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.
Often the man is also the victim of the purblind social customs which make sex-knowledge taboo.
It has become a tradition of our social Hfp that the ignorance of woman about her own body and that of her future husband is a flower-like innocence. 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. 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. I know one pair of 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. There have been not a few brides whom the horror of the first night of marriage with a man less considerate has driven to suicide or insanity.
That girls can reach a marriageable age without some knowledge of the realities of marriage would seem incredible were it not a fact. One highly-educated lady intimately known to me told me that when she was about eighteen she suffered many months of agonising apprehension that she was about to have a baby because a man had snatched a kiss from her lips at a dance.
When girls so brought up are married it is a rape for the husband to insist on his " marital rights " at once. It will be difficult or impossible for such a bride ever after to experience the joys of sex-union, for such a beginning must imprint upon her consciousness the view that the man's animal nature dominates him.
In a magazine I came across a poem which vividly expresses this peculiarly feminine sorrow:
. . . To mate with men who have no soul above
Earth grubbing; who, the bridal night, forsooth, Killed sparks that rise from instinct fires of life,
And left us frozen things, alone to fashion Our souls to dust, masked with the name of wife-Long years of youth--love years--the years of passion Yawning before us. So, shamming to the end,
All shrivelled by the side of him we wed, Hoping that peace may riper years attend,
Mere odalisques are we--well housed, well fed.
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. They argue that, because the prostitute showed physical excitement and pleasure in union, if the bride or wife does not do so, then she is "cold" or " under-sexed." They may not realise that often all the bodily movements which the prostitute makes are studied and simulated because her client enjoys his climax best when the woman in his arms simultaneously thrills.
As Forel says ("The Sexual Question," 1908, Engl. trans.): " The company of prostitutes often renders men incapable of understanding feminine psychology, for prostitutes are hardly more than automata trained for the use of male sensuality. When men look among these for the sexual psychology of woman they find only their own mirror."
Fate is often cruel to men, too. More high-spirited young men than the world imagines strive for and keep their purity to give their brides; if such a man then marries a woman who is soiled, or, on the other hand, one who is so " pure" and prudish that she denies him union with her body, his noble achievement seems bitterly vain. On the other hand, it may be that after years of fighting with his hotjoung blood a man has given up and gone now and again 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, and after winning her forgiveness for it, he marries. 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. I know of a man who, after a loose life, met a woman whom he reverenced and adored. He married her, but to preserve her " purity," her difference from the others, he never consummated his marriage with her. She was strangely unhappy, for she loved him passionately and longed for children. She appeared to him to be pining " capriciously " when she became thin and neurotic.
Perhaps this man might have seen his own behaviour in a truer light had he known that'some creatures simply die if unmated (see p. 123 Appendix).
The idea that woman is lowered by sex intercourse is very deeply rooted in our present society. 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. Women's education, therefore, and the trend of social feeling, has largely been in the direction of freeing her from this and thus mistakenly encouraging the idea that sex-life is a low, physical, and degrading necessity which a pure woman is above enjoying.
In marriage the husband has used his " marital right "* of intercourse when he wished it. Both law and custom have strengthened the view that he has the right to approach his wife whenever he wishes, and that she has no wishes and no fundamental needs in the matter at all.
That woman has a rhythmic sex-tide which, if its indications were obeyed, would ensure not only her enjoyment, but would explode the myth of her capriciousness, seems not to be suspected. We have studied the wave-lengths of water, of sound, of light; but when will the sons and daughters of men study the sex-tide in woman and learn the laws of her Periodicity of Recurrence of desire ?
*" Conjugal Rights." Notes and Queries. May 16, 1891, p. 383. " S. writes from the Probate Registry, Somerset House : ' Previous to 1733 legal proceedings were recorded in Latin and the word then used where we now speak of rights was obsequies. For some time after the substitution of English for Latin the term rites was usually, if not invariably adopted; rights would appear to be a comparatively modern error.' "
" Mr. T. E. Paget Writes (' Romeo And Juliet,' Act V., Scene III.):
" What Cursed Foot Wanders This Way To-Night To Cross My Obsequies, And True Lovers Rite ? "
" Well May Lord Esher Say He Has Never Been Able To Make Out What The Phrase ' Conjugal Rights ' Means. The Origin Of The Term Is Now Clear, And A Blunder, Which Was First Made, Perhaps, By A Type-Setter In The Early Part Of The Last Century, And Never Exposed Until Now, Has Led To A Vast Amount Of Misapprehension. Here, Too, Is Another Proof That Shakespeare Was Exceedingly Familiar With ' Legal Language.' "