Hugo Gernsback is famous for being a science fiction publishing titan, being the namesake of the Hugo Awards, and his no-holds-barred futurism. He was less renowned for his Clockwork Orange-style views on marriage, which are equal parts horrifying and gut-busting.
In the article "The Future: Electronic Mating" from the February 1964 issue of Sexology, Gernsback suggests that couples should undergo rigorous, state-mandated marriage testing to combat escalating divorce rates. After all, you never know if your bride-to-be is a saucy Sapphic temptress:
The simple truth is that worthwhile sex expression requires the affinity of two people. And if the couple are not sexually compatible, even Venus and Adonis would not be able to make a go of their marriage.
Frequently, too, nature plays ghastly pranks on humans. Thus many of history's-and the present's-irresistible, beautiful women heartbreakers can't tolerate mere males. They prefer women-homosexuals, like themselves.
And what's his model for these prenuptial mind games? Syphilis testing, of course!
There was a time-just a few decades ago-when people married without regard to health, particularly venereal disease. There was a terrific public hubbub when some states first enacted blood (Wassermann) tests, against syphilis, before issuing a marriage license. Today such a test is taken for granted.
But marriage itself still remains a stupid gamble-the planet's most outrageously costly and totally unnecessary lottery. Yet, we progress -exceedingly slowly it is true-but we do inch ahead.
Gernsback's plan was two-pronged. First a "group of bright, young research scientists–psychologists should be organized under the tutelage of a brilliant, able leader." These researchers would glean social scientific and physiological data (such as "texture of hair" and "odor preference") from 25,000 married couples. Once this hard data was analyzed, the would-be happy couples would undergo a battery of the tests while hooked up to polygraphs and other unsavory devices.
When stage 2 begins to function, young people will also have to be tested for their S.Q.-the Sexual Quotient. This test will become as important as our present blood tests. No marriage certificates will be issued without an S.Q. test.
If the index cards of the marriage candidates reveal complete incompatibility, no marriage certificate will be issued by the state, till the condition has been remedied. This is, of course, a parallel to the Wassermann test, where candidates are not allowed to be married till the syphilitic condition has been cured.
In cases of total incompatibility, there is a chance of alleviation, either medically or psychiatrically (frigidity and other sexual disturbances).
How do we obtain a person's S.Q.? First, there must be a complete medical examination of the subject [...] After the physical tests, the sexual tests are evaluated [...] The future tests will proceed somewhat as follows: The subject, male or female-it makes no difference which-is physically connected to a number of instruments, such as the following: Electrocardiograph, which furnishes a most accurate tape record of the heart action, reliably portraying emotional stresses. The Electropsychometer (electronic lie detector), which also gives us a most reliable tape record of psychical highlights while the test proceeds. The Electroencephalograph, which gives a running curve of the brain function during the test.
To this is added a recording Polygraph, which gives other valuable clues and accurate indices of sexual emotion through the pulse action, rapidity of breathing, etc. [...] Now the person under test is given to read a specially prepared romantic short story. This is followed by a short motion-picture film made up from various well-known film productions, with the accent on "torrid" love scenes by famous film personalities.
Next we have a number of short sexological – educational, informative items printed on special cards. This particular part of the test gives the laboratory people a good insight into the person's sex knowledge.
There follows a final, lengthy Kinsey-type sex questionnaire into the intimate life of the individual with the double and triple checking technique. Such questions, if not answered truthfully, will trip up the subject when the question is put in another form later on.
Once your score is tabulated, it's compared to that of your future spouse's. Presumably by that guy at the DMV who really, really hates his job.
The final computation of the subject's S.Q. is made by automatic machines, chiefly through the means of electronic calculators -the so-called electronic brain- and punched index cards. The rating is automatically printed on each card in percentages.
When the final S.Q. has been noted on the card, it becomes a comparatively routine matter for the psychologist in charge to "match" the male and female cards of the marriage applicants.
The answer will not be simply "compatible" or "noncompatible" but the machine rather will answer in percentages. Thus the electronic brain may say: 90 per cent. Translated, this means that the marriage will be in all likelihood, 90 per cent satisfactory. The next two candidates may rate only 73 per cent, and so forth.
The State Marriage Authority may refuse to issue a marriage license to applicants who rate 50 per cent or less. That means that such candidates should find themselves more suitable partners.
Indeed, if you score lower than a "D-" on your state-mandated wedding exam, you'll be denied matrimony. By that other guy at the DMV who really, really hates his job.
So yeah, Gernsback's system could use a little refinement. I mean, who writes the "specially prepared romantic short story?" You and your squeeze could've met over a mutual appreciation of pterodactyl erotica. What starlet does the couple see acting torridly? The tri-breasted stripper from Total Recall is someone's dream date.
You can read Gernsback's whole damn tour de force at Modern Mechanix.