Eugenics and Sex Harmony

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Eugenics and Sex Harmony

Foreword

Book excerpt

By: Winfield Scott Pugh

Date: 1947

Source: H. H. Rubin. Eugenics and Sex Harmony. New York: Pioneer. 1947.

About the Author: Winfield Scott Pugh was a physician and advocate of eugenics (controlled human breeding intended to better the human race), a belief system especially prominent in America in the period encompassing the two World Wars (1915–1945). Pugh, considered a medical expert on women's sexual health, wrote the foreword to the self-help booklet Eugenics and Sex Harmony, written by Herman H. Rubin to popularize and apply eugenics concepts to everyday management of marital relations.

INTRODUCTION

Eugenics and Sex Harmony was written in 1933 by Herman H. Rubin, MD, a prominent physician and eugenicist. The book was intended to explain basic concepts of sexual reproduction to Americans who, as Pugh's foreword noted, were largely uneducated about such matters. Rubin introduced readers to the ideas of sexual selection and eugenics, explaining his belief that physical and mental traits could be inherited, not just directly from parents, but from prior generations as well.

A large section of the booklet discussed the potential consequences of absorbing of the Black race into the Caucasian. Rubin, who considered stereotypical racial characteristics to be heritable traits, lamented the possibility that African-American folk culture would be lost to the world should such miscegenation occur, predicting that their genetic heritage would be diluted by Nordic genes.

The booklet advised readers to choose mates wisely: to examine their pedigree, channel sexual energy properly into matrimony, marry at the optimal age (20 for women and 30 for men), and avoid marrying relatives. It concluded by contrasting the positive life outcomes of people and their offspring when they followed eugenicist principles with the personal tragedy—including crime, exploitation, and poverty—that awaited the sexually "ignorant" who refused to delay gratification.

PRIMARY SOURCE

FOREWORD

For many years a veil of hypocrisy has surrounded everything associated with sex or eugenics and mere mention of such a word as 'venereal,' was sufficient to arouse consternation far and wide. We Americans still have with us many ideas inherited from our Pilgrim Fathers; particularly regarding all matters akin to sex and disease. These antiquated notions stick like leeches and in many localities greatly interfere with attempts at control of baneful maladies, or hinder other scientific progress.

Fortunately today, members of a rising generation are refusing to accept dogmas just because their forbears did so for centuries. The flowering youth wants to know and will insist on knowing—all censors or bans notwithstanding. Thus the clouds of ignorance and superstition are fading away before the radiant Sun of Knowledge and proving most helpful….

In dealing with sex problems and eugenics, we must first of all be honest. Human anatomy and physiology must be taken as the Creative Force so constructed and not as we would like to see. In this connection, I must tell you observation of many writers on sexual topics reveals the fact they are writing for employers and moralists, not for the benefit of a suffering public. Many such gentry know full well what they say is not true, but find it necessary to misstate facts in order to hold their meal tickets.

In matters pertaining to eugenics and sex, we have been very much like the ostrich, but it is well nigh time we pulled our heads out of the sand. Currier Bell once said, "such annoyances as Society cannot cure, it usually forbids utterance on pain of its scorn; said scorn being only a tinseled cloak to its deformed weakness."

Among another group of facts we must not overlook, are first the sexual instinct is possessed by every human being, regardless of gender. There is great truth in Byron's statement, "Man's love is of man's life a thing apart; 'tis woman's whole existence." A very wise provision of Nature. Second, a well regulated sexual life is just as essential to the well-being of an individual as the other, but properly recognized physiological activities. In other words, the sexual function is not an instrument of the Devil, designed to drag men and women down to Sin, but is a God-given physiological function of Man and all animal kind. If not so intended, why were we so endowed? Nature is no respecter of man-made laws, therefore its dictates will be obeyed. In the constant conflict between socalled civilization and the primitive, the latter always wins. I repeat, always. Sex has existed from the beginning of Time and will continue to the end; or else there would be no world.

It is highly essential everyone have a thorough concept of sex and eugenics. This can readily be obtained by following the teaching so clearly outlined by Doctor H. H. Rubin, in Eugenics and Sex Harmony. In this connection, I deny that sex knowledge tends to make young folks inquisitive; while on the other hand, hiding from them the real facts of life renders them morbidly curious.

Birth control is becoming of increasing interest to all communities and has really ceased to be regarded as a crime. It is an economic factor that can no longer be ignored. You must know about it.

A knowledge of every-day psychology and the psychology of sex are of great importance as they influence our daily lives. They impart to us a feeling of tolerance for our less fortunate brothers and sisters upon whom Nature has played queer pranks. Many whom we formerly regarded as criminals, we now know to be sick; they are really more to be pitied than censured.

Folks so frequently say they are not interested in eugenics. This is an unintentional falsehood, as every sane parent wants to be proud of its offspring. This volume will be found of encyclopedic scope on Eugenics and so many other subjects, it is impossible to comment on all in a foreword. Eugenics and Sex Harmony is written in a language easily understood and will be found a valuable guide book for every household. It should have appeared long ago.

                        Winfield Scott Pugh, M.D.
New York City.

SIGNIFICANCE

Winfield Scott Pugh's introduction to Eugenics and Sex Harmony introduced readers to an unfamiliar aspect of the eugenics movement—open discussion of and enlightened attitudes about sex. Today eugenics is a discredited philosophy that advocates "improving" the human race for dubious racial and social ends through genetic selection. The Nazi movement in Germany borrowed its dream of a "master race" from the teachings of American eugenicists.

Eugenicists believed that applying science to human breeding would solve several vexing problems that faced American society in the early twentieth century. In pursuit of their goals, they advocated an agenda that is still considered important today—better public health, family planning, realistic preparation for marriage, and sex education. They saw these as ways to encourage reproduction of the "best and the brightest." Unfortunately, their belief that character and mental traits had a large, usually overwhelming heritable component also led them to promote the exclusion and even persecution of many groups they considered "undesirable" and "unfit": criminals, alcoholics, the mentally ill, retarded, paupers, racial and ethnic minorities, and those with chronic physical disabilities.

Many prominent Americans were eugenicists, and their views had broad support in public policy. Their goal was to insulate the American gene pool from "contamination." Unfortunately, their advocacy led to the forced sterilization of the mentally ill; antimiscegenation laws, which forbade marriages between people of different races; and immigration restrictions. At the height of the eugenics movement in the U.S., President Theodore Roosevelt warned that the American middle class was committing "racial suicide" by having too few children, a quote that reverberated for at least another generation thereafter.

Despite these disturbing objectives, eugenics was sold to the public as a method of family management. The Eugenics Record Office, a privately funded center for eugenics thought and "research" that was eventually annexed to the Carnegie Insititution, published several self-help manuals for life and marital management, of which Eugenics and Sex Harmony was a typical example. Eugenics was even presented as a mainstream science by most high school biology textbooks, and chairs for eugenics were established at prominent American universities.

After World War II and Nazi atrocities showed the terrifying extent to which eugenics could take mankind, the theory fell into disrepute among both scientists and the general population. The concepts of eugenics were disputed by geneticists, and its few testable predictions proved unfounded. The growing American civil rights movement and an expanding conviction that poverty and criminality had social and environmental causes revealed eugenicists' narrow, judgmental, and simplistic assumptions, and also challenged their view of social progress. The benign tone of the foreword to Eugenics and Sex Harmony belied the nefarious and coercive public policy tactics desired by eugenicists, including racial segregation, bans on interracial marriage, immigration restrictions, and the forced sterilization of "unfit" individuals.

Eugenics still casts a shadow on discussions of "nature" and "nurture" in the development of personality, intelligence, and social behavior. As humanity learns about the human genome and discovers ways to manipulate genetically based processes, it is possible that this knowledge might once again empower a cold and narrow view of humanity—this time supplying its advocates with real tools for selecting "ideal" human traits.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Books

Hankins, Frank Hamilton. Birth Control and the Racial Future. New York: People, 1931.

Rubin, Herman H. Eugenics and Sex Harmony: The Sexes, Their Relations and Problems. New York: Pioneer, 1938.

Periodicals

Eugenical News. "Commentary and Full Translation of the German Sterilization Statute of 1933: Eugenical Sterilization in Germany." 18, no. 5 (September-October 1933).

Kempton, J. H., "Sterilization for Ten Million Americans." Journal of Heredity 25, no. 10 (October 1934): 415-418.

New York Times. "A Critical Review of the Third International Eugenics Congress. "Genes and Eugenics."' (August 24, 1932) p. 16.

Web sites

Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement. 〈www.eugenicsarchive.org/eugenics〉 (accessed November 13, 2005).