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Eugenics Simply Explained for All

, June, 1937

Publisher: Topic Digest Publishing, New York

Discovered at: Circus of Books, 8230 Santa Monica

The Cover Promises: “Timely Articles” on “Nervous Women,” “The Middle Sex,” and “Sex Deviations.” Also: That mad scientists frequented the “leading newsstands”

Representative Quote:

“According to the Human Betterment Foundation [of Pasadena], during the last quarter of a century California state institutions have sterilized more than 11,000 insane and feebleminded patients . . . Eugenic sterilization in this form represents one of the greatest advances in modern civilization.” (page 14)

Pop Quiz! According to Dr. H.R. Bean's article “Warnings of Unchastity” in the weirdly chipper pro-sterilization magazine Eugenics Simply Explained for All, what is the difference between a prostitute and “the girl who gives her body to her own sweetheart before marriage?”


“There is only one difference: the woman of the streets is a professional prostitute; the other is an amateur; and, if anything, one should condemn both.”

Such is the pitiless thinking of American eugenicists, the quick-to-condemn and even quicker to snip-the-testes cohort of scientists and “scientists” who by 1930 had won enough popular support to get a rag like Eugenics Simply Explained for All onto newsstands. There it could be enjoyed by a population its editors believed should not be allowed to breed.

Bean continues, explaining how unchastity leads to human wretchedness:

“Let us say that the man is fortunate enough to avoid venereal infection; if by so doing he persuades himself that he has outwitted nature and escaped her penalties he is pathetically deluded. He must pay for sexual excesses, and pay in coinage that she will demand. He must pay in loss of memory, in undermined nervous system, in weakening intellect, and in vitiated will power.”

So, you can see why you might want to give your plumbing the ol' Bob Barker treatment.

While you think about that, enjoy this performance from Alessandro, Moreschi, the last castrato.

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“Three generations of imbeciles are enough,” declared justice Oliver Wendall Holmes in Buck vs. Bell, the supreme court's 1927 decision upholding the right of the state to force sterilization. Ten years later, Holmes' words earned garlands from the editors. In an editorial titled “Human Sterilization,” they write:

“Sterilization is practically irreversible – permanent, and one hundred per cent effective. It is the only reliable method of birth control which many defectives can use.”

“Defectives,” of course, refers to the insane or the “feebleminded.” The editors reason thusly:

“Such persons may not have the intelligence, the foresight, or the selfcontrol to handle contraceptives successfully, nor to care for children intelligently.”

Wait, by this standard, they are calling for the sterilization of every American high school student.

Also spotted at Circus of Books: this provocative title . . .

Also spotted at Circus of Books: this provocative title . . .

The editors understand that forced sterilization – then occurring in 28 states – might sound scary. As they advocate for more, they vow, “Mass sterilization has no place in this program. Each case is judged on its own merits.”

Immediately after that they point out that only half of all “feebleminded” people released from state sanitariums have suffered the snip-snip.

Most of the magazine is made up of articles like “Studies in Degeneracy” or “Sex Crimes in the News,” all short and dry and penned by doctors. In “Sex Deviations,” Eugene Bertram Willard considers the peccadilloes of “certain homeless and unemployable types,” such as the mad hair fetishist of the Bowery.

First, of the man himself:

“A scatter-brained, vain malicious man of middle age, who despised work and wouldn't be able to perform useful labor if a job was offered to him, the type of outcast that was invariably thinking of a deft slash with a razor as a valid way of settling an argument.”

But, isn't that last bit also true of eugenicists?

. . . and T-shirts for that movie where Burt Reynolds plays a Tolkienland king.

. . . and T-shirts for that movie where Burt Reynolds plays a Tolkienland king.

Then, his crime:

“A bedmaker in the flophouse where he slept when he had the price discovered the recently snipped blonde plait of a school girl under the pervert's mattress. It is reasonable to infer that the fellow travelled about the country and when under the influence of pathological coercive impulses clipped the braids of school girls.”

Willard goes on to describe other perverts:

“A habitual masturbator, a homeless fellow of past 60 years, was in the habit of removing all of his clothes in the basement of the mission shelter. He was a handkerchief fetishist.”

“An interesting study in sexual abnormality was the fellow who always carried about a burlap bag with him Into this bag he put feminine footwear where he was able to find such discarded articles in hallway rubbish barrels. He then made his way to safe isolation where manipulation of the feminine footwear produced in him complete satisfaction.”

In all of these cases, Willard emphasizes the deviants' poverty and shiftlessness. He never once comes out and says these men should be castrated, but the implication is as clear in the pages of Eugenics Simply Explained for All as it is on the floor of the congress: Even in the depths of the Depression, the poor and the “unemployable” were just dicking around!

But as the ads demonstrate, if the money was good enough, even Eugenics Simply Explained for All would endorse such dicking.

Shocking Detail:

As wicked as its editorials seem, Eugenics Simply Explained for All dared to take the side of justice in a noble war: convincing American men that their wives should get off, too.

From “Nervous Women,” by the “brilliant English Eugenist” T. Bowen Partington:

“There are many married males who are responsible for the nervous condition of their women folk simply because they obtain the necessary gratification themselves while their wives, sexually roused, nevertheless remain unsatisfied.”

Partington condemns husbands whose failure to satisfy drives their wives to nervousness and depression. Sometimes this failure is intentional:

“In fact, there is no one thing that contributes more to the nervous troubles of many wives than does the [birth control] method of 'incompletion.'”

Many of these men are selfish. Others are incompetent. But all, Partington argues, are failing in more than the bedroom. They're failing to protect their investment:

“Such a woman will readily notice her depression of spirits and will be quick to change in her complexion or physical appearance. Her unsatisfactory position makes her unable to stand the ravages of time, and she is alarmed by her fading bloom and fleeting gracefulness.”


From “Inversion” by Rex Morgan (?!):

“Libraries, museums, swimming pools, and all manner of public places are the haunts of the Invert. In these places, they are more likely to come in contact with the 'Type' they want. In seaport towns or cities, a sailor just in will, in all likelihood, first seek out a 'Fairy' for himself. The Invert likes the breezy virility of the sailor.”

To his credit, Rex Morgan (?!) does not call for the sterilization of “Inverts.” In fact, he touts their contributions to society:

“Our great painters, poets and some great writers were Inverts – and are Inverts. Can these people great as they are, be disregarded?”

And, hey, here's more ads!

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