, you were curious, so I summed what I've read of the book for you.
"Fight social diseases with facts, not sentiments; study the problems of venerial infection for information, not sensation; combat social evils with science, not mystery. This is the keynote of our campaign to train men, women and children to think straight along the line of social hygiene."
This is the opening statement for the book "Safe Counsel", by J.L Nichols, in 1922. This book, alternatively subtitled "Practical Eugenics", was published in its first edition in 1893, and the version in question is the one reprinted and revised for the thirty sixth edition. The inner cover also boasts the sale of a million copies. This all cultivates the image that this collection of books held some significant popularity during that age, and indeed, seeing the postive aspects of the book and its general thesis, seems to present reasonable and agreeable messages. The writer (Or perhaps I should say in this case 'writers', as the list of contributors over the years is fairly well sized) often and strongly emphasises the importance of being very frank and open with the subjects addressed, namely the subject of sex and sexual social behavior, and that because of such frankness, this book should not be considered obscene, but rather informative and a strong tool for the public. Also emphasised, is the lack of avoidance of sensitive topics, vague symbolic metaphors and otherwise misleading fairytales, and lack of emotional sensationalism as opposed to raw practical facts.
That said, the writings ultimately contradict that statement in various areas, but not in all of them. The recurring subject of eugenics is that which is likely to be the hot-button issue here, namely because said science is the driving philosophy behind the Nazi agenda, and as such, the entirety of this collection, by sheer virtue of being associated with something so uncomfortable, morally questionable and socially unpopular, is likely to be passed off. While such topics such as sterilization of the unfit (Emphasized here are the mentally ill, criminals, epileptics, and people with venereal diseases- PS
, you shouldn't give your kids Syphillis or you'll feel really guilty like this
, mmkay?), strict standards for marriage liscence qualification, and superiority of the western abrahamic tradition, there are also a lot of good ideas presented within, however, as opposed to the constant declaration of pure scientific motive, there is still an obvious underlying social and political agenda present. The illustrations also display the appeal to emotional responses; fear and impulse towards mainstream 'morality', cultural superiority, racism, and other fairly unhelpful elements for a 'scientific' document.
For example, The illustrator seemed to really not like Turks
for some reason
. (The 'degenerate Turk' illustration seemed to be randomly placed at the end of a chapter and had no bearing over the subject matter. Maybe a Turk stole his bike or something)
As said, however, the ideas presented are not all bad at all. Basic health concerns, for example, dietary charts, hygiene, detailed information on care of infants, and scientific and medical overviews of the reproductive system and process are all given great precedence as necessities for 'social progress', human health, and the betterment of society. Other articles provide mixed outcome as far as expectation. Predictably encouraged (considering the time period), are early marriage, abstinence from social evils, such as Jazz music suggestive dancing or pre-marital 'spooning' (detailed here as kissing, fondling and lying each others laps), and the institution of marriage being one of creating children. However, not so predictably of the time, what is also advocated is birth control (namely between married couples, so they may have only few children and care for them better),
the pursuit of a career in the case of a woman who doesn't prefer the idea of motherhood, for frank and detailed sex education in children as a manner of enlightening a generation and combatting the ignorance that might cause more sexual blunders than it prevents. Such sentiments are ideas that are still being campaigned for in our country, and it brings some interesting questions to light about just how great the differences between generations are. There are many Americans both for and against the campaign of "Abstinence Only" sex education in High Schools, the most popular argument for the method being that teaching children and teens too much about sex or telling them of birth control will encourage them to become promiscuous. It's interesting to see a book from 1922 that is pushing for a change of social sentiment concerning sexual education; saying that it is best to be frank and open with children as soon as they're curious, and that such will create a bond of trust between the parent and child (As opposed to the rift that would be caused by the stork-myth being perpetuated and the kids learning they were lied to), and that as soon as the child knows all the facts, they can be taught how to treat the subject with propriety rather than getting false ideas from their schoolmates or peeks into naughty books and pictures. Discouraged, however is the practice of "Self abuse". While the author does reasonably refute the previous writings of the time which claim almost all social evils and illness stem from the practice of masturbation, and does claim truly that most adolescents do explore it and that no lasting harm or shortness of life will come from it in moderation, he also extends a warning to all potential masturbators, male and female, who may be reading, that they need to STOP IT RIGHT NOW. (Yes, all capitals were used as well.) Because apparently it causes social dysfunction and makes your testicles shrivel up from overuse.
Outside of some agreeable logic supported by science and practical social opinion, this collection still does use broad generalization, bigotry and sensationalism that is sometimes offensive, sometimes shrug-worthy, and sometimes outright hilarious. The glossary uses some wonderfully unbiased wording such as "Savage African tribes". The Aboriginal Australian process of marriage described as being a situation in which a man lies in wait in a bush for a desired female to come by, then springs out and clubs her over the head, then drags her back to his lair to mate with her without consent provided he didn't kill her by accident. Islam is referred to as "Mohammedanism" and the claim is made, "Of the 150,000,000 mohammedans, all are polygamists" (Right after claiming as fact that polygamy is the result of moral degredation and that societies which practice polygamy have no moral or political values.) It is suggested that the obese should be forbidden marriage liscenses because their condition is a genetic defect. Of course, we see a stunning amount of research and lack of bias apparent with the statement "Christian Civilization has liften woman from slavery to liberty. Wherever Christian Civilization prevails there are legal marriages, pure homes and education."
This overview comes from my skimming through the book and reading the major chapters. It's 512 pages long, and in small print, thus doesn't appeal well to my attention span in its entirety, or my eyesight. (Plus the smell of old books in excess can make me nauseous. Don't know what that's about.) Anyhow, that's what I've observed from it. A lot of interesting subjects are raised that are relative today, as much as we'd like to say it's sick and wrong to encourage eugenics, most of us have, at some point or another, angrily grumbled "Ugh, idiots like that shouldn't be allowed to reproduce", or such. I'd like to pick up similar readings on social sciences and views, not just necessarily sexual or eugenics-based, from that same era and beyond. It puts an interesting sense of perspective on things.
Fascinating stuff, old books.