MARRIED LOVE OR LOVE IN MARRIAGE
MARIE CARMICHAEL STOPES, Sc.D., Ph.D.
DOCTOR OF SCIENCE, LONDON; DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY, MUNICH;
FELLOW OF UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON; FELLOW OF
THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF LITERATURE AND THE
LINNEAN SOCIETY, LONDON
WITH PREFACE AND NOTES BY WILLIAM J. ROBINSON, M.D.
THE CRITIC AND GUIDE COMPANY 12 MT. MORRIS PARK WEST NEW YORK
render a woman ready before uniting with her is not only the merest act
of humanity to save her pain, but is of value from the man's point of
view, for (unless he is one of those relatively few abnormal and
diseased variants who delight only in rape) the man gains an immense
increase of sensation from the mutuality thus attained.
the two have met and united, the usual result is that, after a longer
or shorter interval, the man's mental and physical stimulation reaches
a climax in sensory intoxication and in the ejaculation of semen. Where
the two are perfectly adjusted, the woman simultaneously reaches the
crisis of nervous reactions and muscular convulsions similar to his.
This mutual orgasm is extremely important, but in distressingly many
cases the man's climax comes so swiftly that the woman's reactions are
not nearly ready, and she is left without it.
in some instances the woman may have one or more crises before the man
achieves his, it is perhaps hardly an exaggeration to say that 70 or 80
per cent. of our married women (in the middle and intellectual classes)
are deprived of the full orgasm through the excessive speed of the
husband's reactions, i.e., through premature ejaculation (ejaculatio
precox) or through some mal-adjustment of the relative shapes and
positions of the organs. So complex, so profound, are woman's
sex-instincts that in rousing them the man is rousing her whole body
and soul. And this takes time. More time indeed than the average
husband dreams of spending upon it. Yet woman has at the surface a
small vestigial organ called the clitoris, which corresponds
morphologically to the man's penis, and which, like it, is extremely
sensitive to touch-sensations. This little crest, which lies anteriorly
between the inner lips round the vagina, erects itself when the woman
is really tumescent, and by the stimulation of movement it is intensely
roused and transmits this stimulus to every nerve in her body. But even
after a woman's dormant sex-feeling is aroused and all the complex
reactions of her being have been set in motion, it may take from ten to
twenty minutes of actual physical union to consummate her feeling,
while one, two or three minutes of actual union often satisfies a man
who is ignorant of the art of controlling his reactions so that he may
experience the added enjoyment of a mutual simultaneous orgasm.
is also true that (partly due to the inhibiting influences of our
customs, traditions and social code) women may marry before it wakes,
and may remain long after marriage entirely unconscious that it exists
subdued within them. For innumerable women, too, the husband's regular
habits of intercourse, claiming her both when she would naturally enjoy
union and when it is to some degree repugnant to her, have tended to
flatten out the billowing curves of the line of her natural desire. One
result, apparently little suspected, of using the woman as a passive
instrument for man's need has been, in effect, to make her that and
nothing more. Those men – and there are many – who complain of the lack
of ardor in good wives, are often themselves entirely to blame for it.
When a woman is claimed at times when she takes no natural pleasure in
union, it reduces her vitality, and tends to kill her power of enjoying
it when the love season returns.
is certainly true of women as they have been made by the inhibitions of
modern civilization, that most of them are only fully awake to the
existence of sex after marriage. As we are civilized human beings, the
social, intellectual, spiritual side of the love-choice have tended to
mask the basic physiological aspect of women's sex-life. To find a
woman in whom the currents are not all so entangled that the whole is
inseparable into factors, is not easy, but I have found that wives
(particularly happy wives whose feelings are not complicated by the
stimulus of another love) who have been separated from their husbands
for some months through professional or business duties – whose
husbands, for instance, are abroad – are the women from whom the best
and most definitive evidence of a fundamental rhythm of feeling can be
obtained. Such women, yearning daily for the tender comradeship and
nearness of their husbands, find in addition, at particular times, an
accession of longing for the close physical union of the final sex-act.
Many such separated wives feel this; and those I have asked to keep
notes of the dates, have, with remarkable unanimity, told me that these
times came specially just before and a week or so after the close of
menstruation, coming, that is, about every fortnight. It is from such
women that I got the first clew to the knowledge of what I call the law
of Periodicity of Recurrence of desire in women.
law it is possible to represent graphically as a curved line; a
succession of crests and hollows as in all wave-lines. Its simplest and
most fundamental expression, however, is generally immensely
complicated by other stimulations which may bring into it diverse
series of waves, or irregular wave-crests. We have all, at some time,
watched the regular ripples of the sea breaking against a sand-bank,
and noticed that the influx of another current of water may send a
second system of waves at right angles to the first, cutting athwart
them, so that the two series of waves pass through each other.
is so sensitive and responsive an instrument, and so liable in our
modern civilized world to be influenced by innumerable sets of stimuli,
that it is perhaps scarcely surprising that the deep, underlying waves
of her primitive sex-tides have been obscured and entangled so that
their regular sequence has been masked in the choppy turmoil of her
sea, and their existence has been largely unsuspected, and apparently
some years I have been making as scientific and detailed as study as
possible of this extremely complex problem. Owing to the frank and
scientific attitude of a number of women, and the ready and intimate
confidence of many more, I have obtained a number of most interesting
facts from which I think it is already possible to deduce a
generalization which is illuminating, and may be of great medical and
It is first necessary to consider several other features of woman's life, however.
obvious moon-month rhythm in woman, so obvious that it cannot be
overlooked, has been partially studied in its relation to some of the
ordinary functions of her life. Experiments have been made to show its
influence on the rate of breathing, the muscular strength, the
temperature, the keenness of sight, etc., and these results have even
been brought together and pictured in a single curved diagram supposed
to show the variability in woman's capacities at the different times in
her twenty-eight-day cycle.
it brings home to one how little original work even in this field has
yet been done, that the same identical diagram is repeated from book to
book, and in Marshall's "Physiology" it is "taken from Sellheim," in
Havelock Ellis "from Von Ott," and in other books is re-copied and
attributed to still other sources.
diagram appears to be the only one of its kind, and is reproduced by
one learned authority after another, yet nearly every point on which
this curve is based appears to have been disputed.
to this curve, woman's vitality rises during the few days before
menstruation, sinks to its lowest ebb during menstruation and rises
shortly after, and then runs nearly level till it begins to rise again
before the next menstrual period. This simple curve may or may not be
true for woman's temperature, muscular strength, and the other
relatively simple things which have been investigated. My work and
observations on a large number of women all go to show that this curve
does not represent the waves of woman's sex-tides.
whole subject is so complex and so little studied that it is difficult
to enter upon it at all without going into many details which may seem
remote or dull to the general reader. Even a question which we must all
have asked, and over which we have probably pondered in vain, namely:
What is menstruation? cannot yet be answered. To the lay mind it would
seem that this question should be answerable at once by any doctor; but
many medical men are still far from being able to reply to it even
are a good many slight variations among us, ranging from a three to a
five week "month," but the majority of the women of our race have a
moon-month of twenty-eight days, once during which comes the flow of
menstruation. If we draw out a chart with succeeding periods of 28 days
each, looking on each period as a unit: When in this period is it that
a normal healthy woman feels desire or any up-welling of her sex-tides?
few statements which are made in general medical and physiological
literature on the subject of sex feeling in women are generally very
guarded and vague. Marshall ("Physiology of Reproduction," p. 138), for
instance, says: "The period of most acute sexual feeling is generally
just after the close of the menstrual period." Ellis speaks of desire
being stronger before and sometimes also after menstruation, and
appears to lean to the view that it is natural for desire to coincide
with the menstrual flow.
the most careful inquiries I have come to the conclusion that the
general confusion regarding this subject is due partly to the great
amount of variation which exists between different individuals, and
partly to the fact that very few women have any idea of taking any
scientific interest in life, and partly to the fact that the more
profound, fundamental rhythm of sex desire which I have come to the
conclusion exists or is potential in every normal woman, is covered
over or masked by the more superficial and temporary influences due to
a great variety of stimuli or inhibitions in modern life. For the
present consideration I have tried to disentangle the profound and
natural rhythm from the more irregular surface waves.