September 14, 2013

5 Outdated "Sex-Ed" lessons from 1926

Recently, while cleaning out the cellar, i found an old book which my mother claims to have bought at a yard sale. Published in 1926, this is the 38th edition of "Safe Counsel or Practical Eugenics", the first of which being published in 1893. Wow.
Flipping through the pages, I came to find just how different the education was back almost a century ago compared to what it is now. The book itself is actually insightful, and gives some good advice on staying healthy, loosing or gaining weight, and gives practical exercises to help you live longer. It has advice for finding a suitable match and for educating your children as well. So before I go any further, I just want to make it clear: there's noting wrong with the book! Just a few ideas that have really changed over the century.

1. Fighting the Modern evils
If these "Present day conditions" are seen as sins, I hate to think about what they would say about our society today (twerking, anyone?). The chapter begins by giving us how these evils are viewed by "Authorities", including Maurice B. Blumenthal, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney General, who says:

"If  jazz and illicit liquor are to continue as the characteristic enjoyments of society, to the exclusion of home life, the home will become a more near lodging place. Today the city population is seldom at home. It is in the restaurants, the dance halls, and the shadowy corners of the city, where self-indulgence and license are the key note. The morning promenade, the afternoon tea, and the night orgy take the other form from home and leave the children to work out their own social and moral destiny. If we could save the nation we must return to the home as the cornerstone of our society."

The author then adds that this should be more significant because Mr. Blumenthal is blind.

On the topic of Jazz, there is an entire section devoted to its evils. The author is convinced that jazz music has corrupted dancing, destroying any taste for real music. "Jazz and immoral dancing are so closely related as to make it difficult to separate them," It says.  "The dances take names from the animals and low things of life: this music finishes a vulgar atmosphere."
I am so glad they have never listened to Nicky Minaj. (I'd be glad if I never listened to her).
The book continues to say that Jazz leads to drinking and gambling. It urges us to raise the standard so young people return to more "refined dances".
Bobbed hair, make up, and short skirts (knee length) are a curse upon women kind. There is a strict warning not to wear too many cosmetic or we'll have wrinkles by the age of 30.

2. All I want to be is a bride

Need I say more?

3. "BabyLand is FairyLand"
This illustration can be found in the chapter... impregnation. Now, I don't know about you, but I'm not exactly sure that this is the image of pregnancy that people generally have. 
The chapter continues by telling us that "the pain is tolerable" and that the thought of bringing a healthy, superior child into the world to aid the human race in its betterment is enough to make the pain go away.

4. Masturbation, a terrible disorder.
In the chapter "on diseases and disorders," a large section is devoted to Masturbation. Mainly to the evils that it brings.
"Learned Gentlemen" such as Brockman, Marcuse and Berger have stated 50 to 99 % of adolescents "indulge in these secret habits". 
"But this is pure guesswork," the author of this book states. "Personally I don't believe the real percentage is nearly as high as even the lowest given estimates."
We are warned that we need to escape this sort of vice. It will ruin our life's ambition, and that of our children, and children's children. We must STOP, HERE, and NOW. (Yes, they wrote in an caps).

5.  Being a good spouse.
"Studies have shown that marries women outlive old maids," the book concludes. It reminds us that a real marriage "makes you look younger" and "will create true respect for the opposite gender".
What really makes me laugh in the chapter of love and marriage is the "what women look for in a man" vs "what men look for in women":
Women like: Intelligence, generosity, courage, moral sense...
Men like: Beauty, a good female body, Broad hips, small feet, and Beautiful arms. They don't like woman who have "false appearance", meaning makeup and cigarettes.
This book does not like cigarettes.
When it comes to marriage, being a good wife is all about obedience. Men are encouraged not to issue or orders, rather... suggestions. But still, a good wife listens and does those things. And stays young. And stays interesting. And all that stuff.

The dawn of a New era: I do actually like this book, because we can see the beginning of the sexual revolution actually taking root.  There is a paragraph I find particularly interesting:
"It is hardly necessary to state that women's economic and political rights are today receiving recognition long past due.  Authorities seem to agree that the same is true of women erotic rights. The modern man has come to look upon his wife is a partner, entitled to equal share in the rights, privileges, and pleasures of the firm. Woman is no longer placed upon a pedestal in public and degraded in private life."
I recommend a reading of "The French Lieutenant's Woman" by John Fowles Written in the 1960s, the plot takes place in the 1860s, pointing out how the revolution was already beginning a century earlier. The victorian woman, the "Angel in the house", was an idea already beginning to change. "Safe Counsel" still states that woman's place is at home, but it is with newfound respect and a certain kind of freedom. 
And now, almost 100 years later, look at us. 

Just beware of that jazz music. It'll be the end of us.

- Sarah

P.S. Be Careful what you read!

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