Magazines that are struggling to survive often attempt to lure customers by promising to reveal sex secrets -- and it's not exactly a new strategy. We recently came upon an ultra-rare copy of a mag called Physical Culture -- the May 1927 edition. And amid articles like "Banish Your Fact Like Magic" and "How I Conquered My Indigestion" were plenty of articles and ads promising to shed new light on the sweet mystery of life. What did the people of 1927 know about the horizontal mambo? Learn what were considered the secrets of sex during the Jazz Age below. Squat, thrust
"I was to blame," admits the woman who stars in Christine Meredith's article, "These Exercises Won My Husband Back." After all, this "wife who failed" had lived through "this dramatic true story of an erring husband -- but she learned a great lesson, transformed herself through vitality-building physical culture and now asks herself, 'Can I accuse?'"
Apparently not. She knew she was to blame for her beloved's drifting eye, and his affection for a trollop who appealed to the sportsman in him. So the woman set out to become "physically perfect" using exercises like this one....
Did it work? You bet, in part because her new appearance gave her greater confidence. Her hubby "gazed in open-mouth wonder at me and with a whoop of sincere delight threw himself into my arms."
She reciprocated in a big way: "Where a few months before I would have given him a light kiss, and pushed him away, warning him not to muss my attire, I now clung to him, my warm, ruddy lips melting to his kisses.
"Oh, yes, I thought of the other woman," she admits, "and had my moments of anger and hostility. But dismissed them, remembering it might have been my own fault."
Or it could have been that your husband's a pig -- one or the other.
"Face this face SQUARELY -- MEN," this full-page ad announces. "You can't be a strong, virile man unless you know the laws of Sex."
Ready to teach you is Bernarr Macfadden, author of MANHOOD and MARRIAGE, a book that was completed only after he surmounted "extraordinary difficulties" in preparing it. After all, the copy continues, "many of the topics discussed had never before appeared in a book intended for popular consumption. But the truth is mighty! It can neither be ignored or suppressed."
Included are "vital subjects, pure in themselves, that are frequently surrounded with vulgar mystery." Among them: "Am I a complete man?," "Selecting a Wife," "Marital Mistakes and Excesses," "The Prevention of Venereal Disease" and, of course, "Love Making and Its Dangers."
Be careful, for God's sake!
"There is a way!" declares the text of an ad touting the Olive Company of Clarinda, Iowa. "This beautiful woman learned the secret. Her story is interesting. It will solve your problem no matter what your age or the cause of your flat figure."
Here's Dorothy Stahl's account, italicized as in the original:
"It is almost two years since I first used the National. I am happy to say that the results are permanent, for my development is just the same and my figure is even better than ever. I do appreciate so much what the National has done for me. I have proven that any woman can have a beautiful bust if she will only use the National. Friends envy my perfect figure."
And what, exactly, is the National? Well, the ad doesn't say. But those who wrote Dr. C.S. Carr were promised "all the beauty and captivating grace that is your birthright -- all the artful, delicate allurement that makes you first a woman -- God's Masterpiece -- Man's Idol."
In other words, a huge rack.
This is the "before" photo accompanying an article entitled "Babies for Barren Women: Secrets Every Wife Should Know," supplemented by the subtitle "Here are the Reasons Why Children Come Late or Come Not at All, and Here are Suggestions Which May Turn Sterility into Fecundity."
Fecundity: sounds like a great name for a TV series starring Keri Russell.
Over the course of the article, Dr Eliza Taylor Ransom offers ten common reasons for problems in conceiving, including "the foolish woman who has taken means to prevent a family from coming in her early married years," as well as "the wicked woman who has interfered with that which has been created within her."
And there's also obesity, which is "more frequently a cause of sterility than would have been believed, until these modern days. Of course, I do not mean normal, feminine roundness, but rather extreme obesity, which interferes will all normal unctioning."
Unctioning? Sounds dirty.
As for the woman at the center of this particular piece, her problem was that she consumed too much rich food -- "all these dessicated, overcooked, over-sweet, over-contrived dishes you eat in the day's course leave you starved worse than though all that was set upon your table was a loaf of brown bread and a green salad."
Macrobioitics, 1920s style.
"How Can I Get Married?" asks the title of a story "told by Molly M-" -- last name omitted to protect her reputation, no doubt. The subtitle adds a bit of spice: "The Flaming, Heart-Stirring Recital of a Girl who, Beset by almost Overwhelming Temptations, Saddened by the 'Sexual Suicide' of a Friend, and Courted by a Repulsive Old Man, is Yet Determined to Find True Love."
Regarding the "Sexual Suicide" part, we offer this scene, in which Molly talks to a female doctor, Mrs. Jardine, about her increasingly frantic friend Flora:
She wanted to know how Flora had been acting.
I told her.
"Too much petting," she said crisply.
I was indignant at once.
"Flora is a good girl, Mrs. Jardine," I cried.
"Oh, yes, I know that," she answered.
"But you said --"
"Just what I meant -- the foolish young people in this generation do altogether too much love-making --"
I started to protest.
"Yes, I know, you girls are honorable and straight, but that isn't the point, you'll all be like Flora after a while."
"What is the matter with her?" I begged.
"Sexual suicide," the doctor answered.
This time I was furious.
"How can you say such a thing. How can you slander Flora like that, or any of us? We do not actually do any wrong!"
"No, you do no actual wrong, so far as our standards of morality go, Molly, but you do yourselves a great injury -- don't you know that your love-making, your hugging and kissing, is all dangerous?"
"Not at all, we never --"
"I mean it excites you, it makes you nervous, it is an awful strain on your nervous system. It is not right for young folks to act so because it excites them and any girl who is inclined to be nervous will find her nerves shattered, as Flora's are. Flora is such a wreck that I am afraid she won't recover."
This frightened me.
Us, too, but probably for different reasons.
...and some examples of the ideal body of the era. First, the perfect dude....
...and the perfect gal....
...and finally, the perfect combination:
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If she wants this guy to remain perfect, though, she'd better watch where she steps.
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