ready to take the first step in the initiative, or to recognize and welcome it in her. In many cases, however, the man is also the victim of the social customs which make sex-knowledge for women taboo. It has become a tradition of our social life that the ignorance of woman about her own body and that of her future husband is a flower-like innocence.
That girls can reach a marriageable age without some knowledge of the realities of sex would seem incredible: but it is a fact. When girls so brought up are married it is rape for the husband to insist on his "marital rights" at once. Many men who enter marriage sincerely and tenderly, may yet have some previous experience of bought "love." It is then not unlikely that they may fall into the error of explaining their wife's experiences in terms of the reactions of the prostitute.
The idea that woman is lowered or "soiled" by sexual intercourse is still deeply rooted in some strata of our society.
That woman has a rhythmic sex-tide which if its seasons were obeyed would ensure not only her enjoyment, but would explode the myth of her capriciousness, seems not to be suspected. It is also true that in our northern climate women are on the whole naturally less persistently stirred than southerners; and it is further true that with the delaying of maturity, due to our ever-lengthening youth, it often happens that a woman is approaching or even past thirty before she is awake to the existence in her of the sex-urge. It is certainly true of women as they have been made by the inhibitions of modern civilization, that most of them are only fully awake to the existence of sex after marriage. Woman is so sensitive and responsive an instrument, and so liable in our modern civilized world to be influenced by innumerable sets of stimuli, that it is perhaps scarcely surprising that the deep, underlying waves of her primitive sex-tides have been obscured and entangled so that their regular sequence has been masked in the choppy turmoil of her sea, and their existence has been largely unsuspected, and apparently quite unstudied. The obvious moon-month rhythm in woman, so obvious that it cannot be overlooked, has been partially studied in its relation to some of the ordinary functions of her life. But it brings home to one how little original work even in this field has yet been done, that the same identical diagram is repeated from book to book, and in Marshall's "Physiology" it is "taken from Sellheim," in Havelock Ellis "from Von Ott," and in other books is re-copied and attributed to still other sources. This diagram appears to be the only one of its kind, and is reproduced by one learned authority after another, yet nearly every point on which this curve is based appears to have been disputed.
According to this curve, woman's vitality rises during the few days before menstruation, sinks to its lowest ebb during menstruation and rises shortly after, and then runs nearly level till it begins to rise again before the next menstrual period.
The whole subject is so complex and so little studied that it is difficult to enter upon it at all without going into many details which may seem remote or dull to the general reader. There are a good many slight variations among us, ranging from a three to a five week "month," but the majority of the women of our race have a moon-month of twenty-eight days, once during which comes the flow of menstruation. The few statements which are made in general medical and physiological literature on the subject of sex feeling in women are generally very guarded and vague. After the most careful inquiries I have come to the conclusion that the general confusion regarding this subject is due partly to the great amount of variation which exists between different individuals, and partly to the fact that very few women have any idea of taking any scientific interest in life, and partly to the fact that the more profound, fundamental rhythm of sex desire which I have come to the conclusion exists or is potential in every normal woman, is covered over or masked by the more superficial and temporary influences due to a great variety of stimuli or inhibitions in modern life.
The effects of fatigue, city-life, bad feeding and indeed of most outward circumstances may be very marked, and may for years, or all her life, so reduce her vitality that a woman may never have experienced any spontaneous sex-impulse at all. The effects of fatigue, which reduces the vital energy, even in a normal, strongly sexed woman, can be seen on chart II, where at a the intermediate wave-crest is very much reduced. Curves similar to those shown on charts I and II represent in general terms a simplified view of what my research leads me to believe to be the normal, spontaneous sex-tide in women of our race. If any one who reads this thinks to test my view by questioning a number of women, the result will probably appear very conflicting, partly because it is not often that women will tell the truth about such a thing, and partly because in the larger number of women either one or the other period is the more acute and is the one they observe in themselves – if they have observed anything.
There is but little evidence to be found in scientific works on sex, but an interesting instance is mentioned by Forel, "The Sexual Question," in another connection.
These comparatively simple curves represent what I would postulate as the normal spontaneous up-welling of natural desire in woman. It would go ill with the men of our race had women retained the wild animals' infrequent seasonal rhythm, and with it her inviolable rights in her own body save at the mating season. 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 to be mutually satisfied.
The sense that a satisfactory mutual adjustment is not within the realms of possibility has, indeed, obsessed our race for centuries.
Before making some suggestions which may help married people to find not only a via 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 sex-organs of a man consist not only of the testicles which give rise to the living, moving, ciliated cells, the spermatozoa, and of the channel or tube in the center 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 play subsidiary but yet very important parts.
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.
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 women.
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. The husband who so restrains himself, even if it is hard to do it, will generally find that he is a thousandfold 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 of self-command.
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. The supreme law for husbands 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 under-sexed that he cannot have ordinary union save at very infrequent intervals without a serious effect on his health. Ellis states that the Queen of Aragon ordained that six times a day was the proper rule in legitimate marriage.

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. 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 80 per cent.
It often happens, now-a-days, 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. Its simple statements are based on a very large number of first hand observations, on confidences from men and women of all classes and types, and on facts gleaned from wide reading.
The other chapters fill in what I hope is an undistorted and unexaggerated picture of the potential beauties and realities of marriage. In civilized countries, in modern times, the old traditions, the profound primitive knowledge of the needs of both sexes have been lost – and nothing but a muffled confusion of individual gossip disturbs a silence, shame-faced or foul.
With her, wound in his idea of her, he perceived it to signify a new start in our existence, a finer shoot of the tree stoutly planted in good gross earth; the senses running their live sap, and the minds companioned, and the spirits made one by the whole-natured conjunction. But all have some measure of this desire, even the most prosaic, and we know from innumerable stories that the sternest man of affairs, he who may have worldly success of every sort, may yet, through the lack of a real mate, live with a sense almost as though the limbs of his soul had been amputated. In its most beautiful expression and sublimest manifestations, the celibate ideal has proclaimed a world-wide love, in place of the narrower human love of home and children. Isolated from each other the electric forces within them pass uninterrupted along their length, but if these wires come into the right juxtaposition, the force is transmuted, and a spark, a glow of burning light arises between them. If that is so, it can only be because, consciously or unconsciously, they have broken some of the profound laws which govern the love of man and woman. Much of the sex-attraction (not only among human beings, but even throughout the whole of the animal world) depends upon the differences between the two that pair; and probably taking them all unawares, those very differences which drew them together now begin to work their undoing. And the two young people begin to suffer from fundamental divergences, before perhaps they realize that such exist, and with little prospect of ever gaining a rational explanation of them.
Those who talk about their marriage are generally those who have missed the happiness they expected.
Many think that merely by loosening the bonds, and making it possible to start afresh with some one else, their lives would be made harmonious and happy.
The result of the haste which so infests and poisons us, is often felt much more by the woman than by the man. With the tender longing to understand, which is so profound a characteristic in all the best of our young men, he begs, implores, or pets her into telling him some part of the reason for her fresh grievance. The kindly ones smile, perhaps a little patronizingly, and tell us that women are more instinctive, more child-like, less reasonable than men.
Moreover, by attributing to mere caprice the coldness which at times comes over the most ardent woman, man was unconsciously justifying himself by coercing her to suit himself. While the ocean can subdue and dominate man and laugh at his attempted restrictions, woman has bowed to man's desire over her body, and, regardless of its pulses, he approaches her or not as is his will. There is the case of the loving woman whose love-tide is at the highest, and whose husband does not recognize the signs of her ardor. Seldom dare any woman, still more seldom dare a wife, risk the blow at her heart which would be given were she to offer charming love-play to which the man did not respond. And to such an extreme is this sometimes pushed, that not seldom is a girl married unaware that married life will bring her into physical relations with her husband, fundamentally different from those with her brother.2 When she discovers the true nature of his body, and learns the part she has to play as a wife, she may refuse utterly to agree to her husband's wishes. They argue that, because the prostitute showed physical excitement and pleasure in the sexual act, if the bride or wife does not do so, then she is "cold" or "undersexed." They may not realize that often all the bodily movements of the prostitute are studied and simulated because her client enjoys his orgasm best when he imagines that the woman in his arms has one simultaneously. It may be that after years of fighting with his hot young blood a man has given up, and gone now and then for relief to prostitutes, and then later in life has met the woman who is his mate, and whom, after remorse for his soiled past, he marries.
Many sources have contributed to this mistaken idea, not the least powerful being the ascetic ideal of the early church, and the fact that man has used woman as his instrument so often regardless of her wishes. By this I do not mean a sentimental "falling in love," but a physical, a physiological state of stimulation which arises spontaneously and quite apart from any particular man. Hera sent Iris to earth to seek out three virtuous and perfectly chaste maidens who were unsoiled by any dreams of love. As we are civilized human beings, the social, intellectual, spiritual side of the love-choice have tended to mask the basic physiological aspect of women's sex-life.
Experiments have been made to show its influence on the rate of breathing, the muscular strength, the temperature, the keenness of sight, etc., and these results have even been brought together and pictured in a single curved diagram supposed to show the variability in woman's capacities at the different times in her twenty-eight-day cycle. This simple curve may or may not be true for woman's temperature, muscular strength, and the other relatively simple things which have been investigated.
As one young married woman confided to me, her longing for bodily union with her husband, as distinct from her longing for his daily companionship, seemed to well up naturally "like clock-work," and this when he had been long away from her. But a delicate and more accurate investigation of such cases will often bring to light the existence of the second crest of sex desire. Not only was all intercourse with a woman during her menstruation period very heavily punished (see Leviticus XX. These are the foundations on which the edifice of the physical expression of love may be built.
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. 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. But the physiology of our most profoundly disturbing functions is ignored – in my opinion, criminally ignored. If the veins can empty themselves, as they naturally do when the nervous excitement which constricted them locally passes, the erection will subside without any loss of semen, by the mere passing back of the locally excessive blood into the ordinary circulatory system. It is estimated that there are about two hundred and fifty million spermatozoa in a single average ejaculation.2 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. 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. 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 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.
So abnormally sexed a woman would to-day probably succeed in killing by exhaustion a succession of husbands, for the man who could match such a desire is very rare now-a-days. 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.
After the preliminaries of love-play, the stimulated penis, erect, enlarged and stiffened, is pressed into the woman's vagina. 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. Where the two are perfectly adjusted, the woman simultaneously reaches the crisis of nervous reactions and muscular convulsions similar to his. In this way the semen is spent, but, as it does not enter the wife's body, fertilization and consequently procreation cannot take place.
Its object is to increase the joys of marriage, and to show how much sorrow may be avoided.
Here and there, in a family of fine tradition, a youth or maiden may learn some of the mysteries of marriage, but the great majority of people in the English speaking countries have no glimmering of knowledge of the supreme human art, the Art of Love.
Their differences unite and hold together the man and the woman so that their bodily union is the solid nucleus of an immense fabric of interwoven strands reaching to the uttermost ends of the earth; some lighter than the filmiest cobweb, or than the softest wave of music, iridescent with the colors not only of the visible rainbow, but of all the invisible glories of the wave-lengths of the soul. But so long as the first illusion that each understands the other is supported by the thrilling delight of ever-fresh discoveries, the sensations lived through are so rapid, and so joyous that the lovers do not realize that there is no firm foundation beneath their feet. It is my experience, that in the early days of marriage, the young man is even more sensitive, more romantic, more easily pained about all ordinary things than the woman, that he enters marriage hoping for an even higher degree of spiritual and bodily unit than does the girl or the woman. The girl may sob for hours over something that at first appears so trifling that she cannot even tell a friend about it, while the young man, who thought that he had set out with his soul's beloved upon an adventure into celestial distances, may find himself apparently up against some barrier in her which appears incomprehensible or frivolous. By many such reformers it is forgotten that he or she who knows nothing of the way to make marriage great and beautiful with one partner, is not likely to succeed with another. The over-stimulation of city life tends to "speed up" the man's reactions, but to retard hers. He marries with the intention of fulfilling every injunction given him by father, doctor, and friend. On some occasion when her coldness puzzles him he is conscious that his love, his own desires, are as ardent as they were a few days before. He discovers to his amazement that this time she is hurt because he had not made those very advances which so recently had repelled her, and had been with such difficulty repressed by his intellectual efforts. In Forel's "The Sexual Question," he reads the following advice: "The reformer, Luther, who was a practical man, laid down the average rule of two or three connections a week in marriage, at the time of highest sexual power. The bitter ones sneer or reproach or laugh at this "contrariness" in women they do not understand, and which, baffling their intellect, appears to them to be irrational folly.
Woman has been content to mold herself to the shape desired by man wherever possible, and she has stifled her natural feelings and her own deep thoughts as they welled up. In our anæmic artificial days it often happens that the man's desire is a surface need, quickly satisfied, colorless, and lacking beauty, and that he has no knowledge of the rich complexities of love-making which an initiate of love's mysteries enjoys.
To the initiate she will be able to reveal that the tide is up by a hundred subtle signs, upon which he will seize with delight. I know a case in which the husband, chivalrous and loving, had to wait years before his bride recovered from the shock of the discovery of the meaning of marriage and was able to allow him a natural relation.
Then, unwittingly, he may make the wife suffer either by interpreting her in the light of the other women, or perhaps (though this happens less frequently) by setting her absolutely apart from them.
Women's education and the trend of social feeling have largely been in the direction of encouraging the idea that sex-life is a low, physical, and degrading necessity which a pure woman is above enjoying.
Iris found them, but could not take them back to Olympus, for they had already been sent for to replace the superannuated Furies in the infernal regions. It is also true that (partly due to the inhibiting influences of our customs, traditions and social code) women may marry before it wakes, and may remain long after marriage entirely unconscious that it exists subdued within them. We have all, at some time, watched the regular ripples of the sea breaking against a sand-bank, and noticed that the influx of another current of water may send a second system of waves at right angles to the first, cutting athwart them, so that the two series of waves pass through each other.
My work and observations on a large number of women all go to show that this curve does not represent the waves of woman's sex-tides. It is compounded from a number of individual records, and shows a fair average chart of the rhythmic sequence of superabundance and flagging in woman's sex-vitality. But human beings vary remarkably in every particular, and just as no two people have the same features, so no two people would have absolutely identical curves were they recorded in sufficient detail.
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. But when stimulated, either by physical touch which acts through the nerves and muscles directly, or by the sight or nearness, or though of some one lovely and beloved, which acts indirectly through messages from the brain, it increases greatly in size, and becomes stiff, turgid and erect.

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. 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. 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 return.
Ordinarily when a woman is not stimulated, the walls of this canal, as well as the exterior lips of soft tissue surrounding its exit, are dry and rather crinkled, and the vaginal opening is smaller than the man's extended organ. 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.
This mutual orgasm is extremely important, but in distressingly many cases the man's climax comes so swiftly that the woman's reactions are not nearly ready, and she is left without it. So complex, so profound, are woman's sex-instincts that in rousing them the man is rousing her whole body and soul. At the same time the act gives the most intense physical pleasure which the body can experience, and it is a mutual, not a selfish, pleasure, 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 spermatozoa with the female egg-cell.
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.
In the midst of this celestial intoxication they naturally assume that, as they are on the threshold of their lives, so too they are in but the antechamber of their experience of spiritual unity.
But such individuals cannot be taken as the standard of the race, for they are out of its main current: they are branches which may flower, but never fruit in a bodily form.
While even in the happiest cases there may be divergences about religion, politics, social customs and opinions on things in general, these, with good will, patience, and intelligence on either side, can be ultimately adjusted, because in all such things there is a common meeting ground for the two.
There are people who are reckoned, and still reckon themselves, happy, but who yet, unawares, reveal the secret disappointment which clouds their inward peace. But the man is more quickly blunted, more swiftly rendered cynical, and is readier to look upon happiness as a utopian dream than is his mate. Only by a reverent study of the Art of Love can the beauty of its expression be realized in linked lives. To make matters worse, even for those who have leisure to spend on love-making, the opportunities for peaceful, romantic dalliance are less to-day in a city with its tubes and cinema shows than in woods and gardens where the pulling of rosemary or lavender may be the sweet excuse for the slow and profound mutual rousing of passion. But gnawing at the very roots of his love is a hateful little worm – the sense that she is contrary.
His next step may then then be to curtail the expression of his tender feelings, and to work hard and late in the evenings instead of kissing his bride's fingers and playing with the lace of her dress.
He learns from them that "restraint" is advised by practically every author, but according to the character of the author he will find that "restraint" means having the marriage relation with his wife not more than three times a week, or once a month – or never at all except for the protection of children.
But it has been easier, has suited the general structure of society much better, for men to shrug their shoulders and smile at women as irrational and capricious creatures. Her husband was accustomed to pet her and to have relations with her frequently, but yet he never took any trouble to rouse her sex-feelings. There are known not a few cases in which the horror of the first night of marriage with a man less considerate, has driven the bride to suicide or insanity. So widespread in Anglo-Saxon countries is the view that it is only depraved women who have such feelings (especially before marriage) that most women would rather die than acknowledge that they do at times feel a physical yearning indescribable, but as profound as hunger for food. For innumerable women, too, the husband's regular habits of intercourse, claiming her both when she would naturally enjoy union and when it is to some degree repugnant to her, have tended to flatten out the billowing curves of the line of her natural desire.
Such women, yearning daily for the tender comradeship and nearness of their husbands, find in addition, at particular times, an accession of longing for the close physical union of the final sex-act.
To the lay mind it would seem that this question should be answerable at once by any doctor; but many medical men are still far from being able to reply to it even approximately correctly. The tops of the wave-crests come with remarkable regularity so that there are two wave-crests in each twenty-eight day month.
One lady doctor with whom I discussed my view at once said that it illuminated many observations she had made on her patients, but had not brought together or explained.
A woman may be, like a man, so swayed by a great love that there is not a day in the whole month when her lover's touch, his voice, the memory of his smile, does not stir her into the thrilling longing for the uttermost union. 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. When on the other hand the local excitement culminates in the calling up and expulsion of the semen, after it has once started the ejaculation becomes quite involuntary and the spermatozoa and the secretions associated with them pass out of the system and are entirely lost. If the wife has, as I think the majority of healthy well-fed young women will be found to have, a fortnightly consciousness or 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 each occasion. 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. 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.
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 all flushed by the internal blood supply and to some extent are turgid like those of the man, while there is a plentiful secretion of mucus, which lubricates the channel of the vagina. 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 welled up. 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 frequently. By the ignorant or self-indulgent breaking of fundamental laws, the deepest harmonies are dislocated.
I have heard from women, whose marriages are looked upon by all as the happiest possible expressions of human felicity, the details of secret pain of which they have allowed their husbands no inkling.
Now, physical passion, so swiftly stimulated in man, tends to override all else, and the untutored male sees but one thing – the accomplishment of desire.
But after a few months, or maybe a few years, of marriage they seem to have drifted apart, and he finds her often cold and incomprehensible. She had married as a very innocent girl, but often vaguely felt a sense of something lacking in her husband's love. This pronouncement of an exceptionally advanced and broad-minded thinker serves to show how little attention has hitherto been paid to the woman's side of this question, or to ascertaining her natural requirements. One result, apparently little suspected, of using the woman as a passive instrument for man's need has been, in effect, to make her that and nothing more. Many such separated wives feel this; and those I have asked to keep notes of the dates, have, with remarkable unanimity, told me that these times came specially just before and a week or so after the close of menstruation, coming, that is, about every fortnight. Of such women, some feel the period which comes before menstruation, and some feel the one which follows it.
Hence it is often difficult, particularly for a woman dwelling with the man she loves, to recognize this rhythm in herself, for she may be perpetually stimulated by her love and by his being. 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.
In a really ardent woman the vagina may even spontaneously open and close as though panting with longing.
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 contact.
He need not read my book, for it is written about, and it is written for, ordinary men and women, who feeling themselves incomplete, yearn for a union that will have power not only to make a fuller and richer thing of their own lives, but which will place them in a position to use their sacred trust as creators of lives to come. The woman, for it is in her nature so to do, forgives the crudeness, but sooner or later her love revolts, probably in secret, and then forever after, though she may command an outward tenderness, she has nothing within but scorn and loathing for the act which should have been a perpetually recurring entrancement. Her husband had never kissed her except on the lips or cheeks, but once at the crest of the wave of her sex-tide (all unconscious that it was so) she felt a yearning to feel his head, his lips, pressed against her bosom. It is from such women that I got the first clew to the knowledge of what I call the law of Periodicity of Recurrence of desire in women. In those who generally feel only one, the second period is sometimes felt when they are particularly well, or only when they read exciting novels, or meet the man they love at a time coinciding with the natural but suppressed time of desire. I am convinced, however, that ordinarily, whether she recognizes it by outward signs or not, it profoundly influences the average woman, and hence that it fundamentally affects the marriage relation in every way. The enlargement of the penis is not at all due to the presence of actual semen, but is due to the effects of the nervous reaction on the blood vessels, leading to the filling, principally, of the veins, and of the arteries. 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 enjoyment and attaining mutual ecstasy. 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. If, as physiology has already proved to be the case, the internal absorption of secretions from the sex organs plays so large a part in determining the health and character of remote 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.
The sensitive interrelation between a woman's breasts and the rest of her sex-life is a well-established fact, and there is a world of poetic beauty in the longing of a loving woman for the unconceived child, which melts in mists of tenderness toward her lover, the soft touch of whose lips can thus rouse her mingled joy. When a woman is claimed at times when she takes no natural pleasure in union, it reduces her vitality, and tends to kill her power of enjoying it when the love season returns.
Upon her vitality at the time, and the general health of the woman, the length of each desire-period, or, as we might say, the size and complexity of each wave-crest, depends. There are a few women, who seem to be really a little abnormal, who feel the strongest desire actually during the menstrual flow.
The burning magnificence of an overpowering lifelong love is not given to many, and a husband who desires lasting and mutual happiness in his marriage, will carefully study his wife, observe how far she has a normal rhythm, and in what respects she possesses peculiar personal traits. As the blood enters but does not leave the penis, the venous cavities in it fill up with venous blood until the whole is rigid. This is what happens when a woman is thoroughly well and vital; her desire bubbles up during a day or two, sometimes even every few hours if it does not, and sometimes even if it does, receive satisfaction. 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. He will then endeavor to adapt his demands on her so that they are in harmony with her nature.
When rigid this organ is able to penetrate the female entrance, and there the further stimulation calls out the semen from their storehouses, the seminal vesicles, the testes and the prostate, and they pass down the channel within the penis (the urethra) and are expelled. On the other hand, in the tumescent woman the opening, already naturally expanded, is lubricated by a flow of mucus, and all the nerves and muscles are ready to react and easily draw in the man's entering organ. He was so ignorant that he did not know that the kissing and the tender fondling with his lips of a woman's breasts is one of the first and surest ways to make her ready for complete and satisfactory union.
Such prudish or careless husbands, content with their own satisfaction, little know the pent-up aching, or even resentment, which may eat into their wife's joy.

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