Saturday, September 29, 2007

Marriage and Morals, Chapter 19

Chapter 19 (pages 274-287): “Sex and Individual Well-Being”

“Conventional morality begins its operations by the imposition of taboos in childhood [p. 274].” These taboos involve genital touching, talk of excrement, and non-private excretion. Genital touching sometimes is met by threats of castration or insanity. “The result of this teaching is that most children in their earliest years have a profound sense of guilt and terror which is associated with sexual matters [p. 275].” Russell thinks that even sophisticated adult males have been so scarred by these childhood experiences that they would be nervous about committing adultery during a thunderstorm. Sadism and masochism (beyond the normal, mild levels) are another result of the guilt associated with sex during childhood.

The tone used to address a child caught masturbating is much more terrifying than that used for other childhood transgressions. So the child believes in the wickedness of masturbation, but continues to masturbate anyway: “the foundations are laid for a morbidness which probably continues through life [p. 277].” He persecutes those who are less successful at hiding their sin than he is. Children should not be taught in the manner of dancing bears, who first dance out of necessity because a floor is hot, and later dance when they hear the tune that they have associated with the hot floor. {Kids, similarly, are scolded for showing any consciousness of their sexual organ, and eventually the unavoidable consciousness makes them dance to the adults’ tune, “to the complete destruction of all possibility of a healthy or happy sexual life [p. 279].”)

Adolescence leads to more misery, as poorly informed boys find themselves filled with what they have been taught are wicked impulses. Boys who impose a stern self-control in keeping with the moral teachings, will end up being poor lovers for their wives. Boys who visit prostitutes will disassociate the carnal from the uplifting aspects of love, again leading to difficult relations with women. And the secrecy attendant upon affairs with women of their own class hinders “the development of stable relations [p. 282].”

Temporary, childless marriages among university students would be sensible; among other things, temporarily married students would be less likely to have sex obsession interfere with their work. They would gain experience, and not be burdened by a need for secrecy.

The conventional morality leads to many unmarried women who do not engage in sex, which leads to timidity and a “disapproval of normal people… [p. 283].” The timidity extends to the intellectual realm, and the restraint upon curiosity diminishes their intellects. A significant numerical excess of women over men “affords a very serious argument in favour of modifications of the conventional moral code [p. 284].”

Marriage under the traditional code is almost designed for unhappiness -- of a woman and her husband, “to make her unduly timid and him unduly sudden in the sexual approach [p. 284],” while mental companionship is also pressured against. Sexually, she is likely to be unsatisfied and he put off by the coldness he perceives in her. The “free and fearless” love that is best, love that is “compounded of body and mind in equal proportions [p. 286],” is hardly available in marriage under the traditional morality.

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