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.
It seems incredible that to-day educated men should be found who--apparently on theological grounds-- refuse to countenance any other position. Yet one wife told me that she was crushed and nearly suffocated by her husband, so that it took her hours to recover after each union, but that "on principle" he refused to attempt any other position than the one he chose to consider normal. Mutual well-being should be the guide for each pair. (SecAddition^p. ijj..), m -- It is perhaps not generally realised how great are the variations of size, shape, and position of all the sex parts of the body in different individuals, yet they differ more even than the size and characters of all the features of the face and hands. It happens, therefore, that the position which suits most people is unsatisfactory for others. Some, for instance, can only benefit by union when*both are lying on their sides. Though medically this is generally considered unfavourable or prohibitive for conception, yet I know women who have had several children and whose husbands always used this position. In this matter every couple should find out for themselves which of the many possible positions best suits them both.
When the two have met and united, the usual result is that, after a longer or shorter interval, the man's mental and physical stimulation reaches a climax in sensory intoxication and in the ejaculation of semen. Where the two are perfectly adjusted, the woman simultaneously reaches the crisis of nervous and muscular reactions very similar to his. This mutual orgasm is extremely important (see also p. 58), but in many cases the man's climax comes so swiftly that the woman's reactions are not nearly ready, and she is left without it. Though in some instances the woman may have one or more crises before the man achieves his, it is, perhaps, hardly an exaggeration to say that 70 or 80 per cent, of our married women (in the middle classes) are deprived of the full orgasm through the excessive speed of the husband's reactions, or through some mal-adjustment of the relative shapes and positions of the organs. So deep-seated, so profound, are woman's complex sex-instincts as well as her organs, that in rousing them the man is rousing her whole body and soul. And this takes time. More time, indeed, than the average, uninstructed husband gives to it. Yet woman has at the surface a small vestigial organ called the clitoris, which corresponds morphologically to the man's penis, and which, like it, is extremely sensitive to touch-sensations. This little crest, which lies anteriorly between the inner lips round the vagina, enlarges when the woman is really tumescent, and by the stimulation of movement it is intensely roused and transmits this stimulus to every nerve in her body. But even after a woman's dormant sex-feeling is aroused andall the complex reactions of her being have been set in motion, it may even take as much as from ten to twenty minutes of actual physical union to consummate her feeling, while two or three minutes often completes the union for a man who is ignorant of the need to control his reactions so that both may experience the added benefit of a mutual crisis to love.
A number of well-meaning people demand from men absolute "continence" save for procreation only. They overlook the innumerable physiological reactions concerned in the act, as well as the subtle spiritual alchemy of it, and propound the view that " the opposition to continence, save for procreation only, has but one argument to put forward, and that is appetite, selfishness." (The Way of God in Marriage.)
I maintain, however, that it should be realised that the complete act of union is a triple consummation. It symbolises, and at the same time actually enhances, the spiritual union; there are a myriad subtleties of soul-structures which are compounded in this alchemy. At the same time the act gives the most intense physical pleasure and benefit which the body can experience, and it is a mutual, not a selfish, pleasure and profit, more calculated than anything else to draw out an unspeakable tenderness and understanding in both partakers of this sacrament; while, thirdly, it is the act which gives rise to a new life by rendering possible the fusion of one.of the innumerable male sperms with the female egg-cell.
It often happens nowadays that, dreading the expense and the physical strain of child-bearing for his wife, the husband practises what is called coitus inter-ruptus--that is, he withdraws just before the ejaculation, but when he is already so stimulated that the ejaculation has become involuntary. In this way the semen is spent, but, as it does not enter the wife's body, fertilisation and, consequently, procreation cannot take place. This practice, while it may have saved the woman the anguish of bearing unwanted children, is yet very harmful to her, and is to be deprecated. It tends to leave the woman in " mid-air " as it were; to leave her stimulated and unsatisfied, and therefore it has a very bad effect on her nerves and general health, particularly if it is done frequently. 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. If, as physiology has already proved is the case, the internal absorption of secretions from the sex organs plays so large a part in determining the health and character of 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. Actual experiment has shown that iodine placed in the vagina in solution is so quickly absorbed by the epithelial walls that in an hour it has penetrated the system and is even being excreted. It still remains, however, for scientific experiments to be devised which will enable us to study the effects of the absorption of substances from the semen. On the other hand, coitus interruptus is not always harmful for the man, for he has the complete sex-act, though a good many men think its effects on them are undesirable, and it may lead to lack of desire or even impotence toward his wife in a man who practises it with her, or, on the other hand, to a too swift fresh desire from the lack of complete resolution of nervous tension. It is certainly bad when its safety from consequences induces him to frequent indulgence, for thus wastefully to scatter what should be creative power is to reduce his own vitality and power of work (see also page 41). By those who have a high appreciation ot the value of their creative impulse, and who wish to know the mutual pleasure and enhancement of sex-union without wasting it, this method should not be practised.
It should never be forgotten that without the discipline of control there is no lasting delight in erotic feeling. The fullest delight, even in a purely physical sense, can only be attained by those who curb and direct their natural impulses.
Dr. Saleeby's words are appropriate in this connection (Introduction to Forel's "Sexual Ethics," 1908) : " Professor Forel speaks of subduing the sexual instinct. I would rather speak of transmuting it. The direct method of attack is often futile, always necessitous of effort, but it is possible for us to transmute our sex-energy into higher forms in our individual lives, thus justifying the evolutionary and physiological contention that it is the source of the higher activities of man, of moral indignation, and of the 'restless energy' which has changed the surface of the earth."
Forel says (^ The Sexual Question," 1908): " Before engaging in a life-long union, a man and woman ought to explain to each other their sexual feelings so as to avoid deception and incompatibility later on." This would be admirable advice were it possible for a virgin girl to know much about the reactions and effects upon her mind and body of the act of coitus, but she does not. Actually it often takes several years for eager and intelligent couples fully to probe themselves and to discover the extent and meaning of the immensely profound physiological and spiritual results of marriage. Yet it is true that a noble frankness would save much misery when, as happens not iafrequently, one or other of the pair marry with the secret determination to have no children.
So various are we all as individuals, so complex all the reactions and inter-actions of sex relations, that no hard-and-fast rule can be laid down. Each couple, after marriage, must study themselves, and the lover and the beloved must do what best serves them both and gives them the highest degree of mutual joy and power. There are, however, some laws which should be inviolable. Their details can be gathered from the preceding pages, and they are summed up in the words: " Love worketh no ill to the beloved."