Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Love Without Fear...Round Two

Here is my updated review of Love Without Fear copied from Goodreads after reading it again in March of 2014.  My perspective is now of a 65 year old man who has been in a loving relationship with the same woman for 39 years, no longer a wet behind the ears kid...well I am probably still wet behind the ears.  In any event I still have my fascination for the game that big people play with no clothes on.

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Love without Fear by Eustace Chesser
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Read 1964  Review submitted on February 14, 2014
(See new review below.)

As a teenager, my friend inherited a well read copy of this book from his friend who inherited it from his friend and so forth.  My buddy kept it hidden in his sleeping bag for our camping forays in the woods below our neighborhood.  Camping out in the woods, we rubes would sit around the campfire, and instead of telling ghost stories, my friend who had a knack for reading aloud and something of a radio announcer's voice, would read Love Without Fear to us.  As such, I suppose I should be reviewing the audible edition.   Believe me, it fired our young imaginations with the mystery of the world.  No illustrations...alas...some critical areas remained strictly imaginary.  My goodness what a magnificent way to reproduce.

This and All about the Human Body were the only sources of sex ed that I received as a youth.

My (original 5 star) rating is that of a 14 year old boy charmed with notion of what wonderful things awaited me in the future.

I remember very little about the book, so view my gushing rating with a jaded eye.  The book was written in 1947, pre Kinsey and Masters and Johnson.

My parents were married in 1947.  Being a member of the post war baby boom, I am convinced, along with the rest of my generation, that we invented sex sometime during the late 60s.  As such I just bought a used copy off of Amazon and intend to find out what the process was that my parents used to conceive me.

Re-read 2014  Review submitted on March 20, 2014

So I did indeed purchase a copy of the book from one of Amazon's secondary vendors.  The complete title is Love Without Fear, How to Achieve Sex  Happiness in Marriage by Eustace Chesser, M.D.   My copy is hardback, fourth printing, published in the US by Roy Publishers with a 1947 copyright, and has 307 pages.  There is a "Prefatory Note" which states that the book was originally published in England as two separate books: Marriage and Freedom and Love Without Fear.  These two separate books appear as parts 1 and 2 in my edition.  

Upon re-reading the book now, I doubt that we lads actually read the entire book in 1964.  There is a good bit of non-sexual marriage advice included in this book that I doubt lads of 14 to 17 years of age would have bothered to read around a camp fire.  I rather imagine that we limited our readings to the juicy parts, so I felt the necessity to change my finish date to the current read.

Obviously this book is a victim of its time.  From snooping around a bit on the internet it appears as though the book was first published in 1940 in England and I believe was banned at that time.   Many of the statistics listed in the book are dated in the late 1930s.  Readers with modern sensibilities could find much to be offended by this book, so I think it is critical when reading the book to bear in mind when it was written.  Readers with modern sensibilities could find much that is laughable in this book as well.  I found the chapter titled "First Intercourse" to be amusing in this vein.  The new husband is counseled to conduct the affairs of the bedroom in the dark.  The sight of the aroused husband can cause "fear and distaste."

"Instances could be quoted of brides who have fled screaming from the bedroom when, on their wedding night, the husband, eager to impress with his sexual endowment, has displayed himself."   Page 166.

In the current environment of the Internet where 2.4 bazzilion images of men sporting erections can be found in 0.004 seconds, such notions of bridal swoons seem far fetched, but in 1947, indeed a young sexually inexperienced woman probably had no idea other than vague descriptions heard from other equally inexperienced friends, and perhaps old memories of a nude baby brother.  Husbands are further counseled that consummation of the marriage may takes days if not weeks to complete and progress should be slow, loving, and respectful.  

There is a built in bias to the book that husbands will have some sort of sexual experience and the wife none and it becomes the husband's responsibility to introduce this fragile porcelain woman to the joys of marital congress gently and gradually.  That may have been accurate at the time but I suspect that men of the day were not nearly as experienced and women as fragile as the author would suggest.  I suspect that modern women will find the chapter "Woman's Claim to Sex Equality" rather galling.  I found the hysteria over homosexuality and various perversions (many of which remained unnamed) to be far overblown and for the most part wrong.   I also found Chesser's advice to consult one's doctor especially one familiar with psychology for sexual problems to be a bit naive.  From what I have read, doctors then and (often now) are complete rubes when it comes to sexual difficulties and relying on them for advice is naive at best.

There is also a built in bias if not an anxiety that "the great essential is to realize that normal love is the path to happiness." thus avoiding "the supreme unwisdom [that] comes from this tasting of every sexual 'joy'" because "amateur perverts are utterly reprehensible.  They bring upon themselves, and often upon others as well, miseries which are totally unnecessary."  As such, Chesser provides us with:

One of the most comprehensive definitions of normal sexual intercourse is Van de Velde's--indeed, he himself describes it as the "most exact and complete definition."  Here it is:

"That intercourse which comes between two sexually mature individuals of opposite sexes; which excludes cruelty and the use of artificial means for producing voluptuous sensations; which aims directly or indirectly at the consummation of sexual satisfaction, and which, having achieved a certain degree of stimulation, concludes with the ejaculation --or emission--of the semen into the vagina, at the nearly simultaneous culmination of sensation--or orgasm--of both partners."  
Page 144.

Sounds almost religious, does it not.  As a general rule, but being always on the alert for possible perversions, techniques that aid in the culmination of the above are approved.  However any technique that would replace "normal intercourse" must be avoided.  As such, surprisingly, the genital kiss (oral sex) "is widely practiced and has much to commend it, provided that it is not distasteful to either of the partners."  However such stimulation is limited to foreplay in preparation for "normal intercourse" and can not be practiced as an art form in it own right.

We have seen how body kisses may play an exaggerated part in sexual relations so that what should be part of the normal effort to induce pleasurable excitement in the partner becomes the whole, such kisses thus comprising the complete act.  For those who replace coitus by the form of partial intercourse, cunnilinctus [sic] is often an act of self-abasement.  It is the sign of a dog-like devotion.  A masochistic male, one with the tendency towards finding pleasure in suffering and humiliation, moves by way of  the perfectly normal body kisses to one of the byways which lead him away from normality.  Eventually, he cannot enjoy full normal union.  The part has replaced the whole.  Page 251.

Take that, Ian Kerner, you pusillanimous pussyfooter (insult courtesy of Spiro Agnew), teaching us poor sexually weak masochistic males the supreme act of dog like devotion and self abasement in his book She Comes First: The Thinking Man's Guide to Pleasuring a Woman.  See my review at:

Alas, Eustace we part company...certain art forms demand completion in their own right, and it has been my observation that normal union rather than being forever lost, is enhanced immensely by such artistry.

Other surprises.  Masturbation is OK, providing it is only practiced prior to marriage and not very often.  There is a chapter on the advantages of family planning "The Spacing of Children."  While it espouses the advantages of spacing children and avoiding unwanted pregnancy, it is completely mute as to the methods of such planning which to me is an unforgivable omission and part of my reduced star rating.  (I really want to knock it down to one star for this omission).  Probably the biggest surprise in this book to me was Chesser's stance on abortion...a reluctant acceptance due to the savage nature of illegal abortion market.  He even notes that an effective method for reducing the number of abortions is the understanding and use of good contraceptives...but again fails to mention specific methods, an omission that I am inclined to believe may have been induced by certain legal worries by the publisher, to wit, contraceptives were illegal in Connecticut until the Griswold vs Connecticut case found the law unconstitutional in 1965.  

Reluctant acceptance seems to be a theme in this book.  He mentions that there is some advisability to some premarital hanky-panky generally stopping short of coitus, but he seems to let out a conflicted sigh while doing so.  Masturbation, well OK but not too much and only prior to marriage.  Love play indeed one should engage in love play prior to coitus...but always be on the lookout for possible perversions.  Always remember, "The dividing line between the normal and the perverse is exceedingly, dangerously thin."  This overwhelming apprehension regarding perversion is neurotic.  Oh for goodness sake, hop into bed, do what floats your boat and don't obsess over perversions.  Why this slavish adherence to "normal intercourse?"  Unless the goal is to conceive children, I see no need for a consuming worry about which sexual practices are proper and which may be regarded as a perversion.

So what did I like about the book?  It was easy to read, employed humor in good taste, and it was relatively frank in its descriptions of of love techniques, coitus, and coital positions.   It pretty much described how to put tab P into slot V without too much himming and hawing.  I have read other sex books from the past in which the action was lost in a flood of 50 cent archaic words.  If you could remain awake during such descriptions, you were absolutely lost in what the author was actually trying to say.  This book was surprisingly lucid.

I found the placement of "The Organs of Sexual Congress" in the appendix at the end of the book to be curious.  After finishing the book one finds this rather detailed engineering description of the plumbing.  No piping diagrams, alas.  Even my All about the Human Body book, written for children, had rudimentary internal piping diagrams.  Some basic geography lessons done in simple line drawings could have been extremely helpful  back in the days prior to the nether worlds being so completely (like the dark sided of the moon) mapped, illustrated, and photographed in high resolution and available at a moment's notice on Google or Bing images. (Hell yes, I am over 18).  Also, there was a curious lack of mention about menstruation, the mechanics of conception, pregnancy, or childbirth.  Oh yes and for all the preoccupation with perversions, the silence on venereal disease was deafening.  Yes I suppose that happily married couples should not have to worry about STDs.  However, at the same time there was this expectation that the husband would be somewhat sexually experienced.

All in all I enjoyed this book, but I enjoyed it as a blast from the past, a historical curiosity,  not as a informed sexual guide that would have any bearing today.  Yes some of it information is timeless, however I found the omissions on birth control and rudimentary reproduction unforgivable, and the huge preoccupation with normality verses perversion extremely tedious if not neurotic.  What a loving couple chooses to do in the privacy of their bedroom should not be gauged against constant worries (or Fears) about perversion, rather ironic for a book titled Love Without Fear.  I am battling with the star rating two or three stars?   However upon reading the following passage from Wikipedia, I chose to give him three stars.  Despite the shortcomings which are many, it was a highly popular "How To" manual during the baby boom.  Many of us may owe our existence and happy childhoods with loving, sexually well adjusted and satisfied, perversion free parents to Eustace Chesser...if nothing else he was great campfire reading.

He was born in Edinburgh to Russian immigrants and attended George Watson's College. He received his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh.[1] In 1940 he published a sex manual entitled Love Without Fear.[1] It sold 5,000 copies but it was withdrawn, and Chesser was arrested for obscenity.[1][2] Rather than pleading guilty and accepting a fine, Chesser chose to be tried by jury.

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  1. I was reminded of Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach by your historical perspective.

    1. I have not read that particular book, so I checked out the description at Amazon. Indeed Edward and Florence could have used a copy of Love Without Fear to spare a year of consummation failure.

      How ironic! The ease of my own wedding night could perhaps be attributed to my brother in law's capable reading of the juicy parts about the camp fire. Yes the friend doing the reading became my brother in law 13 years later. Life does offer some unusual twists, does it not?

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Olga.