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Helene Stöcker, "Marriage as a Psychological Problem" (1929)

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Wherever the spirit remains alive, where the soul is in love, where the character is still developing, then there is no reason why love should come to an end. There may be changes in externals; there may be changes in degree but not in kind. In the later years there may be a gradual decline in the intense passion. But tenderness and spiritual unity grow. Wherever we have genuine and great love, only death can separate the lovers.

An important part of our great work of Sexual Reform on a Scientific Basis consists in bringing home to the consciousness of men that love is omnipresent. It is as essential to life as breathing. It is intimately bound up in the whole of lives from the cradle to the grave. Anyone who helps in any way to do this is with us and we welcome him as a co-worker. It is perhaps even more necessary to see this fact given practical recognition in the lives of women than in the lives of men. For the dominant position that man has had hitherto, and the victorious sense of his capacity and readiness for love, have already given it to him.

Many men, even today, still accept the idea that only youth is worthy of love. This idea belongs to a more primitive conception of sexuality and is responsible for the destruction of happiness in marriage. It causes many a hell of loneliness. “Many married women are cloistered nuns,” said [Gerhart] Hauptmann.

Much bitterness, despair and unhappiness would be avoided and the joy of life would be increased if the purely sexual idea of love were replaced by a more developed conception. This higher conception of love seeks to increase man’s capacity for love and make love an ever more complete expression of the whole personality. “Die and grow” is true for both sexes. But when growing means self-development, as it does for all intelligent human beings, then we have perpetual youth, which, as Schleiermacher taught us, is always capable of love and always worthy of being loved.

Since the outbreak of the war many of us have had to face the terrible problem: How is it possible for peoples who are supposed to be civilized to waste so much human life and happiness and to inflict such misery on each other? It seems to us that one of our great tasks is to stamp out this shameful thing.

I have not time now to go into the connection between repressed sexuality and cruelty. But I may say this much: If we devote our energies to suppressing war, and to movements for sexual reform, if we go on as we have for the last twenty-five years, then we shall realize what our great teacher, Nietzsche, once expressed so beautifully:

“Since men have existed men have had too little joy. That, O my brothers, is the original sin. Let us learn better how to be joyous and then we will best unlearn how to cause pain.”

It is our task, it is the task of sexual reform of sexual science, to teach people how best to enjoy life.

Source of English translation: Helene Stöcker, “Marriage as a Psychological Problem” (1930), Sexual Reform Congress (London, September 8-14 1929), ed. Norman Haire. London: Kegan Paul, 1930, pp. 604-05; reprinted in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg. © 1994 Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press, pp. 705-08. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.

Source of original German text: Helene Stöcker, “Die Ehe als psychologisches Problem,” Die neue Generation 25 (1929), 8-9, pp. 271-82.

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