Emily Judges: William Trufant Foster (1914)

William Trufant Foster’s probably well-intended “Social Emergency” is a genuinely superb example of its genre. It offers its own excellent summary:

If there is one dominant truth in this volume, it is that any plan for meeting the social emergency that would relax the control of moral and spiritual law over sex impulses is antagonistic, not only to physical health, but as well to the highest development of personality and to the progressive evolution of human society.


The preface feels particularly poignant to me. It reads (in part):

This volume is the outgrowth of an extension course conducted by Reed College in Portland, Oregon, in 1913. The course was offered to teachers and to workers in various other fields of social service as an outline of the main problems of social hygiene and morals and as a guide to further study.

My own book was also inspired by a course I taught and the students in the course.

But if there is one dominant truth in MY book, it is just the opposite of Foster and his collaborators’: we must create a world where every individual is granted equal access to sexual autonomy, and where consent, confidence, and joy, are nurtured and respected in every human body.

I learn a lot, reading these old sex guides. I see the place in history that my own guide may fill. I can only hope that my book, 100 years from now, reads more like a vision of the future that would come, rather than a control over the present that would never be, could never be.