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The Seventh Commandment
by [?]

It is worthy of remark that most distinguished women since the days of Sappho and Semiramis have been impure, while not a few great men have been remarkable for their continency. Woman has been called “the weaker vessel,” and certain it is that men stand the glamor of greatness, the temptations that come with riches, the white light that beats upon a throne, much better than do Eve’s fair daughters. As a man becomes great, he respects more and more the cumulative wisdom of the world, becomes obedient; as a woman becomes great she grows disdainful and rebellious. Thus it is that while in the common walks of life woman is infinitely purer than man, as we ascend into the higher realms, whether in art, letters or statecraft, we discover a tendency to reverse this law until we often find great men anchorites and great women trampling on the moral code.

There be some who explain man’s larger sexual liberty on physiological grounds, excuse it on the hypothesis of necessity. Physicians of the ultra-progressive school have even gone so far as to assert that continence in man is the chief cause of impotency–have pointed out that it is usually the wives of good men who go wrong, and insisted that to the former hypothesis must be attributed the latter fact. I am unable to find any reason in physiology why such a rule should not work both ways. I have said somewhere that man is naturally polygamous, and I might have added with equal truth that woman is naturally polyandrous. The difference is that woman’s sexual education began earlier and she has progressed somewhat further from “a state of nature” wherein free love is the law. Man early began to defend his prerogatives, to strengthen the moral concept of his mate with a club, to frame laws for the protection of his female property. The infraction of established custom soon came to be considered a social crime, an offense of which even the gods took cognizance. Woman’s polyandrous instinct yielded somewhat to education–she was compelled to make this sacrifice upon the altar of society. Thus was female continence not a thing decreed by Heaven or “natural law,” but was begotten of brute force. We see a survival of the old animalistic instinct in prostitution and the all too frequent illicit intercourse prevailing in the higher walks of life. Unquestionably the Seventh Commandment is violative of natural law as applied to either sex; but most natural laws must be amended somewhat ere we can have even a semblance of civilization; hence we cannot excuse man’s peccadillos on that broad plea that it’s “the nature of the brute.” Joseph and St. Anthony, Gautama and Sir Galahad are ideals toward which man must ever strive with all his strength if he would purge the subsoil out of his system– would mount above the gutter where wallow the dumb beasts and take his place among the gods. The custom of thousands of years to the contrary notwithstanding, it is damnable that a wife should be compelled to share a husband’s caresses with lewd women. Tennyson assures us that “as the husband is the wife is.” Fortunately for society this is false; still there are thorns in the bed and rebellion in the heart of the woman who must play wife to a Lovelace or a Launcelot. It is not true that it is the wives of good men who go astray; it is the wives who are naturally corrupt or morally weak. A talented lady contributor to the ICONOCLAST once asserted that ’tis not for good women that men have done great deeds. Perchance this is true, for men who do great deeds are goaded thereto, not by the swish of crinoline, but by the immortal gods. Such acts are bred in the bone, are born in the blood and brain. It certainly is not for bad women that men soar at the sun, for every man worth the killing despises corruption in womankind. He worships on bended knee and with uncovered head at the shrines of Minerva and Dian, and but amuses himself by stealth at that of the Pandemian Venus. When Antony deserted his Roman wife for Egypt’s sensuous queen, he quickly became an enervated ass and his name thenceforth was Ichabod. Great Caesar dallied with the same dusky wanton, but ever in his intrepid heart ruled that “woman above reproach.” Alexander of Macedon refrained from making the wife of Persia’s conquered king his mistress. Napoleon found time even among the thunders of war to write daily to his wife, and when he finally turned from her it was not to seek a fairer flame but to place a son upon the throne of France. Grant stood forth in an era of unbridled license unsullied as a god. Great men have been unfaithful to their marital vows, but it has been those of mediocre minds and india-rubber morals who have cowered at the feet of mistresses–who have thrown their world away for reechy kisses shared by others. While it is true that the world’s intellectual titans have seldom been he-virgins or feathered saints, they did not draw godlike inspiration from their own dishonor.