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- The Four Epochs of Woman's Life - 10/28 -
The Wedding-journey.-- The wedding-journey, which was formerly the cause of so much discomfort to both husband and wife, has fortunately gone out of vogue; and in its place has come the retirement to a quiet country or seaside spot, away from the prying eyes of friends. Thus the nervous strain incident to sight-seeing and travel is avoided.
The Ethics of Married Life.-- It has been said that God set men and women in pairs in order that they might perfect each other and complete each other's happiness. The secret of all true happiness in life lies in the spirit of altruism; one must be able to wholly forget herself and to find her happiness in the welfare of others.
The woman who exhausts herself physically and financially on the preparation of her trousseau and her wedding does her husband a wrong by bringing him a wife who is on the verge of nervous prostration.
The secret of a happy married life depends to no small extent on the very beginning: the relation is so entirely new, and much lies hidden in the character of each that was never suspected by the other.
Between husband and wife there must always be mutual concessions, forbearance, and sympathy; a mutual helpfulness to attain all that is best. This, of course, implies that the life of each is an open book for the other to read; that there is an unreserved exchange of thought; and that no privilege is claimed by the one that would not willingly be accorded to the other.
"How many men," says Balzac, "proceed with women as the monkey of Cassan with the violin; they have broken the heart without knowing it, as they have tarnished and disdained the jewel whose secret they never understood. Almost all men are married in ignorance of women and of love. They have commenced by forcing open the doors of a strange house and have wished to be well received in its salon. But the most ordinary artist knows that there exists between him and his instrument-- his instrument which is made of wood or ivory-- a sort of indefinable friendship. He knows by experience that it has taken years to establish this mysterious rapport between an inert material and himself. He could not have divined at the first stroke all its resources and caprices, its faults and its virtues. His instrument only became a soul for him and a source of melody after long study; he only came to understand it as two friends after the most learned interrogation.
"So the world is full of young women who grow pale and feeble, sick and suffering. The ones are a prey to inflammations more or less severe; the others remain under the dominion of nervous attacks more or less violent. All these husbands have caused their own unhappiness and ruin. Never begin married life with a rape. To demand of a young girl whom one has seen forty times in fifteen days to love you because of the law, the king, and justice is an absurdity.
"Love is the union of necessity and of sentiment. Happiness in marriage is the result of perfect understanding between the spirits of husband and wife. From this it happens that in order to be happy, a man is obliged to bind himself to certain rules of delicacy and honor. After taking advantage of the social laws which consecrate the necessity, it is necessary to obey the secret laws of nature, in order to make the sentiments flourish. If a man places his happiness on being loved, it is necessary that he should love sincerely; nothing resists a veritable passion."
Shall Husband and Wife Occupy the Same Bed?-- Among civilized nations custom differs in this regard; in Germany, for instance, the husband and wife occupy separate beds in the same room; formerly in this country it was almost the universal custom for husband and wife to occupy the same bed. The current of opinion has changed in this respect, and it is now considered in the highest interests of both that they shall occupy not only separate beds, but separate rooms; these rooms communicating through a door which connects their respective dressing-rooms. This is unquestionably the best arrangement from the hygienic as well as from the ethical point of view. Health requires that one-third of the time shall be spent in sleep; the bed was made for sleep; and the most refreshing sleep can only be obtained by occupying the bed alone. If two persons occupy the same bed and one is restless, the sleep of the other is necessarily disturbed. Again, two persons occupying the same bed necessitates the same hour for rising and retiring, which is not always convenient or agreeable. Balzac writes on this subject: "To put the system of separate bed-rooms into practice is to attain to the highest degree of intellectual power and of virility. By what syllogism man arrived at establishing as a custom that of man and wife sleeping together, a practice so fatal to happiness, to health, to pleasure, and even to self-love, would be curious to seek out." If for financial reasons it is not possible to have separate bed-rooms, the German custom of having separate beds should be adopted.
The Consummation of Marriage.-- The consummation of marriage is often attended with difficulty owing to the rigidity of the hymen; this, if present, must usually be ruptured before connection takes place. Great gentleness and care must be exercised by the husband if it does not readily yield, the use of hot vaginal injections should be kept up for several weeks before the trial is repeated. These usually relax the parts very considerably; but if coitus is still found impossible, it is better to consult a physician at once, when a simple operation will generally remove the trouble and the woman is spared much suffering. In no case is any violence on the part of the husband allowable, as it might produce irreparable injuries.
There is always more or less suffering on the part of the wife at first, partly due to the rupture of the hymen, and partly to the forcible dilatation of the vagina and she should be allowed a sufficient time for nature to repair these injuries. By so doing, the constitutional disturbances and the nervous disorders which are so very prevalent may be prevented. Too frequent indulgence at this period is a prolific source of inflammatory diseases, and often occasions sterility and ill-health.
The first nuptial relations should be fruitless, in order that any indisposition arising therefrom should have had time to disappear before the woman becomes pregnant.
The Marital Relation.-- It is most important for the interest of both parties that there should be chastity in the marriage relation as well as out of it. Many young couples have had their lives ruined by excessive sexual indulgence. The effect is usually most severe upon the husband, yet the wife becomes weak, nervous, and excitable. Sexual excess is also the grave of domestic affection. The general rule given is that coitus should never take place oftener than every seven or ten days. When coitus is succeeded by langour, depression, or malaise, it has been indulged in too frequently.
Among civilized people there are three widely diferent views as to the proper course to be pursued:
First, those who maintain that sexual intercourse should not take place except for the propagation of the species.
Second, those who believe that the act is a love relation, mutually demanded and enjoyed by both sexes, and serving other purposes besides that of procreation.
Third, those who hold that sexual intercourse is a physical necessity for the man, but not for the woman.
The first theory, "that the sexual relations should never be sustained save for the purpose of procreation," has many advocates. They teach that there are other uses for the procreative element than the generation of offspring, and far better uses than its waste in pleasures. They claim that a life of total chastity increases the physical and mental vigor; and there will result a procreation on the mental and spiritual planes, instead of on the physical ones.
They also claim that to woman belongs the creative power; that she must choose when a new life shall be evolved; and that only by adhering to this law can she be protected in the highest function of her being-- the function of maternity.
The adherents of the second theory, "that the act is a love relation, mutually demanded and enjoyed by both sexes, and that it serves other purposes besides that of procreation," claim that the female sexual life indicates that the healthy woman is neither indifferent nor passive in the generative act. It has much the same effect as in man-- a powerful increase in her sensations, whole groups of muscles are set in motion, and the uterus as well as the entire nervous system are in an excited condition and activity. And that it is the province of the mother to decide when a new life should begin.
The third theory, "that sexual intercourse is a physical necessity for the man, but not for the woman," is by far the most widely accepted. We will consider, first, the practical results of this last theory; and, second, the scientific basis on which it rests.
It is generally acknowledged that this practice has done more to cause domestic misery, sickness, and death than that dreadful scourge of the human race, tuberculosis.
This man, accustomed all his life to gratify his sexual passions promisculously, marries a virtuous young girl. In her menstrual periods she has had to do only with the secondary phenomena; with the expulsion of the ova not at all. She has had no instruction in the corresponding physiologic life of the man, and is astonished at the male sexual indications, and is led to believe in their physiologic necessities. The result is that she not only suffers physically, but feels outraged and disgraced. She is liable to the chance of maternity at any time; and such offspring will probably be sickly.
Passion is presented to the young wife in so hideous a guise that it will take the utmost consideration of her husband afterward to enable her to completely overcome her repugnance. If she be worn and weary of excesses in the early days of her married life, the husband will have only himself to blame if he is bound all his life to an apathetic and irresponsive wife. Husbands place great strains upon the affections of their wives, and lower themselves almost past reinstatement in their respect and esteem.
Lastly, on what scientific basis does this "physilogic necessity" for sexual gratification on the part of the male rest? Analogy with the lower animals does not bear it out. Among animals, except in rare instances under domestication, the female admits the male in sexual embrace only for procreation. Among many savage tribes this same rule has but few exceptions. The analogies between the male and the female sexual organs; between seminal emissions and menstruation; between the sexual life of the male and of the female, only go to accentuate the fact that this so-called physiologic necessity on the part of the male has arisen chiefly through the difference of education; so that it has come to be that the woman is chaste and the man is degraded; that the woman is too sentimental and the man too passionate. From a purely medical standpoint, the most eminent physicians and physiologists of the day all unite in advocating a chaste and continent life, simply
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