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Woman’s Wickedness
by [?]

CHASTITY GOING OUT OF FASHION.

By the “social evil” is commonly understood illicit intercourse of the sexes, a violation of law or custom intended to regulate the procreative passion.

The “evil” is probably as old as society, coeval with mankind. History–tradition itself–goes not back to a time when statutes, confessedly human, or professedly divine, were capable of controlling the fierce fires that blaze within the blood–when all-consuming Love was cold Reason’s humble slave and Passion yielded blind obedience unto Precept. Although the heavens have been ever peopled with threatening gods and the great inane filled with gaping hells; although kings and courts have thundered their inhibitions forth, and society turned upon illicit love Medusa’s awful frown, the Paphian Venus has flourished in every age and clime, and still flaunts her scarlet flag in the face of Heaven.

The history of humanity–its poetry, its romance, its very religion–is little more than a Joseph’s coat, woven of Love’s celestial warp and Passion’s infernal woof in the loom of Time. For sensuous Cleopatra’s smiles Mark Antony thought the world well lost; for false Helen’s favors proud Ilion’s temples blazed, and the world is strewn with broken altars and ruined fanes, with empty crowns and crumbling thrones blasted by the selfsame curse.

In many cities of every land abandoned women are so numerous, despite all these centuries of law-making and moralizing, that they find it impossible to earn a livelihood by their nefarious trade–are driven by sheer necessity to seek more respectable employment. The supply of public prostitutes is apparently limited only by the demand, while the number of “kept women” is constantly increasing, and society becoming day by day more lenient to those favorites of fortune who have indulged in little escapades not in strict accord with the Seventh Commandment. It is now a common occurrence for a female member of the “Four Hundred” who has confessedly gone astray, to be received back on an equality with her most virtuous sisters. In ancient Sparta theft was considered proper, but getting caught a crime. Modern society has improved upon that peculiar moral code. Adultery–if the debauchee have wealth–is but a venial fault, and to be found out a trifling misfortune, calling for condolence rather than condemnation. It is not so much the number of professed prostitutes that alarms the student of sociology, as the brutal indifference to even the semblance of sexual purity which is taking possession of our social aristocracy, and which poison, percolating through the underlying strata, threatens to eliminate womanly continence from the world.

If, despite all our safeguards of law and the restraining force of religion, society becomes more hopelessly corrupt; if, with our advancing civilization, courtesans increase in number; if, with our boasted progress in education and the arts, women of alleged respectability grow less chary of their charms–if the necessities of poverty and the luxury of wealth alike breed brazen bawds and multiply cuckolds–it is a fair inference that there is something radically wrong with our social system.

It might be well, perhaps, for priests and publicists to cease launching foolish anathemas and useless statutes at prostitution long enough to inquire what is driving so many bright young women into dens of infamy,–for those good souls who are assiduously striving to drag their fallen sisters out of the depths, to study the causes of the disease before attempting a cure. I say disease, for I cannot agree with those utilitarians who profess to regard prostitution as a “necessary evil”; who protest that the brute passions of man must be sated,–that but for the Scarlet Woman he would debauch the Vestal Virgin. I do not believe that Almighty God decreed that one-half the women of this world should be sacrificed upon the unclean altar of Lust that the others might be saved. It is an infamous, a revolting doctrine, a damning libel of the Deity. All the courtesans beneath Heaven’s blue concave never caused a single son of Adam’s misery to refrain from tempting, so far as he possessed the power, one virtuous woman. Never.