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Women in a Modern Utopia

Section 1.

But though I have come to a point where the problem of a Utopia has
resolved itself very simply into the problem of government and
direction, I find I have not brought the botanist with me. Frankly
he cannot think so steadily onward as I can. I feel to think, he
thinks to feel. It is I and my kind that have the wider range,
because we can be impersonal as well as personal. We can escape
ourselves. In general terms, at least, I understand him, but
he does not understand me in any way at all. He thinks me an
incomprehensible brute because his obsession is merely one of my
incidental interests, and wherever my reasoning ceases to be
explicit and full, the slightest ellipsis, the most transitory
digression, he evades me and is back at himself again. He may have a
personal liking for me, though I doubt it, but also he hates me
pretty distinctly, because of this bias he cannot understand. My
philosophical insistence that things shall be reasonable and hang
together, that what can be explained shall be explained, and that
what can be done by calculation and certain methods shall not be
left to chance, he loathes. He just wants adventurously to feel. He
wants to feel the sunset, and he thinks that on the whole he would
feel it better if he had not been taught the sun was about
ninety-two million miles away. He wants to feel free and strong, and
he would rather feel so than be so. He does not want to accomplish
great things, but to have dazzling things occur to him. He does not
know that there are feelings also up in the clear air of the
philosophic mountains, in the long ascents of effort and design. He
does not know that thought itself is only a finer sort of feeling
than his--good hock to the mixed gin, porter and treacle of his
emotions, a perception of similitudes and oppositions that carries
even thrills. And naturally he broods on the source of all his most
copious feelings and emotions, women, and particularly upon the
woman who has most made him feel. He forces me also to that.

Our position is unfortunate for me. Our return to the Utopian
equivalent of Lucerne revives in him all the melancholy distresses
that so preoccupied him when first we were transferred to this
better planet. One day, while we are still waiting there for the
public office to decide about us, he broaches the matter. It is
early evening, and we are walking beside the lake after our simple
dinner. "About here," he says, "the quays would run and all those
big hotels would be along here, looking out on the lake. It's so
strange to have seen them so recently, and now not to see them at
all.... Where have they gone?"

"Vanished by hypothesis."

"What?"

"Oh! They're there still. It's we that have come hither."

"Of course. I forgot. But still---- You know, there was an avenue of
little trees along this quay with seats, and she was sitting looking
out upon the lake.... I hadn't seen her for ten years."

He looks about him still a little perplexed. "Now we are here," he
says, "it seems as though that meeting and the talk we had must have
been a dream."

He falls musing.

Presently he says: "I knew her at once. I saw her in profile. But,
you know, I didn't speak to her directly. I walked past her seat and
on for a little way, trying to control myself.... Then I turned back
and sat down beside her, very quietly. She looked up at me.
Everything came back--everything. For a moment or so I felt I was
going to cry...."

That seems to give him a sort of satisfaction even in the
reminiscence.

"We talked for a time just like casual acquaintances--about the view
and the weather, and things like that."

He muses again.

"In Utopia everything would have been different," I say.

"I suppose it would."

He goes on before I can say anything more.

"Then, you know, there was a pause. I had a sort of intuition that
the moment was coming. So I think had she. You may scoff, of course,
at these intuitions----"

I don't, as a matter of fact. Instead, I swear secretly. Always this
sort of man keeps up the pretence of highly distinguished and
remarkable mental processes, whereas--have not I, in my own
composition, the whole diapason of emotional fool? Is not the
suppression of these notes my perpetual effort, my undying despair?
And then, am I to be accused of poverty?

But to his story.

"She said, quite abruptly, 'I am not happy,' and I told her, 'I knew
that the instant I saw you.' Then, you know, she began to talk to me
very quietly, very frankly, about everything. It was only afterwards
I began to feel just what it meant, her talking to me like that."

I cannot listen to this!

"Don't you understand," I cry, "that we are in Utopia. She may be
bound unhappily upon earth and you may be bound, but not here. Here
I think it will be different. Here the laws that control all these
things will be humane and just. So that all you said and did, over
there, does not signify here--does not signify here!"

He looks up for a moment at my face, and then carelessly at my
wonderful new world.

"Yes," he says, without interest, with something of the tone of an
abstracted elder speaking to a child, "I dare say it will be all
very fine here." And he lapses, thwarted from his confidences, into
musing.

There is something almost dignified in this withdrawal into himself.
For a moment I entertain an illusion that really I am unworthy to
hear the impalpable inconclusiveness of what he said to her and of
what she said to him.

I am snubbed. I am also amazed to find myself snubbed. I become
breathless with indignation. We walk along side by side, but now
profoundly estranged.

I regard the facade of the Utopian public offices of Lucerne--I had
meant to call his attention to some of the architectural features of
these--with a changed eye, with all the spirit gone out of my
vision. I wish I had never brought this introspective carcass, this
mental ingrate, with me.

I incline to fatalistic submission. I suppose I had no power to
leave him behind.... I wonder and I wonder. The old Utopists never
had to encumber themselves with this sort of man.

--

Section 2.

How would things be "different" in the Modern Utopia? After all it
is time we faced the riddle of the problems of marriage and
motherhood....

The Modern Utopia is not only to be a sound and happy World State,
but it is to be one progressing from good to better. But as Malthus
[Footnote: Essay on the Principles of Population.] demonstrated for
all time, a State whose population continues to increase in
obedience to unchecked instinct, can progress only from bad to
worse. From the view of human comfort and happiness, the increase of
population that occurs at each advance in human security is the
greatest evil of life. The way of Nature is for every species to
increase nearly to its possible maximum of numbers, and then to
improve through the pressure of that maximum against its limiting
conditions by the crushing and killing of all the feebler
individuals. The way of Nature has also been the way of humanity so
far, and except when a temporary alleviation is obtained through an
expansion of the general stock of sustenance by invention or
discovery, the amount of starvation and of the physical misery of
privation in the world, must vary almost exactly with the excess of
the actual birth-rate over that required to sustain population at a
number compatible with a universal contentment. Neither has Nature
evolved, nor has man so far put into operation, any device by which
paying this price of progress, this misery of a multitude of starved
and unsuccessful lives can be evaded. A mere indiscriminating
restriction of the birth-rate--an end practically attained in the
homely, old-fashioned civilisation of China by female infanticide,
involves not only the cessation of distresses but stagnation, and
the minor good of a sort of comfort and social stability is won at
too great a sacrifice. Progress depends essentially on competitive
selection, and that we may not escape.

But it is a conceivable and possible thing that this margin of
futile struggling, pain and discomfort and death might be reduced to
nearly nothing without checking physical and mental evolution, with
indeed an acceleration of physical and mental evolution, by
preventing the birth of those who would in the unrestricted
interplay of natural forces be born to suffer and fail. The method
of Nature "red in tooth and claw" is to degrade, thwart, torture,
and kill the weakest and least adapted members of every species in
existence in each generation, and so keep the specific average
rising; the ideal of a scientific civilisation is to prevent those
weaklings being born. There is no other way of evading Nature's
punishment of sorrow. The struggle for life among the beasts and
uncivilised men means misery and death for the inferior individuals,
misery and death in order that they may not increase and multiply;
in the civilised State it is now clearly possible to make the
conditions of life tolerable for every living creature, provided the
inferiors can be prevented from increasing and multiplying. But this
latter condition must be respected. Instead of competing to escape
death and wretchedness, we may compete to give birth and we may heap
every sort of consolation prize upon the losers in that competition.
The modern State tends to qualify inheritance, to insist upon
education and nurture for children, to come in more and more in the
interests of the future between father and child. It is taking over
the responsibility of the general welfare of the children more and
more, and as it does so, its right to decide which children it will
shelter becomes more and more reasonable.

How far will such conditions be prescribed? how far can they be
prescribed in a Modern Utopia?

Let us set aside at once all nonsense of the sort one hears in
certain quarters about the human stud farm. [Footnote: See Mankind
in the Making, Ch. II.] State breeding of the population was a
reasonable proposal for Plato to make, in view of the biological
knowledge of his time and the purely tentative nature of his
metaphysics; but from anyone in the days after Darwin, it is
preposterous. Yet we have it given to us as the most brilliant of
modern discoveries by a certain school of sociological writers, who
seem totally unable to grasp the modification of meaning "species"
and "individual" have undergone in the last fifty years. They do not
seem capable of the suspicion that the boundaries of species have
vanished, and that individuality now carries with it the quality of
the unique! To them individuals are still defective copies of a
Platonic ideal of the species, and the purpose of breeding no more
than an approximation to that perfection. Individuality is indeed a
negligible difference to them, an impertinence, and the whole flow
of modern biological ideas has washed over them in vain.

But to the modern thinker individuality is the significant fact of
life, and the idea of the State, which is necessarily concerned with
the average and general, selecting individualities in order to pair
them and improve the race, an absurdity. It is like fixing a crane
on the plain in order to raise the hill tops. In the initiative of
the individual above the average, lies the reality of the future,
which the State, presenting the average, may subserve but cannot
control. And the natural centre of the emotional life, the cardinal
will, the supreme and significant expression of individuality,
should lie in the selection of a partner for procreation.

But compulsory pairing is one thing, and the maintenance of general
limiting conditions is another, and one well within the scope of
State activity. The State is justified in saying, before you may add
children to the community for the community to educate and in part
to support, you must be above a certain minimum of personal
efficiency, and this you must show by holding a position of solvency
and independence in the world; you must be above a certain age, and
a certain minimum of physical development, and free of any
transmissible disease. You must not be a criminal unless you have
expiated your offence. Failing these simple qualifications, if you
and some person conspire and add to the population of the State, we
will, for the sake of humanity, take over the innocent victim of
your passions, but we shall insist that you are under a debt to the
State of a peculiarly urgent sort, and one you will certainly pay,
even if it is necessary to use restraint to get the payment out of
you: it is a debt that has in the last resort your liberty as a
security, and, moreover, if this thing happens a second time, or if
it is disease or imbecility you have multiplied, we will take an
absolutely effectual guarantee that neither you nor your partner
offend again in this matter.

"Harsh!" you say, and "Poor Humanity!"

You have the gentler alternative to study in your terrestrial slums
and asylums.

It may be urged that to permit conspicuously inferior people to have
one or two children in this way would be to fail to attain the
desired end, but, indeed, this is not so. A suitably qualified
permission, as every statesman knows, may produce the social effects
without producing the irksome pressure of an absolute prohibition.
Amidst bright and comfortable circumstances, and with an easy and
practicable alternative, people will exercise foresight and
self-restraint to escape even the possibilities of hardship and
discomfort; and free life in Utopia is to be well worth this trouble
even for inferior people. The growing comfort, self-respect, and
intelligence of the English is shown, for example, in the fall in
the proportion of illegitimate births from 2.2 per 1,000 in 1846-50
to 1.2 per 1,000 in 1890-1900, and this without any positive
preventive laws whatever. This most desirable result is pretty
certainly not the consequence of any great exaltation of our moral
tone, but simply of a rising standard of comfort and a livelier
sense of consequences and responsibilities. If so marked a change is
possible in response to such progress as England has achieved in the
past fifty years, if discreet restraint can be so effectual as this,
it seems reasonable to suppose that in the ampler knowledge and the
cleaner, franker atmosphere of our Utopian planet the birth of a
child to diseased or inferior parents, and contrary to the sanctions
of the State, will be the rarest of disasters.

And the death of a child, too, that most tragic event, Utopia will
rarely know. Children are not born to die in childhood. But in our
world, at present, through the defects of our medical science and
nursing methods, through defects in our organisation, through
poverty and carelessness, and through the birth of children that
never ought to have been born, one out of every five children born
dies within five years. It may be the reader has witnessed this most
distressful of all human tragedies. It is sheer waste of suffering.
There is no reason why ninety-nine out of every hundred children
born should not live to a ripe age. Accordingly, in any Modern
Utopia, it must be insisted they will.

--

Section 3.

All former Utopias have, by modern standards, erred on the side of
over regulation in these matters. The amount of State interference
with the marriage and birth of the citizens of a modern Utopia
will be much less than in any terrestrial State. Here, just as in
relation to property and enterprise, the law will regulate only in
order to secure the utmost freedom and initiative.

Up to the beginning of this chapter, our Utopian speculations, like
many Acts of Parliament, have ignored the difference of sex. "He"
indeed is to be read as "He and She" in all that goes before. But
we may now come to the sexual aspects of the modern ideal of
a constitution of society in which, for all purposes of the
individual, women are to be as free as men. This will certainly be
realised in the Modern Utopia, if it can be realised at all--not
only for woman's sake, but for man's.

But women may be free in theory and not in practice, and as long as
they suffer from their economic inferiority, from the inability to
produce as much value as a man for the same amount of work--and
there can be no doubt of this inferiority--so long will their legal
and technical equality be a mockery. It is a fact that almost
every point in which a woman differs from a man is an economic
disadvantage to her, her incapacity for great stresses of exertion,
her frequent liability to slight illnesses, her weaker initiative,
her inferior invention and resourcefulness, her relative incapacity
for organisation and combination, and the possibilities of emotional
complications whenever she is in economic dependence on men. So long
as women are compared economically with men and boys they will be
inferior in precisely the measure in which they differ from men. All
that constitutes this difference they are supposed not to trade upon
except in one way, and that is by winning or luring a man to marry,
selling themselves in an almost irrevocable bargain, and then
following and sharing his fortunes for "better or worse."

But--do not let the proposition in its first crudity alarm
you--suppose the Modern Utopia equalises things between the sexes in
the only possible way, by insisting that motherhood is a service to
the State and a legitimate claim to a living; and that, since the
State is to exercise the right of forbidding or sanctioning
motherhood, a woman who is, or is becoming, a mother, is as much
entitled to wages above the minimum wage, to support, to freedom,
and to respect and dignity as a policeman, a solicitor-general, a
king, a bishop in the State Church, a Government professor, or
anyone else the State sustains. Suppose the State secures to every
woman who is, under legitimate sanctions, becoming or likely to
become a mother, that is to say who is duly married, a certain wage
from her husband to secure her against the need of toil and anxiety,
suppose it pays her a certain gratuity upon the birth of a child,
and continues to pay at regular intervals sums sufficient to keep
her and her child in independent freedom, so long as the child
keeps up to the minimum standard of health and physical and mental
development. Suppose it pays more upon the child when it rises
markedly above certain minimum qualifications, physical or mental,
and, in fact, does its best to make thoroughly efficient motherhood
a profession worth following. And suppose in correlation with this
it forbids the industrial employment of married women and of mothers
who have children needing care, unless they are in a position to
employ qualified efficient substitutes to take care of their
offspring. What differences from terrestrial conditions will
ensue?

This extent of intervention will at least abolish two or three
salient hardships and evils of the civilised life. It will abolish
the hardship of the majority of widows, who on earth are poor and
encumbered exactly in proportion as they have discharged the chief
distinctive duty of a woman, and miserable, just in proportion as
their standard of life and of education is high. It will abolish the
hardship of those who do not now marry on account of poverty, or who
do not dare to have children. The fear that often turns a woman from
a beautiful to a mercenary marriage will vanish from life. In Utopia
a career of wholesome motherhood would be, under such conditions as
I have suggested, the normal and remunerative calling for a woman,
and a capable woman who has borne, bred, and begun the education
of eight or nine well-built, intelligent, and successful sons and
daughters would be an extremely prosperous woman, quite irrespective
of the economic fortunes of the man she has married. She would need
to be an exceptional woman, and she would need to have chosen a man
at least a little above the average as her partner in life. But his
death, or misbehaviour, or misfortunes would not ruin her.

Now such an arrangement is merely the completed induction from the
starting propositions that make some measure of education free and
compulsory for every child in the State. If you prevent people
making profit out of their children--and every civilised State--even
that compendium of old-fashioned Individualism, the United States
of America--is now disposed to admit the necessity of that
prohibition--and if you provide for the aged instead of leaving them
to their children's sense of duty, the practical inducements to
parentage, except among very wealthy people, are greatly reduced.
The sentimental factor in the case rarely leads to more than a
solitary child or at most two to a marriage, and with a high and
rising standard of comfort and circumspection it is unlikely that
the birth-rate will ever rise very greatly again. The Utopians will
hold that if you keep the children from profitable employment for
the sake of the future, then, if you want any but the exceptionally
rich, secure, pious, unselfish, or reckless to bear children freely,
you must be prepared to throw the cost of their maintenance upon the
general community.

In short, Utopia will hold that sound childbearing and rearing is a
service done, not to a particular man, but to the whole community,
and all its legal arrangements for motherhood will be based on that
conception.

--

Section 4.

And after these preliminaries we must proceed to ask, first, what
will be the Utopian marriage law, and then what sort of customs and
opinions are likely to be superadded to that law?

The trend of our reasoning has brought us to the conclusion that the
Utopian State will feel justified in intervening between men and
women on two accounts, first on account of paternity, and secondly
on account of the clash of freedoms that may otherwise arise. The
Utopian State will effectually interfere with and prescribe
conditions for all sorts of contract, and for this sort of contract
in particular it will be in agreement with almost every earthly
State, in defining in the completest fashion what things a man or
woman may be bound to do, and what they cannot be bound to do. From
the point of view of a statesman, marriage is the union of a man
and woman in a manner so intimate as to involve the probability of
offspring, and it is of primary importance to the State, first in
order to secure good births, and secondly good home conditions, that
these unions should not be free, nor promiscuous, nor practically
universal throughout the adult population.

Prolific marriage must be a profitable privilege. It must occur only
under certain obvious conditions, the contracting parties must be in
health and condition, free from specific transmissible taints, above
a certain minimum age, and sufficiently intelligent and energetic
to have acquired a minimum education. The man at least must be
in receipt of a net income above the minimum wage, after any
outstanding charges against him have been paid. All this much
it is surely reasonable to insist upon before the State becomes
responsible for the prospective children. The age at which men and
women may contract to marry is difficult to determine. But if we
are, as far as possible, to put women on an equality with men, if we
are to insist upon a universally educated population, and if we are
seeking to reduce the infantile death-rate to zero, it must be much
higher than it is in any terrestrial State. The woman should be at
least one-and-twenty; the man twenty-six or twenty-seven.

One imagines the parties to a projected marriage first obtaining
licenses which will testify that these conditions are satisfied.
From the point of view of the theoretical Utopian State, these
licenses are the feature of primary importance. Then, no doubt, that
universal register at Paris would come into play. As a matter of
justice, there must be no deception between the two people, and the
State will ensure that in certain broad essentials this is so. They
would have to communicate their joint intention to a public office
after their personal licenses were granted, and each would be
supplied with a copy of the index card of the projected mate, on
which would be recorded his or her age, previous marriages, legally
important diseases, offspring, domiciles, public appointments,
criminal convictions, registered assignments of property, and so
forth. Possibly it might be advisable to have a little ceremony for
each party, for each in the absence of the other, in which this
record could be read over in the presence of witnesses, together
with some prescribed form of address of counsel in the matter. There
would then be a reasonable interval for consideration and withdrawal
on the part of either spouse. In the event of the two people
persisting in their resolution, they would after this minimum
interval signify as much to the local official and the necessary
entry would be made in the registers. These formalities would be
quite independent of any religious ceremonial the contracting
parties might choose, for with religious belief and procedure the
modern State has no concern.

So much for the preliminary conditions of matrimony. For those men
and women who chose to ignore these conditions and to achieve any
sort of union they liked the State would have no concern, unless
offspring were born illegitimately. In that case, as we have
already suggested, it would be only reasonable to make the parents
chargeable with every duty, with maintenance, education, and so
forth, that in the normal course of things would fall to the State.
It would be necessary to impose a life assurance payment upon these
parents, and to exact effectual guarantees against every possible
evasion of the responsibility they had incurred. But the further
control of private morality, beyond the protection of the immature
from corruption and evil example, will be no concern of the State's.
When a child comes in, the future of the species comes in; and
the State comes in as the guardian of interests wider than the
individual's; but the adult's private life is the entirely private
life into which the State may not intrude.

Now what will be the nature of the Utopian contract of
matrimony?

From the first of the two points of view named above, that of
parentage, it is obvious that one unavoidable condition will be the
chastity of the wife. Her infidelity being demonstrated, must at
once terminate the marriage and release both her husband and the
State from any liability for the support of her illegitimate
offspring. That, at any rate, is beyond controversy; a marriage
contract that does not involve that, is a triumph of metaphysics
over common sense. It will be obvious that under Utopian conditions
it is the State that will suffer injury by a wife's misconduct, and
that a husband who condones anything of the sort will participate in
her offence. A woman, therefore, who is divorced on this account
will be divorced as a public offender, and not in the key of a
personal quarrel; not as one who has inflicted a private and
personal wrong. This, too, lies within the primary implications of
marriage.

Beyond that, what conditions should a marriage contract in Utopia
involve?

A reciprocal restraint on the part of the husband is clearly of no
importance whatever, so far as the first end of matrimony goes, the
protection of the community from inferior births. It is no wrong to
the State. But it does carry with it a variable amount of emotional
offence to the wife; it may wound her pride and cause her violent
perturbations of jealousy; it may lead to her neglect, her solitude
and unhappiness, and it may even work to her physical injury. There
should be an implication that it is not to occur. She has bound
herself to the man for the good of the State, and clearly it is
reasonable that she should look to the State for relief if it does
occur. The extent of the offence given her is the exact measure
of her injury; if she does not mind nobody minds, and if her
self-respect does not suffer nothing whatever is lost to the world;
and so it should rest with her to establish his misconduct, and, if
she thinks fit, to terminate the marriage.

A failure on either side to perform the elementary duties of
companionship, desertion, for example, should obviously give the
other mate the right to relief, and clearly the development of any
disqualifying habit, drunkenness, or drug-taking, or the like, or
any serious crime or acts of violence, should give grounds for a
final release. Moreover, the modern Utopian State intervenes between
the sexes only because of the coming generation, and for it to
sustain restrictions upon conduct in a continually fruitless
marriage is obviously to lapse into purely moral intervention. It
seems reasonable, therefore, to set a term to a marriage that
remains childless, to let it expire at the end of three or four or
five unfruitful years, but with no restriction upon the right of
the husband and wife to marry each other again.

These are the fairly easy primaries of this question. We now come to
the more difficult issues of the matter. The first of these is the
question of the economic relationships of husband and wife, having
regard to the fact that even in Utopia women, at least until they
become mothers, are likely to be on the average poorer than men. The
second is the question of the duration of a marriage. But the two
interlock, and are, perhaps, best treated together in one common
section. And they both ramify in the most complicated manner into
the consideration of the general morale of the community.

--

Section 5.

This question of marriage is the most complicated and difficult in
the whole range of Utopian problems. But it is happily not the most
urgent necessity that it should be absolutely solved. The urgent and
necessary problem is the ruler. With rulers rightly contrived and a
provisional defective marriage law a Utopia may be conceived as
existing and studying to perfect itself, but without rulers a Utopia
is impossible though the theory of its matrimony be complete. And
the difficulty in this question is not simply the difficulty of a
complicated chess problem, for example, in which the whole tangle
of considerations does at least lie in one plane, but a series of
problems upon different levels and containing incommensurable
factors.

It is very easy to repeat our initial propositions, to recall that
we are on another planet, and that all the customs and traditions of
the earth are set aside, but the faintest realisation of that
demands a feat of psychological insight. We have all grown up into
an invincible mould of suggestion about sexual things; we regard
this with approval, that with horror, and this again with contempt,
very largely because the thing has always been put to us in this
light or that. The more emancipated we think ourselves the more
subtle are our bonds. The disentanglement of what is inherent in
these feelings from what is acquired is an extraordinary complex
undertaking. Probably all men and women have a more or less powerful
disposition to jealousy, but what exactly they will be jealous about
and what exactly they will suffer seems part of the superposed
factor. Probably all men and women are capable of ideal emotions and
wishes beyond merely physical desires, but the shape these take are
almost entirely a reaction to external images. And you really cannot
strip the external off; you cannot get your stark natural man,
jealous, but not jealous about anything in particular, imaginative
without any imaginings, proud at large. Emotional dispositions can
no more exist without form than a man without air. Only a very
observant man who had lived all over the planet Earth, in all sorts
of social strata, and with every race and tongue, and who was
endowed with great imaginative insight, could hope to understand the
possibilities and the limitations of human plasticity in this
matter, and say what any men and any women could be induced to do
willingly, and just exactly what no man and no woman could stand,
provided one had the training of them. Though very young men will
tell you readily enough. The proceedings of other races and other
ages do not seem to carry conviction; what our ancestors did, or
what the Greeks or Egyptians did, though it is the direct physical
cause of the modern young man or the modern young lady, is apt to
impress these remarkable consequences merely as an arrangement of
quaint, comical or repulsive proceedings.

But there emerges to the modern inquirer certain ideals and
desiderata that at least go some way towards completing and
expanding the crude primaries of a Utopian marriage law set out
in section 4.

The sound birth being assured, does there exist any valid reason for
the persistence of the Utopian marriage union?

There are two lines of reasoning that go to establish a longer
duration for marriage. The first of these rests upon the general
necessity for a home and for individual attention in the case of
children. Children are the results of a choice between individuals;
they grow well, as a rule, only in relation to sympathetic and
kindred individualities, and no wholesale character-ignoring method
of dealing with them has ever had a shadow of the success of the
individualised home. Neither Plato nor Socrates, who repudiated the
home, seems ever to have had to do with anything younger than a
young man. Procreation is only the beginning of parentage, and even
where the mother is not the direct nurse and teacher of her child,
even where she delegates these duties, her supervision is, in the
common case, essential to its welfare. Moreover, though the Utopian
State will pay the mother, and the mother only, for the being and
welfare of her legitimate children, there will be a clear advantage
in fostering the natural disposition of the father to associate his
child's welfare with his individual egotism, and to dispense some of
his energies and earnings in supplementing the common provision of
the State. It is an absurd disregard of a natural economy to leave
the innate philoprogenitiveness of either sex uncultivated. Unless
the parents continue in close relationship, if each is passing
through a series of marriages, the dangers of a conflict of rights,
and of the frittering away of emotions, become very grave. The
family will lose homogeneity, and its individuals will have for the
mother varied and perhaps incompatible emotional associations. The
balance of social advantage is certainly on the side of much more
permanent unions, on the side of an arrangement that, subject to
ample provisions for a formal divorce without disgrace in cases of
incompatibility, would bind, or at least enforce ideals that would
tend to bind, a man and woman together for the whole term of her
maternal activity, until, that is, the last born of her children was
no longer in need of her help.

The second system of considerations arises out of the artificiality
of woman's position. It is a less conclusive series than the first,
and it opens a number of interesting side vistas.

A great deal of nonsense is talked about the natural equality or
inferiority of women to men. But it is only the same quality that
can be measured by degrees and ranged in ascending and descending
series, and the things that are essentially feminine are different
qualitatively from and incommensurable with the distinctly masculine
things. The relationship is in the region of ideals and conventions,
and a State is perfectly free to determine that men and women shall
come to intercourse on a footing of conventional equality or with
either the man or woman treated as the predominating individual.
Aristotle's criticism of Plato in this matter, his insistence upon
the natural inferiority of slaves and women, is just the sort of
confusion between inherent and imposed qualities that was his most
characteristic weakness. The spirit of the European people, of
almost all the peoples now in the ascendant, is towards a convention
of equality; the spirit of the Mahometan world is towards the
intensification of a convention that the man alone is a citizen and
that the woman is very largely his property. There can be no doubt
that the latter of these two convenient fictions is the more
primitive way of regarding this relationship. It is quite unfruitful
to argue between these ideals as if there were a demonstrable
conclusion, the adoption of either is an arbitrary act, and we shall
simply follow our age and time if we display a certain bias for the
former.

If one looks closely into the various practical expansions of these
ideas, we find their inherent falsity works itself out in a very
natural way so soon as reality is touched. Those who insist upon
equality work in effect for assimilation, for a similar treatment of
the sexes. Plato's women of the governing class, for example, were
to strip for gymnastics like men, to bear arms and go to war, and
follow most of the masculine occupations of their class. They were
to have the same education and to be assimilated to men at every
doubtful point. The Aristotelian attitude, on the other hand,
insists upon specialisation. The men are to rule and fight and toil;
the women are to support motherhood in a state of natural
inferiority. The trend of evolutionary forces through long centuries
of human development has been on the whole in this second direction,
has been towards differentiation. [Footnote: See Havelock Ellis's
Man and Woman.] An adult white woman differs far more from a white
man than a negress or pigmy woman from her equivalent male. The
education, the mental disposition, of a white or Asiatic woman,
reeks of sex; her modesty, her decorum is not to ignore sex but to
refine and put a point to it; her costume is clamorous with the
distinctive elements of her form. The white woman in the materially
prosperous nations is more of a sexual specialist than her sister of
the poor and austere peoples, of the prosperous classes more so than
the peasant woman. The contemporary woman of fashion who sets the
tone of occidental intercourse is a stimulant rather than a
companion for a man. Too commonly she is an unwholesome stimulant
turning a man from wisdom to appearance, from beauty to beautiful
pleasures, from form to colour, from persistent aims to belief and
stirring triumphs. Arrayed in what she calls distinctly "dress,"
scented, adorned, displayed, she achieves by artifice a sexual
differentiation profounder than that of any other vertebrated
animal. She outshines the peacock's excess above his mate, one must
probe among the domestic secrets of the insects and crustacea to
find her living parallel. And it is a question by no means easy and
yet of the utmost importance, to determine how far the wide and
widening differences between the human sexes is inherent and
inevitable, and how far it is an accident of social development that
may be converted and reduced under a different social regimen. Are
we going to recognise and accentuate this difference and to arrange
our Utopian organisation to play upon it, are we to have two primary
classes of human being, harmonising indeed and reacting, but
following essentially different lives, or are we going to minimise
this difference in every possible way?

The former alternative leads either to a romantic organisation of
society in which men will live and fight and die for wonderful,
beautiful, exaggerated creatures, or it leads to the hareem. It
would probably lead through one phase to the other. Women would be
enigmas and mysteries and maternal dignitaries that one would
approach in a state of emotional excitement and seclude piously when
serious work was in hand. A girl would blossom from the totally
negligible to the mystically desirable at adolescence, and boys
would be removed from their mother's educational influence at as
early an age as possible. Whenever men and women met together, the
men would be in a state of inflamed competition towards one another,
and the women likewise, and the intercourse of ideas would be in
suspense. Under the latter alternative the sexual relation would be
subordinated to friendship and companionship; boys and girls would
be co-educated--very largely under maternal direction, and women,
disarmed of their distinctive barbaric adornments, the feathers,
beads, lace, and trimmings that enhance their clamorous claim to a
directly personal attention would mingle, according to their
quality, in the counsels and intellectual development of men. Such
women would be fit to educate boys even up to adolescence. It is
obvious that a marriage law embodying a decision between these two
sets of ideas would be very different according to the alternative
adopted. In the former case a man would be expected to earn and
maintain in an adequate manner the dear delight that had favoured
him. He would tell her beautiful lies about her wonderful moral
effect upon him, and keep her sedulously from all responsibility and
knowledge. And, since there is an undeniably greater imaginative
appeal to men in the first bloom of a woman's youth, she would have
a distinct claim upon his energies for the rest of her life. In the
latter case a man would no more pay for and support his wife than
she would do so for him. They would be two friends, differing in
kind no doubt but differing reciprocally, who had linked themselves
in a matrimonial relationship. Our Utopian marriage so far as we
have discussed it, is indeterminate between these alternatives.

We have laid it down as a general principle that the private morals
of an adult citizen are no concern for the State. But that involves
a decision to disregard certain types of bargain. A sanely contrived
State will refuse to sustain bargains wherein there is no plausibly
fair exchange, and if private morality is really to be outside the
scope of the State then the affections and endearments most
certainly must not be regarded as negotiable commodities. The State,
therefore, will absolutely ignore the distribution of these favours
unless children, or at least the possibility of children, is
involved. It follows that it will refuse to recognise any debts or
transfers of property that are based on such considerations. It will
be only consistent, therefore, to refuse recognition in the marriage
contract to any financial obligation between husband and wife, or
any settlements qualifying that contract, except when they are in
the nature of accessory provision for the prospective children.
[Footnote: Unqualified gifts for love by solvent people will, of
course, be quite possible and permissible, unsalaried services and
the like, provided the standard of life is maintained and the joint
income of the couple between whom the services hold does not sink
below twice the minimum wage.] So far the Utopian State will throw
its weight upon the side of those who advocate the independence of
women and their conventional equality with men.

But to any further definition of the marriage relation the World
State of Utopia will not commit itself. The wide range of
relationships that are left possible, within and without the
marriage code, are entirely a matter for the individual choice and
imagination. Whether a man treat his wife in private as a goddess to
be propitiated, as a "mystery" to be adored, as an agreeable
auxiliary, as a particularly intimate friend, or as the wholesome
mother of his children, is entirely a matter for their private
intercourse: whether he keep her in Oriental idleness or active
co-operation, or leave her to live her independent life, rests with
the couple alone, and all the possible friendship and intimacies
outside marriage also lie quite beyond the organisation of the
modern State. Religious teaching and literature may affect these;
customs may arise; certain types of relationship may involve social
isolation; the justice of the statesman is blind to such things. It
may be urged that according to Atkinson's illuminating analysis
[Footnote: See Lang and Atkinson's Social Origins and Primal Law.]
the control of love-making was the very origin of the human
community. In Utopia, nevertheless, love-making is no concern of the
State's beyond the province that the protection of children covers.
[Footnote: It cannot be made too clear that though the control of
morality is outside the law the State must maintain a general
decorum, a systematic suppression of powerful and moving examples,
and of incitations and temptations of the young and inexperienced,
and to that extent it will, of course, in a sense, exercise a
control over morals. But this will be only part of a wider law to
safeguard the tender mind. For example, lying advertisements, and
the like, when they lean towards adolescent interests, will
encounter a specially disagreeable disposition in the law, over and
above the treatment of their general dishonesty.] Change of function
is one of the ruling facts in life, the sac that was in our remotest
ancestors a swimming bladder is now a lung, and the State which was
once, perhaps, no more than the jealous and tyrannous will of the
strongest male in the herd, the instrument of justice and equality.
The State intervenes now only where there is want of harmony between
individuals--individuals who exist or who may presently come into
existence.

--

Section 6.

It must be reiterated that our reasoning still leaves Utopian
marriage an institution with wide possibilities of variation. We
have tried to give effect to the ideal of a virtual equality, an
equality of spirit between men and women, and in doing so we have
overridden the accepted opinion of the great majority of mankind.
Probably the first writer to do as much was Plato. His argument in
support of this innovation upon natural human feeling was thin
enough--a mere analogy to illustrate the spirit of his propositions;
it was his creative instinct that determined him. In the atmosphere
of such speculations as this, Plato looms very large indeed, and in
view of what we owe to him, it seems reasonable that we should
hesitate before dismissing as a thing prohibited and evil, a type of
marriage that he made almost the central feature in the organisation
of the ruling class, at least, of his ideal State. He was persuaded
that the narrow monogamic family is apt to become illiberal and
anti-social, to withdraw the imagination and energies of the citizen
from the services of the community as a whole, and the Roman
Catholic Church has so far endorsed and substantiated his opinion as
to forbid family relations to its priests and significant servants.
He conceived of a poetic devotion to the public idea, a devotion of
which the mind of Aristotle, as his criticisms of Plato show, was
incapable, as a substitute for the warm and tender but illiberal
emotions of the home. But while the Church made the alternative to
family ties celibacy [Footnote: The warm imagination of Campanella,
that quaint Calabrian monastic, fired by Plato, reversed this aspect
of the Church.] and participation in an organisation, Plato was far
more in accordance with modern ideas in perceiving the disadvantage
that would result from precluding the nobler types of character from
offspring. He sought a way to achieve progeny, therefore, without
the narrow concentration of the sympathies about the home, and he
found it in a multiple marriage in which every member of the
governing class was considered to be married to all the others. But
the detailed operation of this system he put tentatively and very
obscurely. His suggestions have the experimental inconsistency of an
enquiring man. He left many things altogether open, and it is unfair
to him to adopt Aristotle's forensic method and deal with his
discussion as though it was a fully-worked-out project. It is clear
that Plato intended every member of his governing class to be so
"changed at birth" as to leave paternity untraceable; mothers were
not to know their children, nor children their parents, but there is
nothing to forbid the supposition that he intended these people to
select and adhere to congenial mates within the great family.
Aristotle's assertion that the Platonic republic left no scope for
the virtue of continence shows that he had jumped to just the same
conclusions a contemporary London errand boy, hovering a little
shamefacedly over Jowett in a public library, might be expected to
reach.

Aristotle obscures Plato's intention, it may be accidentally, by
speaking of his marriage institution as a community of wives. When
reading Plato he could not or would not escape reading in his own
conception of the natural ascendency of men, his idea of property in
women and children. But as Plato intended women to be conventionally
equal to men, this phrase belies him altogether; community of
husbands and wives would be truer to his proposal. Aristotle
condemns Plato as roundly as any commercial room would condemn him
to-day, and in much the same spirit; he asserts rather than proves
that such a grouping is against the nature of man. He wanted to have
women property just as he wanted to have slaves property, he did not
care to ask why, and it distressed his conception of convenience
extremely to imagine any other arrangement. It is no doubt true that
the natural instinct of either sex is exclusive of participators in
intimacy during a period of intimacy, but it was probably Aristotle
who gave Plato an offensive interpretation in this matter. No one
would freely submit to such a condition of affairs as multiple
marriage carried out, in the spirit of the Aristotelian
interpretation, to an obscene completeness, but that is all the more
reason why the modern Utopia should not refuse a grouped marriage to
three or more freely consenting persons. There is no sense in
prohibiting institutions which no sane people could ever want to
abuse. It is claimed--though the full facts are difficult to
ascertain--that a group marriage of over two hundred persons was
successfully organised by John Humphrey Noyes at Oneida Creek.
[Footnote: See John H. Noyes's History of American Socialisms and
his writings generally. The bare facts of this and the other
American experiments are given, together with more recent matter, by
Morris Hillquirt, in The History of Socialism in the United States.]
It is fairly certain in the latter case that there was no
"promiscuity," and that the members mated for variable periods, and
often for life, within the group. The documents are reasonably clear
upon that point. This Oneida community was, in fact, a league of two
hundred persons to regard their children as "common." Choice and
preference were not abolished in the community, though in some cases
they were set aside--just as they are by many parents under our
present conditions. There seems to have been a premature attempt at
"stirpiculture," at what Mr. Francis Galton now calls "Eugenics," in
the mating of the members, and there was also a limitation of
offspring. Beyond these points the inner secrets of the community do
not appear to be very profound; its atmosphere was almost
commonplace, it was made up of very ordinary people. There is no
doubt that it had a career of exceptional success throughout the
whole lifetime of its founder, and it broke down with the advent of
a new generation, with the onset of theological differences, and the
loss of its guiding intelligence. The Anglo-Saxon spirit, it has
been said by one of the ablest children of the experiment, is too
individualistic for communism. It is possible to regard the
temporary success of this complex family as a strange accident, as
the wonderful exploit of what was certainly a very exceptional man.
Its final disintegration into frankly monogamic couples--it is still
a prosperous business association--may be taken as an experimental
verification of Aristotle's common-sense psychology, and was
probably merely the public acknowledgment of conditions already
practically established.

Out of respect for Plato we cannot ignore this possibility of
multiple marriage altogether in our Utopian theorising, but even if
we leave this possibility open we are still bound to regard it as a
thing so likely to be rare as not to come at all under our direct
observation during our Utopian journeyings. But in one sense, of
course, in the sense that the State guarantees care and support for
all properly born children, our entire Utopia is to be regarded as a
comprehensive marriage group. [Footnote: The Thelema of Rabelais,
with its principle of "Fay ce que vouldras" within the limits of the
order, is probably intended to suggest a Platonic complex marriage
after the fashion of our interpretation.]

It must be remembered that a modern Utopia must differ from the
Utopias of any preceding age in being world-wide; it is not,
therefore, to be the development of any special race or type of
culture, as Plato's developed an Athenian-Spartan blend, or More,
Tudor England. The modern Utopia is to be, before all things,
synthetic. Politically and socially, as linguistically, we must
suppose it a synthesis; politically it will be a synthesis of once
widely different forms of government; socially and morally, a
synthesis of a great variety of domestic traditions and ethical
habits. Into the modern Utopia there must have entered the mental
tendencies and origins that give our own world the polygamy of the
Zulus and of Utah, the polyandry of Tibet, the latitudes of
experiment permitted in the United States, and the divorceless
wedlock of Comte. The tendency of all synthetic processes in matters
of law and custom is to reduce and simplify the compulsory canon, to
admit alternatives and freedoms; what were laws before become
traditions of feeling and style, and in no matter will this be more
apparent than in questions affecting the relations of the sexes.


H.G. Wells

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