Sex Questions.

From: The Creed of Kinship (1935)
Author: Henry S. Salt
Published: Constable & Co Ltd 1935 London


The battle of the sexes
Alone their spirit vexes
                             (JOHN BARLAS.)

  That the difficulties of the so-called “sex problem” arise largely from unequal economic conditions has long been a commonplace; and it is hardly necessary to point out that the introduction of a system under which all women, and not only, as now, those possessed of an income, would have the same economic independence as men, must greatly affect an important branch (though it is only one branch) of what we call Morals. For if a competence were assured to women, and they were under no compulsion, as many now are, to sell themselves in the marriage-market or in another market which is considered to be worse, the situation would at least be cleared, and the questions that would be left over, though doubtless numerous and difficult enough, would be of temperament only, a matter for the individual, not for the State. There might still remain, in the words of a socialist poet, “the battle of the sexes”; but the “class-war “would no longer claim its casualties. Prostitution would not be, as now, an inseparable part of our social system.

  But there is a further consideration, which, though fully as important as the economic one, is usually, like other humanitarian principles, left out of sight: viz., that the new spirit of comradeship, attendant on Socialism, would of itself effect a mighty change in all the matters that relate to sex. “Injure no one, but as far as possible give help to all,” is the general rule laid down by Schopenhauer in his essay on The Basis of Morality; and he incidentally points to the fact that the difficulties of the sex question would in large measure be solved if this rule were acted on. In so far as Socialism is a humanitarian creed-and it can hardly, without stultifying itself, be otherwise-it will surely tend towards the establishment of happier conditions between the sexes, not by economic changes only, but by the growth of a kindlier and more natural spirit.

  The problem, in so far as it is now a vexed one, would thus gradually disappear; for the mere forms and externals of the sex-relationship would be of less importance, if “to do injury to no one” were the principle that men and women had at heart.

  This, of course, does not in the least imply what is sometimes absurdly, or perhaps malevolently, charged against Socialism, a state of licence and general loosening of morals, but on the contrary a welcome release from the present unwholesome medley of pious pretences and actual depravity, as exemplified in the morbid and widespread interest with which the doings of the Divorce Court are watched, a symptom even more disgusting, to a thoughtful mind, than the unpleasant stories that are related in those courts. How artificial is the system of so-called morals resulting from this hypocrisy may be judged from cases that occasionally come to light. I have heard of one where a married woman, having decided (whether justifiably or not it is unnecessary to inquire) to leave her husband and form another alliance, was so afraid of shocking the feelings of her relatives by this step that she agreed to an ingenious plan by which she was assumed and certified to have died; and her disappearance being thus respectably accounted for, she preferred that her parents should pass the rest of their lives under this painful delusion than that they should know the truth. If this sort of morality should decay under Socialism, need the heavens fall?

  The “sex problem,” as we know it, has indeed become little less than a plague, both in actual life and in that unreal but still more insalubrious shadow-land which we call “fiction,” where “best seller” is too often synonymous with “worst smeller.” The continuous output of trashy novels, harping with wearisome insistence on a single theme, makes one turn with relief to an old book like Godwin’s Caleb Williams, in which there is hardly a mention of sex. And when it is said with perfect truth, that Scott’s heroes and heroines make love in a very stiff and straight-laced fashion, according to the simple code of morals which was accepted by writers a century ago, is not that at any rate better, and less sentimental than the vapid, heartless stuff—most immoral when it affects to be inculcating a moral—that is everywhere rampant to-day, alike in novels, in cinemas, and on the stage?

All Sub-Works of The Creed of Kinship (1935):
PDF Sub-Works open in a new tab. Close the tab when done viewing to return here.