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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter VI

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At the outset, he had taken the attitude of the average legislator, that the thing to do was to strengthen the laws against prostitution, and to enforce them more strictly. He echoed the cry of the old man whom George had heard in the doctor's office: "Are there not enough police?"

"We must go to the source," he declared. "We must proceed against these miserable women--veritable poisoners that they are!"

He really thought this was going to the source! But the doctor was quick to answer his arguments. "Poisoners?" he said. "You forget that they have first been poisoned. Every one of these women who communicates the disease has first received it from some man."

Monsieur Loches advanced to his second idea, to punish the men. But the doctor had little interest in this idea either. He had seen it tried so many times--such a law could never be enforced. What must come first was education, and by this means a modification of morals. People must cease to treat syphilis as a mysterious evil, of which not even the name could be pronounced.

"But," objected the other, "one cannot lay it bare to children in our educational institutions!"

"Why not?" asked the doctor.

"Because, sir, there are curiosities which it would be imprudent to awaken."

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The doctor became much excited whenever he heard this argument. "You believe that you are preventing these curiosities from awakening?" he demanded. "I appeal to those--both men and women--who have passed through colleges and boarding schools! Such curiosities cannot be smothered, and they satisfy themselves as best they can, basely, vilely. I tell you, sir, there is nothing immoral about the act which perpetuates life by means of love. But we organize around it, so far as concerns our children, a gigantic and rigorous conspiracy of silence. The worthy citizen takes his daughter and his son to popular musical comedies, where they listen to things which would make a monkey blush; but it is forbidden to discuss seriously before the young that act of love which people seem to think they should only know of through blasphemies and profanations! Either that act is a thing of which people can speak without blushing--or else, sir, it is a matter for the innuendoes of the cabaret and the witticisms of the messroom! Pornography is admitted, but science is not! I tell you, sir, that is the thing which must be changed! We must elevate the soul of the young man by taking these facts out of the realm of mystery and of slang. We must awaken in him a pride in that creative power with which each one of us is endowed. We must make him understand that he is a sort of temple in which is prepared the future of the race, and we must teach him that he must transmit, intact, the heritage entrusted to him--the precious heritage which has been built out of the tears and miseries and sufferings of an interminable line of ancestors!"

So the doctor argued. He brought forth case after case to prove that the prostitute was what she was, not because of innate vileness, but because of economic conditions. It happened that the deputy came to one of the clinics where he met Therese. The doctor brought her into his consulting room, after telling her that the imposing-looking gentleman was a friend of the director of the opera, and might be able to recommend her for a position on the stage to which she aspired. "Tell him all about yourself," he said, "how you live, and what you do, and what you would like to do. You will get him interested in you."

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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