The Works of Aristotle - OF THE RESTRICTION LAID UPON MEN IN THE USE OF CARNAL COPULATION, BY THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE, WITH THE ADVANTAGE THAT IT BRINGS TO MANKIND, AND THE PROPER TIME FOR IT.

OF THE RESTRICTION LAID UPON MEN IN THE USE OF CARNAL COPULATION, BY THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE, WITH THE ADVANTAGE THAT IT BRINGS TO MANKIND, AND THE PROPER TIME FOR IT.

 

Though the great architect of the world has been pleased to frame us different sexes, and, for the propagation and continuation of mankind, has indulged us the mutual embraces of each other, the desire whereof, by a powerful and secret instinct, is become natural to us, yet he would leave them to the law of the Creator, who has ordained that every man shall have his own wife; and though since man, by sinning against his Creator hath fallen from his primitive purity and has multiplied wives and concubines by which the first institution is violated, and the greatest affront done the divine law-giver: for the holy Jesus has told us, That in the beginning is was so; the marriage of one man to one woman: so that, as these conjugal delights cannot be enjoyed but in a married state, so neither, in that state, can they lawfully be participated of with more than one wife. And it is the breaking of this order that has filled the world with confusion and debauchery, has brought diseases on the body, consumptions on estates, and eternal ruin to the soul, if not repented of. Let all those, therefore, of either sex, that have a desire to enjoy the delights of mutual embraces take care that they do it in a married state, with their own wives or husbands, or else it will become a curse to them instead of a blessing. And, to that end, let them consider what is due to the transgressors of his law, who hath said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Whatever is spoken of the venereal pleasures, is spoken to those who have, or may have, a right thereunto, by being in a married state. For,

 

Who to forbidden pleasures are inclin'd
Will find at last they leave a sting behind.

 

SECT. II.-- Of the Happiness of the Married States

 

MATRIMONY, in the present age, is looked upon as a most insupportable yoke:-- Wives and husbands are accounted the greatest clogs and burdens to those who give up the reins to their unbridled appetites. Notwithstanding the present mode of thinking is against me, I doubt not of making it appear, that a married state is a most happy condition (when persons are equally yoked) that is to be enjoyed on this side of heaven.

The Author and institutor of marriage, and that first brought man and woman together, was no other than he that made them: even the great Lord of the Universe, whose wisdom being infinite, could not but know what condition was good for us; and his goodness being equal to his wisdom, sufficiently shows the end of this institution was the happiness of the creature he had made: and indeed man could not be happy without it: for he saw that it was not good for man should be alone, and therefore made a woman to complete his happiness, which was not perfect, whilst he wanted such a help-mate for him.

The time of the institution is also very remarkable; for it was whilst Adam and his new-made bride were clothed with all that virgin purity and innocence with which they were created, before they had entertained the least converse with the tempter, or had given way to one disordered thought; and yet could curiously survey the several incomparable beauties and perfections of each other without sin, and knew not what it was to lust. It was at this time that the Creator united Adam in the holy bonds of wedlock.

'Twas in paradise where the first match was made; and which could have scarcely been paradise without it; for paradise is known to be a place of pleasure, wherein they were surrounded with the quintessence of all delights; where there was nothing wanting that might please the eye, charm the ear, or gratify the taste; and yet Adam was not happy with all these pleasing sweets till he enjoyed his Eve; so that it was a married state which completed his happiness, and which was a paradise of paradise itself.

What an addition to happiness a good wife makes! Such an one is the best companion in prosperity, and in adversity the surest friend; the greatest assistance in business, the only lawful and comfortable means by which she can have issue, and the great remedy against incontinence; and if we believe King Solomon, the greatest honour unto him that has her. For he it is that tells us, She is a crown to her husband. Surely these are not small advantages!

If married persons would be careful to do their respective duties there would be but little complaining; nor would any condition in life be so agreeable as the married state. How much more satisfaction a man receives in the embraces of a loving wife, than in the wanton dalliances of a deceitful harlot.

 

Thus does this section unto all relate,
The pleasures that attend the married state
And shews it does with innocence consist,
And that so many have those pleasures miss'd,
It's their own fault they will no wiser be,
As in this mirror they may plainly see.

 

SECT. III.-- Showing at what age young men and virgins are capable of carnal copulation; and why they so much desire it.

I SHALL in this present section make it my business to show at what age young men and virgins are capable of the marriage bed, which, because so many desire before they attend to it, it will be likewise necessary to show the causes of their impetuous desires.

The inclinations of virgins to marriage is to be known by many symptoms; for when they arrive to ripe age, which is about fourteen or fifteen, their natural purgations begin to flow; and then the blood, which no longer serves for the increase of their bodies, does, by its abounding, stir up their minds to venery: to which also external causes may incite them. For their spirits are brisk and inflamed when they arrive at this age, and their bodies are often more heated by their eating sharp and salt things; and by spices, by which their desire of venereal embraces becomes very great, and at some critical junctures very insupportable. The use of those so much desired enjoyments being denied to virgins, is often followed by very dangerous, and sometimes dismal consequences, precipitating them into those follies that may bring an indelible stain on their families, or bring on themselves the Green Sickness, or other diseases. But when they are married, and those desires satisfied by their husband, these distempers vanish, and their beauty returns more gay and lively than before. And this strong inclination of theirs may be known by their eager gazing at men, and affecting their company, which sufficiently demonstrates that Nature excites them to desire coition. Nor is this the case with virgins only, but the same may be observed in young widows who cannot be satisfied without that due benevolence which they were wont to receive from their husbands.

At fourteen years of age, commonly, the menses begin to flow in virgins; at which time they are capable of conceiving, and therefore fit for marriage; though it would be much better, both for themselves and their children, if they would not marry till eighteen or twenty; if they are healthy, of a strong body, and use themselves to temperance, they may continue bearing till upwards of 50, though generally they leave off bearing between 40 and 50: for the menses flow a longer time in some cases than others; but when they cease, they cease bearing. And therefore Sarah bearing isaac after it had ceased to be with her according to the custom of women, may be well termed miraculous.

As for male youth, when they arrive at i6, or between that and 17, having much vital strength, they may be capable of getting children; which ability, by the force and heat of procreating matter, constantly increases till 45, 56, and 65, and then begins to flag, the seed by degrees becoming unfruitful, the natural spirits being extinguished, and the heat dried up. Thus it is with them for the most part, but many times it falls out otherwise in particular instances: as once in Sweedland a man was married at 100 years old to a bride of 30, and had many children by her; but he was a man of so good a constitution, and carried his age so well, that strangers would not have guessed him at above 60. And in Campania, where the air is clear and temperate, it is usual for men of 80 years old to marry young virgins, and have children by them: which shows that age in men hinders not procreation, unless they be exhausted in their youth, and their yards shrivelled up.

If any ask, why a woman is sooner barren than a man? let such know that the natural heat which is the cause of generation, is more predominate in men than women; for the monthly purgations of women show them to be more moist than men, and so does also the softness of their bodies. And the man exceeding her in native heat, concocts the humours into proper aliment, by the benefit whereof they are elaborated into seed: but women, though of a finer make, yet not being so strong as men, their faculties are thereby hindered in their operation.

 

Thus Nature to her children is so kind,
That early they those inclinations find,
Which prompts them on to propagate mankind.
Hence 'tis a virgin her desires can't smother,
But restless is till she be made a mother.

 

 

CHAPTER III.

 

OF VIRGINITY; WHAT IT IS; HOW IT MAY BE KNOWN; BY WHAT MEANS IT MAY BE LOST; AND HOW A PERSON MAY KNOW THAT IT IS SO.

 

SEC. I. Of Virginity, and wherein it consists.

HAVING treated of the desire young men and virgins have to mutual embraces, and at what age they are fit for them; I have also shown that these pleasures are only lawful to be enjoyed in a married state; and have also acquainted my readers with the advantage of such a condition. But since the desires of many after mutual embraces are so impetuous, that not having an opportunity to enter into a married state, they have anticipated the pleasures of matrimony, and have lost their virginity beforehand: and yet, perhaps, have afterwards pretended to bring their virginity to a marriage bed, by which means many an honest man has been deceived, and meretricious women escaped with impunity; and, on the other hand, some virtuous young virgins, that have indeed come such unto their husband's beds, have been accused by the ignorance and incredulity of their husbands to have lost their virginity beforehand, when there has been no such matter, therefore, to do right in this case to both parties, my design in this chapter is to show what virginity is, and wherein it consists; how many ways it may be lost; and how a man may know whether it be lost or not; that so women may not be wrongfully censured, or men imposed upon.

Virginity, untouched and taintless, is the boast and pride of the fair sex; but they generally commend it to put it off. For, as good as it is, they care not how soon they are honestly rid of it. And I think they are in the right of it, for if kept it grows useless, or at least, loses so much of its value; a stale virgin (if such a thing there be) being looked upon like an old Almanack, out of date.-- But to speak to the purpose, virginity is the chief, the best, the prime of any thing, and is properly the integrity of a woman's privities, not violated by man, or not known by him; it being the distinguishing characteristic of a virgin that she has not known man. To make this more plain, I must here observe, that there is in maids, in the neck of the womb, a membranous production called the Hymen, which is like the bud of a rose half blown, and this is broken in the first act of copulation with man; and hence came the word Defloro, to deflower; when the taking of virginity is called the deflowering of a virgin; for when the rose bud is expanded, virginity is lost. Certain it is, there is in the first act of copulation something that causes pain and bleedings, which is an evident sign of virginity. But what this is, authors are not agreed on. Some say it is a nervous membrane, or thin skin with small veins, that bleed at the first penetration of the yard. Others say it is the four carbuncles, knobs, or little buds like myrtle berries, which are plump and full in virgins, but hang loose or flaggy in those that have used copulation, being pressed by the yard. Some have observed a fleshy circle about the Nymphae, or neck of the womb, with little obscure veins, which make the membrane not to be nervous, but fleshy. But setting aside conjectures, the Hymen, or Claustrum Virginale is a thin membrane interwoven with fleshy fibres, and endowed with many little arteries and veins spread across the passage of the vagina, behind the insertion of the bladder, with a hole in the midst for the menses to flow, so big that it will admit of the top of one's little finger. This is that which is called the Zone, or girdle of chastity: and, where it is found in the form described, it is a certain note of virginity; but, in the first act of copulation, it is generally accompanied with an effusion of blood, which blood is called the flower of virginity; and, when once it is broken, is never closes again.

 

SEC. II. How Virginity may be lost, etc.

IN the former section, I have endeavoured to show in what virginity consists, and that it is lost by the first penetration of the yard, which may be easily known by its being attended with, an effusion of blood upon the rupture of the Hymenean membrane, or Claustrum Virginale; but I must do the fair sex this justice to let the world know, that although wherever this is found, it be an undoubted token of virginity, yet it will not follow that where this token is wanting, virginity is deflowered and lost; for the Hymen may be corroded by acrimonious and fretting humours flowing through it with the Menses, or it may be violated by the inversion or falling out of the Uterus, or of the Vagina or sheath, which sometimes happens even to virgins; or (which I would have all Virgins to beware of, for the preservation of their credit, and preventing of all causes of suspicion) perhaps the indiscreet or unwary bride had her Menses but a day or two before, in which case both the Hymen and the inner wrinkled membranes of the Vagina are flaggy, weak, and relaxed, so that no such rupture, and of consequence, no such effusion, may happen. It were better, therefore, upon this account, that when virgins are about to marry they would fix their wedding at least six or seven days after the Menses have done flowing.

But further, to some Nature hath given greater desires after enjoyment than to others, and to such, though they abstain from enjoyment, yet so great is their lust and desire after it, that they may break the Hymen or Claustrum Virginale: and sometimes it itches to that degree that they put in their finger, and so break it. Sometimes the midwives break it in the birth; and sometimes it is done by the stoppage of the urine, coughing, violent straining, or sneezing; so that, if there be no bleeding at the first penetration of the husband, it is not always a sign of unchastity, or that another has been there before him, seeing that the Hymenean membranes may be broken so many ways; but where bleeding does follow, it is evident and undeniable token that the person was a virgin, and had never known man before. And indeed, though the Hymen (or membrane so-called) may be broken, all these ways I have mentioned, yet it so rarely happens to be broken any other way, that Leo Africanus makes mention of it as a general custom of the Africans at their weddings, that, after the ceremony is over, the bride and bridegroom are shut up in a chamber, while the wedding dinner is preparing: an ancient woman stands at the door to receive from the bridegroom a sheet, having the bloody tokens of the wife's virginity, which she shows in triumph to all the guests, and then they feast with joy: but if there is no blood seen, the bride is sent home again to her friends with disgrace, and the disappointed guests go home without their dinner.

There are others that make the straightness of the privities a sign of virginity, but this is a very uncertain rule; for this depends much upon the age, habit of body, and other circumstances. But, though indeed it must be granted that women who have used carnal copulation, are not so straight as virgins, yet this cannot be a certain argument of virginity, because, after often repeated acts of venery, the privities may be made so straight by the use of astringent medicines, that those who trust to this sign may sometimes take a whore instead of a virgin. And I have heard of a courtesan, who, though she had been married, gave herself out to be a virgin, and, by the help of a bath of comfrey roots deceived those with whom she had to do.

Others take upon them to be judges of lost virginity by milk in the breast; but such, perhaps, are ignorant that there is a two-fold milk; the one of virgins, the other of such as have conceived or brought forth children: that of virgins is a malady contrary to nature, but the other is natural. The first is made of blood from the womb, and so goes to the breasts, being nothing but superfluous nourishment that is turned into milk by the faculty of the breasts, without the knowledge of man: the other is only where there is a child either in the womb or born. Yet the milk differs very much, both in respect to the blood, and diversity of veins that brings it to the breasts; and though both are white, yet that of virgins is thinner, and less in quantity, neither is it so sweet. Therefore, if virgins happen to have such milk, they are not for that reason to be unchaste.

Upon the whole matter, the sum of what I have said upon this head of virginity terminates in this: that when a man is married and finds the tokens of his wife's virginity upon the first act of copulation, he has all the reason in the world to believe her such, and to rest satisfied that he has married a virgin; but if on the contrary, he finds them not, then he has no reason to think her devirginated, if he finds her otherwise sober and modest seeing the Hymen, or Claustrum Virginale, may be broken in many other ways, and yet the woman be both chaste and virtuous. Only let me caution virgins to take all imaginable care to keep their virgin Zone entire, that so, when they marry, they may be such as the great Caesar wished his wife to be, that is, not only without fault, but without suspicion also.

 

Thus have I virgin innocence survey'd,
And show'd the difference 'twixt wife and maid,
And that their chastity they need not fear
Whose virgin tokens plainly do appear.
Nor censure those in whom they do not so,
Unless the contrary they plainly know;
For they may yet unspotted virgins be,
Altho' their' virgin tokens none can see.

 

Previous Next