History of Sex Manuals Abraham Stone's Marriage Manual Part 1

About the history of the A Marriage Manual: A Practical Guidebook to Sex and Marriage by Abraham Stone, history, overview and advice from the sexual manual.

The Development of the Sex Manual


Instructors: Abraham Stone (1890-1959) and Hannah Stone (1894-1941). Abraham Stone was born in Russia and at age 12 was sent to live with an uncle in New York. Years later he met his wife, Hannah, at Bellevue Hospital, where he interned. When Abraham went off to war (W.W.I), Hannah went on to get her M.D. Both were doctors when they met Margaret Sanger, birth-control pioneer, in 1921. Hannah eventually became director of the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau, a position she held until her death in 1941. Abraham subsequently took over the job. After hearing a series of lectures on marriage at New York's Labor Temple, the couple set up the first marriage counseling service in the U.S. in 1931 at the Community Church in New York City. Their book, first printed in 1935, revised in 1937, was extremely popular. Abraham, an authority on population and birth control, was vice-chairman of the International Union of Family Organizations and vice-president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Overview: When viewed in its time (pre-W.W. II), this sober-looking book in its biblical black cover seems quietly progressive and controversial. Abortion and sex outside of marriage were then illegal in the U.S., and compulsory sterilization of "defective" people was permitted or ordered in 30 states ("a dangerous social policy," said the Stones). The average sex act lasted less than five minutes, and if the country was "coming out of a puritanical age," it did a lot of looking back.

The book is written as a dialogue between a doctor and a young couple about to be married. Scattered throughout the down-to-earth practical advice and instruction are discussions of the issues of the day (reformation of the moral codes, for example), the possibility of "junior marriage" without children for the immature, and pertinent sexual facts (that a man named Columbus--not Christopher--claimed discovery of the clitoris in 1593 though anatomists had described it earlier). They mention a contraceptive recipe written on an ancient Egyptian papyrus and discuss contemporary anthropological studies by Margaret Mead; in short, the Stones place their advice in a larger framework than the one that surrounded the U.S. of the 1930s. A statement of the relative harmlessness of masturbation opens with typical astringent wit: "Although this attitude [the idea that masturbation is harmful to the mind and the body] has apparently not decreased the practice to any degree...." Some theories they backed up with studies of their own; for instance, they measured the distance from vagina to clitoris (from 1/2 in. to 2 1/2 in.) in a sample or women.

Forever practical, aware of the mores of the society in which they lived, the couple did not advocate practices like promiscuity which seemed to endanger the "wholesomeness and balance" of their patients. They favor marriage and children. They reject normal intercourse from the rear--as used regularly "only among certain primitive peoples"--and favor the more romantic, face-to-face positions.

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