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The Origin of a Delusion (2)

from In Defense of Women by H. L. Mencken - 1922


Their error, as I say, lies in overestimating the courage and enterprise of man. They themselves, barring mere physical valour, a quality in which the average man is far exceeded by the average jackal or wolf, have more of both. If the consequences, to a man, of the slightest descent from virginity were one-tenth as swift and barbarous as the consequences to a young girl in like case, it would take a division of infantry to dredge up a single male flouter of that lex talionis in the whole western world. As things stand today, even with the odds so greatly in his favour, the average male hesitates and is thus not lost. Turn to the statistics of the vice crusaders if you doubt it. They show that the weekly receipts of female recruits upon the wharves of sin are always more than the demand; that more young women enter upon the vermilion career than can make respectable livings at it; that the pressure of the temptation they hold out is the chief factor in corrupting our undergraduates. What was the first act of the American Army when it began summoning its young clerks and college boys and plough hands to conscription camps? Its first act was to mark off a so-called moral zone around each camp, and to secure it with trenches and machine guns, and to put a lot of volunteer termagants to patrolling it, that the assembled jeunesse might be protected in their rectitude from the immoral advances of the adjacent milkmaids and poor working girls.

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