Physical Relationship Of Marriage
( Originally Published 1918 )
IN the days when marriages were arranged for I girls by their parents, they were supposed to be handed over to their lords and masters in what was considered to be a beautiful state of innocence—which meant that they were completely ignorant of the real meaning of marriage. Young women today are not compelled to enter the state of matrimony with their eyes blindfolded in this manner, and it is advisable for every girl to inform herself upon this most important question.
Marriage entails a physical relationship between husband and wife. For generations it has been considered that marriage bestowed upon the man the right to demand this relationship whenever he desired it. In some of our States at the present time, the continued refusal of a wife to enter into this relationship constitutes grounds for divorce. This our young women should understand.
With the development of the idea of personal freedom has come the feeling, on the part of many women, that they should have the right of ownership of their own bodies—in other words, that they should have the privilege of choosing whether or not they will acquiesce in their husbands' desire for entering into the physical relationship of marriage.
Since, however, it has been for so long a time an accepted idea that the husband's right over the wife's body was inherent, it is advisable for any young woman who takes the other point of view to make her attitude thoroughly understood by her future husband before she definitely takes upon herself the obligations of the marriage state. Fortunately, these subjects are more open for discussion today than ever before, and there is no reason why two young people, approaching matrimony, should not discuss this most important question carefully and frankly together.
If the young man understands the young woman's attitude, and is ready to acquiesce in it, their life together will be established upon a firm foundation of mutual understanding, and in the after years there will be no opportunity for recriminations, or for the accusation that the man was led into a union whose obligations the woman did not intend to fulfill.
On the other hand, however, many women have need to ask themselves whether they have the right mental attitude toward this question of the marriage relation.
For generations women have been so trained to look upon this physical relationship as some-thing to be condemned as belonging to the lower forms of life, and, therefore, beneath human begings, that they have arrived, many of them, at an abnormal state of sex-suppression. They do not dare to follow their own natural impulses, and they do not realize how unnatural their condition really is. They live in a constant state of mental conflict which is most deterimental physically, and most disturbing every other way. If they could realize that the racial impulse is the highest physical impulse which comes to human beings, that it serves a great and noble purpose, and that it is only its abuse which we need to guard ourselves against, they would gradually free themselves from this unnatural bondage to old-time Puritanism, and eventually come out into the freer life of the normal individual.
There may be those who have advanced to the point where they do not need this physical expression of their sex natures. The average human being, however, needs a normal physical expression of this side of his or her nature, and in. a successful marriage husband and wife co-operate to find out what is the basis of their mutual satisfaction and highest happiness.
A word of suggestion might be spoken here to the average young woman to avoid the man who is over-developed sexually, and who, therefore, will be likely to make too great demands upon his wife. The man of self-control, who shows consideration for those about him, can generally be trusted to exercise these same qualities in the intimate relationship of marriage.
In this matter of consideration, a woman can get a pretty good line on a man by observing his attitude toward his mother and his sisters, and his treatment of them under every-day conditions. If she can get an invitation to visit in his home, she stands a pretty good chance of getting an idea as to what she can expect from him after they are established in their own home.
Moreover, under such circumstances, she will also have an opportunity to make some observations as to the qualities and characteristics which her children stand a likelihood of inheriting from his parents. We must remember that children inherit from grandparents as well as from parents. Many times, in fact, children will more closely resemble their more remote than their immediate ancestors.
The science of eugenics is taking a prominent place in public discussions today, and every young woman should endeavor to learn whether or not there are any constitutionally weak strains in the family which she is thinking of entering. Is there a tendency toward epilepsy, 'insanity, tuberculosis, mental weaknesses of any kind, in the prospective husband's family?
If her own inheritance is unusually good, she can feel that there is a possibility that that may offset slight deficiencies on the other side of the family, but if on her side also there are weak strains, she must be careful to see to it that they are not duplicated on the husband's side. It is for this reason that the marriage of cousins is generally to be deplored, for they bring to the descendents a duplication of inheritance which, in many instances, is most undesirable.