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.
No They are not polygamists, the finest young men of the present and of the future. Most men today are not m their heart of hearts polygamists, in spite of all the outward signs to the contrary; in spite of the fact that so few of them have remained faithful to one woman. But they are ignorant of the sex-laws and traditions, that sex-knowledge which was the heritage of much less civilised tribes, and so they have trampled and crushed out the very thing for the growth of which their hearts are aching.
Hence secretly (for in a marriage that is at least superficially happy the man seldom does this openly) the man begins to crave for another type of society and he " goes elsewhere." Not, it is true, to find, or even in the hope of finding, what he would get from a perfect marriage; but often to satisfy in some measure that yearning for fresh experience, for romance, and .for that sense of fusion with another in the romantic experience which, even if it is only a delusion of the senses, is yet one of the most precious things life has to offer.
It is hard, indeed in many cases it seems impossible, for a good woman to understand what it is that draws her husband from her. Restricted by habit and convention in the exercise of her faculties, she is unaware of the ever-narrowing range of her interest and her powers of conversation. The home life tends to become that of a fenced pond, instead of a great ocean with innumerable currents. From the restricted and fenced man's instinct is ever to escape. Man's opportunities for exploration in the cities are few, and the prostitute is one of the most obvious doors of escape into new experiences.
Women feel a so righteous and instinctive horror of prostitution, and regarding it they experience an indignation so intense, that they do not seek to understand the man's attitude.
The prostitute, however, sometimes supplies an element which is not purely physical, and which is often lacking in the wife's relation with her husband, an element of charm and mutual gaiety in pleasure.
If good women realised this, while they would judge and endeavour to eliminate prostitution no less strenuously, they might be in a better position to begin their efforts to free men from the hold that social disease has upon them.
_ It is perhaps impossible to find the beginning of a vicious circle, but the first step out of it must be the realisation that one is within it, and the realisation of some, at any rate, of its component parts.
Man, through prudery, through the custom of ignoring the woman's side of marriage and considering his own whim as marriage law, has largely lost the art of stirring a chaste partner to physical love. He therefore deprives her of a glamour, the loss of which he deplores, for he feels a lack not only of romance and beauty, but of something higher which is mystically given as the result of the complete union. He blames his wife's " coldness " instead of his own want of art. Then he seeks elsewhere for the things she could have given him had he known how to win them. And she, knowing that the shrine has been desecrated, is filled with righteous indignation, though generally as blind as he is to the true cause of what has occurred.
Manifold and far-reaching, influencing the whole structure of society not only in this country, but in every country and at every time, have been the influences which have grown up from the root-fallacy in the marriage relation.
Then there is another cause for the dulling of a wife's bright charm--her inferior position in the eyes of the law. It is indeed a serious matter, as Jean Finot says, " that, under present conditions, the mistress keeps certain liberties which are denied to married women."
The past and its history have been studied by many, and wc may leave it. What concerns the present generation of young married people is to-day and the future. The future is full of hope. Already one sees beginning to grow up a new relationship between the units composing society.
In the noblest society love will hold sway. The love of mates will always be the supremest life experience, but it will no longer be an experience exclusive and warped.
The love of friends and children, of comrades and fellow-workers, will but serve to develop every power of the two who are mates. By mingling the greatness of their individual stature they can achieve together something that, had both or either been dwarfed and puny individuals, would have remained for ever unattainable.
The whole trend of the evolution of human society has been toward an increased coherence of all its parts, until at the present time it is already almost possible to say that the community has an actual life on a plane above that of all the individuals composing it: that the community, in fact, is a super-entity. It is through the community of human beings, and not in our individual lives, that we reach an ultimate permanence upon this globe.
When our relation to the community is fully realised, it will be seen that the health, the happiness, and the consequent powers of every individual, concern not only his own life, but also affect the whole community of which he is a member.
The happiness of a perfect marriage, which enhances the vitality of the private life, renders one not only capable of adding to the stream of the life-blood ot the community in children, but by marriage one is also rendered a fitter and more perfect instrument for one s own particular work, the results of which should be shared by society as a whole, and in the tempering and finishing of which society plays a part.
Thus it is the concern of the whole community that marriage should be as perfect, and hence as joyous, as possible; so that the powers which should be set free and created for the purpose of the whole community should not be frittered away in the useless longing and disappointment engendered by iVnor-ance, narrow restrictions, and low ideals.
In the world the happily mated pair should be like . a great and beautiful light; a light not hid under a bushel, but one whose beams shine through the lives or all around them.