In most forms of society, custom rather than law regulates sex. In America so many customs have met that low governs.
THE average man or woman in this country wants to be left alone; Americans don't want to be told what to do and when to do it. In totalitarian states (such as Germany, Italy, Russia and other dictatorships) the people have been told that the welfare of the individual doesn't mean much, and that only the good of the entire nation counts. Because of this attitude, the personal rights of the people have been almost entirely taken away. There is scarcely a field in which the man or wo man can call his soul his own, and do as he pleases. He is told how much he may eat of butter, potatoes, milk and other foods, since all food products are rationed. His other habits are likewise regimented. We want to eat what we can afford to buy, without any restrictions from others. We want to do many things in accordance with our own desires. And this applies especially so in our emotional lives.
Sex rears its ugly head in the Night Court-one of the most unattractive exhibitions of human nature. The divorce court is, usually, a little more refined.
The American man and woman are exceptionally free from directions in regard to the manner in which they live sexually. In general, a married couple may have children or not; for birth control is available to those who request it, save in a small portion of our country. Our country is quite conservative in moral matters, being stricter than the rest of the world in many ways; yet it is not free from considerable promiscuity and immorality. It is thought that many unfavorable aspects of the national sexual life are the results of the limitations, set by the conservative tradition, on life under modern conditions.
Our ideal in this country is that of monogamous marriage: one man married to one woman. Doctors, psychologists, moralists, as well as the clergy agree that this type of marriage is best for the man and woman concerned. If either the man or the woman had more than one mate, there would be lacking that true love which is so important in binding the family together; and the evils would be felt, not only by the parents, but even more so by the children. It makes little difference whether this having more than one mate occurs in marriage (the recognized marriage of one woman to more than one husband at the same time is polyandry; of one man to more than one wife at the same time is polygyny ; the practice of having more than one married mate at the same time, in general, is called polygamy)-or outside of marriage, when it becomes sheer promiscuity.
Mrs. K. was a brilliant woman, a leader in club affairs, and quite successful in business. She had been married for nearly twenty years, and had two children, when she got into the wrong crowd, a "sophisticated" group who listened to lectures by "authorities" that declared that the sex impulse requires variety of satisfaction. Almost immediately, Mrs. K. began to find fault at home with her husband, and soon had a younger man escorting her about town. She became the laughing stock of everybody, but she didn't realize that. What was really important was not that people laughed at her, but the fact that she was losing everything of value in her life. She lost her self-respect; she was no longer a good housewife; and she neglected her children. Worse than the mere neglect, was the example set for them. One was a daughter, at the impressionable age of 13, who will never get over the shock of seeing her mother kiss her "boy friend" goodbye, and of hearing the neighbors talk about the whole matter. The girl had been taught to be good, to be loyal to the members of the family; but this was too much, and she ran away twice to her grandmother. It was the realization at last that her daughter's life was being ruined that led the mother to mend her, unseemly ways.
In an endeavor to sustain the institution of marriage, authorities everywhere in this country combat commercialized promiscuity as an unnecessary evil. It is a demoralizing influence, which degrades the normal marital relations, and disrupts the home. Promiscuity strikes at the home and family, menaces public health, exploits young people when their activities and thoughts should be directed into other channels, besides increasing graft and crime.
Promiscuity contributes in another way to the nation's ill-health, for it is the principal means of spreading the venereal diseases. Syphilis and gonorrhea are very common-more so than many are willing to admit. The injurious effects of syphilis and gonorrhea are well known to all enlightened men and women. The diseases impair the earning power of the victim, require extensive treatment, and can lead to serious health conditions and even to death. Promiscuity spreads these diseases even under the best of possible medical examinations. The woman who was found healthy may transmit the disease from one man to another a half hour later. It is for this reason that medical supervision as a measure of safety is doomed to failure, and why it is fought without any let-up.
The fight against venereal disease and its ill effects is raging on other battle fronts. There are now many states with "premarital" laws which require that the prospective bride and groom he tested for venereal disease. The marriage license may be refused if the results of these tests are not satisfactory.
New York and New Jersey in 1938 passed laws requiring that tests for syphilis be made on all pregnant women. This is to remove the scourge of congenital syphilis; for treatment of the mother in time can prevent the appearance of the disease in the baby in 100 per cent of these cases.