Polygamy’s Such a Drag

“It is worth while to say that such practices [polygamy] lead to degeneration. The woman who acknowledges more than one husband is generally sterile; the man who has several wives has usually a weakly offspring, principally males. Nature attempts to check polygamy by reducing the number of females, and failing in this, by enervating the whole stock. The Mormons of Utah would soon sink into a state of Asiatic effeminacy were they left to themselves.”

–The Physical Life of Woman


Who here can venture a guess as to what “Asiatic effeminacy” means? Anyone?

5 comments on “Polygamy’s Such a Drag

  1. Lori says:

    That is what i want to know! what does that mean?? what a weird insult….

  2. Anne says:

    I’m guessing it means “sink in to the gay.” Especially with the practice of smoking opium (done lying down facing each other in a bed), early America was very uncomfortable with Asian sexuality. They assumed that all men were gay and all women were prostitutes – I think there was even a law passed in California declaring all Asian women living on the street level prostitutes! A lot of it had to do with the mode of raising children – census takers were confused when they saw that there were many women raising all of the children.

  3. Anne: Interesting! I certainly couldn’t find anything about it when Googling “Asiatic effeminacy.” And something to keep in mind about most of these books is that they never cite their “facts.” The writers just toss ’em into the wind as common knowledge.

    Also interesting is the ultra-venomous take on those rascally Mormons of Utah. Congress outlawed polygamy in 1862 (look at me, citing sources!), but that didn’t stop the Church from okaying the practice, particularly because Utah wasn’t a state at the time. Just prior to when this book was republished (this is the second edition from 1897), Utah had only just achieved statehood, in 1896, after some concessions by the Church. For decades before then, the Mormons had been fighting tooth and nail against the federals outlawing polygamy. So I guess the author (and maybe other Americans) was still distrustful of Mormons (or perhaps just polygamous Mormons).

  4. Lisa says:

    Oh wow. Asiatic means of Asian origin, doesn’t it? I took it as a rather racist comment.

    Great blog by the way 🙂

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