"This book will state many things which would otherwise remain unsaid."
How's that for a hint at what scandalous ideas lie within the pages of this remarkable book? Its author, Dr. Th. H. Van de Velde, a Dutch physician and gynecologist, was not exaggerating.
"I show you here the way to Ideal Marriage. You know the honeymoon of rapture. It is all too short, and soon you decline into that morass of disillusion and depression, which is all you know of marriage. But the Bridal Honeymoon should blossom in the perfect flower of ideal marriage. May this book help you to attain such happiness."
First Ever Runaway Bestseller About Sex
"Ideal Marriage: Its Physiology and Technique," might be one of the earliest self-help books that became a global bestseller. Originally published in 1926 and reissued in 1965, it covers just about every detail of sex -- in the marriage bed -- that you can possibly imagine. Dr. VdeV never minces words. I was raised by two medical professionals who flung around words like "genitalia" and "defecate" the way a Vegas dealer flicks cards -- casually and competently -- and I found the prose rather shocking. I kept glancing guiltily over my shoulder while reading this book.
It has a "Systemized Table of Attitudes." I'll let you digest the meaning of that but an attitude is another word for 'position'. It has "Intermezzos of Aphorisms," which is a lyrical way of describing a page of funny quotes. Like this one:
A little blind wonton god?! How did I live to be fifty without ever hearing that wonderful turn of phrase? And now my kids are nearly all grown. No opportunity for me to use it in daily life! But you can. "Now listen, Junior, it's the start of a new school year tomorrow, so please remember to scrub your little blind wanton god tonight."
Heaven Help Your Canning if Aunt Flo Is Visiting
In researching the book, which is a collector's item, I learned that Dr. VdeV is credited with demonstrating that women ovulate only once during a menstrual cycle. Which led to advances in family planning. And which might explain why his book was banned by the Roman Catholic Church.
He was a little off, though, on the topic of menstruation. He writes on page 93: "Will the exact methods of science confirm the ancient belief in the temporarily "poisonous" or noxious nature of menstruation and the menstruating woman? We should hesitate to scoff, when we remember that women themselves have never quite lost the tradition that cakes mixed and baked by menstruating housewives would not bake properly, and that even stewed fruit -- not to speak of jams, jellies, and preserves -- were never a success if pulled, stoned, and "put-on" at these times."
An Altruist Who Defends Equality and Believes that Love Unites
Dr. VdeV wrote that sex is the foundation of a happy marriage and that both partners must be committed to the act of giving love more than receiving love. But for all of his healthy beliefs about the reciprocity of sex and conjugal equality in the bedroom, the good doctor VdeV never discusses homosexuality or bisexuality. I am fully confident that if he walked the earth today, Dr. VdeV would certainly embrace the idea of equality in marriage for all.
So I decided that this trio of antique dolls, which are incidentally from the same era as Dr. VdeV, could be his figurative stand-in. They are two matadors and a flamenco dancer from turn-of-the-century Spain, and don't they cut handsome figures in their finery? Their opulent costumes of wool, silk, and linen definitely show signs of living one hundred years, but the handiwork is still lovely. The three have a ménage à trois thing going where she dances and they fight and then everyone makes up.
Silly, yes, but Dr. Van de Velde would approve.
If you are interested in purchasing the book and dolls, please contact me. I am commissioning handmade wrought iron stands for the dolls and will list them in the shop when they are completed.