Margaret Sanger, "Sexuality and Feminism Notes," 1933.

Source: "Margaret Sanger Papers, Sophia Smith Collection Margaret Sanger Papers, Smith College Collections S71:590."

A portion of this draft appears in "Woman of the Future," but no published version was found. Some paragraphs were typed on separate sheets of paper.


It is strange though true that the woman’s movement for emancipation has kept itself apart from any cause which advocated sex reform, sex hygiene, or even birth control. For it is just that difference of sex--the fact that the biological burden of childbearing ↑rests on her--that↓ is mainly the cause of less efficiency in woman and consequently her unequal position in society.

We have to recognize that there are two sexes, man and woman. Both lead a separate and different sexual life. But the importance of the functions that fall to each are basically different, and woman’s inequality is based solely on the biological task of childbearing. Consequently, until that function is under her complete control she can never hope to accomplish equal rights with man. The woman who is constantly in the condition of pregnancy, or who is submerged in fears of pregnancy can never be equal in economic or social efficiency to man. Even with great exceptions of wealth and care, she can not keep step with him under these conditions. Therefore, the foundation of the Feminist or Woman’s Movement should be how to augment the efficiency of woman, how to release her sexual bondage of child-bearing and place it on the plane of a voluntary and conscious undertaking in order to be approximately equal to man. Upon this foundation only she can strive for equal rights. Are there any women anywhere in political life with large families? No! Nor in industrial or commercial or professional leadership. It is only because they have had child-bearing in complete control that they have been able to rise to any heights in modern life.

The leading women in the Feminist Movement, while accepting the practice of birth control for themselves, have been adept in cloistering the views which their ecclesiastical fathers handed down to them, thus [one or two words missing] that virginity or motherhood were the only two states of respectable womanhood. Sex as such was akin to sin, shame, and only the bearing of a child sanctioned its expression. With such ideas the Feminists should have parted at the beginning, and it has been left to such men as Havelock Ellis, Edward Carpenter, August Forel, Krafft-Ebing and others, including the newer school of psychoanalysts--Freud, Jung and Adler (all men)--to awaken and arouse the public interest in the beauty and power and magnitude of sex, and to dissociate it from indecency, obscenity and pornography. All through the ages, in Religion, Politics, Education and Social Institutions, it was woman’s place and honor (her destiny) to serve and to suffer. The same hindrance to full intellectual development was her sexual inequality.

The whole field of Sex Psychology is forging ahead hand in hand with other advanced ideas. A newly awakened interest was ushered in about the time of the radio, the airplane, discovery of the atom and radium. It links itself up with a higher phase of consciousness, and will, in the opinion of many advanced students of occult phenomena, be the ladder by which the human race will advance and evolve.

There are many links to the chain, many spokes to the wheel, but I think it reasonable and sound to insist that proper instruction in methods of birth control be of the first consideration in any plan or program; enlightened opinion on sex instinct; an understanding attitude in regard to sex self-discipline; the ennoblement of love based on sexual attraction and communion; the rightness to apply scientific knowledge and contraceptive methods to life’s experience in her long march to Perfection.

The question of abstinence is one on which opinions differ, and I consider it important to review this aspect of the question as briefly as time will allow:

First, the day has passed to consider that the sexual urge has procreation as its primary purpose. Rather is this the result and not the purpose of the urge. It is difficult to find any man or woman who thinks of desire for offspring or race preservation at the time sex desire is at work. The whole moving force of the sex urge is consciously for Oneness-- for union, for satisfaction, and for nothing else. This frank and scientific attitude must be faced and accepted before we can go forward in any attempt to evaluate sex behavior.

The sexual instinct is universal in animals and man. It is one of the basic requirements of man’s nature. In the lower stages of man’s development it surges alone, while in his higher evolution it motivates the mating instinct or urge. With his tendency toward courtship, marriage, parental care and affection, it moves into still higher realms of love. Love, according to Ellis, is a new phase of sexual development.

I do not regard child-bearing and rearing as the end and aim of woman’s existence. Nor do I consider the first duty of the married couple to be the perpetuation of the species. In fact, in many cases I regard it as man’s patriotic duty to refrain from such a crime against posterity.

Plato is said to have observed that “the second coming of Christ is rightly symbolized by a Cross”--the eternal bi-une sex principle in action. The Christian Church has taught that sex is a physical function only, thereby keeping the race from seeking the higher areas of spiritual consciousness. Lack of physical vitality has erroneously been estimated as spirituality, ignorance as innocence, restraint as chastity, until the very word “spiritual” makes a normal, healthy person reject (shudder).

People have been and are as ignorant and confused about the subject of Sex as they are of God. We must clarify the former in order to understand the latter. Civilization cannot rise to its highest possibilities while the mental attitude toward the basic function of life is one of shame or sin.

The history of marriage reveals a long drawn out life of tragedy, of misunderstanding of the spiritual function of sex. Many persons today are advancing the physiological and hygienic side of the sex subject. This is a good foundation. It is for those who know the value of Sex as a Creative Principle to help carry on, to help the world realize the importance of sex as the basis of regeneration upon which the kingdom of love shall be founded.

Our civilization is founded on the suppression and sublimation of the sex instinct. This foundation is basically wrong, and often results in mental disease. The building up of a new civilization on radically different principles, would lead us to real mental health.

“Every form of religious worship from prehistoric time down to and inclusive of the present century, among all races, savage and civilized, has been founded upon Sex--the inevitable, the unviolable, the unescapable and the unfathomable mystery of Creation.” (by Ali Nomad)

Age after age has shown woman taken from her lofty heights, where she was referred to as a Creative Deity--Giver of Life--Divine Mother--and placed on the level of the nurse-maid, permitted to care for man’s offspring--allowed to compete with his animals as pack-horse.


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