Sexology – Confession, Jealousy, Marriage

Sexology : The Magazine of Sex Science was a magazine founded by Hugo Gernsbach ('the father of Science Fiction') and seems to have flourished in the 1930s. It had many anatomical diagrams and articles about 'female inverts', pregnancy, infibulation, venereal disease etc. It probably sold well. 80 years later it appears highly dated and sexist but the  question of 'confession', jealousy and former partners, covered  in this article, is inherently problematic - Julian Barnes deals with it in his 1982 novel Before She Met Me and in an interview he referred to John Lennon having problems about former lovers of Yoko Ono. The story towards the end of the lawyer with the revolver and poison tablets is straight out of Hitchcock..We had another posting from Sexology on 'Homosexuality and its Cure' last year.

Sex Confessions of Wives

"I simply must make a clean breast of it, and tell • my husband." Here is an expression which, I am sure, must have been heard many times by every physician. What is there in the feminine make-up which insists that they bring drama–even tragedy–upon themselves? I know of so many homes that have been blasted and lives wrecked, through a wife’s insistence that she “unburden her soul,” that I hardly know where to begin.
  An explanation for this feminine characteristic takes us back across the centuries. The annals of history reveal quite plainly that all such ideas of bringing the old skeleton out of the closet date from the beginning of masculine dominance. The sacred archives of many lands disclose what may be a very astonishing fact to the regal male of today; namely, that he was not always the ruler. Goldenweiser asserts:
  Man’s first weapons were only sticks and stones but with these crude instruments he acquired domination over his environment. There came ambition and the desire for servants to care for one's possessions. Man then took advantage of the fact that, during certain periods of the months, his woman was slightly incapacitated; again, when the female carried a growing body within her own, she was gradually considered unfit for toil over several months. So the decision came about that, during these periods, the wife could do light service. This drifted into a private-property conception and the woman then became literally a chattel–both economically and sexually man's slave. If she belonged to a great Solomon or similar potentate, she was just one of many concubines; to the poor man, she was his Cinderella.
  Woman, as you will see, became the abject slave of man; she was to do his bidding and keep nothing from him. In this condition lies the basis of the myth of masculine superiority and the servile state of women. With this in mind it is not difficult to see how women became convinced that their lives, including their past experiences, should be entrusted to their master, to do with as he would and judge according to his standards.
  It is a notorious fact that many men, married to particularly attractive women, will often try every ruse possible to obtain a wife’s confession. But women who satisfy this curiosity imperil their future happiness. You may say that the husband is a broad-minded man who understands human nature. But I have seen these so-called “broad-minded” men become most despicable cads after wringing a confession from their wives. The trite expression, what they don’t know won’t hurt them, may well be applied to husbands; and a study of the following cases will show that it is better to be silent than sorry.
  I have known M. all her life; in fact I bounced her as a baby on my knee hundreds of times. When M. began to grow up she became increasingly beautiful until, at the age of seventeen, she was the reigning queen of our neighborhood; all the boys vied to do her honor. She received, them with indifference and, since she had always enjoyed taking care of people, decided to become a nurse. After three years of training, M. was graduated with honors from our largest metropolitan hospital. When she was a student nurse, however, she had encountered a gay Lothario in the person of one of the internes. She became infatuated with him and, after several attempts, he succeeded in accomplishing his purpose and that was the end of it. He never returned to his nurse for additional favors, but sought new fields to conquer.
  Shortly after graduation, M. married a young lawyer and her nursing career was over. Everything went well for two years. Finally, her husband told her that it was her duty to tell him of any previous love episodes. After some hesitation she decided he had a right to know and she made a full confession. On the following day, the husband was exceedingly gloomy and would not speak to his wife. In spite of her pleas this went on for a month. One day she came home and found a revolver on her dressing table. When the young lawyer was asked about it, he said it was for her use. His wife took no notice of this so a new stunt was invoked. Her husband carried in his pocket two tablets of poison, which he threatened to take unless he could obtain an annulment of the marriage with what he called his "damaged goods,"
  At the age of seventeen, E. was seduced by an older man who promised her marriage and a career on the stage. A short time later she discovered that he was already married, and had no intention of divorcing his wealthy wife in her favor. Disillusioned, E. turned to study, making her profession her one interest in life. She thought less of the unfortunate incident as she advanced in her career; and, at the age of twenty-six, she married a well-known artist. She felt it was her duty to tell him of the past, so she confided the whole affair. To her sorrow and amazement, her tolerant, easy-going husband suddenly turned into an intolerant, bigoted fanatic, hypercritical of her every action, and reading sexual motives into her most casual conversations with other men.
  W., the victim of an unfortunate sex experience at thirteen, had partially succeeded in repressing the experience. After marriage the memory returned to her conscious mind, and she was haunted by an urge to "confess" to her husband. She kept her secret for three years, during which time she was in more or less continuous mental conflict. At the end of this time she was on the verge of nervous collapse, and consulted her family physician. As her husband was an extremely sensitive introvert (one concerned principally in his own emotions) with a number of puritanical notions regarding sex, the physician advised her against telling him the incident; but they devised a scheme whereby she could satisfy her own urge, by telling her husband the story as though it had happened to a friend of hers. Her husband's expressed pity for the other woman was enough to enable the wife to see her experience in its proper proportion; her mental conflict disappeared and she was able to make complete adjustment.
  Mrs. L., aged twenty-six, was brought to see me by her husband, who requested a thorough examination. After her husband had left, Mrs. L. gave me her history and, incidentally, told me there was nothing wrong as far as she knew. My examination confirmed her statement. "Now, tell me," I asked "what is this all about?” "Well," she replied, "we have been married six years, but it was not until the past two that we have had difficulties. It was just about two years ago when my husband said to me, 'Tell me about your past loves.' What did I tell him? Only that a man once made an unsuccessful attempt to seduce me."
  When I asked her why she had been so foolish, her response was, "I felt that my husband had a right to know." For the past two years this woman's life has been made a veritable hell by her husband. At least twenty doctors have been visited in the past year, apparently in the hope that some one of them would find a disease for the husband to talk about the rest of his life.
  There is nothing to be accomplished by putting on further acts in these tragedies of sex. Those related should prove that it is a poor policy for wives to discuss their pasts with their husbands. Although women have succeeded somewhat in their admirable struggle for equality with men, their success has been largely a matter of political privileges and economic freedom. In matters of sex, men still cling to the old belief that women should remain chaste until marriage. Many men profess to be broad-minded on this subject and, in general discussion, concede a woman's right to sex freedom. But their broad-minded attitude dwindles perceptibly if they learn that their own wives have practiced this freedom. Such a discovery is a blow to their self-esteem which they never quite get over or forget–W. S. P., M.D.

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