To the bride brought up under the old taboos, the sex experiences of early married life are apt to come as a shock, particularly when the previous sex experiences of her mate have been gained with women of another class. Indeed, so deeply has the sense of shame concerning the sexual functions been impressed upon the feminine mind that many wives never cease to feel a recurrent emotion of repugnance throughout the marital relationship. Especially would this be intensified in the case of sexual intercourse during the periods of gestation and lactation, when the girl who had been taught that the sexual functions existed only in the service of reproduction would see her most cherished illusions rudely dispelled. The effect of this long continued emotional state with its feeling of injury upon the metabolism of the female organism would be apt to have a detrimental effect upon the embryo through the blood supply, or upon the nursing infant through the mother’s milk. There can be no doubt that anxiety, terror, etc., affect the milk supply, and therefore the life of the child.
The sixth dysgenic effect of the control by taboos is the rebellion of economically independent women who refuse motherhood under the only conditions society leaves open to them. The statistics in existence, though open to criticism, indicate that the most highly trained women in America are not perpetuating themselves. Of the situation in England, Bertrand Russell said in 1917: “If an average sample were taken out of the population of England, and their parents were examined, it would be found that prudence, energy, intellect and enlightenment were less common among the parents than in the population in general; while shiftlessness, feeble-mindedness, stupidity and superstition were more common than in the population in general ... Mutual liberty is making the old form of marriage impossible while a new form is not yet developed."
It must be admitted that to-day marriage and motherhood are subject to economic penalties. Perhaps one of the best explanations of the strength of the present struggle for economic independence among women is the fact that a commercial world interested in exchange values had refused to properly evaluate their social contribution. A new industrial system had taken away one by one their “natural” occupations. In the modern man’s absorption in the life of a great industrial expansion, home life has been less insistent in its claims. His slackening of interest and attention, together with the discovery of her usefulness in industry, may have given the woman of initiative her opportunity to slip away from her ancient sphere into a world where her usefulness in other fields than that of sex has made her a different creature from the model woman of yesterday. These trained and educated women have hesitated to face the renunciations involved in a return to the home. The result has been one more factor in the lessening of eugenic motherhood, since it is necessarily the less strong who lose footing and fall back on marriage for support. These women wage-earners who live away from the traditions of what a woman ought to be will have a great deal of influence in the changed relations of the sexes. The answer to the question of their relation to the family and to a saner parenthood is of vital importance to society.