Tuesday, 21 March 2017



Sacred Ties and Slip-Knots.


Cant and Camouflage of Conventions.

There is a considerable amount of speculation going on at present concerning the changes which are expected as a result of "the greatest war of all times." Some enthusiasts predict a new social era, wherein the lion of capitalism will foregather amicably with the lamb of labor and all men shall be as brothers—neither robbing nor being robbed. A sort of economic elysium, where no one will have too much, and no one too little. Under such a social system each man will "do his bit" for the common weal, and in his spare time smoke the pipe of peace and plenty under his own fig trees, untroubled by tax-gatherers, debt-collectors, penny newspapers, or paranoiac politicians. Sin, or rather crime and criminals, will cease to exist—automatically wiped off the face of the earth. There will be nothing to sin or commit crimes for, these optimistic prophets point out, since want,
will be unknown save as a dim and unpleasant memory.
While all would hail such a desirable state of affairs with satisfaction, it is well to remember that there are two primal, or instinctive, wants—the food want or hunger, and sex hunger. And since man first shod his tail and started to walk on his hind legs, it is upon these two cravings that every social system has been built. Though food is the first essential, sex hunger is as equally an imperious and persistent craving, and plays such a part in determining the conditions of existence that it is difficult to distinguish which of the twin instincts is the dominant factor in shaping any system of society, it cannot be disputed that since Eve started industrial "problems" by condemning Adam to hustle for a crust—or its equivalent at the time of the eviction—the sex problem has caused man as much worry as the necessity of earning his bread by the sweat of his brow.
in all ages and in all climes, has ever been the prime disturbing factor and the chief source of annoyance to the superior animal—man. The feminine faculty for creating mischief has bred wars, instigated murders, and started rebellions. Since the days when she was clubbed into submission and dragged to the cave of her captor, she likes to feel that she has been mastered, conquered, and taken possession of by—she subconsciously reasons—one who can both protect and provide for her. Nor has this peculiar sort of pride diminished to any great extent under the stress of the alleged civilisation of more recent times. Although marriage by conquest has gone out of fashion, she still pines to be wooed and won, and likes to persuade herself that he who has stormed the citadel of her heart is
 The long-haired mate of man, taking her by and large, instinctively admires soldiers, athletes, and fighting men generally; and nothing so lowers a lover in a maiden's eyes than for him to be whipped in a personal encounter with a rival. Whether the best fighters make the best husbands and bread-winners—under modern conditions—is open to doubt. Natural selection possibly may be influenced by what the hereinbefore mentioned optimists call economic considerations. Yet, in vertebrates, it is an undeniable fact that sex and stoush run, so to speak, in double harness. The season of love is the season of battle, and when the fires of sexual ism burn low the torch of Mars flickers and grows dim. This biological peculiarity is referred to by Darwin in his "Descent of Man" where he remarks : "With social animals the young males have to pass through many a contest before they win a female, and the older males have to retain their females by renewed battles. They have, as in the case of mankind,
as well as their young from enemies of all kinds, and to hunt for their joint subsistence."
The highest among the social animals, modern man, while he may not have to fight with Nature's weapons, still has to struggle for his female, and, when he has got her, to hunt for their joint subsistence. In fact, he has to hunt so persistently that he is forced to delegate the duty of protecting her "from enemies of all kinds," to large and sinewy policemen whose labors are much lightened by the survival of superstitious beliefs and a firmly-fixed faith in the infallibility of the
of the day. The tendency of sexualism and slaughter to go hand-in-hand is noted, also by Dr. Alfred Russell Wallace, who says:
"Among the higher animals it is a very general fact that the males fight together for the possession of the females. This leads to the stronger or better-armed males be coming the parents of the next generation. Almost all male animals fight together, and from this very general phenomenon there necessarily results a form of natural selection which increases the vigor and fighting power of the male animal; the weaker being either killed, wounded, or driven away."
Whether the theory that
is the amalgam that unites the golden particles of physical perfection, rigor, bravery, and endurance, is subscribed to or not, it cannot be disputed that in the average female it is an instinctive belief that her sexual favors are a prize for which men must be compelled to struggle. From her knobby-kneed, angular-elbowed, bread-and-butter days the maiden's Prince Charming is ever a doughty doer of gallant deeds—he conquers giants, outwits his enemies, pulverises villains, and is in general an all-round holy terror to all wicked persons whose baleful influence, in the romantic damsel's imagination, prevents the union of two loving hearts. She strives by any and every means that feminine ingenuity can compass to make herself a prize. The birds of the air and the beasts of the forest are laid under contribution to decorate her body with furs and feathers. The bowels of the earth and the depths of the ocean are explored for precious metal and gems to adorn her person. Fashions are designed for the express purpose of providing her with raiment that
her physical charms. From her simpering "school-miss" days she is taught the tricks of provocation, the sly seductive arts that accentuate the lure of sex and arouse in men the passion for possession. Her whole aim in life, until time robs her of her sexual charm, is to make herself so attractive and desirable in the eyes of men that they will deem her favors a sort of victor's bays— the laurel wreath with which gracious Beauty decks the brow of the successful competitor.
While in the male sex hunger is satisfied by the gratification of the appetite, desire in the female is intensified by the stimulation of other instincts connected with the
 She is dominated by the maternal as well as the sexual instinct, and in her the call of sex is much more insistent than in man. Under the social conditions which prevailed up till the outbreak of war, sex-repression was forced upon unmarried women, and men were bred up in the quite erroneous belief that gifts which did not demand a certain amount of struggle and self-sacrifice were not worth having. And the supreme gift was the monopoly of a woman's sexual favors. That this mental dope—or instilled superstition, formed no part of the moral code of the ruling class has been abundantly exemplified by the periodical scandals provoked by the exposures of the prevalence of name-less vices among the idle rich. Suffering from surfeit, Sassiety folk sought to stimulate the sexual appetite by the means tersely forbidden in Leviticus, chap. 18, verses 22 23. But the perverted practices of "High" society may be dismissed as having no bearing upon the shaping of any social system. They are merely the scum that rises to the surface during the
 But it was of paramount importance that the majority of the people should hold fast to the belief that sex repression—until ecclesiastic or legal sanction was obtained— was a divine ordination. "Marriage is the basis of the family, the family is the basis of the State," and should marriage be superseded by some more satisfactory scheme of sex relationship, both the present social system and the State are doomed. Yet the marriage-tie has become more and more irksome to the bulk of the people under the conditions imposed upon them by modern civilisation. Woman's sex instinct in particular has never been permitted to find a full and free expression. As before mentioned, she had been taught to regard herself as a prize to be struggled for and sought after, and that inaccessibility was her most potent charm. After marriage her favors were monopolised by one man, and married life has been regarded by woman as her sole refuge, an asylum that offered a shelter from the storm and stress of the struggle for existence.
Yet notwithstanding the fact that an infraction of the moral code—insofar as it concerns the relations of the sexes—
in the case of a single girl, and forced upon a married woman the necessity of finding other means of securing food and shelter, sex repression in the unmarried, and conjugal fidelity in the married woman, has by no means worked out as the dour, dead-and-gone wowsers who invented our moral codes and social superstitions anticipated. Bastardy laws, and the right of a single woman to sue for prematernity expenses, and divorce laws and the right of a married woman to sue for reparation and maintenance, are merely the tardy recognition of a biological fact. Nature cannot be harnessed by codes, however cunningly contrived, nor can instinct be hoodwinked by the
As social and industrial conditions in Australia are mostly a reflex of those obtaining in England, the part now being played by the women of Britain is of more than passing interest. Since the outbreak of the war the "sacred bonds of wedlock" have become very elastic. So much so indeed that at the beginning of the present year more divorce petitions were filed in one month— January —than at any time since the passing of the Divorce Act. In February they were higher still, and each month since has shown a further increase. The petitions by husbands outnumber those by wives by five or six to one. And this astounding increase is not due to any sudden or unusual outbreak of immorality among the aristocracy or the idle rich. These petitions were almost all made under what is known as the "Poor Persons Rules" which have been introduced for the special purpose of dealing with
of the poorer or wage-earning class. In legal circles a still greater increase is anticipated and more accommodation is being asked for, and the appointment of additional Judges is urged.
 The British Parliament, alarmed no doubt by the swiftly growing tendency of the marriage tie to become a mere slip-knot appointed a Parliamentary committee to investigate and report on the possibilities of "Marriage Law Reform." With a perspicacity unusual in such bodies, the committee recognised the fact that the ease with which the knot was slipped rendered some sort of reform imperative. Getting married must be made as easy as getting unmarried, or the sanctity of the marriage-tie was doomed. The rigmarole of preliminary observances demanded by the law, and the itching palms of the pimps of piety, had made marriage a complicated, expensive, and tedious process, so much so that the wedding ceremony was beginning to be regarded as hardly worth the trouble and expense entailed. The committee therefore urged that—"At the present time while the manhood of the nation has been depleted,
—such as those which arise from legal technicalities and pecuniary circumstances—should be allowed to remain."
 Whether the committee's efforts to smooth the path to the matrimonial altar (or halter) will save that ancient piece of furniture from being scrapped is uncertain. An entirely new set of conditions has arisen in England since the outbreak of war. Woman has—to an extent hitherto undreamt of—displaced man in the industrial arena. She is doing practically the work of the nation. She will moreover have to keep on doing it as "the manhood of the nation has been depleted" to such an extent that it is estimated that only three girls in every ten in Britain have a chance of getting married. A healthy, well-poised woman who is industrially independent is not, now forced to
until, assisted by a parson, she can barter the sole right to her body for food and shelter. That she has recognised this is fairly evident, not only by the unprecedented boom in divorce, but also by the legislative anxiety concerning the marriage-tie. This anxiety is quite understandable when it is remembered that while, as mentioned, marriage is the basis of the family, and the family the basis of the State, its primary purpose was to obtain "legitimate" children. It was with the evolution of private property in lands, dwellings, and cattle, that the idea first originated of a permanent marriage between one man and one woman. Private possessions bred the desire that one's own children should inherit these possessions. Thus the custom of one man taking a woman and
of her genial favors sprang up, and has continued with little or no alteration down to the present day. Marriage as a divinely ordained institution is merely moonshine. The cant of monogamy in the churches is disproved by the facts of life in the divorce courts. Nor can the history of prostitution be separated from the history of private property in the earth and the fruits thereof. When the earth and its products came to be privately owned it naturally followed that large numbers of men and women were left without land, homes, or means of subsistence. The men, having nothing else, sold their labor, as also did those of the women whose sexual attraction did not appeal to the owners of things—the master class. Whatever may be the outcome of the
of the social scheme "after the war," it is fairly certain that marriage—as a monogamous institution—must undergo considerable modifications. Man, hitherto, has had a monopoly of the manufacturing of laws concerning matrimonial matters, and his handiwork entitles him neither to credit for his intelligence nor to respect for his humanity. When woman takes a hand—as she undoubtedly will in the near future—in the shaping of social affairs, she will find little in the existing, or past, legislation governing the relations of the sexes that will be useful as a guide except, perhaps, of what to avoid.

Truth (Melbourne ed.) (Vic. : 1914 - 1918), Saturday 12 October 1918, page 5

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