Ben Franklin's Advice Concerning His Friend's
Franklin had a friend who did not want to get married,
but was battling with urges and lustful inclinations for the opposite sex.
In the letter which follows, Franklin first advises the friend that the
best solution for his urges is marriage. However, since he knows the friend
will not take that advice, Franklin goes on to suggest that his friend
have sexual affairs with old women. We know from the context that he is
suggesting women over 45 years of age (see #3). His words about putting
a basket over her head or turning out the light (see #5) illustrate an
aspect of Franklin's character which is seldom exposed.
June 25, 1745
My dear Friend,
I know of no Medicine fit to diminish the violent natural
Inclinations you mention; and if I did, I think I should not communicate
it to you. Marriage is the proper Remedy. It is the most natural State
of Man, and therefore the State in which you are most likely to find solid
Happiness. You Reasons against entering into it at present, appear to me
not well-founded. The circumstantial Advantages you have in View by postponing
it, are not only uncertain, by they are small in comparison with that of
the Thing itself, the being married and settled. It is the Man and Woman
united that make the compleat human Being. Separate, she wants his Force
of Body and Strength of Reason; he, her Softness, Sensibility and acute
Discernment. Together they are more likely to succeed in the World. A single
Man has not nearly the Value he would have in that State of Union. He is
an incomplete Animal. He resembles the odd half of a Pair of Scissars.
If you get a prudent healthy Wife, your Industry in your Profession, with
her good Oeconomy, will be a Fortune sufficient.
But if you will not take this Counsel, and persist in
thinking a Commerce with the Sex inevitable, then I repeat my former Advice,
that in all your Amours you should prefer old Women to young ones. You
call this a Paradox, and demand my Reasons. They are these:
1. Because as they have more Knowledge of the World and
their Minds are better stor'd with Observations, their Conversation is
more improving and more lastingly agreable.
2. Because when Women cease to be handsome, the study
to be good. To maintain their Influence over Men, they supply the Dimunition
of Beauty by the Augmentation of Utility. They learn to do 1000 Services
small and great, and are the most tender and useful of all Friends when
you are sick. Thus they continue amiable. And hence there is hardly such
thing to be found as an old Woman who is not a good Woman.
3. Because there is no hazard of Children, which irregularly
produc'd may be attended with much Inconvenience.
4. Because thro' more Experience, they are more prudent
and discreet in conducting and Intrigue to prevent Suspicion. The Commerce
with them is therefore safer with regard to your Reputation. And with regard
to theirs, if the Affair should happen to be known, considerate People
might be rather inclin'd to excuse an old Woman who would kindly take care
of a young Man, form his Manners by her good Counsels, and prevent his
ruining his Health and Fortune among mercenary Prostitutes.
5. Because in every animal that walks upright, the Deficiency
of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part:
the Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast
and Arms; the lower Parts continuing to the last as plump as ever: So that
covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the
Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one.
And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment
with an Old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack
being by Practice capable of Improvement.
6. Because the Sin is less. The debauching of a Virgin
may be her Ruin, and make her for Life unhappy.
7. Because the Compunction is less. The having made a
young Girl miserable may give you frequent bitter Reflections; none of
which can attend the making an old Woman happy.
8. They are so grateful!!
Thus much for my Paradox. But still I advise you to marry
directly; being sincerely Your affectionate Friend,