Book Review: The Sexual Responsibility of Woman

First posted in December, 2004

The Sexual Responsibility of Woman,
by Maxine Davis,


The table of contents, containing such informative chapters as The Myth of Frigidity, was worth 50p all by itself. Sometimes the table of contents is all flash and shine, with an accompanying text incapable of living up to the chapter headings, but this book is even better than its table of contents, and I feel it only fitting that I share an excerpt or two five.

In chapter one, Woman Comes of Age, the book begins with an empowering message:

WOMAN has come of age. For the first time in the history of civilization she has arrived at 'man's estate'. She can live her own life to suit herself. She will also be held responsible for whatever she does. She is grown up.

High time, too!

[...] Like any young person who lights twenty-one candles on the birthday cake, woman is all set to go. She is healthy and husky.

My favorite bit thus far is at the start of chapter two, The Importance of Sexual Harmony:

In concrete terms woman might compare sexual love with a mountainside which she and her husband climb together because they want to share the adventures along the upward path and the superb view from the summit. She must not handicap herself with high-heeled fragile shoes or long full billowing skirts. Her husband cannot carry her; she has to climb under her own power. But she nevertheless has to ask him now and then to give her a hand while she jumps across a brook or boulder, and calls, "Please don't walk quite so fast," until she can catch her breath and keep up with him. In this way they adjust their pace to each other, ascend the last steep slopeside by side, and share the sudden beauty of the valleys and skies at the moment they reach the peak.

If a woman's muscles are too soft and weak for mountain-climbing, or if she fails to tell her husband when or how she needs assistance, he will reach the top, but she will be exhausted, disappointed, and peevish. She will flop down on a log, weep or fume, and give up the whole project. She will never see the magnificent panorama on the other side. And the next time her husband will leave her at home.

Before anyone goes pointing fingers at me, an unmarried woman, for purchasing this book, let me stress that it is very much intended to be purchased by the engaged woman, so as to prepare her for what lies ahead. The chapter Preparing for Marriage includes informative bits on the ever-important "premarital medical checkup." This is the most cringe-worthy bit of the book I've found so far, and if you're weak of uterus stomach, I suggest you skip to the next quote or perhaps the next book review altogether. The graphic detail of this exam was really difficult to read, but the attitude exhibited in the following quote put me at a loss for words:

Yet another handicap to happy marriage that the doctor may find in the premarital examination is spasm, or tension, in the whole group of muscles of the pelvic floor. These muscles sometimes tighten when he makes his pelvic examination. As an anatomical disturbance which prevents the introduction of the male organ, the contraction is relatively rare, but it does happen and it is easily curable, for the doctor can snip the muscles.

Um, yeah. Just snip. Why use dilators or train the muscles when the doctor can just snip them? Vaginismus is a condition that can be self-treated. SNIP THE MUSCLES? No, thank you. </GAH> (An afterthought: while spell checking this journal entry, my client insisted that vaginismus had to be incorrect and that surely I meant to spell it paganisms.)

I can't leave you on such a horrid and bleak note. How about a quote from the chapter Protection from Pregnancy: Contraception and Family Planning:

Young people obviously want babies and as many of them as they can support and educate according to their own standards.

Okay, that was another bleak note, perhaps. Instead I shall satiate those of you who were hoping for a more salacious quote! Here's an example of the book trying desperately to be progressive, this time in its attempt to prepare a woman mentally for various bizarre sexual positions she might encounter once married:

There are a number of variations on the rear-entry position which, judging from hundreds of collections of vivid pornographic art, people have apparently enjoyed - goodness knows why!

Please note:For a lovely photo essay of Hay-on-Wye, also known as the used book paradise of Wales, click here.