This section is from the book "Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties", by Marie Carmichael Stopes. Also available from Amazon: Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties.
He giveth His Beloved Sleep.
THE healing magic of sleep is known to all. Sleeplessness is a punishment for so many different violations of nature's laws, that it is perhaps one of the most prevalent of humanity's innumerable sufferings. While most of the aspects of sleep and sleeplessness have received much attention from specialists in human physiology, the relation between sleep and coitus appears to be but little realised. Yet there is an intimate, profound and quite direct relation between the power to sleep, naturally and refreshingly, and the harmonious relief of the whole system in the perfected sex-act.
We see this very clearly in ordinary healthy man. If, for some reason, he has to live unsatisfied for some time after the acute stirring of his longing for physical contact with his wife, he tends in the interval to be wakeful, restless, and his nerves are on edge.
Then, when the propitious hour arrives, and after the love-play, the growing passion expands, until the transports of feeling find their ending in the explosive completion of the act, at once the tension of his whole system relaxes, and his muscles fall into gentle, easy attitudes of languorous content, and in a few moments the man is sleeping like a child.
This excellent and refreshing sleep falls like a soft curtain of oblivion and saves the man's consciousness from the jar and disappointment of an anti-climax. But not only is this sleep a restorative after the strenuous efforts of the transport, it has peculiarly refreshing powers, and many men feel that after such a sleep their whole system seems rejuvenated.
But how fare women in this event? When they too have had complete satisfaction they similarly relax and slumber.
But as things are to-day it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the majority of wives are left wakeful and nerve-racked to watch with tender motherly brooding, or with bitter and jealous envy, the slumbers of the men who, through ignorance and carelessness, have neglected to see that they too had the necessary resolution of nervous tension. knew that women should have an orgasm, and after every union she was left so "on edge and sleepless that never less than several hours would elapse before she could sleep at all, and often she remained wakeful the whole night.
After her husband's death her health improved, and in a year or two she entered into a new relation with a man who was aware of women's needs and spent sufficient time and attention to them to ensure a successful completion for her as well as for himself. The result was that she soon became a good sleeper, with the attendant benefits of restored nerves and health.
Sleep is so complex a process, and sleeplessness the resultant of so many different maladjustments, that it is, of course, possible that the woman may sleep well enough, even if she be deprived of the relief and pleasure of perfect union. But in so many married women sleeplessness and a consequent nervous condition are coupled with a lack of the complete sex relation, that one of the first questions a physician should put to those of his women patients who are worn and sleepless is : Whether her husband really fulfils his marital duty in their physical relation. From their published statements, and their admissions to me, it appears that many practising doctors are either almost unaware of the very existence of orgasm in women, or look upon it as a superfluous and accidental phenomenon. Yet to have had a moderate number of orgasms at some time at least is a necessity for the full development of a woman's health and all her powers.
As this book is written for those who are married, I say nothing here about the lives of those who are still unmarried, though, particularly after the age of thirty has been reached, they may be very difficult and need much study and consideration. It is, however, worth noticing how prevalent sleeplessness is among a class of women who have never had any normal sex-life or allowed any relief to their desires. There is little doubt that the complete lack of a normal sex relation is one of the several factors which render many middle-aged unmarried women nervous and sleepless.
Yet for the unmarried woman the lack is not so acute nor so localised as it is for the married woman who is thwarted in the natural completion of her sex-functions after they have been directly stimulated.
The unmarried woman, unless she be in love with some particular man, has no definite stimulus to her sex desires beyond the natural upwelling of the creative force. The married woman, however, is not only diffusely stirred by the presence of the man she loves, but is also acutely locally and physically stimulated by his relation with her. And if she is then left in mid-air, without natural relief to her tension, she is in this respect far worse off than the unmarried woman.
When a wife is left sleepless through the neglect of the mate who slumbers healthily by her side, it is not surprising if she spends the long hours reviewing their mutual position; and the review cannot yield her much pleasure or satisfaction. For, deprived of the physical delight of mutual orgasm (though, perhaps, like so many wives, quite unconscious of all it can give), she sees in the sex act an arrangement where pleasure, relief and subsequent sleep, are all on her husband's side, while she is merely the passive instrument of his enjoyment. Nay, more than that: if following every union she has long hours of wakefulness, she then sees clearly the encroachment on her own health in an arrangement in which she is not merely-passive, but is actively abused.
Another of the consequences of the incomplete relation is that often, stirred to a point of wakefulness and vivacity by the preliminary sex-stimulation (of the full meaning of which she may be unconscious), a romantic and thoughtful woman is then most able to talk intimately and tenderly--to speak of the things most near and sacred to her heart. And she may then be terribly wounded by the inattention of her husband, which, coming so soon after his ardent demonstrations of affection, appears peculiarly callous. It makes him appear to her to be indifferent to the highest side of marriage--the spiritual and romantic intercourse. Thus she may see in the man going off to sleets in the midst of her love-talk, a gross and inattentive brute--and all because she has never shared the climax of his physical tension, and does not know that its natural reaction is sleep.