Married Love

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Chapter III.
Woman’s Contrariness

Oh! for that Being whom I can conceive to be in the world, though I shall not live to prove it. One to whom I might have recourse in all my Humours and Dispositions : in all my Distempers of Mind, visionary Causes of Mortification, and Fairy Dreams of Pleasure. I have been trying to train up a Lady or two for these good offices of Friendship, but hitherto I must not
boast of my success. — Herrick.

WHAT is the fate of the average man who
marries, happily and hopefully, a girl well
suited to him ? He desires with his whole
heart a mutual, life-long happiness. He marries with
the intention of fulfilling every injunction given him
by father, doctor, and friend. He is considerate in
trifles, he speaks no harsh words, he and his bride
go about together, walk together, read together, and
perhaps, if they are very advanced, even work to-
gether. But after a few months, or maybe a few years
of marriage they seem to have drifted apart, and he
finds her often cold and incomprehensible. Few men
will acknowledge this even to their best friends. But
each heart knows its own pain.

He may at times laugh, and in the friendliest spirit
tease his wife about her contrariness. That is taken
by everyone to mean nothing but a playful conceal-
ment of his profound love. Probably it is. But
gnawing at the very roots of his love is a hatefial
little worm — the sense that she is contrary. He
feels that she is at times inexplicably cold; that,
sometimes, when he has ” done nothing ” she will
have tears in her eyes, irrational tears which she
cannot explain.

He observes that one week his tender love-making
and romantic advances win her to smiles and joyous
yielding, and then perhaps a few days later the same,
or more impassioned, tenderness on his part is met
by coldness or a forced appearance of warmth, which,
while he may make no comment upon it, hurts him
acutely. And this deep, inexplicable hurt is often
the beginning of the end of his love. Men like to
feel that they understand their dearest one, and that
she is a rational being.

After inexplicable misunderstanding has continued
for some time, if the man is of at all a jealous nature
he will search his wife’s acquaintances for someone
whom she may have met, for someone who may
momentarily have diverted her attention. For how-
ever hard it is for the natural man to believe that j
anyone could step into his shoes, some are ready to ” J
seek the explanation of their own ill success in a rival.
On some occasion when her coldness puzzles him the
man is perhaps conscious that his love, his own de-
sires, are as ardent as they were a few days before;
then, knowing so intimately his own heart, he is sure
of the steadiness of its love, and he feels acutely the
romantic passion to which her beauty stirs him; he
remembers perhaps that a few days earlier his ardour
had awakened a response in her; therefore, he reaches
what appears to him to be the infallible logical deduc-
tion — that either there must be some rival or his
bride’s nature is incomprehensible, contrary, capri-
cious. Both thoughts to madden.

With capriciousness, man in general has little
patience. Caprice renders his best efforts null and
void. Woman’s caprice is, or appears to be, a nega-
tion of reason. And as reason is man’s most precious
and hard-won faculty, the one which has raised man-
kind from the ranks of the brute creation, he cannot
bear to see it apparently flouted.

That his bride should lack logic and sweet reason-
ableness is a flaw it hurts him to recognise in her. He
has to crush the thought down.

It may then happen that the young man, himself
pained and bewildered at having pained his bride by
the very ardour of his affection, may strive to please
her by placing restraint upon himself. He may ask
himself : Do not religious and many kinds of moral
teachers preach restraint to the man.f” He reads
the books written for the guidance of youth, and
finds ” restraint,” ” self-control,” in general terms
(and often irrationally) urged in them all. His next
step may then be to curtail the expression of his tender
feelings, and to work hard and late in the evenings
instead of kissing his bride’s fingers and coming to
her for sweet communion in the dusk.

And then, if he is at all observant, he may be
aggrieved and astonished to find her again wistfol or
hurt. With the tender longing to understand, which
is so profound a characteristic in all the best of our
young men, he begs, implores, or pets her into telling
him some part of the reason for her fresh grievance.
He discovers to his amazement that this time she is
hurt because he had not made those very advances
which so recently had repelled her, and had been with
such diflSculty repressed by his intellectual efforts.

He asks himself in despair : What is a man to do .’
If he is ” educated,” he probably devours all the books
on sex he can obtain. But in them he is not likely to
find much real guidance. He learns from them that
” restraint ” is advised from every point of view, but
according to the character of the author he will find
that ” restraint ” means having the marriage relations
with his wife not more than three times a week, or
once a month — or never at all except for the procrea-
tion of children. He finds no rational guidance based
on natural law.

According to his temperament then, he may begin
to practise ” restraint.”

But it may happen, and indeed it has probably hap-
pened in every marriage once or many times, that the
night comes when the man who has heroically prac-
tised restraint, accidentally discovers his wife in tears
on her solitary pillow.

He seeks for advice indirectly from his friends,
perhaps from his doctor. But can his local doctor or
his friends tell him more than the chief European
authorities on this subject.” The famous Professor
Forel (“The Sexual Question,” transl. 1908) gives
the following advice : —

The reformer, Luther, who was a practical man, laid down the
average rule of two or three connections a week in marriage, at
the time of highest sexual power. I may say that my numerous
observations as a physician have generally confirmed this rule,
which seems to me to conform very well to the normal state to
which man* has become gradually adapted during thousands of
years. Husbands who would consider this average as an impre-
scriptable right would, however, make wrong pretensions, for it
is quite possible for a normal man to contain himself much longer,
and it is his duty to do so, not only when his wife is ill, but also
during menstruation and pregnancy.

Many men will not be so considerate as to follow
this advice, which represents a high standard of

This pronouncement of an exceptionally advanced and broad- .
minded thinker serves to show how little attention has hitherto
been paid to the woman’s side of this question, or to ascertaining
her natural requiremente living; but, on the other hand, there are many who
are willing to go not only so far, but further than
this in their self-suppression in order to attain their
heart’s desire, the happiness of their mate, and conse-
quently their own life’s joy.

However willing they may be to go further, the
great question for the man is: Where?

There arc innumerable leaders anxious to lead in
many different directions. The young husband may
try first one and then the other, and still find his wife
unsatisfied, incomprehensible — capricious. Then it
may be that, disheartened, he tires, and she sinks into
the dull apathy of acquiescence in her ” wifely duty.”
He is left with an echo of resentment in his heart. If
only she had not been so capricious, they would still
have been happy, he fancies.

Many writers, novelists, poets and dramatists have
represented the uttermost tragedy of human life as
due to the incomprehensible contrariness of the femi-
nine nature. The kindly ones smile, perhaps a little
patronisingly, and tell us that women are more instinc-
tive, more child-like, less reasonable than men. The
bitter ones snee”r or reproach or laugh at this in women
they do not understand, and which, baffling their
intellect, appears to them to be irrational folly.

It seems strange that those who search for natural
law in every province of our universe should have
neglected the most vital subject, the one which con-
cerns us all infinitely more than the naming of planets
or the collecting of insects. Woman is not essen-
tially capricious; some of the laws of her being might
have been discovered long ago had the existence of
law been suspected. But it has suited the general
structure of society much better for men to shrug
their shoulders and smile at women as irrational and
capricious creatures, to be courted when it suited
them, not to be studied.

Vaguely, perhaps, men have realised that much of
the charm of life lies in the sex-differences between
men and women; so they have snatched at the easy
theory that women differ from themselves by being
capricious. Moreover, by attributing to mere caprice
the coldness which at times comes over the most
ardent woman, man was unconsciously justifying
himself for at any time coercing her to suit himself.

Circumstances have so contrived that hitherto the
explorers and scientific investigators, the historians
and statisticians, the poets and artists have been mainly
men. Consequently woman’s side of the joint life
has found little or no expression. Woman has been
content to mould herself to the shape desired by man
wherever possible, and she has stilled her natural feel-
ings and her own deep thoughts as they welled up.

Most women have never realised intellectually, but
many have been dimly half -conscious, that woman’s
nature is set to rhythms over which man has no more
control than he has over the tides of the sea. While
the ocean can subdue and dominate man and laugh at
his attempted restrictions, woman has bowed to man’s
desire over her body, and, regardless of its pulses, he
approaches her or not as is his will. Some of her
rhythms defy him — the moon-month tide of men-
struation, the cycle of ten moon-months of bearing
the growing child and its birth at the end of the tenth
wave — these are essentials too strong to be mastered
by itnan. But the subtler ebb and flow of woman’s sex H
has escaped man’s observation or his care.

If a swimmer comes to a sandy beach when the tide
is out and the waves have receded, leaving sand where
he had expected deep blue water — does he, baulked of
his bathe, angrily call the sea ” capricious ” ?

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But the tenderest bridegroom finds only caprice in
his bride’s coldness when she yields her sacrificial
body while her sex-tide is at the ebb.

In here is another side to this problem, one perhaps
even less considered by society. There is the tragic
figure of the loving woman whose love-tide is at the
highest, and whose husband does not recognise the
delicate signs of her ardour. In our anaemic artifi-
cial days it often happens that the man’s desire is a
surface need, quickly satisfied, colourless, and lacking
beauty, and that he has no knowledge of the rich
complexities of love-making which an initiate of
love’s mysteries enjoys. To such a man his wife may
indeed seem petulant, capricious, or resentful without
reason.

Welling up in her are the wonderful tides, scented
and enriched by the myriad experiences of the human
race from its ancient days of leisure and flower-
wreathed love-making, urging her to transports and
to self-expressions, were the man but ready to take
the first step in the initiative or to recognise and
welcome it in her. Seldom dare any woman, still
more seldom dare a wife, risk the blow at her
heart which would be given were she to offer
charming love-play to which the man did not
respond. To the initiate she will be able to reveal
that the tide is up by a hundred subtle signs,
upon which he will seize with delight. But if
her husband is blind to them there is for her nothing
but silence, self-suppression, and their inevitable
sequence of self-scorn, followed by resentment to-
wards the man who places her in such a position of
humiUation while talking of his ” love.”

So unaware of the elements of the physiological
reactions of women are many modern men that the
case of Mrs. G. is not exceptional. Her husband
was accustomed to pet her and have relations
with her frequently, but yet he never took any
trouble to rouse in her the necessary preliminary
feeling for mutual union. She had married as a
very ignorant girl, but often vaguely felt a sense
of something lacking in her husband’s love. Her
husband had never kissed her except on the lips
and cheek, but once at the crest of the wave of
her sex-tide (all unconscious that it was so) she
felt a yearning to feel his head, his lips, pressed against
her bosom. The sensitive inter-relation between a
woman’s breasts and the rest of her sex-life is not only
a bodily thrill, but there is a world of poetic beauty in
the longing of a loving woman for the unconceived
child which melts in mists of tenderness toward her
lover, the soft touch of whose lips can thus rouse her
mingled joy. Because she shyly asked him, Mrs. G.’s
husband gave her one swift unrepeated kiss upon her
bosom. He was so ignorant that he did not know
that her husband’s lips upon her breast melt a wife to
tenderness and are one of a husband’s first and surest
ways to make her physically ready for complete union.
In this way he inhibited her natural desire, and as he
never did anything to stir it, she never had any
physical pleasure in their relation. Such prudish or
careless husbands, content with their own satisfaction,
little know the pent-up aching, or even rescntpent,
which may eat into a wife’s heart, and ultimately
may affect her whole health.

Often the man is also the victim of the purblind
social customs which make sex-knowledge tabu.

It has become a tradition of our social life that the
ignorance of woman about her own body and that of
her future husband is a flower-like innocence. And to
such an extreme is this sometimes pushed, that not
seldom is a girl married unaware that married life will
bring her into physical relations with her husband
fundamentally different from those with her brother.
When she discovers the true nature of his body, and
learns the part she has to play as a wife, she may refiase
utterly to agree to her husband’s wishes. I know one
pair of which the husband, chivalrous and loving, had
to wait years before his bride recovered from the shock
of the discovery of the meaning of marriage and was
able to allow him a natural relation. There have been
not a few brides whom the horror of the first night of
marriage with a man less considerate has driven to
suicide or insanity.

That girls can reach a marriageable age without
some knowledge of the realities of marriage would
seem incredible were it not a fact. One highly-
educated lady intimately known to me told me that
when she was about eighteen she suffered many
months of agonising apprehension that she was about
to have a baby because a man had snatched a kiss from
her lips at a dance.

When girls so brought up are married it is a rape
for the husband to insist on his ” marital rights ” at
once. It will be difficult or impossible for such a bride
ever after to experience the joys of sex-union, for such
a beginning must imprint upon her conscious-
ness the view that the man’s animal nature dominates
him.

In a magazine I came across a poem which vividly expresses this peculiarly feminine sorrow:

To mate with men who have no soul above
Earth grubbing; who, the bridal night, forsooth,
Killed sparks that rise from instinct fires of life,
And left us frozen things, alone to fashion

Our souls to dust, masked with the name of wife
Long years of youth — love years — the years of passion
Yawning before us.

So, shamming to the end,
All shrivelled by the side of him we wed, I
Hoping that peace may riper years attend.

Mere odalisques are we — well housed, well fed.

Kathirine Nelson.

Many men who enter marriage sincerely and
tenderly may yet have some previous experience of
bought ” love.” It is then not unlikely that they may
fall into the error of explaining their wife’s experi-
ences in terms of the reactions of the prostitute. They
argue that, because the prostitute showed physical
excitement and pleasure in union, if the bride or
wife does not do so, then she is ” cold ” or ” under-
sexed.” They may not realise that often all the bodily
movements which the prostitute makes are studied
and simulated because her client enjoys his climax best
when the woman in his arms simultaneously thrills.

As Forel says (“The Sexual Question,” 1908,
Engl, trans.) : ” The company of prostitutes often
renders men incapable of understanding feminine
psychology, for prostitutes are hardly more than auto-
mata trained for the use of male sensuality. When
men look among these for the sexual psychology of
woman they find only their own mirror.”

Fate is often cruel to men, too. More high-spirited
young men than the world imagines strive for and
keep their purity to give their brides; if such a man
then marries a woman who is soiled, or, on the other
hand, one who is so ” pure ” and prudish that she
denies him union with her body, his noble achievement
seems bitterly vain. On the other hand, it may be
that after years of fighting with his hotjoung blood
a man has given up and gone now and again for relief
to prostitutes, and then later in life has met the woman
who is his mate, and whom, after remorse for his soiled
past, and after winning her forgiveness for it, he
marries. Then, unwFttingly, he may make the wife
suffer either by interpreting her in the light of the
other women or perhaps (though this happens less fre-
quently) by setting her absolutely apart from them. I
know of a man who, after a loose life, met a woman
whom he reverenced and adored. He married her,
but to preserve her ” purity,” her difference from the
others, he never consummated his marriage with her.
She was strangely unhappy, for she loved him pas-
sionately and longed for children. She appeared to
him to be pining ” capriciously ” yvhen she became
thin and neurotic.

Perhaps this man might have seen his own be-
haviour in a truer light had he known that some
creatures simply Ji? if unma ted (seep. 123 Appendix).

The idea that woman is lowered by sex intercourse
is very deeply rooted in our present society. Many
sources have contributed to this mistaken idea, not
the least powerful being the ascetic ideal of the early
Church and the fact that man has used woman as his
instrument so often regardless of her wishes.
Women’s education, therefore, and the trend of
social feeling, has largely been in the direction of
freeing her from this and thus mistakenly encouraging
the idea that sex-life is a low, physical, and degrading
necessity which a pure woman is above enjoying.

In marriage the husband has used his ” marital
right “* of intercourse when he wished it. Both law
and custom have strengthened the view that he has
the right to approach his wife whenever he wishes,
and that she has no wishes and no fundamental needs
in the matter at all.

That woman has a rhythmic sex-tide which, if its
indications were obeyed, would ensure not only her
enjoymeiit, but would explode the myth of her
capriciousness, seems not to be suspected. We have
studied the wave-lengths of water, of sound, of light;
but when will the sons and daughters of men study
the sex-tide in woman and learn the laws of her
Periodicity of Recurrence of desire ?

* ” Conjugal Rights.” Notes and Queries. May l6, 1891,
p. 383. ” S. writes from the Probate Registry, Somerset House :
‘ Previous to 1733 legal proceedings were recorded in Latin and
the word then used where we now speak of rights was obsequies.
For some time after the substitution of English for Latin the term
rites was usually, if not invariably adopted; rights would appear
to be a comparatively modern error.’ ”

” Mr. T. E. Paget writes (‘ Romeo and Juliet,’ Act V.,
Scene IIL) :

” What cursed foot wanders this way to-night
To cross my obsequies, and true lovers rite? ”

” Well may Lord Esher say he has never been able to make
out what the phrase ‘ conjugal rights ‘ means. The origin of
the term is now clear, and a blunder, which was first made,
perhaps, by a type-setter in the early part of the last century, and
never exposed until now, has led to a vast amount of misappre-
hension. Here, too, is another proof that Shakespeare was
exceedingly familiar with ‘ legal language.’ ”

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