Royden Agnes Maude - Sex and Common-Sense

Author : Royden Agnes Maude
Title : Sex and Common-Sense
Year : 1918

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PREFACE TO AMERICAN EDITION. THE NOBILITY OF THE SEX PROBLEM. Of all the problems which the alert and curious mind of modern man is considering, none occupies him more than that of the relations of the sexes. This is natural. It touches us all and we have made rather a mess of it! We want to know why, and we want to do better. We resent being the sport of circumstance and perhaps we are beginning to understand that this instinct of sex which has been so great a cause of suffering and shame and has been treated as a subject fit only for furtive whispers or silly jokes, is in fact one of the greatest powers in human nature, and that its misuse is indeed "the expense of spirit in a waste of shame." It is not the abnormal or the bizarre that interests most of us to-day. It is not into the by-ways of vice that we seek to penetrate. It is the normal exercise of a normal instinct by normal people that interests us: and it is of this that I have tried to write and speak. The curiosities of depravity are for the physician and the psychologist to discuss and cure. Ordinary men and women want first to know how to live ordinary human lives on a higher level and after a nobler pattern than before. They want, I think, -and I want,- to grow up, but to grow rightly, beautifully, humanely. And I believe the first essential is to realize that the sex-problem, as it is called, is the problem of something noble, not something base. It is not a "disagreeable duty" to know our own natures and understand our own instincts: it is a joy. The sex-instinct is not "the Fall of Man"; neither is it an instance of divine wisdom on which moralists could, if they had only been consulted in time, greatly have improved. It is a thing noble in essence. It is the development of the higher, not the lower, creation. It is the asexual which is the lower, and the sexually differentiated which is the higher organism. In the humbler ranks of being there is no sex, and in a sense no death. The organism is immortal because -strange paradox- it is not yet alive enough to die. But as we pass from the lower to the higher, we pass from the less individual to the more individual; from asexual to sexual. And with this change comes that great rhythm by which life and death succeed each other, and death is the _cost_ of life, and to bring life into the world means sacrifice; and -as we rise higher still- to sustain life means prolonged and altruistic love. This is the history of sex and of procreation, a history associated with the rising of humanity in the scale of being, a history not so much of his physical as of his spiritual growth. By what an irony have we come to associate the instinct of sex with all that is bestial and shameful! It has happened because the corruption of the best is the worst. I always want to remind people of this truism when they have _first_ come into contact with sex in some horrible and shameful way. That is one of the greatest misfortunes that can happen to any of us, and unfortunately it happens to many. Boys and girls are allowed to grow up in ignorance. The girls perhaps know nothing till they have to know all. The boys learn from grimy sources. I was speaking on this subject at one of our great universities the other day, and afterwards many of the men came and talked to me privately. With hardly a single exception they said to me -"Our parents told us nothing. We have never heard sex spoken of except in a dirty way." It is difficult for us, in such a case, to realize that sex is not a dirty thing. It _can_ only be realized, I think, by remembering that the corruption of the best is the worst, and that we can measure by the hideousness of debased and depraved sexuality, the greatness and the wonder of sex love. This is to me the great teaching of Christ about sex. Other great religious teachers -some of them very great indeed- have thought and taught contemptuously of our animal nature. "He spake of the temple of His body." That is sublime! That is the whole secret. And that is why vice is horrible: because it is the desecration, not of a hovel or a shop, of a marketplace or a place of business: but of a temple. Christ, I am told, told us nothing about sex. He did not need to tell us anything but "Your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit." It is my belief that in appealing to an American public I shall be appealing to those who are ready to face the subject of the relations of the sexes with perfect frankness and with courage. America is still a country of experiments -a country adventurous enough to make experiments, and to risk making mistakes. That is the only spirit in which it is possible to make anything at all; and though the mistakes we may make in a matter which so deeply and tragically affects human life must be serious, and we must with corresponding seriousness weigh every word we say, and take the trouble to think harder and more honestly than we have perhaps ever thought before; yet I believe that we must above all have courage. Human nature is sound and men and women do, on the whole, want to do what is right. The great impulse of sex is part of our very being, and it is not base. Passion is essentially noble and those who are incapable of it are the weaker, not the stronger. If then we have light to direct our course, we shall learn to direct it wisely, for indeed this is our desire. Such is my creed. My prayer is for "more light." And my desire to take my part in spreading it. A. MAUDE ROYDEN. April, 1922. ...

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