When to Wed
The overly optimistic reader of Plain Facts might have anticipated an end to all this sexual negation with the taking of a spouse. Not a bit of it! Dr. J.H. Kellogg's approach to sex is just as severe and joyless within the bounds of matrimony as without. And this general truth about Puritan antisexualism is something the casual observer of American sex mores fails to realize: that in restrictive sexual attitudes that persist in our present-day society have their origins in a puritanical period of a few decades ago in which all sexual interest and desires were considered depravity inspired by the Devil.
Kellogg counsels against early marriage—not for the sound social or psychological reasons that might be advanced for such an idea—but as another means of putting off the ugly business of sex just as long as possible.
Since he precludes the possibility of premarital sex in the morally upright, the postponement of marriage means the postponement of sex, and he underscores this point by offering a fascinating physiological explanation of why women should never contemplate marriage before the age of 24. "Physiology," he says, "fixes with accuracy the earliest period of which marriage is admissible. This period is that at which the body attains complete development, which is not before 20 for the female, and 24 in the male. Even though the growth may be completed before these ages, ossification of the bones is not fully effected, so the development is incomplete."
This prominent American medical authority then proceeds to explain why it is hazardous and foolhardy to contemplate marriage before your bones are fully ossified. Under the heading, "Application of the Law of Heredity," the doctor states, "A moment's consideration of the physiology of heredity will disclose a sufficient reason why marriage should be deferred until the development of the body is wholly complete. The matrimonial relation implies reproduction.... The perfection of the new being [offspring], then must be largely dependent on the integrity and perfection of the sexual elements [of the parents]. If the body [of either parent] is still incomplete, the reproductive elements must also be incomplete; and, in consequence, the progeny must be equally immature."
Since Dr. Kellogg devotes several pages elsewhere in this guide to sexual happiness to describing in some detail the assorted monsters, cretins, dwarfs and Mongolian idiots that are sometimes sired by seemingly normal parents, the reader is not forced to depend upon his own meager imaginings in contemplating what the immature, incomplete, or not fully developed child of too-young parents might be like.
Premature sex is equally harmful to the participating couple, the doctor goes on to explain, and he enumerates:
"1. During the development of the body, all its energies are required in perfecting the various tissues and organs. There is no material to be spared for any foreign purpose. [And it must be clear now that for Dr. J.H. Kellogg, nothing is so "foreign" as sex.]
"2. The reproductive act is the most exhaustive of all vital acts. Its effect upon an undeveloped person is to retard growth, weaken the constitution, and dwarf the intellect.
"3. The effects upon the female are even worse than those upon the male; for, in addition to the exhaustion of nervous energy, she is compelled to endure the burdens and pains of child-bearing when utterly unprepared for such a task, to say nothing of her unfitness for the other duties of a mother. With so many girl-mothers in the land, is it any wonder that there are so many thousands of unfortunate individuals who never seem to get beyond childhood in their development? Many a man at 40 years is as childish in mind, and as immature in judgment, as a well-developed lad of 18 would be. They are like withered fruit plucked before it was ripe; they can never become like the mellow and luscious fruit allowed to mature properly. They are unalterably molded; and the saddest fact of all is that they will give their children the same imperfections; and the children will transmit them to another generation, and so the evil will go on increasing, unless check by extinction."
At this point the thoroughly shaken young man and maid, yet contemplating matrimony in granddad's day, might have set aside their copies of Plain Facts and wondered, half aloud (to themselves, of course, for one would never have considered reading a book on such a subject in the presence of the opposite sex), whether the early 20s was really long enough to delay—perhaps it would be wiser to wait, well, with the picture Dr. Kellogg has been painting, perhaps indefinitely....
Kellogg offers no reassuring word to offset such fears in the innocent. The best he can manage additionally on the subject of premature marriage is: "It is probable that even the ages of 20 and 24 are too early for those persons whose development is uncommonly slow." After digesting this book, the development of a great many was slowed appreciably. It takes far less than this to instill in the impressionable the seeds that will one day produce the bitter fruits of impotence and frigidity.
The chapter devoted to wedded bliss is titled, in Kellogg's customary upbeat fashion, "Marital Excesses." The author commences this section with the declaration: "It seems to be a generally prevalent opinion that the marriage ceremony removes all restraint from the exercise of the sexual functions." He devotes the rest of the chapter to tearing this supposition to shreds.
Dr. Kellogg gives us this cheery appraisal of humankind: "Man, in whatever condition we find him, is more or less depraved. This is true as well of the most cultivated and refined ladies and gentlemen of the great centers of civilization, as of the misshapen denizens of African jungles, or the scarcely human natives of Australia and Tierra del Fuego. His appetites, his tastes, his habits, even his bodily functions are perverted." In many respects, the doctor concludes, civilized man is the most perverted of all.
Man demonstrates his depravity, according to the author, whenever he engages in sex for anything but reproduction. Reproduction is normally possible at only one time of the month—in the middle of the female menstrual cycle—and that, proclaims Dr. J.H. Kellogg, M.D., L.L.D., F.A.C.S., is the only time in which sexual intercourse between husband and wife is proper, natural and moral.
He then proceeds to "prove" this statement—not, he assures us, on the basis of morality or "theory," but by relying solely on "established physiological facts by quotations from standard medical authors...." To do this, he incorrectly presupposes that what is natural in the lower animals must also be natural in man, relying upon "standard medical authors" as misinformed on animal behavior as he; or, as in the example below, basing erroneous conclusions on accurate data.
Kellogg quotes John C. Dalton, whom he describes as "one of the most distinguished and reliable of modern physiologists," adding, "the facts which he states being confirmed by all other physiologists." Dalton says: "'It is a remarkable fact that the female of these animals will allow the approaches of the male only during and immediately after the oestrual period; that is, just when the egg is recently discharged, and ready for impregnation. At other times, when sexual intercourse would be necessarily fruitless, the instinct of the animal leads her to avoid it; and the concourse of the sexes is accordingly made to correspond in time with the maturity of the egg and its aptitude for fecundation.'"
What Dalton states is true; what Kellogg concludes from the statement is entirely false. The phenomenon described by Dalton is true only in the lower forms of animal life, where the sex act is dependent almost entirely upon instinct. It is not true if any of the primates, including man. But Kellogg proceeds as though it were.
He is thus able to reach the following faulty conclusions:
"1. The fact that in all animals but the human species the act can be performed only when reproduction is possible, proves that in the animal kingdom in general the sole object of the function is reproduction.
"2. The fact that the males of other animals besides man in which the sexual organs are in a state of constant development do not exercise those organs except for the purpose of reproduction is proof of the position that the constant development in man is not a warrant for their constant use.
"3. The general law that the reproductive act is performed only when desired by the female is sufficient ground for supposing that such should be the case with the human species also."
And having concluded that it is the woman alone who properly establishes the time for coitus, Kellogg adds to this comedy of errors the statement: "This desire for sexual congress naturally exists in the female only at or immediately after the time of periodical development."
Kellogg knew full well that a great many women desire sex at other times besides the middle of their menstrual cycle, when impregnation is most likely to occur (on or about the 14th day, in an average 28-day cycle, beginning from the first day of menstruation). But he was careful to insert the word "naturally" in his statement, and any examples of feminine sexual appetite at other times of the month were damned as unnatural, immoral, and a further evidence of human depravity.
Sex is for procreation, not for pleasure, concludes the doctor, evidencing a most unpleasant bedside manner; and modesty and chastity are just as important within the marriage bower as elsewhere. It becomes clear in this chapter that Dr. Kellogg actually considers all sex evil; marital sex, rigidly restrained, is a necessary evil for the reproduction of the race, but an evil nevertheless.
He quotes approvingly another writer whom he does not name, who states: "It is a common belief that a man and woman, because they are legally united in marriage, are privileged to the unbridled exercises of amativeness. This is wrong. Nature, in the exercise of her laws, recognizes no human enactments, and is as prompt to punish any infringement of her laws in those who are legally married, as in those out of the bonds. Excessive indulgence between the married produces as great and lasting evil effects as in the single man or woman, and is nothing more or less than legalized prostitution.' "