Typos p. 116: gynæcoloigist [= gynæcologist]; p. 119: classess [= classes]
The Positive English Girl
To a heart overflowing with human sympathy, there is something infinitely wistful and pathetic in the appearance of this apparently careless and blooming maiden. For has not every circumstance of her education and upbringing conspired to make her believe that all those things which to morrow will be the meaning and explanation of her existence, are the very things that yesterday were most concealed, most "tabooed," most anxiously hushed up?
The transition from indifference, here, to keen disconcerting interest, is an effort of the first magnitude however willing and eager the body may be to assist in the change of standpoint.
Her soul is very self-contemptuous, self-condemnatory pessimistic. And the more positive she is, the more this will be so; because the greater will be her feeling of conflict with it. She feels she must be wrong, and her soul and the world right. She is on the verge of morbid self-dislike, self rejection. But how can it be otherwise?
But it is her pessimism that is so terrible and so virulent. All ill adapted creatures are prone to be pessimistic, and she is horribly ill-adapted. Beneath all her tennis-playing, her hockey-playing, her bright and cheerful manner, that always utterly deceives her parents and the superficial adults about her, this pessimism clings to her like a limpet. But how could she help feeling ill adapted and pessimistic, in the face of the terrible alternative that now confronts her the alternative consisting of either doing violence to the healthy dictates of her body, or of rejecting all the deepest beliefs of her childhood and adolescence?
And that is why an everlasting curse must surely hang over every creature, woman or man, who can be so unscrupulous as to exploit this temporary pessimism of healthy English female adolescence, and to turn it to negative account. For all those who, in the nefarious traffic of political or religious propaganda, avail themselves of it in order to turn a girl against Life finally and irrevocably, no punishment that can be imagined is sufficiently severe. Let them draw the unhealthy, negative girl over to their side; for it is better for all concerned if she and her like are converted to Life-Heresy; but let them leave the healthy positive girl alone, to fight her own battle with her high-school soul.
But the healthy English "Flapper" is courageous and infinitely enduring. And this is the secret of her constant
Where is the party on earth that could survive all these defections from its ranks? That is why, if left alone, the negative side of her, her high-school, puritanical soul, is bound to be defeated; that is why she ultimately rises superior to her shame, her apprehension and her pessimism.
But it would be a mistake to underrate her struggle, to minimize her qualms, or to scoff at her cryptic religiosity; her conviction that she is tremendously deep all people are deep who have a fight raging in them and that she stands on the brink of an even deeper abyss! Even the haughty manner in which she holds her inexperienced nose high in the air is instructive. She is trying her hardest to appear as if she were already above the struggle that is not yet over. Besides, all people who are in pain, not only feel deep and proud, but are deeper and prouder
Her confusion and the conflict raging inside her, are inclined to make her ill at ease with all men except the youth of seventeen; for, since she feels years his senior, he cannot disturb her. She will readily kill time with him, and with his assistance play an empty game while she is waiting for the forces in her body to readjust themselves to the new facts. Then she will not even look at him. Then it is business. Lads of seventeen will strike her as raw, ridiculous! Even full-grown men will interest her only to the extent to which they mean business. They will evoke her blessing only to the extent to which they realize that she too is in earnest about life, and takes it perfectly seriously. Then woe to her if one who attracts her heedlessly passes on! But woe to him, above all, who while promising business, and undertaking it legally and conscientiously with all the sanction of society and the Church, yet undeceives her, and disappoints her when it comes to the point, and drives her back to the pessimism of her youth, and the doubts and shame she had so valiantly overcome. For the duty of the positive man is to give woman a perfectly clean conscience in regard to sex and its pleasures. As the Church of England Prayer Book nobly and rightly puts it: "The husband . . . is the Saviour of the body." He who does not realize the profundity of this passage in the Church of England Prayer Book had better put the present work aside; for he will never be able to sympathize with anything in it. No man who is not the "Saviour of the body" of his wife can help being anything else than a thing of torment and torture to her; while her love and her devotion to him are increased a thousandfold, and her fidelity to him probably secured for life, if only he knows how to confirm and consolidate the triumph her body once achieved, single-handed, over her high-school soul during the trying period of her adolescence.
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If, however, she has read the words with a feeling of passionate anger anger at the thought that all I have said truly applies to her, though no longer now, alas! no longer at her present stage in life; if, therefore, her emotion is the righteous anger of one who is filled with regret and sorrow for the things that she now recognizes as having once been hers, though they are hers no longer; things she is still young enough to possess, though they have been filched from her by her environment and her unsound mode of life I, as the mere analyst in this affair, applaud her feeling, and am glad that she has not yet reached that stage of listless resignation when youth, positiveness and ardour have ceased from moving her or from exciting her longing. If once she has been the girl I have just described, and she has deteriorated or grown negative, either (1) through a too prolonged and too exhausting wait, and a period too protracted of absolute abstinence; or (2) through unwholesome living, or which is worst of all (3) through marrying a man who has not proved the "Saviour of her body"; then I, too, join my anger to hers, and am perhaps even more angry than she; because all those who have a keen appreciation of quality, must loathe to see it squandered, destroyed or so badly mismanaged as to be made a thing of naught.
The three causes of deterioration and deflection to negativeness will now be examined separately, and in the order of the numbers given above.
(1) Maybe that at seventeen, or perhaps eighteen, the positive English girl was fully equipped, and felt herself fully equipped. Maybe Nature itself at that age had
She had received her pearl necklace; she had received her golden bracelets; she wore on her right hand a ring that had belonged to her grandmother; but now she wanted the crowning jewel of all, the hall-mark of her genuine womanhood the little band of gold that was the emblem of matrimony.
Her twenty-second year went by, and nothing happened. Her twenty-third and twenty-fourth vanished also, and still her insignia were incomplete. But there was time yet, and anxiety, though present, was by no means acute. She was prepared for another year, or two, or even three, of patient waiting.
Since, however, it is impossible even for Nature herself to stand for ever on the tiptoe of anticipation; since it is too much to expect of anything or anybody, that weariness will not ultimately supervene if a wait is prolonged unduly, or if nothing aye, nothing! ever comes to repay an all too lavish outlay of beauty and its promise of joys untasted; it is, alas, a not uncommon occurrence however ready the girl herself may be to continue waiting and watching for Nature itself to feel so bitterly snubbed that it withdraws, as it were, from its position of proud and unstinting impresario, and wanders off elsewhere to spread its ornaments and charms over another and perhaps more fortunate subject.
This stage in the positive English girl's career is not
She may have all kinds of disorders now which she did not have at the moment of her top wave, while a concomitant depression of spirit makes her feel less keen about life, less eager about its mysteries. There is even a threat of anæmia the result of occasional costiveness, its frequent correlative leucorrha, and a general lack of tone in her whole system. A neglected organ avenges itself, a neglected body avenges itself; her whole spirit wishes to avenge itself; for, like a flower, she needed the sun in her case the sun of love and she is visibly withering without it. 1
With the third and final stage, all the symptoms
1 Hundreds of people, doctors included, will declare that this is wrong; that an all-too-long wait does not necessarily impair health or beauty. As if not being used, not being made to function, could possibly be a good thing, or at least a thing that does no harm! Make a child sit still for years, and see how its health will be affected! It is absurd to argue that when an equipment is normal and healthy, it does not do it and the body containing it considerable damage not to use it! But in this matter, I do not ask you to believe me! Ask the positive girls themselves! Ask them (if they remained virgins) whether they felt the same at twenty-five as they did at nineteen! Ask them whether they have not learnt from sad experience that an elaborate mechanism when it is not used gets out of order! Get them into your confidence, and you will hear the truth for once on this matter.
If she has once been the positive girl I describe, however, she is now filled with an indescribable feeling of burning, aching, consuming detestation of the world she once loved. Hope, trust, yea-saying have all gone. Her thwarted instincts manifest themselves in an obverse character, and she becomes misanthropic, purely negative to Man and to Life, and desiring only to end her existence in an act of revenge on man, society and her more fortunate sisters.
Only the very positive girl makes a hateful spinster, because only she has lost anything precious, only she knows what a cruel snub her sumptuous preparations once received! To have had all these preparations wasted, to have had to look on while, one by one, her
The negative girl, to whom an atonic state of the body, irregular and painful periods, have been an ever-present and familiar condition since her earliest puberty, or the negative girl who, while suffering from none of these disorders, is yet insufficiently vigorous or sound in organic equipment to render the thwarting of her reproductive instinct a state of suffering and bitter disillusionment, may make a perfectly cheerful, engaging, companionable and even thoroughly good-natured old maid. 1
It is an interesting fact that in France, where positiveness among girls is ever so much more general than in England, the old maid is universally unbearable, and is proverbially known to be so.
(2) But there are other agencies at work in modern society for reducing the positive English girl to negativeness, besides the unfortunate and often inevitable circumstances of an all-too-long wait. For, in England, there is extraordinarily little care taken of the female body. It should never be forgotten in this regard, that although we, as a nation, are lovers of both sport and open-air exercise, we are culpably neglectful of that
1 Paradoxical as it may seem at first sight, it is however only too true that the worst kind of spinster is precisely this "perfectly cheerful, engaging, companionable and even thoroughly good-natured old maid," because, like the cheerful cripple or the happy invalid, she is a living mockery of Life, passion and instinct thwarted. Her very adaptedness to her unnatural lot seems to the unwary an argument in favour of an unnatural lot, or at least not an argument against it. See chapter IX.
To begin with, the very fact that anxious and almost fearful silence and secrecy are made to hang over all the manifestations of puberty in girls, is in itself an inducement for the young female to desire to behave during her moments of indisposition as much as possible like her schoolmates who are not indisposed. When, therefore, in addition to this desire, she feels and is known to feel no very marked discomfort at such moments, there is apparently nothing to prevent her from going a long walk or joining in a game of tennis, net-ball or even hockey with the rest of her friends, at a moment when violent exercise of all kinds ought to be most carefully avoided. In girls' high schools and later on at college, such breaches of reverence towards the body are not only of constant occurrence, they may be said to be the rule where the positive girl is concerned, unless, of course, her parents have been wise enough to insist specially upon the proper precautions being observed. In the end, however, long as
Another very dangerous custom is that of having recreation and games directly after a meal. There is nothing objectionable in sports for girls, provided they are not too violent. 1 On the contrary, games keep them
1 By violent sports I mean any form of jumping, hockey, football, lawn tennis, golf and lacrosse. In all these games the movements of the body are too jerky and too jarring, and muscular effort is too long sustained. Even for men football is very bad, for women it is barbarous. In young girls Nature makes an effort to compensate the excessive demands made by violent sports on the muscles and bony structure of the legs and pelvis, by proceeding to a premature stiffening of the fleshy, and a premature ossification of the bony parts both of which processes not only arrest full subsequent development, but also make for unnecessary rigidity in the pelvic and upper femoral regions effects which are heavily paid for later on unless the girls remain unmarried. The fact that even among males, sailors show smaller hip measurements than soldiers the former being habituated from earliest youth to much more violent bodily exertions than soldiers shows what a difference this natural compensation for early muscular strain makes in a sex in which pelvic development is neither as vital nor as characteristic as it is among girls. Another danger arising from violent sports for young women, which is not mentioned in the text, consists in the jerking and jarring of the spine, small and imperceptible sprains of which, particularly near the ilium, often lead to very obscure but severe nervous disorders in later life. The fact that young girls enjoy violent sports is often adduced as an argument in favour of their adoption at school and elsewhere. But surely young people, as I have shown, are so catholic in their positiveness, that their mere liking for an occupation or amusement should not constitute in itself, and without further inquiry, a sufficient ground for allowing them to pursue it. Neither should parents allow themselves to be influenced by the fact that a conclave of women doctors has recently decided in favour of violent sports for girls. The decisions come to by middle-aged matrons or middle-aged spinsters concerning the care and discipline of young girls, should never be trusted. It is always difficult to be quite certain about the motives, whether conscious or unconscious, that have animated women of this age in their dealings with young girls. On the whole, unless it be her mother, the advice of any middle-aged woman concerning a young girl ought to be treated with suspicion. See p. 246 (footnote).
1 With regard to the effects of diet on constipation, I give some useful hints in chapter V of A Defence of Aristocracy.
This does not pretend to be a medical work; but the consequences and symptoms of this disease, leucorrha, are so far reaching and generally so much ignored, that it seems imperative to speak out quite openly on the subject. All through this book, the relations of the spirit to the body is considered as being so close, so intimate, and the relation of the attitudes of the positiveness and negativeness to the state of the body is recognized as so inevitable and deep-seated, that I should be guilty of a flaw in my argument, of a grave omission in the frank array of my facts, if, particularly at this stage, I were to scout a subject which, however disagreeable and delicate, formed a necessary link in the chain of my reasoning.
To begin with, then, let it be said most emphatically, for all those whom it may concern, that leucorrha this most regrettable and most neglected of the hidden scourges that harass the women of England is a much more serious and much more distressing ailment than the ordinary general practitioner, or even specialist gynæcoloigist, is ready to admit. The fact that Albutt in his Twentieth Century Practice allots only one paragraph of about fifteen lines to the subject of leucorrha in girls, shows at once with what a frivolous shrug of the shoulders the orthodox medical school cavalierly disposes of this all important question. Leucorrha is not only a catarrh in a most vital part, it as also the symptom of a loss of tone in a most vital part a loss of tone and therefore of vitality. It is important to remember, in regard to this disease, that scarcely a case of the kind has ever been known in which colon bacilli were not present in the mucous
When it is remembered that persistent and obstinate leucorrha is the cause not only of more than three-quarters of the irregularity and pain of girls' periodic indispositions, not only of a depression and degeneration of sexual keenness that may make sexual union quite unenjoyable, not to say unpleasant, but also that it is a reducing, an exhausting, and a sterilizing ailment (sterility where it is not the result of actual malformation is almost always the result of leucorrha), it cannot be too urgently or too deeply impressed upon the parent and the guardian of the positive English girl, that reverence for her body, and not alone for her pure soul (which, as we have seen, can well be left to look after itself), is their most solemn and most sacred duty.
Unfortunately, and incredible as it may appear, I have, after the most careful inquiry, discovered that even where leucorrha has been diagnosed and proved beyond any doubt to be present, it has been impossible to prescribe the only effective remedies and the only salutary hygiene, owing to the fact that they are frequently of such a nature that no English parent would dream of tolerating their application for an instant! The price we pay for our Puritanism is occasionally very heavy indeed.
When in addition to chronic costiveness and leucorrha, anæmia ultimately sets in to stamp its powerful blight upon the face and body of our fair and positive English girl, the amount of positiveness that has been left within her, the extent of her original self that still remains, may easily be computed. I need hardly say that this is not much, and yet, though she is spoiled for every other purpose, she probably stands as a tennis, a hockey, and often a classical champion, as the glory of her whole family, class and nation.
Where the positive girl of the poorer classes is concerned the evil is just as great and just as widespread; but at least in her case, there is the excuse of necessity, of compulsion, of economic pressure. She does not, it is true, rush out to a game of hockey, tennis or net-ball immediately after her meals, neither, as a rule, does she have to take a long pleasure-walk; but she has certainly to rush off either to the local underground railway or to an omnibus in order to get to her work, or else she has to hurry along a considerable distance on foot to get there. She does not play at hockey or tennis when she is indisposed; but if she works at a factory she has to go there all the same; if she works in a shop she has to stand about there all the same; and if she is a laundress she has to stand at a board or a machine all the same.
In both classes, then, rich and poor, Puritanism in different ways on the one hand by its doctrine of indifference to the body, and on the other by its creations, modern industry and commerce has succeeded in suppressing all reverence for the positive girl's beautiful body, and the spiritual as well as the physical cost to the nation of this stupid and iniquitous attitude is as appalling as it is incalculable.
(3) Even if she marry early as all positive girls should she may still be converted to negativeness; and in this last instance, not by discontent, a too long wait, or an unhealthy mode of life during youth, but actually by her young husband himself.
Although, strictly speaking, this question should come
I have mentioned before that the deterioration of men from the standpoint of Life i.e. their gradual approximation to a purely, or relatively, negative type has been a process that, in England at least, has been going on for almost 270 years. In this time a good deal can be accomplished in the matter of altering a type, and there can be no doubt that a good deal has indeed been accomplished. Fortunately, however, apart from the actual deterioration through bad food and unhealthy living and work (which, as I have shown elsewhere, are the indirect results of Puritanical values), Puritanism has not done much to affect the positiveness of the poorest classes in England. Where it has proved most formidable is in (l) the plutocracy, (2) the middle classess and (3) the lower middle classes. In these the ravage, of Puritanical tradition on the constitutions and outlook of the men is everywhere noticeable; and that which makes the incidence of this evil all the harder to bear is the fact that the women of all these classes have not suffered nearly to the same extent from this tradition.
Whereas, therefore, it is a more or less common experience to find a positive girl in all these classes, the appearance of a truly positive man is excessively rare. I may have occasion to refer to this state of affairs again in Part II; but, for the present, let us examine its immediate effects on the positive girl who has just married.
The positive girl extends her hand confidently, bravely and hopefully to Life. She does not expect to draw it back empty; she does not desire to draw it back full of bliss. She is brave enough, rational enough, and above all exuberant enough, to expect to draw it back with its full quantum of pleasure and pain. She wants Life, and what though Life means some pain, willy-nilly she will
But there is something she does expect, something she has a right to expect; and that is that her husband himself should be her guide, her mentor and initiator. From time immemorial it is his sex that has been prehensile. Throughout the higher animal kingdom, prehension in the sex act is the exclusive attribute of the male. He often has the organs for it, and he almost always has the superior strength for it even when his strength is not required for other purposes. But just think what prehension means! It involves initiation; it means taking the first steps; it is certainly tantamount to setting the tone, the manner, the order of an encounter. Traditionally, then, for millions of years the male has had his particular rôle, the rôle of prehension, with all its correlative virtues and qualities. Before self-consciousness dawned in the human being, he was prehensile in the sexual act and his rôle therein involved, as I think it necessary to repeat, powers of initiation, the ability to take the first steps, the necessary mastery over sex, to set the tone, the manner and the order of the sexual encounter. What does all this imply? It is obvious! It implies that for an equal number of millions of years the female of the species has expected this prehension and all its correlative qualities in the male. It means that now, to this very day, her deepest feelings tell her that it is only right, only proper, and only becoming, that he should possess and display a certain mastery, a certain free virtuosity that virtuosity of a flame in a roaring fire in the matter of sex, and that his very ardour, his very virtuosity, his very ease in mastery, should finally seal the coffin of all that guilty feeling towards sex which she had almost killed in her youth, and which she now expects to be buried once and for all.
This, positive Woman understands. This is what she has a right to expect; this is what makes her serene, content, free in conscience and in gait, confident that
But what is it that happens so frequently that often a sense of shame regarding sex actually begins in a positive woman on the very day of her marriage never again to be completely dissipated?
The unfortunate modern man whom our positive girl marries, is often as remote from any mastery over sex, or from any ease or free virtuosity where it is concerned, as a marble statue. Thanks to the prudish nature of his upbringing, his environment and his outlook, and also to the general lack of sexual exuberance in his constitution, he is frequently as terrified of the subject as is his spinster aunt, and he knows no more about taking the initiative properly, artistically, capably, than a child of three. As for that impetuosity that carries everything before it, even the girl's natural modesty, and releases the pent-up demons of roguery so long stifled in her breast! poor man! far from releasing them he would prefer a thousand times to slip another bolt across the door that imprisons them! Hesitation, shame, disgust, a sense of guilt and of discomfort, often followed by incredibly long periods of post-conjugal virginity and chastity, are frequently the result, and with general consequences that are most deeply to be deplored.
Prehension! He has not even comprehension where sex is concerned! And since in this matter, which is rightly so delicate and therefore so dependent upon consummate art, the Woman is utterly dependent upon him, a miserable, uncomfortable and clammy atmosphere is straightway generated in a new home, in which everything could otherwise be so bright, so clean, so full of mutual confidence and good spirits. And in all this, mark you, no reference is made to the need of child-bearing for the woman, which here is left indefinitely ungratified and unconsidered.
How many women ever survive this first great shock to their positiveness it is impossible to say; but that a