Patsy Rae Dawson
While modern people may not consciously believe Victorian morals, the effects of those beliefs continue to victimize sexual love and to cheat countless couples out of the truly happy sexual relationship God desires. Full blown Victorian morals thrived just a few generations back--even among people still living. As a result, few people have escaped completely unwounded from the victimization of Victorian morals, for its evil continues to take many forms.
At just the mention of the word “sex,” many conflicting images arise in the minds of the hearers. Some think, “Great! Tell me more!” Others recoil with, “Oh no! I've got more of that than I need already!” Still others blush in horror because, “That's a dirty word! And you have a dirty mind to even say it!”
Probably more disagreements, myths, superstitions, prejudices, assumptions, and simple ignorance surround the sexual union than any other relationship. Sadly, far too many Christians, God's lights of the world, perpetuate the problem by their own ignorance. So for the most part, intimate love suffers from neglect, struggling for life through the whims of public morality.
The attitudes commonly called “Victorian morals” evolved over nearly two thousand years of false religious teaching concerning the sexual relationship. These concepts of excessive prudery began soon after Christ died and were taken up by the Catholic church in the fourth century. They climaxed many centuries later when Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert made Catholicism's apostasy a popular political issue. They then became known as Victorian morals.
Although many people now openly live together without marriage, and teenagers experiment with sex, Victorian morals still inflict much misery on both men and women, whether or not they desire to serve God. The branding of people who do not conform to the beliefs of the Victorians as morally loose regardless of their fidelity, purity, love for God, and knowledge of the Bible creates the most havoc. Such prejudices discourage honest study of lawful sexual intercourse by God-proclaiming, but man-fearing people. Even the word “sex” is scandalized.
With sexual love successfully removed from public consideration by “respectable” people, even private study often emits an aura of immodesty bordering on immorality. Too embarrassed to teach their daughters how to please their husbands, mothers and grandmothers often gasp at the suggestion that women might enjoy lovemaking. Thus, some women become victims as they learn not to enjoy the embrace of love. Determined not to be cold like their mothers, other women seek fulfillment in promiscuous activities. They too fall victim to the influence of Victorian morals.
The stigma of Victorian morals that labeled men “beasts” still remains even if the word has not. That stigma continues to victimize men. For good men, sexual relationships are often just as unmentionable as for women leaving them to wonder, “Am I normal?” For many of these men, their strong sexuality is a source of guilt and shame so they actively work at repressing their sexual feelings. Other men freely seek education in off-color jokes, the brags of friends, dirty literature, and other corrupt sources. In a dilemma, men can delight in their sins, repent after each sexual encounter, or simply work at shoving their sexual desires into the back of their minds while vigorously pursuing their careers.
Both men and women suffer the consequences of centuries of handed down Victorian attitudes. Unfortunately, sex education, whether from Victorian parents, promiscuous friends, or pornography, damages and inhibits men's and women's abilities to fully enjoy the embrace of love.
“Wait a minute!” some may protest. “What about sex education in the schools? All that's changing now!”
Yes, the schools try to counteract the damage done to children by the sexual inhibitions of their parents. But public sex-education classes simply change the form of the sexual problems today. Newspapers and magazines print article after article about the rising rate of teenage pregnancies. Often a strong desire for someone to love them motivates young girls to turn to early motherhood. They think a baby will cure the coldness of their homes. Articles about men describe their boredom with sex, even though they never lack a partner. An important ingredient is still missing in their sex lives. Victorian morals stole the missing ingredient from sexual love and continue to victimize young and old lovers alike.
However, God desires for His people to partake of a thorough, healthy sex education that teaches them the secrets of sexual fulfillment. Condemning the sexual immorality and drunkenness of His people, God warned the Jews, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6). In the same manner, God demands that His people today inform themselves about sexual matters (I Thess. 4:4).
While God promises a more abundant life from serving Him in the sexual realm, Victorian morals only victimize its followers. From beginning to end, Victorian morals thrive on gross ignorance of the Bible's teachings regarding marriage and sexual love. Tracing the development of Victorian morals helps throw off the shackles of misery by exposing the false concepts that do not reflect the will of God as revealed in the Bible:
The sixteenth century religious reformers, Calvin, Luther, Zwingli, and others like them, recognized the damage caused by the teachings against married intimacy. They acknowledged that the prevalent sexual immorality of the Catholic world at that time came from man's inability to impose celibacy upon himself in disregard of his sexual urges. Derrick Bailey, in an excellent discussion of that period in his book Sexual Relation in Christian Thought, says:
Zwingli declared that since God had ordained marriage and had nowhere forbidden it, it is lawful for all without exception; he denounced compulsory vows of chastity, and roundly asserted that it was sinful for clerics and monastics to refuse matrimony if they knew that they had been denied the gift of continence.
Almost from the beginning of his revolt, Luther attacked clerical celibacy and monastic vows, advising those about to be ordained never to swear continence, and boldly counseling any dutiful priest who had succumbed to the frailty of the flesh to cohabit with the woman if she were willing, disregarding with a clear conscience the pope's pleasure or displeasure, the canon law, and public opinion-for in God's sight they are already espoused. . . .
Calvin argued in much the same strain, though he was more cautious than Luther, and made it clear that he disapproved only of vows of celibacy which are improperly regarded as acts of religious service, and are rashly undertaken by those who cannot keep them. (Bailey, Sexual Relation in Christian Thought, pp. 167-169.)
So part of the religious freedom that the colonists sailed to America to obtain involved sexual freedom. The Puritan offshoot of the reformation probably influenced the United States more than any other group. The Puritans' ideas toward marriage showed how the reformers viewed marriage differently from the Catholic church's view of it as a necessary evil. Robert Bell outlines their attitude in his book Marriage and Family Interaction:
For the Puritans, marriage was a very important relationship based upon religious, social, and economic values. A man needed a wife and children so as to survive and to prosper. . . . The present day concern with happiness in marriage was not of great importance to the Puritans, particularly if the stability of the marriage was threatened. But, individuals did not go into marriage expecting great personal happiness and therefore had no such expectations with which to compare reality.
The Puritans' definition of marriage as secular seems to contradict their strong religious values unless viewed against their rebellion against the Catholic church in the old country. The Puritans, and others in New England, called a halt to the growing tendency to make marriage an ecclesiastical function. (Robert R. Bell, Marriage and Family Interaction [Homewood, IL: The Dorsey Press, 1963], pp. 25-34. Used by permission.)
The Puritans also rejected forced celibacy along with the perpetual virginity of Mary:
One common stereotype is that the Puritans were against sex, but for all the emphasis on the sinfulness of fornication and adultery, the early Puritans were definitely not against sex as such. Not only did they breed large families and take pride in so doing, but their spiritual leaders praised married sex and roundly condemned the “Popish conceit of the excellency of virginity.” (Bell, Marriage and Family Interaction, pp. 37-38.)
Unfortunately, the Puritans did not rebel enough against Roman Catholicism and continued to restrict some proper expressions of affection. The attitudes they retained continued to affect people in America:
Public Kissing Condemned
While the Puritans acknowledged the place of sexual contact within the marriage bond, they forbade any public display of affection, even between a husband and wife. Bell explains the extreme they went to in enforcing their views:
Even with the unemotional nature of courtship and marriage, real affection probably existed between many Puritan husbands and wives. However, affection had to be very private; it was not prudent for the Puritan to be publicly demonstrative. Calhoun relates that “Captain Kemble of Boston sat two hours in the public stocks for his `lewd and unseemly behavior' in kissing his wife `publicquely' on the Sabbath upon his doorstep when he had just returned from a voyage of three years.” (Bell, Marriage and Family Interaction, p. 37.)
Even being gone from home for three years didn't justify a man kissing his wife on the doorstep. Fortunately, no one told the Shulammite maiden that:
Song of Sol. 8:1: “Oh that you were like a brother to me who nursed at my mother's breasts. If I found you outdoors, I would kiss you; no one would despise me, either.”
All the way through the Song of Solomon, the Shulammite portrayed herself as a giver of love to the Shepherd. She confidently assured the Shepherd that they would enjoy a happy marriage. Why? Because they both grew up with mothers who openly loved them. Not only that, but when she found him outside, she would freely and impulsively kiss him. “No one would despise me, either,” she boasted. Obviously, forcing husbands and wives to refrain from kissing publicly came from man-not God.
Sexually Active People Not Saved
The Puritans' religious teachings about the sexual relationship and its effect upon them conflicted with each other:
The evidence indicates that the Puritans were not as totally against sex, at least in marriage, as many have believed. However, many Puritans may have suffered a severe conflict because sexual satisfaction even in marriage might indicate a weakness to “things of the flesh,” negative evidence of the possibility of being one of the “chosen.” (Bell, Marriage and Family Interaction, p. 38.)
While the Puritans believed in marital sex, they feared that too much sexual pleasure, even between a husband and wife, might keep a person out of heaven. On the contrary, in the book of Proverbs, God said:
Prov. 5:18-19: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love.”
Not only did the Designer of the sexual relationship encourage a husband to go to his wife for satisfaction of his physical needs, but also God told him, “Be exhilarated always with her love.” Thus, God told a husband to seek the highest form of sexual satisfaction with his wife-exhilaration not only with her body, but also with her love.
Consequently, rejecting lawful sexual pleasure to please God only displeased God. The teaching that men and women cannot delight in a full marital sexual relationship while pleasing God came from man-not God.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
While the Reformers and the Puritans liberated the sexual embrace from some of the excessive prudery of the Catholic church, they did not seek full sexual understanding. Married lovemaking still carried a stigma of suggested impurity. This ignorance and bashfulness made the world ripe for yet another setback on the journey to true sexual liberation.
The political tone of the United States after declaring and winning her independence played an important part in this setback. In 1789 the new president and his wife, George and Martha Washington, shared a great realization of their role, not only in history, but also in the future of the republic. They looked to the royal governments as examples to be followed. They wanted the new country taken seriously and not viewed as some backwoods “experiment.” “At the President's House in temporary capitals, New York and Philadelphia, the Washingtons chose to entertain in formal style, deliberately emphasizing the new republic's wish to be accepted as the equal of the established governments of Europe.” (Margaret Brown Klapthor, The First Ladies [Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1981], p. 8.)
Abigail Smith Adams whose husband, John Adams, became president from 1797 to 1801, “observed with interest the manners of the French” while her husband served at a diplomatic post in Paris. Later “she filled the difficult role of wife of the first United States Minister to Great Britain, and did so with dignity and tact.” As the wife of the first Vice President, she and Mrs. Washington became friends. She drew upon her experience in courts and society abroad to help Martha Washington entertain. When her husband became president, she continued the pattern. (Klapthor, The First Ladies, p. 10.)
Future presidents and their wives continued to follow the pattern set in motion by the Washingtons and the Adams. The design of the White House and the government buildings tried to emulate the royalty across the sea. So the mood of the new country set the stage for the next great influence on morality-Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert.
Victoria's influence on morals began almost immediately when she ascended the British throne in 1837 at the age of eighteen. An example of virtue, diligence, and statesmanship, two years later she sent for her twenty-year-old cousin Albert, a Coburg prince. After wooing and winning him, the right of a queen, they began a model marriage. Queen Victoria, in quick succession, gave birth to nine children. Then the Prince died in his early forties. For the rest of her life, she wore her widow's garments. (Lewinsohn, A History of Sexual Customs, pp. 288-289.)
Through letters and diaries not formerly available to biographers, Stanley Weintraub's book Victoria: An Intimate Biography shows that the popular belief that Victoria was herself extremely prudish was, indeed, false. Weintraub explains that the public prudery came from Prince Albert-not Victoria-and it was political, rather than personal:
The Prince's prudery was another matter, one that had nothing to do with his own impulses. He and Victoria had quickly discovered a compatibility between the sheets that would last. The works of art they bought for each other, and displayed in their private chambers, reflected their delight in the nude form, male and female. Yet Albert was fiercely protective of the public's perception of the Court. He knew what it had been like during the raffish atmosphere of the Regency, and after. And he knew the sleazy sexuality of the Coburg court under his own father, not to mention Albert's brother, already a victim of venereal disease, and likely to produce, Albert warned him, a “sick heir.” (Stanley Weintraub, Victoria: An Intimate Biography [New York: Dutton, 1987], p. 148.)
As Queen, and through Prince Albert's influence, Victoria effectively used her position to change public morals. She refused to allow her subjects to even utter the word “divorce” in court. She would not admit divorced husbands or wives to Buckingham Palace. She even forced foreign nations to comply with the unwritten law by simply ignoring diplomats who had been divorced. (Lewinsohn, A History of Sexual Customs, p. 289.)
Weintraub records an incident that shows the extent to which Victoria and Albert were willing to go to protect the public's perception of the Court:
The public prudery by which they protected the Court caused additional difficulties. A repetition of Palmerston's escapade-Victoria knew nothing of it until she married-of breaking into a bedroom at Windsor and trying to violate its screaming occupant because he mistook one room for another, would not be permitted to recur. Caution required that ladies-in-waiting not receive men in their rooms, neither husbands, brothers, nor fathers. “On the Queen's accession,” Albert noted in a memorandum in 1852, “Lord Melbourne had been very careless in his appointments, and great harm had resulted in the Court therefrom. Since her marriage I had insisted upon a closer line being drawn, and though Lord Melbourne had declared that `damned morality would undo us all,' we had found great advantage in it and were determined to adhere to it.” Albert recorded an instance that year when Lord Derby, as Prime Minister, appealed unsuccessfully to have the wife of the new Lord Chancellor, Lord St. Leonards, presented at Court “although she had run away with him when he was still at school, and was now nearly seventy years old.” The transgression had occurred a half-century earlier, and the couple had since lived respectable lives, but the Queen “said it would not do to receive her now . . . although society might do in that respect what it pleased; it was a principle at Court not to receive ladies whose characters are under stigma.” (Weintraub, Victoria: An Intimate Biography, p. 172.)
While modern politicians often deny the importance of government officials' character, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's public prudery dramatically changed the morals of their country:
England is no country of abrupt upheavals. The moral transformation of the Victorian Age itself took place slowly, imperceptibly, without the invocation of draconian laws. Sex was not forcibly stuck into a strait-jacket, but carefully put in plaster, like the victim of an accident who must not be hurt. Only occasionally was the machinery of the law set in motion to lead the people into the paths of virtue. The example of the Court, the practice of treating vice as “unmentionable,” the social boycott of outsiders, were stronger weapons. If everyone knew what was “shocking,” what offended the sense of propriety of his fellow men, he would somehow continue to be virtuous himself. Moral conformity needs no orders from above; it rests on recognition. (Lewinsohn, A History of Sexual Customs, p. 289.)
As a result, the excessive measures Queen Victoria and Prince Albert took to remove any hint of scandal from the Court and the lives of the men and women who served under them made their public morals politically popular world-wide. As their public prudery spread throughout society and across the ocean, it seemed to validate the extreme sexual views the Catholic Church pushed off onto its subjects in previous centuries. However, the political influence of the Court was so great that the evolving public morals became known as Victorian morals, named after Victoria-one of the longest reigning queens in England's history. As the moral fervor of excessive prudery spread, men turned their attentions from the political arena to other areas of human life to sniff out all “moral corruption”:
God's Morals Condemned
Banning the writings of poets and authors didn't keep the Victorian moralists busy enough. Soon they began to examine the Bible. Lewinsohn explains, “They reaped an abundant harvest. The Bible turned out to be the most dangerous book to fall into the hands of anybody of unchaste mind.” (Lewinsohn, A History of Sexual Customs, p. 292.)
During this time, atheists sprang up simply because they refused to believe in a God whose morals failed to measure up to their own. One typical atheist wrote a book denouncing the morals of the Bible because he protested the recording of true stories about David and other men who committed adultery. Even though God condemned these acts, the atheist objected to telling people about them. He found the book of Ruth especially distasteful. This man denied the existence of God because God's morals and Victorian morals differed. In short, this atheist treated his morals as if they were better than God's. However, God said:
Isa. 55:8-9: “`For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the Lord. `For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'”
Ignorance of God's word concerning the sexual relationship caused Victorian people to go to an extreme in trying to eradicate all references to sex in every area of their lives. Sexual immorality must be fought by God's people, but the fight must be fought with truth, not ignorance. When public morality begins to condemn God's morality and censures the Bible as unfit literature, let alone a book to base one's life on, something is wrong. Something is horribly wrong!
Since the sexual relationship originated within the mind of God, sexual love has a proper and righteous use. If Victorian morals conflict with the morals of the Bible, then Victorian morals came from man-not God.
Kissing as a Greeting Condemned
Thanks to Victorian morals, the way of greeting someone changed:
In Elizabethan England kissing as a greeting was extended to all members of the same class, whether friends or strangers. Erasmus (1466?-1536) in one of his letters comments on this delightful custom of the English. It would not be too bold an inference from this that perhaps the English, as children, received a great deal more tender loving care in Elizabethan days than they did in a period like that of Victoria and her son Edward, a period, as Rupert Brooke put it, so full of impalpable restraints. (Ashley Montagu, Touching [New York: Columbia University Press, 1971], p. 307. Used by permission.)
As the body became sinful in the eyes of the Victorians, kissing upon greeting became distasteful and forbidden. However, the apostle Paul did not harbor Victorian inhibitions and ended many of his New Testament books by encouraging Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss.
I Cor. 16:20: “All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.”
Many people dismiss this verse as a matter of custom and irrelevant to modern times. Certainly, the Jews were and still are some of the most affectionate people. However, Paul addressed this letter to Gentiles who had been adulterers, fornicators, effeminate, and homosexuals (6:9-11) and even gloried in an incestuous relationship among them (5:1)-not to Jews. The Gentile Christians did not know the first thing about love!
Consequently, much of Paul's letter to the Corinthians dealt with the evils of sexual immorality and taught about true love. Fittingly, Paul ended the letter with a command to greet one another with a holy kiss-a kiss that expressed real love rather than improper sensuality. So when a person understands the Bible, kissing upon greeting one another is not an obscene gesture or an outdated custom, but the mark of a truly loving and caring Christian. Indeed, the Victorian custom that forbade kissing as a form of greeting came from man-not God.
In the beginning, the people of the United States ridiculed Victorian morals as exaggerated. But before long, anyone who wanted to be “genteel” adopted them. (Lewinsohn, A History of Sexual Customs, p. 295.) About this same time many doctors took up their pens and turned out volumes of medical books to warn the public of the physical dangers of excessive intimacy-even in marriage.
Soon the religious denouncements of married sexual contact and Victorian morals boasted the backing of the respectable scientific community. Who could dispute medical “facts”? Even people who cared nothing for politics or religion believed the evidence. These doctors probably exerted the greatest influence of all, and as a result, caused the greatest damage to marriage and sexual love.
Sylvanus Stall, D.D. evidently fell under the influence of these doctors. At the turn of the twentieth century, he published an eight volume set of books called Self and Sex Series. He wrote four books to tell “what a man ought to know” at each period of his life: a young boy, a young man, a young husband, and a man of forty-five. He viewed life as nearly over for a man of forty-five. Mrs. Mary Wood-Allen, M.D. wrote the two books to cover the first part of a woman's life: a young girl and a young woman. Mrs. Emma F. A. Drake, M.D. wrote the remaining two books for women: a young wife and a woman of forty-five.
Altogether these books contained over eighty recommendations from prominent men and women and newspapers in the United States and England. Doctors, authors, editors, mayors, governors, judges, educators, and religious leaders lavishly praised the books. Included was Hon. S. M. Jones, mayor of Toledo, Ohio; Edward Bok, editor of The Ladies' Home Journal; Mrs. May Wright Sewall, president of the International Council of Women; Mrs. Helen Campbell, dean of the Department of Household Economics, Kansas State Agricultural College; Howard A. Kelly, M.D., Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics John Hopkins University; Paul F. Munde, M.D., LL.D., Professor of Gynecology at the New York Polyclinic and Dartmouth College; Mrs. Lillian M. N. Stevens, president of National Woman's Christian Temperance Union; John R. Mott, Y.M.C.A. official; and on and on the list of impressive citizens went.
The front of one book claimed, “More than a million copies in English sold. Two thousand new readers daily. Translated into six languages in Asia and in as many more in Europe. None of these foreign publishers was solicited. Each sought the privilege to translate. In two countries, publishers contended for the privilege.”
Stall relied heavily on quotations from existing medical books to prove his various points. He and the doctors he quoted freely branded other doctors who disagreed with their views as “charlatans.” The Self and Sex Series not only accurately represented the thinking of responsible people of the time, but they also demonstrated the position the respectable doctors took in regard to sexual intercourse. These popular books exerted tremendous influence on the sexual morality of people just coming to maturity by combining the medical quotations with moral views. Medical quotations from these volumes and other books of that time give a reliable view of the tremendous pressure doctors placed on husbands and wives to conform to Victorian sexual practices:
Sexual Enjoyment Denied Women
The monks believed that women possessed very strong sensual desires. Greatly fearing seduction by women, they flocked to the monasteries in an extreme effort to keep their vows of celibacy. The Catholic church continued to acknowledge the sexual nature of women. The Catholic inquisitions eventually went to the extreme of burning women at the stake as cohorts with the Devil. The enjoyment of the sexual union was precisely what made it sinful, even in marriage.
Hundreds of years later, prominent doctors and even the surgeon general said just the opposite-that women did not possess any sexual needs or desires-only a tolerance for the man's sexual nature. Denying that women even entertained the ability to enjoy sexual intercourse, prominent religious leaders and doctors taught against any form of pleasure in the marriage bed. Bell explains the “scientific” attitude toward women:
Up to and well through the nineteenth century, both moral and “scientific” criticism was directed at female sexual satisfaction. Dr. William Acton, in a standard text on the reproductive system, wrote: “The belief that women had a sexual appetite was a vile aspersion.” William Hammond, surgeon-general of the United States, wrote: “Nine-tenths of the time decent women felt not the slightest pleasure in intercourse.” Likewise, at the University of Basel, an eminent gynecologist named Fehling labeled “sexual desire in the young woman as pathological.”
Female sexual interest was even negatively tied in with the woman's reproductive function. “In 1839 a highly successful English marriage manual written by a physician named Michael Ryan warned that female sterility was due, among other causes, to an excessive ardor of desire or `passion strongly excited.' . . . It is well known that compliance, tranquillity, silence, and secrecy are necessary for a prolific coition.” Sexual satisfaction for the woman was to be achieved only by the depraved prostitute, and this attitude of the past was often shared by many poets, physicians, and moralists. (Bell, Marriage and Family Interaction, pp. 303-304.)
Contrary to the science of the nineteenth century, God made no distinction between the sexual needs and desires of men and women-they were equally strong. Paul told Timothy to recognize this fact and make allowances for the sexual desires and needs of women without husbands:
I Tim. 5:11-12: “But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge.”
“Sensual desires” means “to feel the impulses of sexual desire” (Thayer, p. 337).
Paul, teaching about the Christian's responsibility to widows, said that qualified older widows could be put on the church's roll as paid servants of the church. However, the Christians shared a different responsibility toward young widows. The sexual desires of young women made it hard for them to remain unmarried without a righteous outlet for their sexual needs. Rather than putting these young widows in a position that tempted them to set aside their pledge to not commit fornication, Paul encouraged young widows to marry, bear children, and keep house (I Tim. 5:14).
While Paul acknowledged the women's sexual desires, he did not condemn their sexual needs-just the unlawful fulfillment of them. “Sensual desires” was not a bad word-it was just a fact of life. So Paul forbade the church to put young widows in a position that discouraged them from seeking a husband to satisfy their God-given sexual needs. Thus, the scriptures pointed the way out of the dilemma about whether or not godly women enjoyed the sexual embrace. God said, through Paul, that women possessed legitimate sexual desires that marriage satisfied. Consequently, the teaching that women lacked the inherent ability to enjoy the sexual relationship came from man-not God.
Desire Treated as a Disease in Women
Since the doctors said in their journals that women lacked the ability to respond with pleasure to the sexual act, when a woman happened to respond, she naturally viewed her response with horror. In the Self and Sex Series Mrs. Emma F. Angell Drake, M.D. advised women in her book What a Young Wife Ought to Know, “It occasionally happens that the wife during pregnancy is troubled with a passion far beyond what she has ever experienced at any other time. This in every instance is due to some unnatural condition, and should be considered a disease, and for it the physician should be consulted.” (Emma F. Angell Drake, M.D., What a Young Wife Ought to Know [Philadelphia, PA: The Vir Publishing Co., 1908], p. 93.)
Dr. Drake, as other physicians did, considered “passion” in a pregnant woman a “disease.” Today doctors know that many of the same hormones, including oxytocin, surge through a woman's body during pregnancy, lactation, and the sexual climax. These hormones not only increase a woman's feelings of love and tenderness toward her unborn child, but also affect positively her attitude toward her husband and children. (Marvin S. Eiger, M.D. and Sally Wendkes Olds, The Complete Book of Breastfeeding [New York: Workman Publishing Co. Inc., 1976], p. 132. Used by permission.)
Consequently, many women who successfully turned themselves off through Victorian teaching experienced heightened desire and orgasm for the first time when the hormones of pregnancy and nursing made them more loving. Unfortunately, doctors advised them to fear these reactions rather than yield to them and enjoy the new awakening of their femininity.
Dr. Marie N. Robinson, in her book The Power of Sexual Surrender, states that during this period of history, doctors often surgically removed a woman's clitoris when sexual pleasure made its unwelcome presence known. Removing the clitoris by itself couldn't stop the ability to experience orgasm; but certainly, the trauma of the event successfully drove the woman's budding sexual nature back into hiding. (Marie N. Robinson, M.D., The Power of Sexual Surrender [New York: The New American Library, Inc., 1959]. Used by permission.)
In contrast, the Shulammite in the Song of Solomon looked forward to enjoying love with the Shepherd. She promised to delight in his caresses as she wishfully moaned, “Let his left hand be under my head, and his right hand embrace me.” She also promised to initiate the act of love:
Song of Sol. 7:12: “ . . . There I will give you my love.”
“Love” means “to boil, i.e. to love; by implication a love-token, lover, friend” (Strong, p. 30).
The maiden begged the Shepherd to hurry and marry her. Describing their honeymoon in the countryside she said, “There I will give you my love.” Not just doing her duty by passively accepting his advances for her. Rather she promised to initiate a passionate night of boiling emotions through the exciting union of the bodies of true lovers.
Through inspiring and preserving the Song of Solomon, God placed His stamp of approval on the Shulammite and the Shepherd's desire to experience all the joys of an active sexual life within marriage:
Song of Sol. 5:1b: “Eat, friends; drink and imbibe deeply, O lovers.”
“Imbibe deeply” means “to become tipsy; in a qualified sense, to satiate with a stimulating drink or influence:-(be filled with) drink (abundantly), be (make) drunk (-en), be merry” (Strong, p. 116).
Earlier the Shulammite looked forward to marriage and imagined the Shepherd's mental and physical pleasures with her. Here God shows His approval of husbands and wives delighting sexually in each other. God's command to the lovers said the same as, “Get married and become tipsy or drunk through satisfying your sexual desires. Enjoy lovemaking more than anything in this world!” Obviously, the doctor's belief that a woman's sexual desire stemmed from disease came from man-not God.
Desire Treated as a Disease in Men
Unfortunately, doctors also considered men with strong sexual desires as victims of some type of medical problem. Stall quoted Dr. William Acton in his Self and Sex Series to prove the point:
These patients come to ask our assistance because they suffer from urgent desire, which a careful examination of the case often convinces us is fictitious, and dependent upon some irritation going on in one part or other of the canal. In some persons, a full bladder will occasion it; in others, irritation about the rectum, preceding from worms or hemorrhoids; in others, again, acidity of urine will induce a morbid craving that is often most distressing to the sufferer. Frequently the affection depends upon neuralgia of the bladder, or stone in that viscus. In other instances, I have seen reason to attribute it to some affection [an abnormal bodily state; disease; as, a pulmonary affection-Webster] of skin covering the generative organs, causing local excitement. (Sylvanus Stall, D.D., What a Man of Forty-Five Ought to Know [Philadelphia: The Vir Publishing Co., 1901], pp. 122-123.)
Contrary to the Victorian doctors, strong sexual desires didn't stem from worms, constipation, hemorrhoids, a need to urinate, kidney stones, or skin irritations. Rather, Paul gave God the credit for creating strong sexual desires in I Cor. 7:7-9. Some men possessed the ability to ignore their sexual urgings, yet God did not give this gift to all men. God told men of strong desires to marry and enjoy a lawful outlet for their passions.
Fear of physical and mental harm to both the man and woman weighed heavily on the Victorians. They viewed the wife's reluctance for sexual contact as a protection for her husband's physical welfare. In his Self and Sex Series Stall warned young husbands about the medical dangers:
The greatest happiness, physically, intellectually and maritally will be secured when they have erred upon the side of moderation rather than upon the side of excess. Do not wait until you have the pronounced effects of backache, lassitude, giddiness, dimness of sight, noises in the ears, numbness of fingers and paralysis. Note your own condition the next day very carefully. If you observe a lack of normal, physical power, a loss of intellectual quickness or mental grip, if you are sensitive and irritable, if you are less kind and considerate of your wife, if you are morose and less companionable, or in any way fall below your best standard of excellence, it would be well for you to think seriously and proceed cautiously. Nor should your observation and study only have reference to yourself. Note carefully the physical, mental and social condition of your wife the day following. (Sylvanus Stall, D.D., What a Young Husband Ought to Know [Philadelphia: The Vir Publishing Co., 1897], pp. 95-96.)
Modern science only recently recognized the power of the emotions over the physical body. In discussing female medical problems, Dr. Robert Wilson observes in his book Feminine Forever, “The quality of a woman's marriage is probably one of the most important factors.” (Robert A. Wilson, M.D., Feminine Forever [New York: Pocket Books, 1966], p. 77.) Dr. Wilson continues, “Whether a woman is, or has been, in love, I consider essential medical information. My own practice has convinced me that lack of love in a woman's life can be as devastating to her body as any microbe.” (Wilson, Feminine Forever, p. 110.) As a result of this belief, Dr. Wilson asks his patients regularly if they love their husbands before beginning treatment for their physical problems.
So, more than likely, the mental depression, irritability, tiredness, etc. that Victorian husbands and wives experienced after sexual union resulted from wrong attitudes. A guilty conscience, whether the guilt came from violating God's true sexual laws or from disobeying man's opinions about proper sexual conduct, would have caused the same unpleasant physical and mental effects. The Victorians could have solved their physical problems by ridding their minds of undeserved guilt and, thus, freeing their bodies for full sexual delight.
However, as a man aged, the Victorian doctors taught that the physical dangers from sexual activity grew in intensity. One doctor warned, “I hold as certain that after fifty years of age a man of sense ought to renounce the pleasures of love. Each time that he allows himself this gratification is a pellet of earth thrown upon his coffin.” (Stall, What a Man of Forty-Five Ought to Know, p. 84.)
The Victorians believed that a man's body reabsorbed the “vital force used in the production and expenditure of the seminal fluid” when he practiced continence. As a man aged, he could ill afford to lose this life-sustaining fluid. Stall cautioned, “The secretion of semen takes place in old men, although very slowly, just like the saliva, the bile and other fluids of the body; but when once the period of loss and decay has arrived, no man can be subjected to its repeated loss without serious injury.” (Stall, What a Man of Forty-Five Ought to Know, p. 153.)
Older men supposedly jeopardized their mental abilities by engaging in sexual intercourse too frequently because “softening of the brain” often resulted.<$FStall, What a Man of Forty-Five Ought to Know, p. 169.> Dr. Acton again warned, “I am every day becoming more convinced that many of the affections of the brain, under which elderly persons suffer, and to which a certain proportion annually succumbs, are caused by excesses committed at a time when the enfeebled powers are unable to support them; and I think it is the duty of the medical profession to put such sufferers in possession of these facts.” (Stall, What a Man of Forty-Five Ought to Know, p. 170.)
In spite of the doctor's opinions, God did not view sexual love as harmful to the normal masculine body. In fact, God told older men to enjoy making love to their older wives:
Prov. 5:18-19: “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated [ravished-KJV] always with her love.”
“Exhilarated” or “ravished” means “to stray, usually to mistake, to transgress; (through the idea of intoxication) to reel, be enraptured” (Strong, p. 112).
The Jews used the expression “wife of your youth” to refer to the woman a man married when he was much younger. Now in their golden years he called her not “an old lady” but “the wife of his youth.” God told the husband to go to his older wife and to enjoy her body and her expression of love-not on rare or limited occasions, but always.
The implications of her husband being “delighted” are strong: The older wife still possesses the ability to satisfy her husband sexually. While women become too old to bear children, a woman never gets too old to ravish her husband with sexual love. As a result, even the older husband can reel or become drunk with happiness in the arms of his gray-headed lover. In effect, God told the young couple in Song of Sol. 5:1, “Get married and get drunk on married lovemaking!” Then God told the older couple, “Continue to get drunk on married lovemaking as long as you both shall live!” God wants the ravishment of lovemaking to last all of a couple's life together-from their honeymoon through their golden years!
How sad that alcoholics miss out on this God-approved intoxication. They run away from the problems of life and numb their senses and sensations with mind-altering drink. Ironically, most alcoholics either endure terrible marriages or aren't married at all. And their addiction inhibits their sexual performance while the drunkenness God ordained enhances sexual pleasure.
Even more sad are the Victorian doctors who condemned the pleasures of lovemaking and couldn't conceive of getting drunk on married lovemaking. Rather than making the brain soft as they feared or slow as does alcohol, joyful sexual love increases alertness, improves the mood, promotes love for all mankind, and gives a general feeling of well-being.
Consequently, ignorance of the Bible and the male and female bodies, which God created, caused doctors to treat sexual pleasure in both men and women as a disease. Medically forbidding husbands and wives to experience rapture in the arms of their spouses came from man-not God.
Full Blown Victorian Morals
Although Victorian morals bear the name of Queen Victoria, she really was only one influencing factor along with the Catholic church, other religious leaders, and prominent doctors of the day. Victorian morals owe their origin to religious, political, and medical pressure and intimidation. No matter how prestigious the authority behind Victorian morals, their harmful impact upon the general public's view of men, women, and children wreaked havoc with the lives of innumerable souls.
Men Viewed as Beasts
If men had completely turned off their sexual appetites when the Catholic hierarchy began teaching against the wholesomeness of the sexual act in marriage, the human race would have died. However, because God made men so that they could not completely deny their sexual needs as many women did, most women and religious-minded men viewed husbands as “beasts” who gave in to animal instincts.
“Excess,” Stall explained to young husbands, “did not fall at all short of conjugal debauchery [sensuality or orgy-Webster].” He warned, “No man of average health, physical power and intellectual acumen can exceed the bounds of once a week without at least being in danger of having entered upon a life of excess both for himself and for his wife.” (Stall, What a Young Husband Ought to Know, p. 95.)
The naive hands of Dr. Emma Drake helped promote this false view of men as beasts as she wrote her book What A Young Wife Ought to Know for the Self and Sex Series in 1908. She warned, “Be guarded, O husband! It is the woman's nature to forgive, and when she loves, this impetuosity of passion uncontrolled, can be many times forgiven.”
She advised, “There comes a time when love and forgiveness have reached their limit, and love struggles vainly to rise above disgust and loathing, but it can never again attain to anything but tolerance. But the wife is not always guiltless.” Dr. Drake cautioned, “While the husband is the aggressive one, yet she may, by many little carelessnesses, and thoughtless acts, invite attentions which she afterwards repels. The womanly modesty which characterized her girlhood, should always be preserved and observed.”
Dr. Drake's solution? Separate bedrooms, of course. “True,” she added, “the door between these two rooms should seldom be shut, but the fact that there are two rooms relieves of many temptations, and prevents the familiarity, which even in married life breeds contempt.”
Continuing, she said, “That many marriages are little better than licensed prostitution, seems a hard thing to say; but when the lower nature is petted and indulged at the expense of the higher, it is a just thing to say, however harsh it may seem. In such cases the higher nature becomes more and more dwarfed, the animal nature more and more dominant.” (Drake, What a Young Wife Ought to Know, pp. 84-89.)
Even in marriage, the Victorians reduced the sexual relationship to an animalistic, lower life instinct. Viewing marital sexual contact as licensed prostitution, many women found it necessary to “forgive” their husbands' sexual appetites apart from the desire to father children. Stall carried Dr. Drake's solution one step further. He admonished the husband to present his wife with the key to her bedroom to protect herself from his uncontrolled “amorous propensities.”
Stall also campaigned for separate beds and bedrooms with, “Great benefit would be derived from avoiding the sexual excitement which comes daily by the twice-repeated exposure of undressing and dressing in each other's presence, and being in close bodily contact for a period of one-third of the hours of each day, for four months in a year, and for twenty years to those who have lived together for a period of sixty years.”
Imagine! Twenty years of sleeping in the same bed after sixty years of marriage! The Victorians knew no greater danger! Not only might the couple arouse improper emotions, but Stall also warned, “The stronger is likely to absorb the vital and nervous force of the weaker. And also the equalization of magnetic elements, which, when diverse in quantity and quality, augment physical attraction and personal affection.” Stall continued, “If the thought is permitted to centre upon the sexual relation the blood will be diverted from the brain and the muscles, and the entire man will suffer because of the depletion and drain which comes as an inevitable result.” (Stall, What a Young Husband Ought to Know, pp. 98-101.) In addition to ignorance of the spiritual nature of the sexual relationship, gross ignorance of the human body, as well, caused many men and women to lose respect for the sexual union.
In his book What Everyone Knew About Sex Explained in the words of Orson Squire Fowler and Other Victorian Moralists, William M. Dwyer said one of the prominent doctors of the day warned young men to take several months to a year after marriage to prepare their brides for sexual intercourse. The doctor cited a case where a young man made love to his bride on their wedding night only to repulse her forever with the physical side of marriage. This, the doctor claimed, caused childless marriages.
Another doctor encouraged men to set aside a certain hour every day for “love-play.”
“For intercourse?” someone asked.
“No!” the answer resounded, “sex should be reserved for rare times.” Many doctors even went so far as to recommend the months of August and September for sexual intercourse. They reasoned that the resulting child would be born around May, or the spring-time when all the earth comes to life. (William M. Dwyer, What Everyone Knew About Sex Explained in the Words of Orson Squire Fowler and Other Victorian Moralists [New York: Bell Publishing Co., 1972], pp. 42-44.)
The respectable woman did her duty to her husband by bearing him children. After that, the considerate man occupied himself with nobler things. If the man continued to seek unnecessary sexual contacts with his wife, he surely paid a high penalty. He reaped a loveless marriage full of bitterness and resentment as the wages of his attempts to provide the union with physical love.
No matter how great the ignorance of these reputed doctors, God declared the truth about what constituted animalistic behavior:
II Pet. 2:12: “But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, . . . ”
In the context of sexual immorality, Peter described those who, like unreasoning animals, followed sensuality (vs. 2), reveled in the daytime (vs. 13) with eyes full of adultery (vs. 14), and enticed others by fleshly desires (vs. 28). In other words, people who engaged in sexual activity outside marriage turned the sexual embrace into an animalistic union.
In other passages, God affirmed that the sexually immoral person, not the husband or wife, gave in to animal instinct. For example, Jer. 5:7-8 said, “They committed adultery and trooped to the harlot's house. They were well-fed lusty horses, each one neighing after his neighbor's wife.” Jude 10 described the sexually immoral person as an unreasoning animal. Then Rev. 22:15 lumped sexually immoral people with dogs, sorcerers, murderers, idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.
While God extols the virtues of married sexual intercourse, He pictures unlawful relationships as animalistic. Animals, whether human or brute, let their sexual organs lead them as they go from one sexual partner to another as the urge calls them. Certainly, any man, who engages in adultery, needs to repent and to seek his wife's forgiveness for his animal-type behavior. On the other hand, a woman who fails to satisfy her husband's God-given sexual desires, also needs to repent and ask for her husband's forgiveness for her ungodly behavior.
Victorian concepts, for the most part, reversed God's order for sexual conduct. The decree of the Victorians that loving husbands yielded to their animalistic and lower nature when they enjoyed the embrace of love with their wives came from man-not God.
Women Viewed as Totally Depraved
The Victorian moralists struggled to balance the strong sexual desires of men with their religious dogmas. This created many dilemmas for both men and women. Stall demonstrated this paradox without even realizing it when he momentarily praised the sexual embrace:
To this universal, God-given passion, man owes his love of color, his love of beauty and sweetness in art and music, his love of rhythm in poetry, of grace in form, in painting, in sculpture; and from it not only springs the love of the beautiful, but even the perception and recognition of all which is pleasing and lovely.
This is the emotion that strengthens every faculty, quickens every power, animates, modifies, ennobles, purifies and sweetens the entire being, and makes our life upon earth, when directed by godly purposes, the unfolding and enriching of those nobler powers of the soul which are to find their fullest fruition and perfection in heaven itself. . . .
While God has meant that reason should rule over passion, and that every sexual impulse should yield to other requirements and activities, yet He has wisely purposed that these leadings of our nature should be pronounced and strong. If these sentiments and emotions were not strong-very strong indeed-no man, knowing the risks and dangers which are liable to arise because of incompatibility of temper, mistaken estimates of physical, intellectual and moral qualifications would take upon himself the responsibilities, incur the risks, augment his expenses, and assume the far-reaching obligations which are involved when two are united, “for better or for worse,” in indissoluble bonds for life. (Stall, What a Young Husband Ought to Know, pp. 27-28.)
After pointing out the beauty a man's sexual desire adds to his life and how it motivates him to take on the responsibilities and possible disappointments of marriage, on the next page Stall added a severe warning:
If a man looks upon marriage as an easy means of securing self-indulgence, as affording a safe and lawful means for unbridled gratification, he is doomed to disappointment and to misery. If passion is to be enthroned where God ordained that none but love should reign, then anarchy with all its attendant horrors must, and surely will, desolate the heart, the home and the life; for lust can filch but cannot enjoy the pleasures and blessings of this heaven-ordained relation, which are reserved only for the pure, who live under the domain and rule of love and reason. (Stall, What a Young Husband Ought to Know, p. 29.)
While proclaiming the virtues of love, the Victorians continually tried to prevent the natural outcome of a close, emotional, warm friendship between a husband and wife-the delights of physical union. These authorities seemed totally ignorant of a simple fact recognized by most doctors and psychiatrists today: It is very difficult to share a warm, affectionate, considerate, and tender relationship with a husband or a wife without sexual love to sustain the emotional outlay to the other.
Stall further proclaimed that if men of strong sexual desires thought that in marriage “the grossest lust would have the sanction of law,” in effect, these men “lay traps for the ruin of innocent and unsuspecting girls, men who invade the sanctity of home, and whose course through life is like the slimy trail of a venomous serpent, are unfit for marriage-they are unfit to be regarded even as men.” (Stall, What a Young Husband Ought to Know, pp. 62-63.)
In opposition to Paul's admonition in I Corinthians 7 to get married to satisfy strong sexual desires, Stall preached that a man, who looked to his wife for sexual satisfaction, did so at the risk of dire consequence:
Such a husband destroys the amiability of his wife, renders her weak and nervous, converts her into an invalid, and imposes upon himself large financial outlays for medical advice and attendance. Such a husband deliberately, but not always knowingly, consumes and destroys the physical qualities which made the wife attractive to him, and destroys the very foundation upon which all happiness in the home must rest. (Stall, What a Young Husband Ought to Know, p. 131.)
Even if the wife readily engaged in sexual relations, historian Reay Tannahill says that often failed to satisfy the husband's sexual needs:
It was not altogether surprising that the gentle and submissive Victorian wife should have been thought of as undersexed. Her repressed upbringing, the refinement and “spirituality” that were forced upon her, and her ignorance of physiology all helped to make her so, and even a woman who was not physically revolted by intercourse needed very delicate handling if she were to enjoy the experience. It was a task for which few Victorian husbands were equipped. They had their own problems, their own inhibitions, and making love to “the angel of the house” in the awareness that she was concealing a gently-bred disgust was scarcely conducive to a satisfactory performance. (Tannahill, Sex in History, p. 355.)
Consequently, husbands walked a thin line of trying to satisfy their God-given sexual needs without disgusting their wives or pushing them into invalidism. As a natural outcome of being forced to bury their lawful sexual needs, but not able to deny their passions, men looked down on women and despised them. After all, to their way of thinking, women created the source of their misery. Women, on the other hand, indulged in the same thoughts toward men. Stall accurately described the reason behind this low view of the opposite sex, but his prejudices against the sexual relationship prevented him from drawing the logical conclusions:
He finds an unreciprocal wife, doubts her affection for him, because, with his masculine nature, he cannot conceive of a love unblended with passion. She, in her defrauded womanhood [supposedly because of his sexual desires-PRD], feels aggrieved and debased by any conjugal approach-especially by an enforced one-and finds it equally hard to understand how affection and passion can be united; the one [affection-PRD] she knows to be so self-forgetful and denying, and the other [passion-PRD] she has such abundant cause for believing utterly selfish and rapacious. (Stall, What a Young Husband Ought to Know, p. 136.)
The doctors' insistence that married couples should engage in sexual intimacy only for bearing children compounded the problem. Even though doctors knew about birth control at this time, they refused to give the information to the public. To them, only people of loose character engaged in sexual intercourse apart from desiring children. The best advice some doctors would offer was, “Before going to bed, drink a glass of cold water and don't touch another thing all night.”
Yet before the time of Christ people understood the rhythm method, used condoms made from sheep bladders, inserted cloth soaked in acacia and honey or lemon peels into the vagina as natural spermicides, and made crude diaphragms. While these methods offered some protection, others carried questionable benefits. For example, some cultures used parings from a mule's hoof, foam from a camel's mouth, or even holding one's breath. (Annette Francis Benjamin and Bry Benjamin, M.D., The New Facts of Life for Women [Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1969], pp. 4-5.)
As a result of this unnecessary ignorance of birth control, women dreaded the sexual approaches of their husbands and the frequent pregnancies that often followed. One such woman lamented, “I felt quickening, and for the first time I knew I was pregnant again. I was abased, humiliated! The sense of degradation that filled my soul cannot be described.”(Stall, What a Young Husband Ought to Know, p. 172.) Both Stall and Dr. Drake harped on the evils and frequency of abortion. They recorded the testimonies of women who felt guilty for using abortion to end recurring, unwanted pregnancies, but who felt driven to it by the lusts of their husbands. The doctors stated that many tombstones of young women ought to read that she died because of the unbridled passion of her husband and the quackery of the abortionists.
Even though the doctors denied women access to birth control information, many women practiced birth control by abortion through use of drugs and mechanical means. While the doctors deplored this murder, their ignorance magnified the problem as a real villain in this sad period of history. These women knew firsthand the grievous plight of the woman that Jesus healed in Mark 5:25-34. The Bible said she “had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse.”
Frequent adulteries on the part of the husbands resulted from the doctors' position on birth control and the purpose of sexual love. Failing to see the connection, the doctors simply decried the high incidence of gonorrhea and syphilis in wives as a result of their husbands' unfaithfulness. Ignoring Paul's simple solution in I Cor. 7:2, “but because of immoralities, let each man have his own wife,” they chastised the frustrated husbands whom they had driven out of their wives' beds. (Stall, What a Young Husband Ought to Know, pp. 116-117.)
As a result of this medical, moral, and political pressure, Victorian women condemned sexual desire as animalistic and tried to lift themselves above it. Yet their ignorance of human nature and animals made the women more animalistic than their husbands. Bell explains:
The human female has a very unique distinction among female animals. “As far as can be discovered, only the human female is capable of orgasm, or reaching a sexual climax.” Furthermore, “the anatomic structures which are most essential to sexual response and orgasm are nearly identical in the human female and male.” This means that, at least in theory, males and females, equally, have the capacity for achieving sexual satisfaction. (Bell, Marriage and Family Interaction, p. 305.)
Ironically, women, in trying to keep the animal out of their intimate relations by limiting sexual intercourse to procreation, did exactly the opposite; for female animals permit sexual contact only for procreation. By refusing to express love and devotion sexually, the wives engaged in sexual intimacy for the only purpose animals make of it-procreation.
Consequently, if a husband and wife had used their bodies to speak a beautiful language of love, they would have lifted the sexual embrace out of the common use of animals and placed it on a high level of communication. God gave only human beings the ability to seek sexual satisfaction apart from procreation. While not directly limited in sexual conduct, male animals mate only with females ready for fertilization. With both animals and Victorians, the female limited sexual intercourse to procreation.
Since the Victorians taught that the sexual act was purely an animal or physical instinct with men, women didn't understand the emotional aspect for men. Therefore, because women didn't satisfy their husbands' emotional needs and forced men to take sexual contact from them, the sexual union failed to satisfy the men's deep need for physical and emotional love. Men, frustrated by their Victorian wives, transferred their disappointment to their wives by demeaning womanhood and all it stood for.
What a dilemma for the Victorian woman! If she yielded to nature and allowed her true loving self to surface and enjoyed the sexual embrace, religious leaders, doctors, and probably her own husband condemned her as being a loose woman. If she wanted to please God, the false religious teachings of the day convinced her that all sexual contact carried an element of sin so she did not dare let herself enjoy sexual love.
Surely, many a woman wanted to do right. But the conflict between what the religious and medical leaders taught and her husband's need for emotional and physical love caused many a wife to be despised by her husband. Often she returned that lack of respect a hundred fold to her undeserving husband. The way out of the dilemma was accurate knowledge of the word of God which pictured the woman as an active participant in lovemaking through the promises of the Shulammite:
Song of Sol. 7:10-12: “I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me. Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country, let us spend the night in the villages. Let us rise early and go to the vineyards; let us see whether the vine has budded and its blossoms have opened, and whether the pomegranates have bloomed. There I will give you my love.”
All the way through the Song of Solomon, the maiden, not the Shepherd, spoke freely of physical love. She told the King she would enjoy making love with the Shepherd (7:9). She promised the Shepherd she would give her love freely to him after marriage (7:12). She even told him she would kiss him outdoors if given a chance (8:1). On the other hand, the Shepherd limited his sexual statements to rejoicing in her purity (4:12-15). The Bible does not picture the woman as a timid body lying there for her husband to fulfill his lust on. Rather, God pictures the wife as initiating love and eagerly satisfying her husband's deepest desires and needs.
Through Victorianism, sexual intercourse became a weapon for husbands and wives to use in the bedroom. Ignorance of the God who created the woman meet for satisfying all her husband's needs led to many unhappy results for men and women. To the shame of both men and women, the view of women as totally depraved came from man-not God.
Children Viewed as Totally Depraved
The continual degradation of sexual intimacy even among married couples influenced attitudes in all realms related to sexual conduct. Women talked about the beastliness of their husbands who forced themselves and pregnancy upon them, and men in return despised womanhood. With religion's view of children as sinful products of a sinful relationship between their parents, the stage was set for the degradation of children.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Dr. Drake claimed that “idiots, dwarfs, paranoiacs, cranks, the feeble-minded, and epileptics” came from too much passion in the bedroom. Furthermore, Dr. Drake cited examples of women who gave birth to sickly children because their husbands insisted on sexual intercourse during their pregnancies. To ensure bearing a beautiful, healthy child, she admonished prospective parents to refrain from intimate relations until after the child's birth. Dr. Drake also thought it best to continue to refrain from relations during the whole time the child nursed. Otherwise, the child may pay for the father's lack of control. (Drake, What a Young Wife Ought to Know, pp. 88-90.)
Pronouncing judgment on such a man, Stall raved, “A man acting out the licentiousness of his nature with his wife during gestation is worse than a brute-in fact, there is no species of the animal to which he can be compared, unless it be to the tobacco, whiskey-soaked hanger-on to a rum-shop-whose life is an epitome of tobacco, whiskey and licentiousness.” (Stall, What a Young Husband Ought to Know, p. 211.)
The doctrine of the total depravity of little children not only affected the child's birth and spiritual, physical, and mental nature in the eyes of his parents, but also influenced his upbringing. Montagu reveals the medical profession's attitude at that time toward babies in his book Touching:
America, however, was massively under the influence of the dogmatic teachings of Emmett Holt, Sr., Professor of Pediatrics at New York Polyclinic and Columbia University. Holt was the author of a booklet, The Care and Feeding of Children, which was first published in 1894 and was in its 15th edition in 1935. During its long reign it became the supreme household authority on the subject, the “Dr. Spock” of its time. It was in this work that the author recommended the abolition of the cradle, not picking the baby up when it cried, feeding it by the clock, and not spoiling it with too much handling, and, while breastfeeding was the regimen of choice, bottle-feeding was not discounted. In such a climate the idea of tender, loving care would have been considered quite “unscientific,” so that it wasn't even mentioned. (Montagu, Touching, p. 94.)
Thus, the emotional coldness of Victorian morals extended into the nursery as mothers readily accepted the bottle as a replacement for breast-feeding. Likewise, many older women lament that they never played with their babies because “too much love might spoil the child.”
However, in the late 1930s some doctors began to recognize that children needed physical attention to thrive medically and recommended holding and “mothering” babies. These doctors began to warn about the damage done to children by a lack of warm, affectionate love in the home. Some time later, Dr. Spock used his influence to give breastfeeding a respectable name once again.
The doctrine of the total depravity of little children could have been stopped before it condemned countless little lives to emotional barrenness, both spiritually and in the home, by simply turning to the Bible. Through inspiration, God preserved a portrait of a loving mother as He described His own love for the Israelites:
Isa. 66:11-13: “That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts; that you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom . . . and you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees. As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; . . . ”
Modern doctors recognize that little children require physical love in the form of being carried, cuddled, and cooed to in order to grow properly both physically and mentally. Nursing is a perfect way to bestow this type of love on a child. While many parents now give this type of love to their children, many adults living today were deprived of this attention in their childhood and still bear the scars as a result.
God created little children as a reward for their parents-to be enjoyed, loved, and boasted about:
Ps. 127:3-5: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they shall not be ashamed, when they speak with their enemies in the gate.”
Indeed, from birth on, children should be a blessing and a great source of pleasure and pride to their parents. The fruit of the womb rewards husbands and wives for their labors on earth. Thus, the beliefs that degraded children to being the result of a nasty relationship and unworthy of too much attention came from the imagination of men-not God.
Victorian Morals Today
“Nobody believes those silly things anymore,” many object. While modern people may not consciously believe Victorian morals, the effects of those beliefs continue to victimize sexual love and to cheat countless couples out of the truly happy sexual relationship God desires. Full blown Victorian morals thrived just a few generations back-even among people still living. As a result, few people have escaped completely unwounded from the victimization of Victorian morals, for its evil continues to take many forms:
Sexually Cold Women
The medical world no longer claims women are incapable of experiencing orgasms. In fact, many doctors conduct experiments that prove the woman's response equals the man's. However, many women who desire orgasms fail because of ingrained Victorian concepts. They harbor feelings of being evil or even an aversion to the supposedly “beastly” nature of men.
Many young women feel degraded and unwomanly when their husbands want them to initiate the act of love. Yet the Shulammite in the Song of Solomon pleads, “Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country, let us spend the night in the villages.” She enters the marriage relationship while promising, “There I will give you my love.” The Shulammite will not be timid in either receiving or in giving sexual love.
Sexually Cold Men
Even in the modern intellectual age these false concepts continue to plague both men and women. In 1963 Bell cited the research of Burgess and Wallin who “found that ten percent of the husbands and twenty-six percent of the wives entered marriage with sex attitudes of disgust, aversion, or indifference.” (Bell, Marriage and Family Interaction, p. 311.) The women's bad attitudes toward the sexual relationship outnumbered the men only two and a half times to one.
However, the figure is old and doesn't represent the increase for men as a result of women throwing off some of their Victorian morals and daring to enjoy the sexual embrace as God intends. The new-found sexual freedom for modern wives has exposed an even greater percentage of husbands who are plagued by Victorian views of sexual love. These husbands aren't ready for a wife eager to love and to be loved because they've always heard that only immoral women enjoy the sexual act. For other husbands, the sexual union is just a quick mechanical process of doing their duty or relieving their tensions. For these men, the Victorian cry of sin drowns out the Bible's picture of love in the joining of two bodies.
In the past, the sexual coldness of women in general successfully hid this aversion toward sexual pleasure in many husbands. Bell predicted in 1963 that, “In the future, the number of marital sexual problems involving a lack of satisfaction for the woman will possibly increase.” (Bell, Marriage and Family Interaction, p. 315.) Unfortunately, Bell's prediction came true as shown by quotations in the introductory chapter, “Inhibited Sexual Desire and Pleasure.” Men now equal women in regard to problems stemming from their view of the “symbolic” nature of sexual intercourse.
One preacher, who does extensive marriage counseling with both men and women, says that it's unbelievable how many men either divorce or consider divorcing their wives because of their wives' excessive prudery in the marriage bed. The same problem causes equally large numbers of women either to divorce or to consider divorcing their husbands. Needlessly, Victorian beliefs poison and destroy the tranquillity and sexual harmony between many modern husbands and wives.
Emotionally Cold Children
Fortunately, many young mothers today reject the child-rearing superstitions and falsehoods of the Victorian era and dare to nurse and play with their children. Unfortunately, many adults today never learned to love as an infant at their mother's breasts as the Shulammite says she did in the Song of Solomon.
Today many fathers participate in the birth and care of their children. But mothers are not the only cold parents. Other men act just as cold as Victorian women, or even colder. They still believe it is unmanly to actively participate in child rearing. Both mothers and fathers often don't know how to respond emotionally or affectionately to their children. Their children suffer as a result. Doomed unless they learn different later, these children grow up to repeat the cycle of emotional coldness.
Emotionally Crippled Adults
When a Victorian mother stayed in the home, her constant contact with her child counteracted some of the harm of her coldness. On the other hand, observant counselors frequently note that working outside the home often magnified a woman's emotional void. Many children brought up in the homes of working Victorian mothers spend their adulthood struggling to overcome the deep emotional scars.
Some of these children lose the battle by pursuing promiscuous lives to find the love missing at home. Others numb their senses with drugs and alcohol to avoid the pain of loneliness. Still others cling desperately to anyone who pays attention to them, never really growing up. Yet others just withdraw into their shells as loners and inflict further emotional pain on their spouses and children who also grow up emotionally crippled.
Victorian mothers and fathers frequently look to their children for satisfaction of emotional needs designed to be fulfilled by a loving spouse. Unfortunately for the parents, children grow up and get married. This leaves the parents in the lurch because now they don't have anyone at home to satisfy their deep emotional needs-just another adult unable to express love.
Parents clinging to their children cause all kinds of marriage problems for their children. They destroy the child's marriage if they succeed in drawing his affection away from the spouse back to them. If the child succeeds in cutting the bond in spite of the parents, resentment and frustration often compete with the child's love for them. In desperation, many children move far away from their parents so that they can't cling so much. However, with telephones, cars, jets, and letters, some Victorian parents never learn to respect the marriage relationship of their children, always remaining a problem.
Years of a loveless marriage don't automatically turn into a paradise vacation with the first retirement check. Two people who failed at expressing affection in their younger years together usually think they're too old to change in retirement. Consequently, both the husband and the wife suffer through the bitter left over years starved for love. If they succeed in using their married children as surrogate-mates, they may not even notice their misery as each goes his separate way.
The Song of Solomon and Proverbs protected the Jews for fifteen hundred years before Christ came. Solomon's words could have continued to protect Christians for two thousand more years. Few listened. Instead, religious leaders chose to make themselves and their children and their grandchildren after them miserable with the great sexual victimization of Roman Catholicism and Victorian morals. If they'd lost their life savings, future generations wouldn't have noticed or cared. But they gave up their love lives, thereby affecting generations after them.
For example, they cheated their children out of a loving home; who in turn cheated the grandchildren out of emotional stability; who cheated the great-grandchildren out of the ability to express affection; who cheated the great-great grandchildren out of the proper attitude for fully enjoying the sexual relationship; who cheated the great-great-great grandchildren out of a happy marriage; who cheated . . . and cheated . . . and cheated . . . and who continue to cheat young children out of emotional nourishment; who will when their turns come continue the victimization of marriage and sexual love.
A few tried to escape the victimization of Victorian morals, but the majority simply moved into the bed in the next room either physically or emotionally. Today, a few recognize the deception and are joyfully moving back into the marriage bed. For many others, the victimization goes on through ignorance of God's design for the sexual relationship. And it will go on for many more generations in many families.
Will the victimization of Victorian morals ever completely stop? Probably not, but God shows the way that brings about fulfillment to all who apply His plan to their love lives.
The Victims of Victorian Morals by Patsy Rae Dawson. Copyright © 1996, 2007 Patsy Rae Dawson LLC. All rights reserved.
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This essay is chapter 3 in Marriage: A Taste of Heaven, Vol. II: God's People Make the Best Lovers by Patsy Rae Dawson. Vol. II examines how the husband's and wife's minds and bodies join perfectly together to speak a beautiful language of love in each other's arms that transcends spoken language. Your marriage will never be the same after you read this stimulating volume.