Evolving Human Sexuality

Evolving Human Sexuality

Part 2 - Domesticating the Human Passions


Inarguably John Humphrey Noyes was pre-destined to become an important world illuminator and reformer who would pave the way for major change in the sexual, domestic as well as social design arena. After making such a great discovery with Male Continence, no doubt Noyes was keen to share the practice with as many others as he could induce to take it on. However it was not just Male Continuance that he had a fervor in his bones about; his predisposition to installing a form of Christian Communism was still clearly tagging along with him.

It had not gone away and so in earnest Noyes began preaching the whole package – sexual continence and Christian Communalism all rolled into one. To him it was a design of living and loving that he deemed to be the truest form of Christianity. And so he preached it and somehow as radical as his doctrines were during the largest ultra-conservative Victorian times, he managed to attract disciples. After which he brought them together to form an actual functioning community, first in Vermont and later at Oneida, in upstate New York.

Noyes clearly was an outstanding dynamic and charismatic leader. Obviously the benefits of Noyes practicing the retention of his ‘social magnetism,’ speaks for itself when one takes into account he managed to swag many hundreds of otherwise ‘died in the wool’ traditional adult Christian men and women to actually marry each other and share the beds of each and every one of the members, without exception, of what he called, ‘the Complex Marriage’ arrangement.

Noyes declared that in regard to establishing ‘the Kingdom of God on earth,’ religion was to be the community’s first interest; and sexual morality the second. Thus when formulating the basic creeds and tenets of the community at Oneida, Noyes founded it on the idea of Perfectionist Christianity, an idea floating around in other protestant denominations all over America, Britain and Europe at the time. From this fundamental base of perfecting principles, Noyes successfully managed to establish a code of the practice that quite literally served to install a functional dose of sexual morality that then allowed the participants to adhere to the psycho-physiological practice of Male Continence and also maintain the non-traditional social laws of Complex Marriage.

Holding to the higher principles of founders of earlier ‘faith’ formed communities, Noyes emphatically disapproved and outlawed all exclusive attachments between the members of Oneida. The decree was that all marriage partners were to love all other marriage partners; without any kind of possessiveness or jealousy. Each were to develop the capacity to love with a kind of impersonal charity, which was expected to extend to sexual relationships with each and every member of the opposite sex regardless of age or attractiveness. Under this doctrine of refining ones primitive shallow sexual nature Oneida was successfully established a Complex Marriage community consisting in its heyday of more than three hundred adults all living and loving, sharing everything including sexual pleasure and amazingly ‘the one common purse.’

Now it would be a malicious mistake to believe that Noyes outright condemned monogamy. He didn’t. He simply believed that group love was better than exclusive love. There remains a passage where he wrote, ‘I would not set up a distinction between right and wrong; between general and special love, except that special love, when false, makes more mischief. Therefore I insist that all love, whether general or special, must have its authority in the sanction and the inspiration of the ascending fellowship.’

As an explanation Noyes went on to state, ‘All love that is at work in a private corner, away from the general circulation where there are no series of links connecting it with God, is false love; it rends and devours instead of making unity, peace and harmony.’ Under Noyes leadership there was to be no love in a private corner; no idolatrous and God-eclipsing attachment of one for one, outside the general circulation. Under his guidance all were to enact a fully-fledged committed marriage to all, no exceptions. 

How Complex Marriage worked was that when any given pair decided (with the advice and permission of the Elders) to consummate their latent nuptials, Male Continence guaranteed that their union should be fruitful only of ‘social magnetism.’ Love was for love’s sake and for God’s, not for offspring.

The ‘Complex Marriage’ arrangement John Noyes established between over three hundred professing Christians, lasted for more than thirty years. By all accounts its members were reported to be excellent citizens, happy and upbeat, as well as measurably less neurotic than most of the outside populations.

Why? How is such thing possible to be claimed in that era? Well as one of Noyes’s female correspondents wrote and left as legacy to the generations that have followed, ‘Through Complex Marriage and Male Continence, the women of Oneida have been spared the miseries of Married Life, as it is in the World.’

Similarly the male members of the ‘Complex Marriage’ arrangement discovered their self-discipline rewarded by an experience which was both physical and spiritual that so much deeper and richer than that of unrestrained coitus. 

Here below is the comment of a young man who lived in the community and learned the new form of sexual relating. In a letter to Noyes he wrote: ‘This Yankee nation claims to be a nation of inventors, but this discovery of Male Continence puts you in my mind, at the head of all inventors.’

Noyes himself made many public declarations about the psychological, social and religious value-add of his discoveries regarding sexual continence. Noyes adamantly preached that the practice of ‘Sexual Continence’ that he and his group were practicing, would greatly advance civilization by increasing the general populace’s spiritual and social refinement and harmony... read more







One Comment

  1. Lisa Dau-Graham - Sydney Australia

    If only we can realize that we chose our personal story as a means to discovering the greatest truth: that despite our suffering – even through our suffering – we are here to live in Love and at peace with ourselves and the world. If only we could wake up to the realization that our “story” is just that, only a fable, a play, an act of human theatre, and when we cease to tell it and live it as if it were real, the story, the characters, the themes become free to evaporate like a mirage in the desert sun, leaving us clean and empty, aware of the perfection that has been our truer nature all along.

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