Margaret Sanger, "What Every Girl Should Know," 26 Jan 1913.
Published article. Source: New York Call, Jan. 26, 1913 , Margaret Sanger MicrofilmC16:0055 .
This is the tenth article in an 12-part series. For "Introduction," see Nov. 17, 1912, for "Girlhood-Part I" see Nov. 24, 1912, for "Girlhood-Part II" see Dec. 1, 1912, for "Puberty-Part I" see Dec. 8, 1912, for "Puberty-Part II" see Dec. 15, 1912, for "Sexual Impulse--Part I" see Dec. 22, 1912, for "Sexual Impulse-Part II" see Dec. 29, 1912, for "Reproduction--Part I" see Jan. 2, 1913, for "Reproduction--Part II" see Jan. 19, 1913, for "Some Consequences of Ignorance and Silence--Part II" see Feb. 2, 1913, and for "Some Consequences of Ignorance and Silence--Part III" see Mar. 2, 1913.
When the boy arrives at the age of puberty, he is in greater danger than a girl of being not only led astray by companions, but being actually sent into unclean living by those nearest and most interested in his welfare--HIS PARENTS.
The reason of this is that there has been and still is a false idea clinging to many parents that as soon as the boy has seminal emissions, it is a signal that he must have sexual relations or suffer in health.
That the seminal emissions are not harmful and that they grow less frequent as the boy grows older is a fact of which few mothers seem to be aware.
We cannot blame the mothers of the past for not informing their sons of this physical condition, for few of them knew it themselves. Mothers have been as ignorant as the boys of their sex functions as well as other functions of the body.
They accepted sickness, disease, and even death without a question, placing their faith and confidence entirely in the hands of the medical profession, who, like the rabbis and high priests made a church of their knowledge.
Fortunately this condition of affairs is changing, and the knowledge of the human body, which for ages has been most carefully locked within the medical libraries, is fast taking up its abode in the homes of the people--WHERE IT BELONGS.
It is said that in Japan the duty of a physician is to keep his patients in good health, receiving payment only when they are well.
Certainly this sounds like civilization.
Only a few weeks ago I had occasion to talk to a woman about her oldest son, whom I considered sick from overwork and lack of nourishment. She informed me, however, that this was not so, and whispered confidentially that he was 16 years old and "in that age when he needs a woman." She further remarked that she and "the papa" had talked it over with the result that the father had told the boy, when he had "the desire for a woman," that he, the father, "would give him money enough to get one."
Think of the boy's attitude toward women. Yet both parents had the sincerest wish to do their best for the boy; they gave the best advice they knew.
One of the most common errors I have found among people, even those educated in other lines of thought, is that the sexual organs will become useless unless they are used in early manhood. This is considered untrue by the best authorities on the subject, for it is known that the essential organs of reproduction are glands, not unlike the tear glands of the eyes or the milk glands of the breasts. The tear glands do not atrophy even if one does not cry for years, nor the milk glands during the entire period of reproduction. The same can be said of the sexual glands.
Another idea which is fast being uprooted is that the sexual act is an appetite, not unlike that of hunger or thirst, which must be fed by the boy sowing his "wild oats" first before settling down to marriage. It is now a recognized fact that it is no more necessary for a boy to "sow wild oats" than it is for a girl, and women are today demanding of men the same cleanliness of body and mind which men have heretofore considered necessary only in women.
It is now the unreserved opinion of the foremost medical men of the day that a man does not suffer in health from living a continent life, not is he a "mollycoddle" from so doing.
Hutchinson says: "The belief that the exercise of the sex functions is necessary to the health of the male at any age is a pure delusion, while before full maturity it is highly injurious."
Ruggles says:"Sexual abstinence is compatible with perfect health and tends to increase virility (which means manhood) through the reabsorption of the semen."
The ancient Teutons were aware of this for it is said that it was considered a most shameful thing for their young men to have sexual relations with a woman before his twenty-sixth year. From observation and experience they were convinced that men were not sexually mature much before this age, and no one will dispute they were strong and manly.
Statistics show that 65 per cent of men infected with venereal diseases (which means diseases due to sexual intercourse) are contracted between the ages of 15 and 21 years; and 25 per cent are contracted in the 21st and 23rd years.
Many writers claim that from statistics they have found men are not sexually mature before the twenty-fifth year, and women not before the twentieth year. Yet we find them both reeking with sexual diseases before this age.
According to Sanger's "History of Prostitution," it is claimed that three-eighths of the prostitutes enter the life before the twentieth year in New York City. It is safe to say this is a conservative estimate, for the more recent investigations in Chicago and other cities show a very much higher percentage. However, this, together with the statistics of venereal diseases mentioned above, show that it is before the boy and girl are sexually mature, that there is the greatest difficulty in directing the impulses and controlling the passions.
Chassaignac says that the more healthy and normal an individual is, the better can he not only control his passions, but the less likely is he to be disturbed by continence.
Just one more word on the subject of continence, and that is that it is not at all unusual to find men determined to remain continent until they find their ideal woman. Nor for athletes in training engaged in contests, nor for sailors on long sea voyages, and many others for long periods of time is continence impossible; in fact, they are the better for it.
This knowledge was not lost sight of in ancient times. Reference is made to it in the Bible, in the sending of women prostitutes into the camps of the enemy the night before an expected battle, in order to exhaust or decease the vitality of the soldiers.
When one finds an individual who realizes the force of the sexual impulses and knows how to conserve them, you usually find a person who does not drain or exhaust these forces, but uses them in bigger work.
Every girl should look upon the man who indulges freely in the sexual relations as a creature WITHOUT SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, as a prostitute far more degraded than the unfortunate girl who is compelled to sell her body to sustain life.
Every girl should know something about the physical makeup of a boy as well as of her own, for upon the well being of both does the future of the race depend. To be a real mother, a woman must understand a boy's emotions and development, if she would sympathize with him. And when she does understand, she will not send him to buy a woman for physical satisfaction.
It is the ignorance of parents together with the silence of the medical profession, which is largely responsible for the terrible spread of venereal diseases which exists today.
When a few years ago Dr.Morrow stated that there is more venereal diseases among innocent virtuous wives, than among prostitutes, this statement should have resounded throughout the walls of every home in the land, instead of which it is kept intact within the covers of large volumes, where only those wearing cap and gown have access to it.
It is claimed that out of 1,000 married men in New York 800 have gonorrhea, and 90 per cent of these have not been cured and can infect their wives. The result is that at least three out of every five married women in New York have gonorrhea.
This seems astounding and exaggerated, but the following quotation is taken from an authority and is considered quite conservative: "Over 90 per cent of our young men stray from the path of virtue before marriage; 60 per cent contract venereal diseases which are difficult to cure; more wives than prostitutes have venereal diseases; one-eighth of all diseases in New York hospitals are venereal; 20,000 infected persons walk the streets daily."
It seems to me that the above facts are sufficient to warrant every girl and boy knowing something about these diseases.
I shall tell you something of them next week.(To be continued.)
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