“Any tendency to self-handling at its earliest manifestation will lead the wise mother to at once adopt means for its suppression.”


Another instalment in the 1905 Ladies’ Handbook series! The original post is here.

Chapter IV is titled “Sex Physiology and Hygiene“. It’s long, so I’ll break it up into parts. It opens with a passionate plea for early and vigorous abstinence education.

The function of reproduction is the noblest and should be the most reverenced of all human powers. Through its lawful exercise great names and noble characters have been passed down through many generations, and are here to-day to bless and benefit mankind. What a triumph for the enemy of man to have dragged this high and holy function down through the quagmire of vulgar thoughts and vile abuses to such an extent as to have brought about the decline and fall of mighty nations. And even now the race of man is threatened with extinction through the perversion and unlawful use of this beneficent function. How shall the evils of a falling birth-rate, unhappy homes, wrecked lives, divorce, the white slave traffic and its pestilential disease — how shall these evils be abolished except by plain speaking and teaching of this most vital of all topics?

The most reticent persons on this subject are not necessarily the purest; indeed, they are most often those who stand convicted by conscience of unlawful motives, thoughts, or actions, either of the present or past. Mock modesty is a most transparent cloak which does not hide the multitude of sins it is intended to cover. Away, then, with the ignorant prudery and hypocrisy of the past age which tabooed sex physiology and hygiene as indelicate and improper topics!

The methods of the past have been a failure. Let us teach the present generation the plain, simple truth about sex and sexual relations. Line upon line in pure, chaste language let the instruction be given from infancy to adult life. Thoughtfully and wisely answer all the questions of the children. Let them talk as freely as they will about the mother, father, and baby birds, the mother and father trees and flowers. Let them be taught about their own bodies, their delicate and wonderful organs. The eye and ear may be described, and the need of their care and protection impressed upon the little minds. How natural it is to pass from these to other delicate organs which likewise require careful preservation for the sacred use of the future.

What a wonderful story is that of the nest in its mother’s own body for the tiny developing infant! With what delight and pure anticipation the little ones look forward to the day when they will have a real, live baby sister or brother. How thoughtful they will be to care for mother in order that no harm may befall her or the life of the tiny one she shields. How the generative act may be exalted and uplifted from the quagmire of corruption into which it has been dragged, by the perception of its noble end. And how necessary it is that it should be so uplifted, inasmuch as it is an act of such common and universal occurrence in the things of nature all about us. Let it therefore be understood that reproduction is as natural as are the changes of the seasons; that it is pure and good because it serves a noble purpose.

I propose a drinking game: every time the book says “pure”, “good”, or “noble”, everyone takes a sip. At “vulgar”, “perversion”, or “vile”, a whole shot. *hic*

Categories: gender & feminism, history

Tags: ,

3 replies

  1. Ha! I love how she stresses the importance of plain speaking, and then goes on to use a bunch of metaphors and similes for sex and reproductive organs.

  2. Yes! “We Shall Not Hold Back! From Teaching Them! About Sex Organs! of trees and flowers and birds.”

  3. Thash a fabyewlush drinkie game!

%d bloggers like this: