Margaret Sanger, "What Every Girl Should Know, Part VII," 29 Dec 1912.
Source: " New York Call, Dec. 29, 1912 Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Collected Documents Series C16:0046."
This is the seventh article in an 12-part series. For "Introduction," see Nov. 17, 1912, for "Girlhood-Part I" see Nov. 24, 1912, for "Girlhood-Part II" see Dec. 1, 1912, for "Puberty-Part I" see Dec. 8, 1912, for "Puberty-Part II" see Dec. 15, 1912, for "Sexual Impulse--Part I" see Dec. 22, 1912, for "Reproduction--Part I" see Jan. 2, 1913, for "Reproduction--Part II" see Jan. 19, 1913, for "Some Consequences of Ignorance and Silence--Part I" see Jan. 26, 1913, for "Some Consequences of Ignorance and Silence--Part II" see Feb. 2, 1913, and for "Some Consequences of Ignorance and Silence--Part III" see Mar. 2, 1913.
In the first part of this article we learned that the sexual impulse is a combination of the two impulses, the one which impels the discharge of ripe sex cells, strongest in the boy, and the other which impels the individual to touch or caress an individual of the opposite sex, strongest in the girl.
Every girl has in mind an ideal man. This ideal begins to form sometime in the early adolescent age. He is usually distinct in her mind as to his physical qualities, such as dark or light hair, or brown or blue eyes. He is always a certain physical type, and often remains an ideal to her through life. At the forming period of the type she will be attracted toward many men who seem to answer the ideal type, but as she reads and develops through the various stages of the adolescent period, the ideal changes and grows with her. As she reaches the romantic stage the ideal must be brave, daring, courteous. If she is inclined toward out-door sports he must be athletic. And so it goes on until the twenty-third year, when the average girl has a fairly settled idea of the man who would suit her as a mate through life.
When the sexual impulse makes itself felt strongly in the adolescent boy or girl, they, feeling satisfied with the physical beauty and perfection of the other, marry, they are unconscious that the incentive to love when based on physical attraction alone is soon destroyed. For sickness, poverty or disease will affect even the most seemingly perfect physical attraction.
Let us not confuse the sexual impulse with love, for it alone is not love, but merely a necessary quality for the growth of love.
No sexual attraction or impulse is the foundation of the beautiful emotion of love. Upon this is built respect, self-control, sympathy, unity of purpose, many common tastes and desires, building up and up until this real love unites two individuals as one being, one life. Then it becomes the strongest and purest emotion of which the human soul is capable.
There is no doubt that the natural aim of the sexual impulse is the sexual act, yet when the impulse is strongest and followed by the sexual act without love or any of the relative instincts which go to make up love, the relations are invariably followed by a feeling of disgust. Respect for each other and for one's self is a primary essential to this intimate relation.
In plant and animal life the reproductive cell of the male is the active seeker of the passive female cell, imbued with the instinct to chase and bodily capture the female cell for the purpose of reproduction.
This instinct man, as he is today, has inherited, and, as with the lower forms of life, the senses are intensely involved. It is kept alive by the sense of sight, sound and smell, and reaches its highest development through the sense of touch. It is heightened by touching smooth and soft surfaces--which is said to account for the pleasure of kissing.
In the early part of this article I spoke of the desire to touch being stronger in girls than in boys. This desire leads a girl to kiss and fondle a man without any conscious desire for the sexual act; whereas in the man, to be touched and caressed by the girl for whom he has a sexual attraction, stimulates the accumulation of sex cells, and the desire for the sexual act becomes paramount in his mind. Many a young girl bubbling over with the joy of living, innocent of any serious consequences, is oft-times misjudged by men on account of these natural actions. But she soon puts on her armor of defense, and stifles and represses any outbursts of affection.
Society, too, condemns the natural expression of Woman's emotion, save under certain prescribed conditions. In consequence of this, women suppress their maternal desires and today direct this great force into other channels, participating in the bigger and broader movements and activities in which they are active today.
This is one reason why the type of the so-called "old maid," so characteristic of the generation past, has disappeared. These great maternal powers are being used up in the activities of modern life. Instead of allowing it to remain dormant and make her odd and whimsical, the modern Woman turns her sexual impulse into a big directing force.
That the male creature is the pursuer of the female in all forms of life, there is no question, but that the female has the choice of selection and uses fine discrimination in her choice, cannot be denied either. This instinct of selection seems to lie dormant in women of today, for at puberty nature calls to every girl to make a selection suitable to her nature. Yet few girls follow this instinct on account of the specter of economic insecurity which looms up before them. Instead of asking themselves: "Are we matable and sympathetic?" they ask: "Shall we have enough food, clothing and shelter?"
Indeed, girls, this system increases our degradation, and places us in ideals lower than the animals. All over the civilized world today girls are being given and taken in marriage with but one purpose in view; to be well-supported by the man who takes her. She does not concern herself with the man's physical condition: his hereditary taints, the cleanliness of his mind or past life, nor with the future race.
There will no doubt be a great change in Woman's attitude on this subject in the next few years. When women gain their economic freedom they will cease being playthings and utilities for men, but will assert themselves and choose the father of their offspring. As Bernard Shaw tells of her in one of his greatest plays, she will hunt down her ideal in order to produce the Superman.
There seems to be a general tendency on the part of the Woman who is demanding political freedom, to demand sexual freedom also. When a girl reaches the age nearing thirty her natural development tends toward sexual freedom. It seems as though nature, knowing the time of reproduction is drawing to a close, calls with all the fury of her strength to complete its development and procreate.
It is at this age where physicians claim a Woman awakens to the sexual desire, and it is at this age that women seek affection, or gratification with a "lover." To her there is nothing to say; she is mature, developed and can judge for herself where best her happiness lies.
But to the young girl at the age of say twenty, or even younger, immature, mentally undeveloped, there is something she should know, and that is that every physical impulse, every sensual feeling, every lustful desire will come to her whitewashed with the sacred word LOVE.
Neither the boy nor the girl knows the difference between the sexual impulse and love. A boys meets a girl, he feels a great attraction for her, he feels the sexual impulse throbbing within him, he is full of this life giving current he feels it throughout his being, he walks lighter and straighter, he feels it in his voice, in his laughter, he grows tenderer within himself, and to women. He feels all this and is sure it is a love that will never die. If there is an attraction on the girl's part there is no difficulty in persuading her that this feeling IS love.
But it is not love; it is the creative force of sexual impulse scattered through his being and the sexual act brings it to its climax.
If motherhood comes to the girl through this relation, she has developed and the experience has enriched her life. But today the girl has an idea she has escaped the greatest disgrace when she has avoided motherhood. If the relation was based on physical attraction, a few abortions and the monotony of every day life soon remove this, and the man goes elsewhere in search of this wonderful sensation which he felt at first, but did not know how to keep or how to use.
The girl, however, has become a new being, sexually awakened and conscious of it. But ignorant of the use of the forces she possesses, she plunges forth blindly, with social and economic forces against her, and prostitution beckoning at every turn. So she soon passes with the crowd on the road to the Easiest Way. This is the story of thousands of young girls living in prostitution.
Women should know that the creative instinct does not need to be expended entirely on the propagation of the race. Though the sex cells are placed in a part of the anatomy for the essential purpose of easily expelling them into the female for the purpose of reproduction there are other elements in the sexual fluid which are the essence of blood, nerve, brain and muscle. When redirected into the building and strengthening of these we find men or women of the greatest endurance and greatest magnetic power. A girl can waste her creative powers by brooding over a love affair to the extent of exhausting her system, with results not unlike the effects of masturbation and debauchery.
Of course the sexual impulse is natural. It is natural in animals, degenerates, and in normal man. But in man it is mixed with other essentials which, together, are termed love. These essentials are derived from man's power of reasoning by which he is known as a higher species and through which he differs from the animals.
When man emerged from the jungle and stood upright on his hind legs, the shape of his head and his face changed from the long jaw and flat head of the animal to the flat face and high head of the man. All progress from that time forward was made along mental lines. According to the universal law then in existence he should have been limited to a geographical area and killed by the extreme heat or cold or starved for one kind of food if it were not obtained, but against all these he fought, because he became endowed with such attributes as reason, knowledge and will-power. Instead of using his creative powers solely in hunting food and reproducing his species, he used this force in making plans for his self-preservation. He built rafts and boats to cross rivers and streams, he devised methods of clothing himself against extreme heat and cold and discovered various ways of preparing food for different climates suitable for his various needs. In other words he conserved his creative force and redirected it into channels which have resulted in giving him precedence over all other living creatures. For man has developed a CONSCIOUS MIND which asserts itself by reasoning, which in turn has developed his brain-power.
It is said a fish as large as a man has a brain no larger than the kernel of an almond. In all fish and reptiles where there is no great brain development, there is also no conscious sexual control. The lower down in the scale of human development we go the less sexual control we find. It is said that the aboriginal Australian, the lowest known species of the human family, just a step higher than the chimpanzee in brain development, has so little sexual control that police authority alone prevents him from obtaining sexual satisfaction on the streets. According to one writer, the rapist has just enough brain development to raise him above the animal, but like the animal, when in heat knows no law except nature which impels him to procreate whatever the result. Every normal man and Woman has the power to control and direct his sexual impulse. Men and women who have it in control and constantly use their brain cells in thinking deeply, are never sensual.
It is well to understand that the natural aim of the sexual impulse is the sexual act and the natural aim of the sexual act is reproduction, though it does not always result in this. It is possible for conception to take place without love, it is even possible that there is no conscious knowledge to procreate before or during the act, yet this does not disprove the fact that nature has designed it for the purpose of reproduction, no matter what uses man has put it to today. This subject of procreation we shall discuss next.
Every girl should know that to hold in check the sexual impulse; to absorb this power into the system until there is a freely conscious sympathy, a confidence and respect between her and her ideal; that this will go toward building up the sexual impulse and will make the purest, strongest and most sacred passion of adult life, compared to which all other passions pale into insignificance.(To Be Continued.)
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