Whether with this goes a greater sexual license or not it is difficult to say. The observers best qualified to comment think there has been a decrease in female chastity,—that the entrance of women in industrial life, the growth of the cities, the increase in automobiles, the greater freedom of women, the dropping of restraint in manner and speech, have brought women’s morals somewhat nearer to men’s.
The other trend, not entirely separate except for externals, is marked by a hyper-sexuality, an emphasis of femaleness. This is by far the more common phenomenon and probably more widely spread through society. The dress of women in general is more daring, more designed for sex allurement than for a century past. Women paint and powder in a way that only the demimonde did a generation ago, reminding one of the ladies of the French Court in the eighteenth century. Further, the plays of the day would be called mere burlesque a generation back; the girl and music show has the center of the stage, and the drama in America has almost disappeared. There is an epidemic of magazines that flirt with the risque; with titles that are sometimes much more clever than their contents.
Such eras have been with us before this, have come and gone. It is doubtful if they ever affected so large a number of people. The excitement of the daily life is increased in a sexual way, and this brings an unrest that reacts on the anchor of the home, the housewife. She too tugs at her moorings; life must be speeded up for her too as well as for the younger and unattached women. She becomes more dissatisfied and therefore more nervous.
Altogether the sexual relationship of modern marriage needs a candid examination. No drastic change is indicated, but education in sexual affairs for men and women is a need. Even the prudish admit the pleasure of the sex-life, and that seems to be their fundamental aversion to it. Most of the advice and injunctions in the past seem to have come from the sexually abnormal. It is time that this was changed; in fact, it is being changed. The danger lies in a swing to extremes, in leaving the fields to those who think reform lies in the abolition of restraint, in the disregard of all social supervision and obligation. Free love is more disastrous if possible than prudery.
THE HOUSEWIFE AND HER HOUSEHOLD CONFLICTS
The problems of life are not all sexual, and in fact even in the relations of men and women there are more important factors. After all, as Spencer pointed out in a marvelous chapter, love itself is a composite of many things, some, of the earth, earthy, and some of the finest stuff our human life holds. The aspirations, the ideals, the yearnings of the girl attach themselves to some man as their fulfillment; the chivalrous feelings, the desire to protect and cherish, the passion for beauty of the man lead to some girl as their goal. There are few for whom the glow and ardor of their young love bring no refinement of their passion; there are few who have not felt a pulsating unity with all that love and live, at least for some ecstatic moments. Something of what James has so beautifully designated as the “aura of infinity that hangs over a young girl” also lingers over the love of men and women.