Judging A Man's Fitness
( Originally Published 1918 )
THE question of personal purity in the man whom she marries is of supreme importance, not only to the young woman herself but even more to her possible children. If in all other matters a man has proven himself thoroughly desirable, but there is doubt about his habits of life in this particular, no step should be taken by the young woman until she is assured he is wholly acceptable in this matter also.
From the standpoint of fairness, it would seem that a woman had every right to expect the same purity of life in the man whom she marries that he demands of her. For generations, however, this has not been the attitude of the world. Acts that cast her into the outer realm of social degradation were looked upon as negligible factors in his life.
It was almost universally conceded that a young man must sow his wild oats, and no thought was given to the girl who might be ruined because of his habits of life, nor to the harvest of wild oats which might result from that sowing. Indeed, the majority of parents accepted the saying that a reformed rake made the best husband. The idea was, I suppose, that, having had his fling, he was now ready to settle down and devote himself exclusively to one woman. Through his multifarious experiences with many women, he was supposed to have become a past master in the art of charming the feminine heart, and so the woman to whom he brought his final and, supposedly, lasting devotion, was looked upon as a fortunate creature.
Today we are not able to take this point of view. The knowledge science has gained of the physical consequences which come as a result of this form of moral transgression has made us thoroughly aware that the woman who marries a reformed rake is running a terrible risk.
The young girl of yesterday was not supposed to know anything about the details of the life of a man during his years of freedom from restraint. She could not be expected, therefore, to know anything about the consequences of that life. In beautiful, trustful ignorance, she was handed over to this man, who had sated his soul with life's excesses and now turned to this young, fresh, beautiful creature as the one who could most nearly restore to him the joy of living which he had deliberately thrown away.
Upon that altar were sacrificed her youth and beauty, her health and vigor. It was not uncommon to see the young bride droop and wither and quickly become a faded flower—sinking, it may be, into lifelong invalidism. The mysterious dispensation of an inscrutable Providence ! The children that she brought into the. world were puny little creatures, ailing from their birth, lived only a few hours, it may be, or were still-born. She knew all of the sorrows of motherhood and none of its joys, and throughout her life, perhaps, remained ignorant of the real source of her tragic experience.
We know today that the sufferings of the bride and the tragedy of her children were not the workings of an inscrutable Providence, but were the direct, unescapable consequences of the sowing of wild oats which had taken place in her husband's youth. We can no longer shut our eyes to these facts. The researches of science have proven them to us, and the experience of the human race constantly emphasizes the observations of the laboratory.
It is for this reason that young women have so vital an interest in the habits of young men.
If the latter have a right to demand absolute chastity of life and purity of thought in the bride whom they lead to the altar, so has she an equal right to demand exactly the same thing from them. She must demand it, not only for her own sake, but also because she is choosing half of the inheritance of her children. She dare not accept that which threatens to blight these helpless little lives, to send them into the world blinded, it may be, idiotic, epileptic, or burdened with other physical handicaps from which they can never hope to escape.
The subject is so vital that every girl must have the courage to face it and know for herself just what are the physical consequences of this form of moral transgression. When we deal in general phrases, it is always possible to think that we are exaggerating. Therefore it is necessary to tell the young girl something of just what these diseases are, and just what they mean to the individual who becomes infected with them.
The diseases which come as the result of sexual immorality are called the venereal diseases. They are three in number: syphilis, gonorrhea, and chanchroid.
The last named is a local infection, the least serious and the least frequent of the three common venereal diseases.
The other diseases are two of the most serious from which the human race suffers. While gonorrhea was at one time considered but little worse than a cold, today it is known that its consequences are of so lasting a nature that it must be looked upon as of equally tragic importance with syphilis.
Both of these diseases are due to micro-organisms which, once established in the blood, are al-most ineradicable. Indeed, until the last few years, syphilis has, been considered absolutely in-curable ; and while today scientists claim to have discovered a remedy which will eventually bring about a cure, gonorrhea still remains a baffling problem.
If the transgressor was the only sufferer from this disease, we might not be so deeply concerned. Too often, however, it is the innocent wife and helpless children who must carry the heaviest part of the burden of retribution.
Although the wife is most frequently the sufferer from the husband's diseased condition, it is not only in the married relation that this infection may be conveyed. If the virulent discharge can find any least break in the skin through which the micro-organisms can enter the system, infection takes place.
It is for this reason that the disease of syphilis is such a serious menace to society. The mother, or sister, or friend, of the diseased individual may become infected through using the same drinking cup, the same towel, the same napkin, or through a kiss.
Whether the infection is innocently received or not, the course of the disease is practically the same. From two to eight weeks must elapse be-fore the germs make enough poison to cause the first sign of the disease to appear. At that time, a small red spot like a pimple or ulcer may. be noticed. This is hard to the touch, and is called a chancre.
This is the best time for treatment. If the disease is taken at this stage, there is all the hope in the world that its further progress may be completely averted. For this reason, attention should be paid at once to any small sore, hard in character, especially if it appears upon the sex organs.
If the proper treatment is not given at this time, the poisonous germs develop with great rapidity, and starting through the general circulation, grow in strength and number from day today.
Within from six weeks to three months, enough of the poison will be developed to cause the second stage of the disease. This second stage may make itself known through headaches,. bone pains, fever sores in the mouth and throat, skin rashes, or swelling of the glands. At this time treatment is imperative and must be followed persistently and unceasingly, until the severest tests prove that it has been successful.
If the second stage is neglected, or the treatment given up before its end has been gained, then inevitably will develop the third stage. This comes very slowly, however, sometimes many years after the patient has supposed that he or she was completely cured. It may take any-where from one to twenty years for this third stage to make its presence unmistakably known. These latest consequences are naturally the most serious. The terrible creeping paralysis known as locomotor ataxia, general paresis, hardening of the arteries, some forms of insanity, deformities and chronic heart disease may all come from this cause.
These facts should be known by every woman. Before marriage, she needs this knowledge that she may understand the vital importance of protecting herself from marriage with a man suffering from this disease. After marriage, she needs the knowledge, not only for her own protection, but also in order to insure that her husband, should he become infected, will take the necessary treatment until he is absolutely cured. The course of treatment will have to be followed for at least three years.
The young woman needs also to consider what this disease means to her children. Eighty per cent. of the children born with this infection die within a few hours after birth, and for this death the mother has cause to be thankful. Those who survive will be found to be so weakened, either physically or mentally, as to be a lifelong bur-den to themselves and to those about them. It is not necessary to go into the horrible details of this illness. Suffice it to say that epilepsy is one of the common manifestations of this inheritance, while it also causes a predisposition to tuberculosis and cancer.
The other serious venereal disease, gonorrhea, is, from some points of view, even more to be dreaded by women than syphilis. This disease is caused by micro-organisms which directly at-tack the generative organs, causing an inflamation which may eventually be transmitted to the fallopian tubes. If these become closed through the inflammation, sterility results, and this is found to be the cause of more than fifty per cent. of sterility in women.
No absolute cure for gonorrhea, when once it has become thoroughly established in the woman's system, is known. It is important therefore, to know the first symptoms of this infection, as, if the proper treatment is given at the very beginning of the infection, it will probably keep the disease localized and prevent damage to other organs.
The first indications of gonorrhea are those of an ordinary acute local infection in the creative organs. This soon makes itself evident by the appearances of a thick yellowish discharge, which is highly contagious in character. It takes at least four weeks to effect a cure, and the disease is highly communicable at all stages. Many surgical operations on the female generative organs, and many chronic diseases of these organs and of the joints and bladder, are caused by this infection. It is the most prevalent of all diseases except measles.
Its effect upon the children is most tragic. Eighty per cent of blindness in new-born children is directly due to the infection received from the mother at the time of birth. It is assumed that ten per cent. of all the blindnss in our country is due to this disease.
The young woman cannot be too careful, there-fore, to choose her intimate associates from among those young men who, she has reason to believe, are chaste in act and pure in thought.
When the time comes for her to say a decisive, "Yes," she should call upon father or brother, if she is so fortunate as to possess these masculine protectors, to learn definitely for her whether or not the young man is absolutely free from all taint of communicable disease. If she has no one upon whom she can call for this important inquiry, she should not hesitate to broach the subject herself, before she has irrevocably given her word. Any honorable young man will be only too glad to assure himself, by proper physical examination, that he will be in no least way endangering the health of the one whom he loves by entering into the close relationship of marriage with her. In some States it has been made a legal requirement that, before a license is granted, both parties must establish, under oath, their freedom from all communicable disease.
If upon her request the young man evinces indignation and refuses to submit himself to such physical test, she may accept his attitude as convincing testimony to the probabiltiy of his being either infected, or having at least, run the risk of infection. Better an aching heart for a few months at this time, because of blighted hopes, than a lifelong period of regrets for her own lost health and the sad inheritance of her children.