10 May 2006

Sane Sex Living

A friend just gave me a 1922 edition of Sane Sex Life and Sane Sex Living by H.W. Long. At first, he thought it said, "Same Sex Life and Same Sex Living", so he thought I needed it and picked it up at a junk shop, but then got it home and realized his misreading. Nonetheless, he was certain I could put it to good use, at least for research of some sort.

One interesting thing about the book is that it was published by Eugenics Publishing Company, Inc. in New York, a company I have not been able to find any information about, but which seems to have published quite a variety of books up through at least the 1940s, though a quick Google search didn't turn up the full texts of any other than the one I already have. (Though there are some interesting items in Project Gutenberg's file of books with the same Library of Congress category.)

I'm currently working on a paper about sexology and popular culture in the 1920s and 1950s, so could go on and on about this entire subject, but I'll spare you and instead pass on one interesting passage among many from the book--
For ages, the whole situation has been left in a condition of most deplorable, not to say damnable, ignorance; and no honest endeavor has been made to find out and act up to the truth in the premises. Husbands and wives have engaged in coitus ad libitum, utterly regardless of whether it was right or wrong for them to do so! They have taken it for granted that marriage conferred on them the right to have sexual intercourse whenever they chose, (especially when the man chose,) and they have acted accordingly. This is especially true of men, and the practice has been carried to such length that the right of a man to engage in coitus with his wife has been established by law, and the wife who refuses to yield this "right" to her husband can be divorced by him, if she persists in such way of living! It is such a fact as this which caused Mr. Bernard Shaw to write: "Marriage is the most licentious institution in all the world." And he might rightfully have added "it is also the most brutal," though it is an insult to the brute to say it that way, for brutes are never guilty of coitus under compulsion. But a husband can force his wife to submit to his sexual embraces, and she has no legal right to say him nay! This doesn't seem quite right, does it?

3 comments:

  1. Somehow with a name like "Eugenics Publishing Company" I have to guess that the eventual focus is not simply on mutual consent.

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  2. The eventual focus is an ostensibly progressive one -- people should know about how their bodies function and find pleasure however they can (if they're married) -- but the underlying motivation for sex manuals at this time was to encourage educated white people to produce more children and avoid "race suicide". As women had started entering the workforce and being independent, there was fear that with rising immigration the "white race" would be wiped out, and that independent women tended to have fewer children, while the stereotype of immigrants and lower classes was that they reproduced like rabbits. So there's a tension underneath the basic text -- it's encouraging women to be independent and enjoy their bodies (Long argues against people who say that the only purpose of sex is procreation), but clearly there's a hope that better informed people will make better decisions about reproducing, and will do so strategically. It's one of the interesting elements of social darwinism and eugenics: liberal ideas about science and (white) society were linked to regressive, conservative goals. Jennifer Terry's book An American Obsession: Science, Medicine, and Homosexuality in Modern Society has some good information on this.

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  3. What do the author's initials stand for, I'm guessing, given the author's last name, that H is for huge and W is for wide.

    Sorry, couldn't resist.

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