Biography and Sexual Teachings of Marie Stopes Part 2

About the author of Married Love Marie Stopes, biography and history of her sexual teachings.


MARIE STOPES (1880-1958), Great Britain

Her second marriage had been disintegrating for years. When she was 58 years old, her husband became impotent and openly encouraged her to take a lover, which she did--a man young enough to be her son. She began to write erotic poetry and befriended Lord Alfred Douglas, an aging poet who had been Oscar Wilde's lover. Then, in a letter to someone who had not met her, she said, "It's sweet of you to treat me and think of me as 'young,' about 25--for I am really 26! I have always felt 26 and I expect to until I'm about 150, when I shall feel 40ish perhaps."

At 75 she was still swimming in the ocean and feeling she would live to 150. But she was wrong. Only three years later she died, after an agonizing illness, of cancer of the breast.


In the preface to Married Love, Marie Stopes defended what was then a daring discussion of sex by saying, "To the reticent, as to the conventional, it may seem a presumption or a superfluity to speak of the details of the most complex of all our functions. They ask: Is instinct not enough? The answer is NO. Instinct is not enough." In talking to other women, she had become aware of their enormous innocence about sex, and she felt that it was "rape for the husband to insist on his 'marital rights' at once."

She recommended foreplay, particularly kissing of the breasts, but mentions the clitoris only in passing: "It is extremely sensitive to touch-sensations."

Abstinence, she felt, was not good for people; it caused symptoms from neuralgia to fibroid growths. And in her romantic way, she was all for orgasm: "The half-swooning sense of flux which overtakes the spirit in that eternal moment at the apex of rapture sweeps into its flaming tides the whole essence of the man and woman, and as it were, the heat of the contact vaporizes their consciousness so that it fills the whole of cosmic space. For the moment they are identified with the divine thoughts, the waves of eternal force, which to the Mystic often appear in terms of golden light."

In the midst of extravagantly "poetic" descriptions, however, the scientist in her comes to the fore, wanting more evidence to back up ideas she had formulated--the Law of Periodicity of Recurrence of Desire, for example, which stated that women wanted sex only at certain times in their menstrual cycles, two or three days before the onset of the menses and often about eight to nine days after. (Her solution to the discrepancy in desire between men and women was to suggest that husbands wait until their wives were in the mood.)

The most modern aspect of the book is its feminist stance. Marie Stopes believed that women should be equal partners with men, and said, "When woman naturally develops the powers latent within her, man will find at his side not only a mate, free and strong, but a desirable friend and an intellectual comrade."

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