Topsy Turvy

During 27 days in every month (in the absence of pregnancy) from the time a woman is seven years old till she dies of old age, she is ready for action, and competent. As competent as the candlestick is to receive the candle. Competent every day, competent every night. Also, she wants that candle—yearns for it, longs for it, hankers after it, as commanded by the law of God in her heart.

But man is only briefly competent; and only then in the moderate measure applicable to the word in his sex’s case. He is competent from the age of sixteen or seventeen thenceforward for thirty-five years. After 50 his performance is of poor quality, the intervals between are wide, and its satisfactions of no great value to either party; whereas his great-grandmother is as good as new. There is nothing the matter with her plant. Her candlestick is as firm as ever, whereas his candle is increasingly softened and weakened by the weather of age, as the years go by, until at last it can no longer stand, and is mournfully laid to rest in the hope of a blessed resurrection which is never to come.

By the woman’s make, her plant has to be out of service three days in the month and during part of her pregnancy. These are times of discomfort, often of suffering. For fair and just compensation she has the high privilege of unlimited adultery all the other days of her life.

That is the law of God, as revealed in her make. What becomes of this high privilege? Does she live in free enjoyment of it? No. Nowhere in the whole world. She is robbed of it everywhere. Who does this? Man. Man’s statutes—ordained against her without allowing her a vote. Also God’s statutes—if the Bible is the Word of God.

Now there you have a sample of man’s “reasoning powers,” as he calls them. He observes certain facts. For instance, that in all his life he never sees the day that he can satisfy one woman; also, that no woman ever sees the day that she can’t overwork, and defeat, and put out of commission any ten masculine plants that can be put to bed to her. He puts those strikingly-suggestive and luminous facts together, and from them draws this astonishing conclusion:

The Creator intended the woman to be restricted to one man.

So he concretes that singular conclusion into a law, for good and all.

And he does it without consulting the woman, although she has a thousand times more at stake in the matter than he has. His procreative competency is limited to an average of a hundred exercises per year for 50 years, hers is good for 3,000 a year for that whole time—and as many years longer as she may live. Thus his life-interest in the matter is 5,000 refreshments, while hers is 150,000; yet instead of fairly and honorably leaving the making of the law to the person who has an overwhelming interest at stake in it, this immeasurable hog, who has nothing at stake in it worth considering, makes it himself!

You have heretofore found out, by my teachings, that man is a fool; you are now aware that woman is a damned fool.

Now if you or any other really intelligent person were arranging the fairnesses and justices between man and woman, you would give the man a one-fiftieth interest in one woman, and the woman a harem. Now wouldn’t you? Necessarily. I give you my word, this creature with the decrepit candle has arranged it exactly the other way. Solomon, who was one of the Deity’s favorites, had a copulation-cabinet composed of 700 wives and 300 concubines. To save his life he could not have kept two of those young creatures satisfactorily refreshed, even if he had had fifteen experts to help him. Necessarily almost the entire thousand had to go hungry years and years on a stretch. Conceive of a man hard-hearted enough to look daily upon all that suffering and not be moved to mitigate it. He even wantonly added a sharp pang to that pathetic misery; for he kept within those women’s sight, always, stalwart watchmen whose splendid masculine forms made the poor lassies’ mouths water but who hadn’t anything to solace a candlestick with, these gentry being eunuchs. A eunuch is a person whose candle has been put out. By art.

—Mark Twain, Letters From The Earth

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