Stagnant Virginity

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Stagnant Virginity


An article by Hope Clare, with responses from the "Free Review" and a French translation by Emile Armand



Bibliographic Citation

H. Clare, “Stagnant Virginity,” The Free Review 7 no. 4 (January, 1897): 412-419.


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Hope Clare


During the past few years great attention has been paid to the all-important question of the sex relationship. Scores of novels and hundreds of articles have been written upon the subject, until it would seem that there is nothing more to be said. Yet has the discussion been adequate? Have the majority of the contributors dared to set down the whole truth? I venture to answer, No. Many men have enunciated their theories, and many married women have, with facile pen, skimmed lightly over the surface of the topic, ignoring or glossing over plain facts, which, from motives of false delicacy, are concealed by their suffering, patient, unmated sisters. But where is the celibate woman who has dared to express her thought and emotion upon the supreme consideration of her life?

As a woman I refuse to be one of the conspiracy of silence on this vital question. In the interest of my sex—the larger part of humanity in this country—I am about to lay bare my private thoughts.

Let me begin with the bold assertion that every woman who has died without having had experience of the love of man, without having had the chance of becoming a mother, has utterly failed in the prime object of her existence. I hold that the life of such a woman has been one long gnawing disappointment, a life of purblindness of moral vision, and a state of mental obliquity. I am aware that hundreds of women will protest against this assertion. They will hold up their hands in horror that any woman should so far forget propriety and dignity as to write such a statement. We are perfectly happy,” they will piteously affirm; “happy in our fancy work, our missions, our gardening, and the society of women friends.” Ah! my sisters, it is hard for you to be honest in this matter. You know your happiness is a delusion. Your needlework, your pets, and your hobbies are mere distractions for an intolerable ennui; and as for the charm of companionship with your own sex—well, let a man, moderately interesting, appear only for one day on the scene. You know whose company you prefer then.

And is not this perfectly natural? We crave the friendship of men in obedience to an ineradicable instinct of sex. Are they not our completion, and are we not their completion?

When you enter a railway carriage or a tram-car, is it difficult to tell at a glance which are the married and which are the unmarried women among the passengers? The face of the mated woman bears a look of quiet rest, in distinct contrast to the expression of the unmated girl who glances inquiringly at each male figure, sometimes with a vague hope, often with a dull sense of despair. This is not an exaggerated picture. It is true of nine-tenths of that multitude of single women who pine daily for the natural outlet of the most imperious and lovely of all human emotions. The few men who live in enforced complete chastity do not hide their desires from the friends of their own sex. They confess that they long for mates, and are not ashamed of the admission. But women conceal and strive to repress this natural yearning, for fear that they may be reproached as “husband-hunters.” Thousands of women show no sign of the desolating canker in their hearts.

Picture to yourselves the state of a person condemned to live upon bare husks while she sees others feasting upon luxuries; imagine this poor wretch sternly trained from childhood to exhibit placid obedience to a law that deprives her of wholesome nutrition, and taught to congratulate the company upon their good appetites and hearty enjoyment of the pleasures of the table. Such, I maintain, is the condition of the average unmated woman. A perpetual hunger devours her, a feverish thirst consumes her as she waits through long years for the lover who comes not, but to whom she has passionately and unreservedly given herself in thought. Unhesitatingly, I say that the words of the essentially feminine love-song, repeat the thoughts of thousands of virgins: “At night upon my bed I seek him whom my soul loveth; I seek him, but I find him not.”

I have said that the maiden is morally and mentally unformed and incomplete. Her most beautiful emotion is starved, and in a state of perpetual virginity it may become totally atrophied. This is the true unsexing of women. Nature implants the desire to love and be loved in every normal woman’s breast; and in the plainest possible terms she lays down the law of exercise for every organ of the body. She has endowed women with qualities and charms that appeal to men, and with especial physical functions to be fulfilled by the aid of men for the development of the spiritual, mental, and corporeal being, and for the perpetuation of the race. A woman who is debarred from love and maternity through the exigencies of an ill-ordered social state is compulsorily unsexed and arbitrarily rendered unnatural. In time, and I believe before very long, we shall recognise that the stagnant celibacy of women is more devastating in its effects than prostitution. Indeed, the social evil is inseparable from our present marriage system, and that system is to a great extent the cause of widespread celibacy,

We find the most convincing evidence daily of the physical evils of the state of perpetual and long-continued virginity. Continual disuse enfeebles and deranges any organ; and it is only the perverted inhabitants of decadent civilisations who refrain from the imperative exercise of sex-functions, or use them unduly. Primitive people are, as a rule, wiser in this respect. Nature punishes both total abstinence and excess with stern impassivity. But is she perfectly impartial? The profligate man may pursue a long career of debauchery without very palpable injury to his constitution; but the virgin does not appear to be let off so lightly for her compulsory physiological sins. Hysteria, the commonest form of chronic disease, is almost solely the result of total celibacy. This disordered condition of the emotional nature is much more frequent in women than in men; and the majority of the most expert specialists in the diseases of women are agreed that continence is the prime cause in nine out of ten cases of the affection. Menstruation, which plays such an important part in woman’s life, is, in maidens, comparatively seldom free from attendant troubles. Sometimes the function is absent, and in many cases it is painful. The health of many unmarried women is completely broken down from this cause, and these disorders frequently induce future serious inflammatory affections of the reproductive system. The state of celibacy is morbid, and such a state predisposes the body to disease and suffering. Anaemia, that scourge of thousands of virgins, is largely due to their unnatural life; and chlorosis is another of the ailments of loveless women. In almost any street daily you may see the victims of these blights upon youth. Their faces are pallid, or a greenishyellow, their eyes dull, their glance dispirited, and they walk with a heavy unelastic step. They are pitiable objects, these types of British vestal virginity. Like flowers withering prematurely for lack of vivifying sunshine, they would bloom and thrive if transplanted in time into an atmosphere of love. But thousands of sweet lovable women are permitted to pine and languish through youth and maturity, till beauty fades and hope of mating is dead within their shrivelled bosoms.

Perchance, after many years of stultified emotion, a lover comes to woo, and the virgin of thirty-five or forty is married. Late marriage is better than perennial celibacy; but disuse has left its seal upon the mind and body of the woman. At thirty views are formed, and virginal views are rarely comprehensive and tolerant; for it is an indisputable truth that sex-experience is one of the greatest educators of women. I maintain that there is a distinct difference between the mind of the virgin and the mind of the wife. The maiden’s opinions upon men and the nature of sexual love are necessarily vague and conjectural, and after thirty it is extremely probable that these suppositions will be almost as rooted as fixed ideas. Therefore, the chances of disillusionment and possible disappointment are great for both the man and the woman. If the man is also without knowledge of sex, the chances of unhappiness for both are still greater. Women are generally supposed to prefer bachelors to widowers as husbands; but the power that widows influence over men is notoriously a cause of envy among single women. Why do widows possess such a potent attraction? Undoubtedly, because having lived in sexual relationship with a man they have learned a man’s nature, his likes and dislikes, his virtues, and his weaknesses. A widow has passed through the only course that can teach a woman the truth about men, namely, close association of mind and body. Men know this is so, and that is why Mantegazza says of a widow, in his “Art of Taking a Wife”: “If she cannot offer her companion the virginal flower (which after all is more a myth than a real jewel) she can give him all the treasures of amorous experiences, that is often worth more than a hundred virginities.”

Protracted virginity, say to the age of thirty-five, also tends to unfit a woman for the physical responsibilities of wedlock. You would hardly expect a man who had led an inactive life up to the age of thirty-five to suddenly develop vigorous muscular strength. Yet we suppose that the woman whose sexual functions have been practically unexercised from puberty up to the age of thirty or forty years is fitted to sustain the offices of wife and mother. Amativeness, if it ever existed at all, may have entirely waned through want of normal gratification; and in the case of innately cold women it is extremely probable that physical sex-feeling will be entirely absent. Such a woman may go blindly into the arms of an ardent young husband, a man perhaps five or eight years younger than herself. Rarely do such unions prove happy for either the man or the woman. But social and economic conditions tend more and more to defer marriages till the glow and vigor of youth are vanishing. The incapacity of a man to consummate marriage is a plea for annulling the contract; but many husbands who have married well-matured virgins have found their wives more or less impotent. No doubt with the natural stimulus the debilitated reproductive parts regain their lost tone in time. Still, many women have learned with sorrow that protracted continence is the cause of unhappiness in the early days, and even through the whole of their married life.

I have given prominence to the physiological aspect of long-continued virginity in its relation to marriage, because that is precisely a matter to which so many women close their eyes. This is a grave evil, and the cause of much misery to my sex. Why should a man be expected to know everything and a woman nothing of physical acts and processes of such vast importance to themselves and their offspring? By blinding ourselves, or allowing others to obscure knowledge from us, we belie our claim to intelligence.

“All this may be true,” say some of my readers, “we acknowledge that a great number of women are grossly wronged by unnatural celibacy. But what can be done? There must always be a large proportion of unmarried women. Had they not better make up their minds to submit to the inevitable, and try to secure that second-best happiness which may be found in a life-work? There are now so many spheres of usefulness open to women. Call they not devote themselves to the families of their married brothers and sisters? What a grand opportunity they would find there for the exercise of unselfish affection.”

My friends, you offer a stone instead of bread. You know that a woman’s heart yearns for children of her own. Why should we grope feebly for this second-best ideal, when Nature, the unerring guide, points to the true, the only remedy, and bids us fearlessly make use of it? The unwritten law of society is that all unmarried women shall remain in so-called chastity. This, like many more of society’s decrees, is unmeaning, unnatural, and cruel in the highest degree. In a rational society a life of virginity for a large number of women ought to be looked upon as a disgrace as great as outlawry. I have no hesitation saying that to the mind of the average girl the state of perpetual virginity is as revolting as the thought of being an outcast. If it is otherwise, why the vulgar intriguing, the undignified scramble for husbands, the scheming that is a recognised institution of social intercourse? The freshest of pretty virgins grows stale with keeping, and mammas are fully aware that competition in the matrimonial market is very keen. I was once much amused by the sage utterance of an old Ulsterwoman who had just been told of the engagement of a young and pretty girl to an ungainly, ill-favored fellow. The dame wagged her head and said gravely, “Well, it’s easy to see that men are no to be had for the getherin’-up when a fine girl like Miss ----------- is willing to take a wee crowl like yon”!

If girls were brought up to be self-supporting, to be free and independent beings, taught from infancy to regard the future bestowal of themselves as a natural and recognised proceeding, dependent solely on their will, what a different state of things we should have. Our girls would then be secure in the calm assurance of free choice in forming an honorable, even if temporary, connection. Husband-hunting would cease, and there would probably be fewer permanent marriages; for many women are fully alive to the advantages of a union which could be dissolved at will. Many would be willing to end an intimacy, particularly women of energy, who, having fulfilled the fundamental conditions of their being, might wish to devote themselves to a profession or life-work. If maternity resulted how immeasurably dearer life would become to such a woman! She would then have won the crown of glory which she had long and silently coveted.

Do I suggest that a girl should be free to give herself to her lover, and retain her place in society as a chaste woman? Undoubtedly. Thousands, probably millions, of women, cannot have husbands. In the name of Humanity let them have lovers, and bear children if they will. There is no unchastity but the infidelity of a woman towards her lover. Yielding to the man she loves is as natural to a woman as the cutting of her wisdom teeth or the development of her bust. But the tyranny of modern civilisation has placed a ban upon this sweet impulse of woman’s heart; and the lonely virgin is condemned to muse wistfully on her fading charms, designed to give tender and exquisite delight, and bestowed upon her for noble usage. There is a time in most girls lives when the virginity within her trembles eagerly to bestow itself, to mingle with another life, and thereby to create new life. This is the ideal moment of bestowal.

A craving for man’s love, and the children of that love, is the heritage of women. So long as women are deprived of the right to satisfy both loves, independent of the mere accident of marriage, so long must they remain inferior, stunted, and incomplete. For ages the despotic law of enforced virginity has held sway over womanhood. Is it not time to free the captives from this galling bond?

I hear a defender of the existing state of sex-relationship mutter “Promiscuity” with a look of alarm. Promiscuity! could any system of loose lust be worse than that which exists at present? London, Liverpool, all the towns of England, and every settlement in the English Colonies, present examples of true promiscuity in the prostitution of women. Is this a nobler form of love than the pure unmercenary and grave matings of lovers drawn to each other by mental and physical attraction? What sane man or woman will confuse systems so utterly opposed as these? And what man or woman, having thought deeply on the question, will deny that the enforced celibacy of women and prostitution are twin, inseparable evils.

Let us take courage, the time is coming, is even now close at hand, when every virgin shall have the right to stretch forth her hands to the man she loves, and say to him: “My friend, we love each other; my whole life has been a search for you, my beloved, my second self! I am yours, take me, absorb me in your being or I die.”

Hope Clare.







To the Editor of the “Free Review.”


Sir,—If the facts adduced by Hope Clare in your last issue are correct, she had a strong enough case if confining herself to reason, without any need for dropping into rhapsody. And yet, like all ex parte arguers, she gives but an exaggerated and one-sided view of the question.

In the first place, her statements are only true of a certain section of the population, mostly belonging to the upper middle class. The aristocracy, as a rule, all marry, while in the working and small trading classes an “old maid” is the greatest rarity. A poor girl never contemplates any other destiny than marriage, and there is not one in a hundred who has not innumerable chances of love-making, if not of matrimony. This arises chiefly from the incomparably freer life they lead than that enjoyed by the middle class. In sooth, they have a totally different code of etiquette. While a “young lady” is hedged about with a triple wall of protections and restrictions, so that it is a matter of the utmost difficulty for a would-be suitor even to obtain an introduction, the servant or shop-girl not only has numberless opportunities of associating with young men of her acquaintance, but also allows perfect strangers to speak to or accompany her, if only they possess sufficient boldness to introduce themselves. In fact, in this stratum of society the men are the worse off of the two; for, whereas any girl or young woman can secure a lover without any trouble, a young man of refined or unassuming manners finds it somewhat difficult to get a hearing, all the eligible maidens being monopolised by those less scrupulous, who in many cases have no honorable intentions.

Again, the lower classes have no sympathy with that modern and unnatural custom, based entirely on sordid motives, which schools middle-class girls into the idea that they must not think of “love” or marriage until they are grown women. On the contrary, they begin “keeping company” as soon as they leave school (many, indeed, take to “sweethearting” at nine or ten years of age), and there are very few who arrive at maturity in a state of celibacy, even if not legally married. All this is only natural. Girls would not be made most attractive at sixteen or seventeen if that were not the proper pairing period, and to stifle these “tender” instincts during all the romantic time of life, and only indulge them after reaching the uninteresting twenties, is the best possible plan to ensure lifelong single blessedness. Let any girl in her teens render herself moderately accessible and she will be simply besieged with admirers.

Then your contributor, of course, trots out the old superstition as to the numerical preponderance of females. It is true that in England there is an excess of some five per cent., but in America and the Colonies the reverse is the case, and anyhow this would be no ground for promiscuity, however excellent that might be in itself, so long as millions of men are still unmated. The usual excuse for these is that they cannot afford to marry, but it has never been proved that married persons are as a whole worse off than single, and this argument has still less validity now that women themselves can choose from among such a variety of occupations.

The real truth is that nearly all men would marry if there were any recognised means of getting acquainted, if they had a fairly extended choice, if women were less extravagant, and if illicit association were not so easily obtainable.

Evacustes A. Phipson.

Selly Oak, Worcestershire.




To the Editor of the “Free Review.”


Sir,—The article on this subject by the lady who signs herself “Hope Clare “ is interesting, and rises in some parts to a sort of eloquence. But there is another side to the question.

In spite of inferences from statistics, the truth is that comparatively few women who want to marry, and are well fitted for it, need remain unmarried. There are exceptions, sad and pathetic. But of the unmated virgins, how many remain single through their own defects and faults.

In the first place, it is necessary to be on guard always against falling into the attitude of mind which regards marriage or union as the great absorbing object of life. It is no more the chief object of life than is the circulation of the blood. Do not let us put the cart before the horse. A function that is beforehand vitally and supremely necessary is yet not on that account the one ideal and end.

Now (to use for convenience empirical language) Nature is a stern orderer of affairs. She demands in her potential mothers a basis of character, and force of mind—not what (in a bad sense) is called “strongmindedness” by any means, but original sanity and health. Take an imaginary case of an unmarried girl dowered with profuse external charm. She begins by turning herself into an hour glass, separating the thorax and abdomen by an attenuated isthmus of corset. Perhaps she sticks a bird in her hat. The youth talks to hen and discovers that she is either absurdly shy or curiously vulgar. Her speech—if she will speak—is of curates or almond rock. Children she calls “kids”. The youth dangles on, perhaps, but the monitions are not lost on him. He is (manlike) aware (although perhaps he himself indulges in a little occasional slang amongst his own associates) that life is on the whole a serious business, needing to be tempered not with harebrained folly but with strong cheerfulness. Besides, the girl displays a strange, though largely affected, contempt for mankind. She is apparently a proud fortress with closed gates and gaudy bannerets, requiring to be captured by assault of arms, and ever throwing out little taunts—and this appearance she displays to all alike. Love retreats. Reverence gives place to a little spite, perhaps—its opposite. But in time even this vanishes into indifference, and wisely, for the castle if captured would be found barren and desolate within.

But now consider a girl who wants to marry, deserves the enormous privileged responsibility, and knows instinctively how to manage the business. Wooing? She will do three-quarters of it herself, and the youth will believe he is doing it all. Perhaps she may be poor, and scantily endowed with what is called education. It makes no difference. With modesty, the most exquisite, she allows the youth to perceive that she meets him as a fellow human being. He sees that she instantly appreciates whatever of genuine worth there is in him; in short, that she can match him. An attentive deference is from the first glance always ready for him on the strict conditions that he shall deserve it. Really, she is a wise, cheerful, arbitress; but, like a judge who talks quietly and even trivially at times, she ever retains in the background-the reality of power. In her case this power is more or less consciously the advantage of her sex, an advantage held only secure by the self-respect that implies respect for the human being who may have come out of the crowd in order to pay her the supreme compliment of humanity. She knows herself incapable of putting into correct literary expression one tithe of the thoughts that sometimes rise to her lips, and so she does not make the attempt. The “most miraculous organs” of gesture, voice, manner, will in her case do-all that well enough, and spontaneously, her chief care being to do and say nothing unseemly. The English word “holy,” resting securely on its old meaning of “healthy,” will best characterise a woman of this sort in the period of youth. The fact is that the basis of frivolity and squeamishness in the other sort of woman is quite inadequate to sustain the burdens of half-a-century of wedded existence. Nature is cruel—and just.

It is not to be supposed that these differences of character are manifest only in speech and ordinary social intercourse. Character is one, whether outcoming in mind, body, dress, or gait. Every young woman not in a nunnery is in the course of her youth the target of innumerable eyes, whether she rides in the trams, or buys oranges, or goes cycling. The business of these eyes, in a certain percentage of cases, is perfectly legitimate; nay, is of immense moment. Beside this important unofficial process the Queen’s Government sinks into insignificance. It was a saying of Swedenborg (a true one) that the first impulse in these affairs, though perfectly unconsciously, comes from the woman. Let her strive to be worthy, and the fact will not be hid.

Social inequalities, wretched conventions, and the worship of money, disturb these natural adjustments, it is too true. But the adjustments are good. The race depends on its mothers for character, and the world does not need to be overstocked with sham workers and small bigots, inheriting in their souls that hourglass and bird arrangement, or some timidity, vulgarity, or mendacity of that sort.

The moral is, not that the marriage laws should be revolutionised, but that the social millennium in other departments should be hurried up. These millennia are so slow.

E. W.






To the Editor of the “Free Review.”


Sir,—Your correspondent E. W., seems to have confounded the men and women of the market place with those of the study: he credits the ordinary young man and woman of this 19th century with the desire to live the life according to reason; while facts prove that the majority neither look before nor after in this important business of love-making, nor, indeed, in many of life’s chief concerns—they are wafted by the wind of circumstance.

By far the greater number of marriages are brought about by pure chance: neither youth nor girl considering for one moment the serious nature of the step they are about to take, nor having any regard to fitness either physical or mental.

If “Nature requires in her potential mothers a basis of character and force of mind”, why does she not at least attempt to get it? No: Reason requires this—not Nature; but Reason does not rule.

Of the two classes of girls described in E. W.’s letter it is precisely the “hour-glass” and “bird-wing” type which does marry; while the modest, earnest, rational girl remains single—not that she particularly objects to marriage in itself —but that she does not attract the masculine eye. Would it not be better to acknowledge that most men do not seek in marriage to “match” the higher part of their natures; but they follow a blind instinct—how blind is well proved by the dismal failures we see all around in married life.

The vulgarity of taste displayed in dress and manners by the ordinary girl is the outcome of a desire to please that taste in the other sex. “Loudness” is the order of the day; for sterling qualities of heart and mind do not draw the attention of the average man.

Your correspondent describes as actual a state of things which ought to be, but is not yet.

When men truly desire and seek rational, cultivated women as their companions for life, these women will respond to the demand. But such will not prove to be wives of the “chattel” class. They will require an equality of rights not recognised by the present marriage laws.

We might perhaps hope that if ever the happy time alluded to arrives, these laws will have become effete, and as impossible of application as many others which are still in existence, but which no one ever thinks of referring to and that most of us are even ignorant of.

H. Clark.


H. Clare, “Stagnant Virginity,” The Free Review 7 no. 4 (January, 1897): 412-419.

Evacustes A. Phipson, “Stagnant Virginity, A Reply,” The Free Review 7 no. 5 (February, 1897): 549-550.

E. W., “To the Editor of the ‘Free Review,’” The Free Review 7 no. 5 (February, 1897): 550-551.

H. Clark [Clare?], “Stagnant Virginity,” The Free Review 7 no. 6 (March, 1897): 665-666.



La Virginité stagnante


Par Hope CLARE


Traduction par E. ARMAND



Durant ces dernières années on a prêté une grande attention à l’importante question des relations sexuelles. Des centaines de romans, des milliers d’articles peut-être ont traité ce sujet, à tel point qu’il semble qu’il n’y ait plus rien à dire. Mais, justement, a-t-on dit tout ce qu’il y avait à dire ? Est-ce que les écrivains qui se sont occupés de la question ont osé présenter le problème sous son véritable aspect ? Je réponds hardiment « non ». De nombreux hommes ont formulé leurs théories, de non moins nombreuses femmes, d’une plume facile, ont brillamment effleuré ce sujet, glissant sur les faits réels que laissent ignorer, en général, leurs sœurs souffrantes, patientes, solitaires. Mais où est la femme célibataire qui a jusqu’ici osé exprimer tout ce qu’elle pense, tout ce qu’elle sent sur cette question, la primordiale dans sa vie ?

En tant que femme, je me refuse à m’enrôler dans cette conspiration du silence. Dans l’intérêt de mon sexe, qui forme actuellement la plus grande portion de l’humanité, je suis résolue à dire tout ce que je pense.

Qu’on me laisse commencer par cette affirmation que la femme morte sans avoir connu l’amour de l’homme, sans avoir eu la chance d’être mère, a complètement manqué le but de son existence. Je maintiens que la vie de cette femme-là n’a été qu’un désappointement torturant, une vie de myopie morale, un état d’égarement mental. Je sais que des centaines de femmes protesteront contre ces assertions. Elles lèveront les mains vers le ciel, indignées qu’une femme manque ainsi à la pudeur, à la dignité de son sexe. « Nous sommes pleinement heureuses — énonceront-elles avec conviction et selon la classe à laquelle elles appartiennent — notre emploi, nos travaux d’agrément, notre jardinage, nos œuvres sociales, la société de nos amies femmes font notre bonheur. » Ah mes sœurs, comme vous manquez de sincérité ! Vous savez bien que ce bonheur est factice. Vos travaux d’aiguille, vos chats, vos chiens, vos oiseaux, vos manies ne sont que trompe-l’œil destinés à masquer votre ennui. Et quant aux charmes qu’offre la compagnie des personnes de votre sexe — eh bien ! qu’un homme, modérément intéressant, ne paraisse qu’une journée sur la scène : vous verrez alors quelle compagnie vous préférerez.

N’est-ce pas sain et naturel? Nous recherchons l’amitié des hommes conformément à un instinct sexuel indéracinable. Ne sont-ils pas notre complément, ne sommes-nous pas le leur?

Pénétrez dans un compartiment de chemin de fer, dans un véhicule utilisé pour le transport en commun, il ne vous sera pas difficile de reconnaître les femmes qui sont célibataires de celles qui ne le sont pas. La femme qui « vit avec quelqu’un » possède un regard tranquille, qui contraste avec l’expression anxieuse de la jeune fille qui ne fréquente aucun homme et dont les yeux se dirigent vers toute personne de sexe masculin qui fait son apparition, quelquefois avec un air de vague espérance, le plus souvent avec une morne apparence de désespoir.

Mon tableau n’est pas forcé. Il est exact pour les neuf dixièmes de la multitude de femmes seules qui peinent quotidiennement pour refouler la plus impérieuse et la plus aimable de toutes les émotions humaines. Les quelques hommes qui vivent, par force, dans un état de chasteté complète, ne dissimulent pas leurs désirs aux amis de leur sexe : ils avouent fort bien qu’ils cherchent des compagnes et n’en éprouvent aucune honte. Mais de peur d’être prises pour « chasseuses de maris » ou « coureuses » selon le cas, les femmes cachent et s’efforcent de réprimer leur impulsion si naturelle; on les compte par milliers, celles qui font un effort désespéré pour qu’on ignore le chancre qui dévore leur cœur.

Essayez de vous représenter l’état d’une personne condamnée à vivre de croûtes de pain tandis qu’elle en voit d’autres assises à une table abondamment servie ; imaginez cette malheureuse forcée dès son enfance d’obéir à une loi qui la prive de la nourriture saine qui convient à son organisme et à qui on a appris à féliciter les convives sur leur robuste appétit et leur joyeuse pratique des plaisirs de la table.

Telle est la situation de la « femme seule » moyenne. Une faim perpétuelle la dévore, une soif fiévreuse la consume au cours des longues années où elle attend l’amant qui ne vient pas, auquel elle s’est donnée passionnément et tout entière par la pensée. Sans hésitation, je déclare que ces paroles du plus beau des chants d’amour :


Sur ma couche, pendant les nuits,

J’ai cherché celui que mon cœur aime;

Je l’ai cherché et je ne l’ai point trouvé,


reflète la pensée de centaines de mille de vierges.

J’ai écrit plus haut que la vierge est moralement et mentalement inévoluée et incomplète. La plus belle de ses émotions demeure inassouvie : dans un état de virginité constante, elle risque même d’être atrophiée. La nature a planté dans le cœur de la femme le désir d’aimer et d’être aimée ; de la façon la plus claire possible, elle a prescrit l’indispensabilité d’exercice pour tous les organes du corps. Elle a doué la femme de qualités et de charmes qui attirent l’homme ; elle l’a pourvue de fonctions physiques spéciales, qui ne peuvent s’accomplir qu’avec l’assistance masculine, ayant pour but son développement féminin éthique, mental, corporel et la perpétuation de l’espèce. La femme qui est écartée de l’amour et de la maternité par les exigences d’un état social mal compris est insexuée de force et arbitrairement rendue contre nature. On reconnaîtra avant peu, j’en suis sûre, que le célibat stagnant des femmes est plus ruineux dans ses effets que la prostitution. Le système de mariage en vigueur actuellement est responsable en grande partie de la plaie célibataire qui nous ronge.

Journellement, les preuves nous sont fournies des maux physiques qu’engendre une virginité longue ou constante. Le manque d’usage affaiblit, dérange tout organe. Seuls les constituants pervertis des civilisations décadentes s’interdisent l’exercice des fonctions sexuelles Les primitifs, sont à cet égard, bien plus sages que les civilisés. La nature, c’est entendu, punit avec la même rigidité et l’abus et l’abstinence. Mais est-elle aussi impartiale en réalité? Un dissolu peut poursuivre une longue carrière de débauche sans que sa santé s’enressente beaucoup ; mais la vierge ne s’en tire pas aussi facilement. L’hystérie, la forme la plus commune de maladie chronique, est le résultat presque inévitable du célibat absolu ; on la retrouve bien plus fréquemment chez la femme que chez l’homme, et les spécialistes les plus experts sont en majorité d’accord pour reconnaître que neuf fois sur dix la continence est la cause première de cette affection. La menstruation, qui joue un rôle tellement important dans la vie de la femme, ne s’accomplit pas sans troubles chez les vierges. Bien souvent elle s’accompagne de souffrances et il n’est pas rare qu’elle fasse défaut. L’altération profonde de la santé qui sévit chez de nombreuses femmes célibataires n’a pas d’autres raisons et il s’ensuit de très graves inflammations des organes de la reproduction. L’état de célibat est un état morbide : il prédispose le corps à la maladie et à la souffrance. L’anémie, la chlorose sont des résultats fréquents de la virginité continue. Chaque jour, dans les rues, vous croisez les victimes de cette violation de la nature, reconnaissables à leurs visages pâles ou au teint jaune terreux, à leurs yeux éteints, à leurs regards sans chaleur, à leur pas lourd, sans souplesse. Elles ressemblent à des fleurs qui se flétrissent prématurément faute d’un soleil vivifiant, mais qui s’épanouiraient et prospéreraient si elles étaient transportées à temps dans une atmosphère d’amour...

Après de longues années de passion réprimée, un amant se présente et la vierge de trente-cinq ou quarante ans s’accouple. Une union tardive vaut mieux qu’un célibat permanent sans doute, mais le manque d’usage a laissé sa tare sur l’esprit et le cœur de la femme. A trente ans le caractère est fait et l’on sait que « les vieilles filles » sont rarement compréhensibles et tolérantes. C’est en effet une vérité indiscutable que l’expérience sexuelle est l’un des plus grands éducateurs de la femme qui soit. Je maintiens qu’il existe une différence essentielle entre la mentalité de la femme vierge et celle de la femme qui ne l’est pas. Les opinions que nourrit la vierge sur les hommes et la nature des relations sexuelles sont nécessairement vagues et conjecturales ; après trente ans, il est excessivement probable que ces suppositions seront aussi enracinées que des idées fixes. Les chances de désillusion et de désappointement sont alors aussi grandes pour l’homme que pour la femme Si l’homme est également dépourvu d’exférience sexuelle, les chances de faire mauvais ménage sont encore plus grandes. On prétend que les femmes préfèrent,, comme compagnons, les célibataires aux veufs (?) — mais l’attraction que les veuves exercent sur les hommes est tellement notoire qu’elle suscite la jalousie des femmes seules. Pourquoi donc? Parce qu’ayant connu l’homme sexuellement, elles connaissent la nature masculine, ce qui lui plaît et lui répugne, ses côtés forts et ses points faibles. La veuve est une femme qui a passé par la voie qui peut lui apprendre la vérité sur l’homme : étroite association d’intellect et de corps. Voilà pourquoi dans son « Art de prendre femme » Mantagezza dit de la veuve que si elle ne peut offrir à son compagnon la fleur virginale (qui après tout est davantage un mythe qu’un joyau réel), elle peut lui apporter tous les trésors de ses expériences amoureuses, ce qui vaut souvent davantage que cent virginités.

A l’âge de 35 ans, la virginité prolongée tend à rendre la femme impropre aux responsabilités physiques de la cohabitation. On ne peut s’attendre d’un homme qui a vécu d’une existence inactive jusqu’à trente-cinq ans qu’il fasse soudainement montre d’une force musculaire vigoureuse. On ne peut pas plus s’attendre à ce qu’une femme dont la fonction sexuelle est demeurée sans exercice jusqu’à trente ou quarante ans soit apte à remplir normalement le rôle d’une compagne ou d’une mère. L’amativité — si jamais elle a existé — aura complètement disparu par manque d’assouvissement normal. Dans le cas d’une femme frigide-née, il est de toute probabilité que la sensibilité sexuelle sera totalement absente. Sans doute, une telle femme pourra aveuglément se jeter dans les bras d’un jeune compagnon ardent, de cinq à huit ans plus jeune qu’elle^ mais il est bien rare que l’un et l’autre retirent du bonheur de leur réunion. Or, les conditions de la vie sociale et économique actuelle tendent de plus en plus à reculer le mariage jusqu’à ce que soient éteintes la flamme et la vigueur de la jeunesse.

Mes lecteurs n’ignorent pas que légalement l’incapacité de l’homme à consommer le mariage est une raison de divorce ou d’annulation, mais il est arrivé à beaucoup d’hommes qui ont épousé des vierges mûres de rencontrer chez leurs femmes une impuissance plus ou moins grande. Le stimulant naturel permet en général aux organes débilités de la reproduction de regagner par la suite leur sensibilité ; dans des cas nombreux, par contre, trop de femmes ont appris, à leurs dépens, que la continence sexuelle est une cause d’union malheureuse, non seulement au début mais pour tout le temps qu’elle durera.

J’ai donné la première place à l’aspect physiologique de la virginité trop longtemps prolongée considérée au point de vue de l’union sexuelle, parce que c’est un sujet que les femmes refusent d’aborder. C’est une erreur grave et c’est la source de maintes misères dont mon sexe est affligé. Pourquoi donc appartiendrait-il à l’homme seulement de connaître ce qui a trait à un fait aussi important que le fait sexuel ? En fermant les yeux, en permettant à autrui de nous en obscurcir la connaissance, nous faisons injure à nos revendications d’intelligence pour le moins égale à celle de l’homme.

« Tout ceci est bel et bon — répliqueront peut-être certains de mes lecteurs — nous reconnaissons qu’un trop grand nombre de femmes sont grossièrement lésées par un célibat contre nature. Mais qu’y faire? Il y a eu, il y aura toujours une proportion notable de femmes seules. Ne feraient-elles pas mieux de se résigner à l’inévitable, de se créer un bonheur de seconde main qu’on peut facilement rencontrer dans l’activité de la vie journalière? Tant de sphères utiles sont ouvertes à la femme aujourd’hui ! Au pis aller, ne pourraient-elles se consacrer aux familles de leurs frères, de leurs sœurs qui ont des enfants? Elles trouveraient là une magnifique occasion d’exercer leurs capacités d’affection désintéressée. »

Mes bons amis, vous offrez une pierre à la place de pain. Le cœur d’une femme aspire à des enfants qu’elle ait mis au monde elle-même. Pourquoi la femme se résignerait-elle à ce bonheur d’occasion, alors que la nature, l’infaillible guide, indique le vrai, le seul remède, et nous invite à en faire hardiment usage ? La « loi non écrite » de la société actuelle prescrit que toute femme non mariée doit rester dans un état de chasteté. Comme tant d’autres des conventions morales, celle-ci est vile, contre nature, cruelle au plus haut degré si on enseignait aux jeunes filles à subvenir à leurs propres besoins, à être libres et indépendantes économiquement ; si dès l’enfance, on leur apprenait à considérer le don futur d’elles-mêmes comme une action naturelle et légitime, dépendante seulement de leur bon vouloir, combien serait différent l’état des choses La chasse aux maris cesserait ; il y aurait très peu d’unions permanentes, car de nombreuses femmes comprennent les avantages d’unions qui se peuvent facilement dissoudre ou renouveler. Nombre de femmes énergiques, après avoir satisfait aux exigences fondamentales de leur nature, se consacreraient à une profession, à une activité indépendante. Si la maternité survenait, combien chère, incommensurablement chère, deviendrait alors la vie de ces femmes-là?

Est-ce que je revendique pour la jeune fille le droit d’avoir des amants et d’occuper dans (( la société » la même situation que la femme soi-disant chaste ? Absolument. Il y a des milliers de femmes — des millions peut-être — qui ne peuvent se marier. Au nom de l’humanité, qu’elles aient des amants et des enfants si ça leur convient céder à l’homme qui lui plaît est aussi naturel pour une femme que la venue de ses dents de sagesse ou le développement de son buste.

Il y a un moment dans la plupart des vies de jeunes filles où la virginité aspire en tremblant à se donner, à se mélanger à une autre vie, à créer une vie nouvelle. C’est pour une femme le moment idéal du don de soi.

L’aspiration à l’amour de l’homme, à une progéniture comme conséquence de cet amour, voilà l’héritage de la femme. Aussi longtemps que les femmes seront privées du « droit » de satisfaire ces deux aspirations — qui n’ont rien à voir avec l’accident du « mariage » — elles resteront inférieures, mutilées, incomplètes. Depuis des siècles, la loi despotique de la virginité obligatoire tient esclave notre féminité. Le temps n’est-il pas venu de nous libérer de ce lien infamant ?

J’entends un partisan de l’état actuel des relations sexuelles s’écrier : « Promiscuité ! » d’un air alarmé. Promiscuité? Y a-t-il un système de relâchement sexuel qui pourrait être pire que l’actuel? Considérez donc s’il vous plaît, sans sortir de mon pays, Londres, Liverpool, toutes les villes de la Grande-Bretagne, toutes les colonies anglaises. Vous y verrez étalés les exemples de la promiscuité véritable sous la forme de prostitution de la femme. Et il en est de même dans toutes les contrées « civilisées ». Y a-t-il au monde une forme plus noble d’amour que la réunion pure, sérieuse, désintéressée d’amants attirés l’un vers l’autre par une attraction mentale et physique? Quel homme ou femme d’esprit sain confondrait ces deux systèmes tellement opposés dans leur essence? Quel homme, quelle femme ayant médité sur la question nierait que le célibat obligatoire de la femme et la prostitution sont des fléaux inséparables, jumeaux?

Le temps vient, il est même à notre portée où toute vierge pourra tendre les mains vers l’homme qui l’attire et lui dire : « Mon ami, nous nous aimons. Toute ma vie jusqu’ici a été une recherche pour toi, mon bien-aimé, mon autre moi-même. Je suis tienne, prends-moi, absorbe-moi en toi ou je meurs ».





Clare, Hope, “Stagnant Virginity,” The Libertarian Labyrinth, accessed September 17, 2019,

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