One cannot help feeling at times that the blessings of home—and of the monogamy which makes home possible—are terribly discounted by a condition of things which offer a young man no other alternatives to chastity than these terrible evils. Now that year by year the rising standard of living and the increased exactions which the State makes on the industrious and provident cause marriage to be a luxury too expensive for many, and delayed unduly for most, the problem of social purity becomes ever greater and more urgent. The instruction of the young in relation to sex provides the only solution, and is, I venture to think, incomparably the most important social reform now needed.
I am confident that a boy who receives wise training and sex guidance from his early days will never find lust the foul and uncontrollable element which it is to-day in the lives of most men; that in a few generations our nation could be freed from the seething corruption which poisons its life; and that, while freer scope could be given to the ineffable joys of pure sexual love, very much could be done to diminish the awful misery and degradation engendered by lust.
If children had from their infancy an instinctive and growing desire for alcohol, with secret and unrestrained means of gratifying it; if by its indulgence this desire grew into an overmastering craving; if throughout childhood they received no word of warning or guidance from the good, but were tempted and corrupted by the evil, we should have a nation in which most men and women were drunkards, ready to break all laws—human and divine—which stood in the way of an imperious need; a nation in which, among those who declined to yield to iniquity, the craving for drink caused unceasing and life-long struggle.
On the young man of to-day we lay a burden which no ordinary man was ever yet able to bear. His boyhood and youth become, through ignorance, the prey of lust; his passions become tyrannous; his will is enslaved. Even if he contracts marriage, his troubles are not at an end, for man, as an animal, is neither monogamous nor wholly constant. His neglected sex-education makes him far more susceptible to physical attractions than to those qualities which make a wife a good companion, a good housekeeper, and a good mother; and but too often, as a result, the beneficent influence of marriage is transient; the domestic atmosphere ceases to be congenial; both husband and wife become susceptible to other attachments, and the old struggle begins all over again.
SEX KNOWLEDGE IS COMPATIBLE WITH PERFECT REFINEMENT AND INNOCENCE.
The reader who has followed me through the preceding chapters will, I hope, feel that, whatever objections there may be to giving explicit instruction on sex matters to the young, such instruction is immensely to be preferred to the almost inevitable perversion which follows ignorance. If we had to choose between a state of “innocence” and a state of reverent knowledge, many people would doubtless incline to the former. No such option exists. Our choice lies between leaving a lad to pick up information from vulgar and unclean minds, and giving it ourselves in such a manner as to invest it from the first with sacredness and dignity.