'Nature takes no notice of morality': Singleness and married love in interwar Britain
Holden, K. (2002) 'Nature takes no notice of morality': Singleness and married love in interwar Britain. Women's History Review, 11 (3). pp. 481-504. ISSN 0961-2025
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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09612020200200332
This article draws attention to the dominance of marriage during the twentieth century and the strain this institution was, and still is, under. This is achieved by focusing upon the single as a problematic category in the context of interwar Britain through an examination of the writings of Marie Carmichael Stopes, one of the leading experts on marriage, and her single correspondents. There are clear contradictions in Stopes's writings, which she was unable to acknowledge, between sex as a normal healthy appetite which it could be dangerous to suppress and the denial of a sex life to the single. These are shown to have had the potential to destabilise marriage as the only site of legitimate reproduction and sexual relations. Examining the differences between her advice to single men and women also exposes the gender divide in relation to the concept of sublimation and the difficulties inherent in the concept of substitute mother as a stable and coherent identity for the single woman. The article concludes by making links between the position of single men and women in the early twentieth century and today.