Weekend Reading: Annie Wood Besant (1878): The Law of Population: Its Consequences and Its Bearing Upon Human Conduct and Morals

Weekend Reading: Annie Wood Besant (1878): The Law of Population: Its Consequences and Its Bearing Upon Human Conduct and Morals: "The preventive check which is so generally practised in France that Dr. Drysdale—with a rarely wide French experience—stated that among the peasantry it was 'used universally', and was 'practised by almost every male in Paris, and all over the country', is one which depends entirely on the self-control of the man. It consists simply in the withdrawal of the husband previous to the emission of the semen, and is, of course, absolutely certain as a preventive...

...A few among the French doctors contend that the practice is injurious, more especially to the wife; but they have failed, so far as we can judge, in making out their case, for they advance no proofs in support of their theory, while the universal practice of the French speaks strongly on the other side.

The preventive check advocated by Dr. Knowlton is, on the other hand, entirely in the hands of the wife. It consists in the use of the ordinary syringe immediately after intercourse, a solution of sulphate of zinc or of alum being used instead of water. There is but little doubt that this check is an effective one, a most melancholy proof of its effectiveness being given by Dr. J. C. Barr, who, giving evidence before the Commission on the working of the Contagious Diseases Act, stated:—”Every woman who leaves the hospital is instructed in the best mode of preventing disease. These are cleanliness, injections of alum and sulphate of zinc.”

Professor Sheldon Amos, dealing with the same painful subject, refers to this evidence, and quotes Dr. Barr as saying again, ”my custom is to instruct them to keep themselves clean, to use injections and lotions.” These women are not meant to bear children, they are to be kept ”fit for use” by Her Majesty’s soldiers.

Apart altogether from this sad, but governmentally authorized use of this check, there are many obvious disadvantages connected with it as a matter of taste and feeling. The same remark applies to the employment of the baudruche, a covering used by men of loose character as a guard against syphilitic diseases, and occasionally recommended as a preventive check.

The check which appears to us to be preferable, as at once certain, and in no sense grating on any feeling of affection or of delicacy, is that recommended by Carlile many years ago in his Every Woman’s Book...