Married Love

Chapter VII: Modesty and Romance

A person can therefore no more promise to love or not to
love than he can promise to live long. What he can promise is
to take good care of his life and of his love. — Ellen Key.

ARTISTS clearly, and poets in veiled
language, have in all ages, expressed the
glory of the naked human body. Before the
Venus of Milo in her Paris home, even the empty-
headed and ridiculously-dressed creatures of fashion
stand for a moment with a catch in the throat and a
sense that here is something full of divine secrets.
One day, when I was doing my reverence before this
ancient goddess, drinking in strength and happiness
from the harmonies of her curves, a preposterously
corsetted doll came up to the statue, paused, and said
with tears in her voice to the man beside her :
” Hasn’t she got the loveliest figure! ”

If cold marble so stirs us, how much more the
warmth and vitality of living beauty! Any well-
formed young man or woman is immeasurably more
graceful when free from the clinging follies of modern
dress, while a beautiful woman’s body has a supernal
loveliness at which no words short of a poetic rapture
can even hint. Our race has so long neglected the
culture of human beauty that a sad proportion of
mature men and women are unattractive; but most
young people have the elements of beauty, and to
them chiefly this book is addressed.

A young man or woman perfectly naked cannot be
tawdry. The fripperies, the jagged curves and in-
harmonious lines and colours of the so-called ” adorn-
ments ” are surmounted, and the naked figure step-
ping from their scattered pile is seen in its utter sim-
plicity. How charming even the raggcdest little
street urchins become when they leave their rags on
the bank and plunge into the water !

It is therefore not surprising that one of the in-
numerable sweet impulses of love should be to reveal,
each to each, this treasure of living beauty. To give
each other the right to enter and enjoy the sight which
most of all sights in the world draws and satisfies the
artist’s eyes.

This impulse, however, is, on the part of the
woman, swayed by two at least of the natural results
of her rhythmic tides. For some time during each
month, age-long tradition that she is ” unclean,”
coupled with her obvious requirements, have made
her withdraw herself from even her husband’s gaze.
But, on the other hand, there regularly come times
when her body is raised to a higher point of loveliness
than usual by the rounding and extra fullness of the
breasts. (This is one of the regular physiological re-
sults of the rhythmic processes going on within her.)
Partly or wholly unconscious of the brilliance and
full perfection of her beauty, she yet delights in its
gentle promptings to reveal itself to her lover’s eyes
when he adores. This innocent, this goddess-like self-
confidence retreats when the natural ebb of her vitality
returns.

How fortunate for man when these sweet changes
in his lover are not coerced into uniformity ! For
man has still so much of the ancient hunter in his
blood that beauty which is always at hand and ever
upon its pedestal must inevitably attract him far less
than the elusive and changing charms of rhythmic
life. In the highly-evolved and cultivated woman,
who has wisdom enough not to restrict, but to give
full play to the great rhythms of her being, man’s
polygamous instinct can be satisfied and charmed by
the ever-changing aspects of herself which naturally
come uppermost. And one of her natural phases is
at times to retreat, to experience a profound sex in-
difference, and passionately to resent any encroach-
ment on her solitude.

This is something woman too often forgets. She
has been so thoroughly ” domesticated ” by man that
she feels too readily that after marriage she is all his.
And by her very docility to his perpetual demands
she destroys for him the elation, the palpitating thrills
and surprises, of the chase.

In the rather trivial terms of our sordid modern
life, it works out in many marriages somewhat as
follows : The married pair share a bedroom”, and so
it comes about that the two are together not only at
the times of delight and interest in each other, but
during most of the unlovely and even ridiculous pro-
ceedings of the toilet. Now it may enchant a man
once — perhaps even twice — or at long intervals — to
watch his goddess screw her hair up into a tight and
unbecoming knot and soap her ears. But it is in-
herently too unlovely a proceeding to retain indefinite
enchantment. To see a beautiful woman floating in
the deep, clear water of her bath — that may enchant
for ever, for it is so lovely, but the unbeautiflil
trivialities essential to the daily toilet tend only to
blur the picture and to dull the interest and attention
that should be bestowed on the body of the loved one.
Hence, ultimately, everyday association in the
commonplace daily necessities tends to reduce the
keen pleasure each takes in the other. And hence,
inevitably and tragically, though stealthily and un-
perceived, to reduce the keenness of stimulation the
pair exert on each other, and thus to lower their in-
tensity of the consummation of the sex act, and hence
to lower its physiological value.*

In short, the overcoming of her personal modesty,
which is generally looked on as an essential result in
marriage where the woman becomes wholly the man’s,
has generated among our women a tradition that
before their husbands they can perform any and all
of the details of personal and domestic duties. Cor-
respondingly, they allow the man to be neglectful of
preserving some reticence before them. This mutual
possession of the lower and more elementary experi-
ences of life has been, in innumerable marriages, a
factor in destroying the mutual possession of life’s
higher and more poetic charms.

And woman’s beauty wanes too often more

* A quotation from Thomas (p. 1 1 z of William Thomas’ book
” Sex and Society,” 1907, Pp. 314) is here very apt, though he
had been speaking not of man, but of the love play and coyness
shown by female birds and animals.

” We must also recognise the fact that reproductive life must
be connected with violent stimulation, or it would be neglected
and the species would become extinct; and on the other hand,
if the conquest of the female were too easy, sexual life would be
in danger of becoming a play interest and a dissipation, destructive
of energy and fatal to the species. Working, we may assume, by
a process of selection and survival, nature has both secured and
safeguarded reproduction. The female will not submit to
seizure except in a high state of nervous excitation (as is seen
especially well in the wooing of birds), while the male must
conduct himself in such a way as to manipulate the female; and,
as the more active agent, he develops a marvellous display of
technique for this purpose. This is offset by the coyness and
coquetry of the female, by which she equally attracts and fasci-
nates the male, and practises upon him to induce a corresponding
state of nervous excitation.”

through neglect than through age. The man, with
the radiant picture of his bride blurred by the daily
less lovely aspects, may cease to remind her by acts of
courtship that her body is precious. But many men
by whom each aspect of their wives is noted, arc often
hurt by woman’s stupidity or neglect of herself.
Women lose their grace of motion by relying on arti-
ficial bones and stiffenings, and clog their movements
with heavy and absurdly fashioned garments. They
forget how immeasurably they can control not only
their clothed appearance but the very structure of
their bodies by the things they eat and do, by the very
thoughts they think.

A wise man once said that a woman deserved no
credit for her beauty at sixteen, but beauty at sixty
was her own soul’s doing. I would that all the world
so thirsted for beauty that we moulded the whole race
mto as lovely forms as the Greeks created.

In this respect I am inclined to think that man
sufFers more than woman. For man is still essentially
the hunter, the one who experiences the desires and
thrills of the chase, and dreams ever of comino- un-
awares upon Diana in the woodlands. On the ‘other
hand, the married woman, having once yielded all,
tends to remain passively in the man’s companionship’
Though it may appear trivial beside the profound
physiological factors considered in recent chapters,
I think that, in the interests of husbands, an important
piece of advice to wives is: Be always escaping
Escape the lower, the trivial, the sordid. So tax as
possible (and this is far more possible than appears at
first, and requires only a little care and rearrange-
ment in the habits of the household) ensure that you
allow your husband to come upon you only when
there is delight in the meeting. Whenever the
finances allow, the husband and wife should have
separate bedrooms. No soul can grow to its full
stature without spells of solitude. A married
woman’s body and soul should be essentially her own,
and that can only be so if she has an inviolable retreat.
But at the same time the custom of having separate
rooms should not mean, as it often does, that the
husband only comes to his wife’s room when he has
some demand to make upon her. Nothing is more
calculated to inhibit all desire for union in a sensitive
wife than the knowledge of what her husband wants
when he comes, however lovingly, to her side. Every
night, unless something prevents, there should be
the tender companionship and whispered intimacies
which are, to many people, only possible in the dark.
The « good-night » should be a time of delightflil
forgetting of the outward scars of the years, and a
warm, tender, perhaps playful exchange of con-
fidences. This is not incompatible with what has been
said in the previous chapters, and when this custom is
maintained it overcomes the objection some people
make to separate rooms as a source of estrangements