Taboo and Genetics eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 190 pages of information about Taboo and Genetics.

A modern institution reminiscent of the men’s house of the savage races, where no woman might intrude, is the men’s club.  This institution, as Mr Webster has pointed out,[2] is a potent force for sexual solidarity and consciousness of kind.  The separate living and lack of club activity of women has had much to do with a delay in the development of a sex consciousness and loyalty.  The development of women’s organizations along the lines of the men’s clubs has been a powerful factor in enabling them to overcome the force of the taboos which have lingered on in social life.  Only through united resistance could woman ever hope to break down the barriers with which she was shut off from the fullness of life.

Perhaps the property taboo has been as persistent as any other of the restrictions which have continued to surround woman through the ages.  Before marriage, the girl who is “well brought up” is still carefully protected from contact with any male.  The modern system of chaperonage is the substitute for the old seclusion and isolation of the pubescent girl.  Even science was influenced by the old sympathetic magic view that woman could be contaminated by the touch of any other man than her husband, for the principle of telegony, that the father of one child could pass on his characteristics to offspring by other fathers, lingered in biological teaching until the very recent discoveries of the physical basis of heredity in the chromosomes.  Law-making was also influenced by the idea of woman as property.  For a long time there was a hesitancy to prohibit wife-beating on account of the feeling that the wife was the husband’s possession, to be dealt with as he desired.  The laws of coverture also perpetuated the old property taboos, and gave to the husband the right to dispose of his wife’s property.

The general attitude towards such sexual crises as menstruation and pregnancy is still strongly reminiscent of the primitive belief that woman is unclean at those times.  Mothers still hesitate to enlighten their daughters concerning these natural biological functions, and as a result girls are unconsciously imbued with a feeling of shame concerning them.  Modern psychology has given many instances of the rebellion of girls at the inception of menstruation, for which they have been ill prepared.  There is little doubt that this attitude has wrought untold harm in the case of nervous and delicately balanced temperaments, and has even been one of the predisposing factors of neurosis.[3]

The old seclusion and avoidance of the pregnant woman still persists.  The embarrassment of any public appearance when pregnancy is evident, the jokes and secrecy which surround this event, show how far we are from rationalizing this function.

Even medical men show the influence of old superstitions when they refuse to alleviate the pains of childbirth on the grounds that they are good for the mother.  Authorities say that instruction in obstetrics is sadly neglected.  A recent United States report tells us that preventable diseases of childbirth and pregnancy cause more deaths among women than any other disease except tuberculosis.[4]

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Taboo and Genetics from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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