Further Reasons for Opposing Birth Control
Medical. In an earlier chapter it was pointed out that in view of the very conspicuous lack of unanimity among modern gynæcological experts concerning the questions whether contraception is harmful or harmless, and whether any particular contraceptive practice is better than another, it seemed not only unprofitable to base any arguments against Birth Control on the view of medical authorities on this subject, but also most imprudent, in the present state of our knowledge, to recommend, as birth-controllers are doing, contraceptive practices to anybody and everybody throughout the length and breadth of the country.
In cases of doubt, especially of such serious doubt regarding the use and welfare of our bodies, it is surely advisable, at least for the time being, to give the benefit of the doubt, not to the innovation and the innovators, but to the side which represents tradition and the natural performance of the sexual function. For it is not as if we were here concerned merely with a disagreement between two general practitioners in our particular district. We are concerned with a positive condemnation of contraceptive practices by experts as eminent as Dr. A. E. Giles, Senior Surgeon, Chelsea Hospital for Women; Dr. McCann, Surgeon
At all events, as we have already pointed out, before greater unanimity is reached, and before the side which insists on the danger of contraception is prepared to modify its views, it seems most precarious to assume that the side in favour of contraception is necessarily right, and on the strength of this assump-
1 It was for this reason that the writer thought it would serve no purpose to follow the example of other writers against Birth Control, and to produce a long list of expert medical views against contraceptive practices and particular contraceptives. Supporters of Birth Control can so easily retaliate by producing another long list of expert medical views in favour of both contraception in general and one or two contraceptives in particular, and no advance can thus be made either way. Partly, too, on account of this conflict of opinion among medical authorities, and also in view of the undesirability of including in a book intended for the general reader a detailed discussion of every kind of contraceptive a proceeding which would merely have served the end of birth-controllers and not our own we have omitted any but the most cursory allusion to contraceptives, i.e. just sufficient to prove the diversity of opinion to which we have alluded.
Whatever we may feel disposed to believe, however, regarding those questions which are still the subject of heated controversy between the highest representatives of gynæcological science in England, we have on the other hand very serious and quite uncontested scientific grounds for connecting contraception, at least indirectly, with disease; and since these reasons are advanced by independent medical workers, who have arrived at their conclusions after the examination of an imposing array of data, we are constrained to accept their findings until such time as we hear of their having been successfully challenged or refuted. 1
To deal first with fibroid tumours of the womb, it would seem, for instance, that there is some connection between the appearance of such tumours in the womb and a long previous history of absence of normal functioning of that region, either owing to spinsterhood, or other causes.
Dr. A. E. Giles says:
"Of 881 cases in which the diagnosis of fibroid tumours was verified by operation, 271, or 30.8 per cent, occurred in single women; 176, or 20 per cent, were in childless married women; so that in all 447, or 50.8 per cent, were in women who had not borne children. The remaining 434, or 49.2 per
1 It will be remembered that in Chapter I it was said: "The writer will adduce the conclusions of medical science only when (a) there appears to be no doubt about the general validity of the conclusions given and they have not been challenged, or (b) sufficiently cogent evidence is advanced by any particular scientist in support of the general conclusion at which he has arrived."
Now, although there is nothing in this evidence, or very little only 20 per cent of cases at most which might at a pinch be used to prove the harmfulness of contraception, there is, on the other hand, a very great deal which can be used to prove the danger of abnormal inactivity of the womb (i.e. absence of child-bearing) during the years of reproductive capacity; for we find spinsters representing 30.8 per cent and childless women 20 per cent of the cases, while the remainder are women who suffered long periods of inactivity of the womb in married life.
We may legitimately conclude, therefore, that while there appears to be no direct connection between the use of contraceptives and fibroid tumours of the womb, 2 there does appear to be a direct connection between this ailment and a history of abnormal inactivity of the organ (i.e. absence of child-bearing) and that consequently where contraceptives are used
1 Medical Views on Birth Control, pp. 87, 88.
2 This is not Dr. Giles's conclusion. He tries to make out that there is such a direct connection. But we do not consider his reasoning in this matter quite valid, and the average reader who turns to the passage in the book mentioned will easily be able to discover for himself where the flaw in Dr. Giles's reasoning occurs.
There also appears to be some connection between sterility, or rather, abnormal inactivity of the womb, and cancer of the body of the uterus; because, according to Bland, Sutton and Giles, this disease is more frequent in spinsters and barren wives than in multiparous women. 2 Once more, this would not show any direct connection between contraceptives and cancer, but merely an indirect one, because of the fact that the state of abnormal inactivity, at least in the married, is frequently brought about by the use of contraceptives.
To this the less reputable non-medical birth-controllers might possibly be tempted to reply that, according to the very authority we are using, cancer of the neck of the uterus is almost exclusively confined to women who have been pregnant. 3 But we presume that no reputable birth-controller would be prepared to argue that this is due to child-bearing. For, in the present state of midwifery, and in view of the prevalent faulty care and feeding of the gestating woman, and
1 In his Sexual Life of Woman (Heinemann), Dr. E. H. Kisch (p. 404) offers some support to this conclusion, though he implies that there is a "causal" relation when really it is only an indirect causal relation. He says: "As a result of certain remarkable observations, I must regard it as not improbable, although actual proof is still lacking, that the recent striking increase in the frequency of neoplasmata of the female reproductive organs, is causally dependent on the ever-increasing employment in all circles of society, of means for the prevention of pregnancy."
2 Diseases of Women (pp. 3245).
3 Bland, Sutton and Giles, op. cit., p. 316.
According to Kisch, moreover, 1 there appears to be evidence to the effect that, in women who have given birth to a number of children, in women who suckle their children, and in women who have deliveries late in life, the date of the menopause is postponed, thus pointing to a more vital and more vigorous condition of the reproductive system when it is normally used.
Among 500 cases personally observed by Kisch:
Of 48 whose menopause occurred between 35 and 40, 16 were unmarried, 6 were married and childless, 18 were married with 1 or 2 children, and 8 were married with more than 2 children.
Of 141 whose menopause occurred between 40 and 45. 3 were unmarried, 4 were married and childless, 46 were married with 1 or 2 children, and 88 were married with more than 2.
Of 177 whose menopause occurred between 45 and 50, 1 was unmarried, 2 were married and childless, 32 were married with 1 or 2 children, and 142 were married with more than 2 children.
Of 89 whose menopause occurred between 50 and 55, none were unmarried and childless, 19 were married with 1 or 2 children, and 70 were married with more than 2 children.
1 Op. cit., p. 598.
The influence of lactation was shown by the fact that, in the case of 40 women who had not suckled their children, the mean duration of the menstrual activity was four years less than the established mean duration of twenty-seven years. 1
These facts seem to point to the conclusion that where normal activity of the reproductive organs is secured, the latter retain their vitality longer than when this is not the case; and are in harmony with the general experience of mankind, that healthy normal functioning of the whole body is more certain to secure health and vigour than either faulty functioning or non-functioning.
Again, we do not wish to draw any direct connection between the use of contraceptives and those disorders or losses of vitality which are due to non-functioning, and which we have enumerated above; because the general prominence of spinsters in the figures we have given preclude any such conclusion. We are, however, entitled to claim that there is an indirect connection, because contraceptives, by imposing non-functioning or abnormal inactivity on the reproductive system of the female, bring about the conditions in which these disorders and losses of vitality are known to occur.
Another careful observer, who furnishes further evidence of the same kind, is Janet E. Lane-Claypon, M.D., D.Sc. In her Further Report on Cancer of the Breast with Special Reference to its Associated Ante-
1 Op. cit., p. 598.
"since such observation on cancer patients alone are of relatively small value, it was determined to obtain the histories on a similar basis of a like number of other women who were not suffering and who had not suffered from cancer in any part of the body." 2
Care was taken that the members of the cancer and the control series should be reasonably homogeneous in respect of such qualities as nationality, age distribution, civil state and social position, and therefore suitable with respect to the principal objects of the enquiry, and the following were among the principal findings:
No appreciable differences between the two series were found in:
(a) The age at onset of the catamenia.
(b) The age at cessation of the catamenia.
(c) The total duration of sexual activity.
(d) The disturbances associated with the menstrual cycle.
(e) The disturbances associated with the menopause.
(f) The nature of the confinements, i.e. the percentages of normal and abnormal labours. 3
Differences, however, were established on the following points:
1 See Reports on Public Health and Medical Subjects (No. 32), published by the Ministry of Health, 1926
2 Report, p. 1.
3 Ibid., p. 131.
(b) Complete failure to suckle and the habit of suckling for a very long period were both more common in the cancer than in the control series.
(c) The average age at marriage was lower in the control series. 1
And Dr. Lane-Claypon adds:
"It has long been known that unmarried women suffer from cancer of the breast at a higher rate than married ones. It is now proved that among married women those who are less fertile are at a disadvantage." 2
Again, on the next page of the Report, 3 Dr. Lane-Claypon writes:
"It can hardly be doubted that the absence of the normal function of the breast must be of importance in unmarried women. It is possible that the continued recurrence in the breast of the changes which occur with each menstrual cycle . . . without the stimulus due to pregnancy and lactation may be the prejudicial factor; but the data here available are-insufficient to establish this."
These are conclusions which anyone with some insight into Nature's scheme might have anticipated without anything beyond ordinary experience to assist him. For it seems on a priori grounds clear that if an organ is denied its normal function, not only always, as in some cases, but also for long periods at a time,
1 Report, p. 131.
3 Ibid., p. 132.
And it is in regard to this conclusion, the validity of which cannot be contested, that we, who are the opponents of Birth Control, see a connection between the whole of the above set of facts, and the use of contraceptives. While it would not be justifiable to go so far as to state that Birth Control is the direct cause of any or all of the disorders referred to above from fibroid tumours of the womb to cancer of the breast, it is legitimate to claim that there is ample evidence to show that Birth Control is an indirect cause, i.e. that the faulty functioning or non-functioning of the female's reproductive organs, which it enables modern mankind to impose upon the mated female, do expose her to dangers by condemning her to the same physical inactivity which is found to be prejudicial to the spinster. 1
1 The data examined thus also seems to point to the fact that the non-functioning which results from long-retained virginity is equally injurious with the non-functioning secured by contraception.
At all events, discoveries and methodical investigations up to date enable us to draw a definite connection between inactivity (whether lifelong or lasting over long periods) of the female reproductive organs and disease, and seeing that Birth Control is now being used by hundreds of thousands of couples and, if the birth-controllers have their way, will be used by many hundreds of thousands more in order to reduce their family to three, two, one or none, we are entitled to regard the spread of contraceptive practices with both alarm and indignation, and the more our sympathies go out to women, the greater this alarm and indignation are likely to be.
Psycho-Physical. The birth-controllers are wont to write and speak as if their expedients for securing non-procreative sexual congress left everything the same as in the normal procreative function, except the inconvenient result conception. They first of all postulate a need felt by all mankind to exercise a certain function the function of copulation and
Whatever else they may profess to do, this is in fact what they actually do. And it is on this ground that the sophistry of their arguments becomes most deceiving and most dangerous.
Let us follow the process of their reasoning, in order that we may be quite clear about it.
(1) They find that sexual congress is a human need.
(2) They also find that it frequently occurs without conception following even where preventives are not used.
(3) They are also credibly informed that all animals, a large number of savages, and quite a large proportion of civilised people, have sexual congress again and again without any conscious accompanying desire, or intention, to bring about progeny.
(4) They therefore argue that it cannot be contrary to the laws of God or Nature to be non-procreative in the sexual act, and
(5) It cannot be Nature's or God's will that procreation should always be the conscious object or directing thought of sexual congress.
So far, so good!
But now they proceed to draw conclusions from (4) and (5).
(6) Since it cannot be either God's or Nature's intention that conception should result from every
(7) It cannot be contrary to Nature or Divine law consciously to prevent conception at the time of the procreative act.
But (7) does not follow from the first six steps in the argument. And to make it follow is to be guilty of a non sequitur, or the fallacy of the consequent.
The birth-controllers may and do reply: "We don't care whether it is not natural or not in pursuance of Nature's or God's law. So many of our acts in civilised life are unnatural that it is impossible to draw the line."
There are two replies to this defence:
(a) If birth-controllers do not care what is and what is not natural, they have no business to build their justification for the conscious prevention of conception on what they claim to be a natural need. 1 Let them simply say that, for no other reason, except that they think fornication without responsibilities, and a reduction of the population, are desirable, contraception is to be recommended. This would be an easier position to maintain, and at the same time it would enjoy the advantage of being more logical.
(b) If they insist on introducing a conscious intention
1 Attention has already been called to the same kind of sophistry in a previous chapter in connection with the birth-controllers' refusal to admit their opponents' right to stigmatise contraception as "unnatural," when all the while the chief claim for the acceptance of their own doctrine is precisely that continence is "unnatural,"
This is not captiousness, or a mere verbal quibble, it is a genuine and unanswerable objection. It is on this point that birth-controllers and their opponents definitely separate, and yet it is precisely in regard to the reasoning that has come from both sides in regard to this point that there has been such a conspicuous lack of clarity.
There are two components to sexual congress there is the physical and there is the mental component. The latter is infinitely more important in human sexual congress than it is in the sexual congress of animals.
The birth-controller alters the first component for both sexes. He does not even claim that he leaves it as Nature intended it to be, despite the fact that it is the naturalness of the need of the function that starts the whole of his reasoning going. 2 And in his
1 Not only that; for they started with the assumption that the need of expressing the sexual impulses in human beings was an imperative one, and yet, while they secure a more or less adequate expression for the male, the female is put off with only the brief preliminary to the long cycle which alone constitutes the full expression of her sexual impulses.
2 The fact that most birth-controllers compare the "unnaturalness" of Birth Control with the wearing of glasses, collars, boots, and the cutting and shaving of hair, etc., proves this. See pp. 84, 85, ante.
This is obviously a modification of the physical component, and one that is as serious as the believer in Nature's wisdom may care to consider the separation of the glans penis from the cervix to be. At all events we should require a good deal of convincing in order to believe that contact between, or at least absence of any separating wall between, the glans penis and the cervix was unnecessary except for fertilisation, otherwise we fail to understand why this contact is secured by Nature's scheme. Fertilisation could take place quite well, and in an enormous number of cases does take place, by the penetration of the spermatozoa into the cervical canal after the male organ has been removed. The contact between the glans penis and the cervix, therefore, does not seem an essential factor in fertilisation. But it is probably essential in some other respect, otherwise it is most
1 This is frankly admitted by all the more reputable birth-controllers Dr. Norman Haire, Marie Slopes, Dr. Blacker, Dr. Killick Millard, etc. Vide the literature already referred to.
So far, however, we have referred to the physical modification of the coital act only from the standpoint of both parties. It is, however, further modified for the female (with even the best contraceptive methods) by being transformed into an end in itself that is to say, by being assimilated to the male function. As, however, enough has already been said about this aspect of the case, both in Chapter IV and in the first section of the present chapter, we shall not enter into the matter again.
The birth-controller also alters the second component to sexual congress, for at least one of the parties to the act generally for both. He takes a psychical component which is chiefly instinctive desire and (among human beings at least) the will to gratify that desire with a particular person (accompanied either by a conscious wish to have offspring, or by no thought of offspring whatsoever) and trans-
This is obviously a modification of the psychical component, and a very serious one. For from being, as it is in the case of normal coupling, merely the gratification of an impulse, arising from the loftiest emotions of the human breast, and driving the lover to seek fusion with his beloved, without any conscious ulterior motive which, as far as we can judge, is the act as evolution has formed it it becomes a conscious act limited in scope to the gratification of desire, with the conscious accompaniment of evading fusion, of escaping procreation.
But the contraceptive further modifies the psychical component as follows:
(1) The sexual relation is at its best, at its sweetest and purest, when consummated with fire. Heat, ardour, violent impulse, unhesitating action are some of its most essential features, and by being of its essence, contribute most materially to making it acceptable. The normal maid of ardent sensibilities is happiest, most light-hearted, and most free, with an ardent lover, whose passion carries everything before it aye, even her High School doubts regarding the propriety of the whole of human procreation. 1 And
1 The fact that in England, at least, by wishing to have our bread buttered on both sides, we have robbed our girls of this happiness, has nothing whatever to do with the truth of this principle. By trying to retain the ardent lover and at the same time to rear a young man who could be trusted in the face of the most perfect opportunities and the most pressing temptations to remain the safe companion, playmate, and fellow-picnicker of a free and unchaperoned girl, we have fallen between two stools; because, in the majority of
(2) If we explore the whole of the background of the male's psychical component to sexual congress, we find, among other features, the following very important factors:
(a) The factor of sadism, which is an essential feature of the male role in sex throughout the mammalia, and in relation to which no morbidity may be suspected provided that, as an element in the sexual act, it does not become separated from the other elements, and its satisfaction is not made an end in itself.
Now this sadism, in normal human males, gets transmuted into tenderness and contributes an additional bond to the love between the partners, if the relationship remains normal. But there is a distinct danger that, in non-procreative unions, when the female is to the male no more than another male in the sense that the orgasm is to her an end in itself that, by resting the association on sensation alone, and
cases, we have so completely damped the fire which alone makes the sexual life a joy, that our women are now either revolted by sex, or else weaned from it by an indifference created by men themselves.
(b) It is conceivable and possible that, although conception or pregnancy may not be consciously pursued by the male in coition, he is nevertheless urged by unconscious force to take more pleasure m the procreative than the non-procreative act. And that when the act is made repeatedly non-procreative he tends to tire of it with the particular partner with whom it does take this form.
If this is not so, it is difficult to explain man's universal preference for women within the reproductive span of female life. Why is it uniformly characteristic of men and of some male animals, 1 that they prefer young and vigorous females to females past the menopause? It may be a very regrettable fact that this should be so, but it undoubtedly is so. Does not it point to some semi-conscious or unconscious psychological component to the sexual act, which, though procreation may not be intended, nevertheless demands that it should be possible? To argue that the male's preference for women capable of conceiving is purely æsthetic would not only contradict the evidence of anthropology, which makes it extremely doubtful whether æstheticism
1 See the writer's remarks on this point in regard to monkeys in Man: An Indictment, p. 14.
Benjamin Franklin, in a letter dated June 25th, 1745, 4 which, according to one of the present writer's correspondents in America, is in the possession of the State Department at Washington, D.C., addressed a certain poor young friend whom he strongly urged to marry an old woman. He gave many reasons for proffering this advice, and the fifth of these reasons is that, as far as the physiological adjustments of parts is
1 See Robert Briffault, The Mothers, Vol. II, pp. 15760.
2 See evidence of this on pp. 36 and 37 of Man: An Indictment.
3 From Gr. , , an old woman, and I love: hence the complex which consist in loving an old woman.
4 A copy of this letter is in the possession of the present writer.
When, therefore, through Birth Control, the female is artificially converted into the kind of woman Benjamin Franklin regarded as the ideal wife for a poor young man that is to say, the woman past her menopause there is the distinct danger that, owing to the unconscious desire for the fertilisable woman in the male libido, the male partner to the match will gradually be nauseated by or at least become indifferent to the mate whom he once regarded as above all other women. And this may lead to a cooling of a relationship which in order to be permanent cannot suffer such assaults upon the delicate strands of which it is constituted. In brief, without knowing exactly why, the male feels his attachment being loosened. This, however, is not the only effect.
(3) There are also some grounds for believing that the irksomeness, the sheer meticulousness of Birth Control expedients, however ideal, have a similar effect on the libido of both partners to the match. Whether it is that the racial memories which con-
1 "Because there is no hazard of children," are Franklin's own words.
1 Birth-controllers argue that the refusal by one party in marriage to use contraceptives, and the fear of adding to the family, drives many. men to illicit unions. If this is so, then, since Birth Control cannot be imposed by force, neither contraceptives nor anything else can help in such cases.
1 See Woman: A Vindication (pp. 195200) for a fuller description of the stages by which this conclusion is reached.
2 It should be borne in mind that although hundreds of women may be found in every circle to-day on whom Neo-
"The reduction of any human function to the plane of sensationalism alone has this strange result that, in the end, the very sensations it provides tend to decline in intensity. It is as if sensation alone were an insufficient psychical foundation to support the whole arch of any permanent human interest or effort, and that where it is not connected with the feelings of power or purposefulness, it tends to crumble and to perish."
Now it is suggested here that all these profound modifications of the physical and psychical components to sexual congress, which Birth Control imposes, not only argue very strongly against contraceptive practices in themselves, but also go a long way towards refuting, the whole of the birth-controllers' case. For, it is now obvious, after all that has been said, that the original point, with which we set out in this section of the
Malthusian practices in marriage have not had this effect, this fact does not invalidate the conclusions here arrived at. For it is not every woman nowadays whose physiological equipment and whose "positiveness," as the author terms it in his Woman: A Vindication, is sufficiently vigorous to render physiological disappointment, or the thwarting of her functions, a very serious disturbance of her equanimity.
1 p. 204.
The gratification they offer is not the gratification which they claim to be a constitutional need of mankind. In attempting to secure it for humanity, without its inconvenient consequences, they so deeply modify its two components (physical and psychical), particularly for the woman, that it ceases to bear any true relation to the natural expression of sex which they started out to demand as the pressing need of everyone. Consequently their whole argument falls to the ground, and incidentally despite the apparent pagan hedonism of their creed they are shown to be in the true Puritanical tradition, in the direct line of descent from the joy-killers of the seventeenth century, in that they take one of mankind's greatest and most uplifting joys and cast it back at his feet a garbled, mutilated and unrecognisable parody.
But the most strange 1 thing of all is that while they pose as Feminists, have hundreds of Feminists in their ranks, and with their bogey of "excessive
1 Truth to tell, it is not so strange as it appears, for, as we shall show, there is an inevitable connection between Feminism and Birth Control. See Chapter IX.
It is time all this should be known about them. It is time that their doctrine should be stripped, as we have seen it stripped here, to the ugly reality that lies beneath the false trappings with which they have smothered it. But such is the glamour and plausibility of their reasoning, such is the power of error when it is often enough repeated, that it is doubtful, even now, whether the average reader will have grasped to what extent we, the opponents of Birth Control, are the greater friends of humanity in general and of Woman in particular.
1 The reader may feel inclined to ask, is intercourse with Birth Control better or worse than no intercourse at all? The answer to this question must depend upon the vigour and sexual positiveness of the woman. Where the conditions. present all point to a woman being primarily a good breeder, intercourse alone, without fertilisation, may be the cause of so much misery that it would probably have been better for her never to have had her sex awakened at all.