The 19th Century – Nuts & Flakes
The masturbation insanity continued on into the 19th century. Not the insanity they feared would be caused by excessive wanking, of course, but the insanity of thinking that sexual self-gratification would have dire effects.
As proof of this madness, between 1856 and 1932 there were more than thirty patents taken out in the U.S. Patent Office for devices to prevent masturbation. The methods of deterrence ranged from simple bondage in which the potential masturbator was tied up at night to keep their hands off their penises, to downright devious instruments of torture (or so they seem to me.) Someone even coined a term, spermatorrhea, to explain nocturnal emissions. And no man was willing to admit to masturbating.
It is amazing the lengths to which the fear of masturbation drove otherwise normal people. Consider the following.
Instruments of Torture
A Dr. Fleck patented a Leather-Jacket Corset (1831) made of leather and steel to be used on boys. It included a metal tube into which his penis was inserted "a steel band riveted to the shield permanently and attached to the body with an encircling steel band in such a manner that it cannot be removed and prevented access to the testicles." The doctor said "it closes with greatest accuracy, fits to perfection, and the boy wears it continuously without having succeeded even once in reaching his genitals or pulling the machine away from his body so as to produce friction on his genitals."
Then there was the Bowen Device that went over the penis head and by chains and clips attached to the pubic hair. Get and erection and the young man’s public hair would be ripped out by the roots. (Ouch!)
The Stephenson Spermatic Truss (1876) put the penis in a pouch that was then stretched and tied between the legs. It made getting an erection impossible. The kind Mr. Stephenson adapted his “invention” some 21 years later by adding a metal hood. This let the penis move freely, freely enough that if it got erect it would push against the sharp spikes in the hood.
Dr. Moodie’s Apparatus for Boys (1848) was a truss-and-shield device with a penis tube that had a side slot so the kid could push his penis out to pee.
From the Handbook of Medicine (1885) you could order a metal cage to put around a boys penis and balls. It permitted erections but prevented touching.
How about Frank Orth’s penis coolers (1893) to dampen youthful ardour? “The penis is inserted in the hole and between the levers so that if during the night an erection occurs, the dilatation of the penis spreads the levers, thus separating the jaws, and permitting the cold water to flow through the tube to the sack or envelope. The cold water... cools the organ of generation, so that the erection subsides and no discharge occurs." Well, thank God for that!
How many of these were actually manufactured and used I do not know. Statistics say that a healthy 11 or 12 year old, having just discovered the pleasures of his penis, will jack off about 11 times a week. Imagine the misery inflicted upon the horny adolescents whose parents forced them to wear such devices!
Health Food Fear Mongers
What drove otherwise sane people to such obviously insane ends? The bizarre 19th century obsession with and opposition to solo sex may have been strange, but its source was even stranger still. It came from the emerging “health food” industry, of all things! To me that is so very odd because, after all, if you are promoting healthy food and natural living, what could be healthy and natural than masturbation? But they didn’t see it that way. And strange as it may seem, some believed that the more dull the diet, the more dull the sex drive would become, and the healthier a person would be.
Two men were the principle leaders of this harebrained crusade; Sylvester Graham, of Graham Cracker fame, and John Harvey Kellogg, of the breakfast cereal family. They had a strong influence on ideas of health and sexuality.
Sylvester Graham (1794-1851) was against a lot of things, only one of which was masturbation. Not only did he believe that solo sex was an extremely unhealthy practice, but he agreed with Samual Tissot that the loss of semen under any condition was bad for a man’s health. That, and white bread, feather beds, pork, tobacco, salt, condiments, tight corsets, nocturnal emissions, heavy clothing, and hot mince pie. (Well, he got a few things right.) Masturbation was "self abuse" or "self pollution," plain and simple.
As far as Graham was concerned a masturbator grows up "with a body full of disease, and with a mind in ruins, the loathsome habit still tyrannizing over him, with the inexorable imperiousness of a fiend of darkness." And who was going to prove him wrong. Was anyone going to say, “Hey Dr. Graham, I jerk off five times a week and my health is great.” I think not.
Ever hear that acne comes from masturbation? Graham wrote that "ulcerous sores, in some cases, break out upon the head, breast, back and thighs; and these sometimes enlarge into permanent fistulas, of a cancerous character, and continue, perhaps for years, to discharge great quantities of foetid, loathsome pus; and not unfrequently terminate in death." After all, what teen does not play with the family jewels, and most teens get acne. The cure for this great disease of private sexual pleasures? Proper diet, of course, because proper diet kept sexual desire in check. Which is ironic since today we know that a proper diet aids in good health which leads to a stronger libido, not a weakened one, which in turn enables a person to have more frequent and more enjoyable sex, solo or otherwise.
Graham’s prescription for a long and healthy life included a moderate sex life (married couple could copulate once a month at most), lots of exercise (to eliminate those pesky wet dreams, and any perilous pleasure they gave) and a healthy diet (to facilitate regular bowel movements, along with other benefits).
James Caleb Jackson
By 1840 Sylvester Graham’s public career was in serious decline, but other lesser stars like James Caleb Jackson (1814-1895) carried the torch. He added Hydropathic Therapy to Grahams health plan. This was also called “the water cure” and meant using extremely cold water to different body parts. Feeling horney? How about a cold shower? He also created Granula, from graham flour and water, and thus invented the first cold breakfast cereal, sure to keep those dangerous passions in check.
Sister Ellen White (SDA)
Jackson fed his blah tasting Granula to the residents of his sanitarium in Dansville, NY. Enter Sister Ellen White of the Seventh Day Adventists (SDA). Her “angel advisor” sent her to Dansville. She then felt God tell her to set up a similar arrangement in Battle Creek, Michigan. She named it the Western Health Reform Institute.
At the time Battle Creek was the world headquarters for the vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists, who adopted the Genesis diet for their own; "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed...to you it shall be meat."
The SDA prophetess then published a book on masturbation called An Appeal to Mothers: The Great Cause of the Physical, Mental and Moral Ruin of Many of the Children of Our Time (1864). Six years later she wrote an amplified version entitled "A Solemn Appeal." Her authority? She claimed she received much of this information in a vision from God. In it she declared, "I feel alarmed for those children and you who by solitary vice are ruining themselves...you listen to numerous complaints of headache, catarrh, dizziness, nervousness, pain in the shoulders and side, loss of appetite, pain in the back and limbs...and have you not noticed that there was a deficiency in the mental health of your children?" "Secret indulgence [masturbation] is, in many cases, the only real cause of the numerous complaints of the young." (p. 11, 13) "The state of the world is alarming. Everywhere we look we see imbecility, dwarfed forms, crippled limbs, misshapen heads and deformity of every description... Corrupt habits are wasting their energy, and bringing upon them loathsome and complicated diseases... Children who practice self-indulgence [masturbation]...must pay the penalty." (p. 14) "If the practice is continued from the ages of 15 and upward, nature will protest...and will make them pay the penalty...by numerous pains in the system, and various diseases, such as affection of the liver and lungs, neuralgia, rheumatism, affection of the spine, diseased kidneys and cancerous humours... There is often a sudden breaking down of the constitution, and death is the result." (p. 14-15) "Females possess less vital force than the other sex. The result of self abuse in them is seen in various diseases, such as catarrh, dropsy, headache, loss of memory and sight, great weakness in the back and loins, affections of the spine, and frequently, inward decay of the head... The mind is often utterly ruined, and insanity supervenes... Such are just as much self-murderers as though they pointed a pistol to their own breast... Among the young the vital capital, and the brain are so severely taxed at an early age, that there is deficiency and great exhaustion, which leave the system exposed to diseases of various kinds. But the most common of these is consumption [tuberculosis]... They must die." (p. 17) "Unchastity deranges, debilitates, and ruins the body. Now, out of this startling fact arises another fact, if possible more startling. It is that unchastity deranges, debilitates, and ruins the mind." "I saw a young woman in a town of Massachusetts who made herself an idiot by masturbation." (p.2-3) "In the fall of 1844, the writer visited the Massachusetts State Lunatic Hospital.... Our attention was suddenly arrested by a peculiarly haggard, frantic, wild, fiendish appearance of a young man, with his eye turned back over his shoulder. Struck with his shocking aspect, we inquired...what was the cause of his insanity. 'Solitary vice,' was the ready reply." (p. 4) "Lascivious day-dreams and amorous reveries...often [cause] debility, premature disease, and even premature death, without the actual exercise of the genital organs." (p. 9-10) "There is hardly an end to the diseases caused by solitary vice." "It hurries its victims to insanity." "Confirmed onanists...will shrink from few acts of crime." (p. 11,20-21) "Self-abuse opens the door for...almost every disease from which humanity suffers." "Language supplies no word sufficiently strong to express the horrors which result from it!" "Self-abuse is a sure road to the grave." (p. 84-85,90) "After indulging in this habit for a time, the child loses its bright and happy look; it becomes pale with a greenish tint." "Many children are born with this propensity and the habit is commenced in infancy." "Little babies [!] acquire the habit..." and "live but to linger a little." (p. 22,97) "No other cause of disease equals this." "This picture...is not overdrawn."
Well, I am sure glad she chose not to exaggerate!
A bland cereal diet and solo sex forbidden: the SDA followers of the “prophet” Ellen White may have felt righteous, but they sure weren’t enjoying themselves!
John Harvey Kellogg
Ellen While had her eccentric opinions and ecstatic visions, but she was no businesswoman. Ten years later along comes John Harvey Kellogg (February 26, 1852 – December 14, 1943). He took over daily operations. Kellogg was another cereal inventor, this one made of ground up oatmeal and corn meal biscuits. (Yummy.) There were numerous other unique health food inventions and soon the place was booking and prosperous. Mostly too busy Americans came for a rest and left refreshed.
Kellogg also was a crusader against (you guessed it) the vice of youth, the dreaded masturbation, which he called a "crime doubly abominable." His book, Plain Facts for Old and Young (1888), was a strong warning on the evils of sex. Ninety-seven of 644 pages were devoted to the "Secret Vice (Solitary Vice or Self-Abuse).” He detailed thirty-nine symptoms including sleeplessness, a love of solitude, shyness, boldness, confusion, and of course, number thirty was none other than outbreaks of Acne. Among the causes of the solo sex curse were idleness, abnormal sexual passions, gluttony, sedentary employment, and exciting and irritating food. To stop children from playing with themselves you should serve them cold cereals for breakfast, tie their hands to the bedpost at night, and bandage their genitals. He promoted his diet as the main “cure,” but since no known masturbators were admitted to his Sanatorium, there was no way to prove if the diet worked or not. If a masturbator’s sick symptoms persisted, it was the patient’s fault for having a middle of the night old-fashioned wank. So convinced was he that any sex at all was damaging that when Dr. Kellogg married Ella Eaton (poor girl) he never consummated the marriage. They even lived in separate apartments.
Dr. Kellogg became increasingly influential. Enter from stage left the inventor C.W. Post. Overworked and overstressed he came to Battle Creek to cure his ailing stomach. An observant soul, and a quick learner, nine months later he had a good handle on Kellogg’s operation with its diet ideas, health cures, and various menus. All this, plus some unfortunate encounters with a few psychics that had become attached to Battle Creek and he became a 19th century new age zealot combining all he had learned with the occult, parapsychology, and even Christian Science. Yikes!
Post tried to make a contract with Kellogg. He wanted them to join forces and promote the health “coffee” Minute Brew, but the good Doctor was having nothing to do with it. So Post went to the other side of town and in May 1892 set up La Vita Inn to offer patients healing through diet and “spirituality.” Because he was offering things that Kellogg wouldn’t, he came to promote his medical boarding house as a good place to go when the Battle Creek “San” failed to cure you.
Being an inventor he continued to experiment and in 1895 he began to produce Postum for the general public. It was so successful he soon becoming a multi-millionaire. Along comes Post Toasties, Grape Nuts, and even more success. He was very skilled at marketing food products as medicine to cure everything from “coffee neuralgia” to inflamed appendix, malaria, consumption, and loose teeth. He wrote The Road To Wellville which advised people "Eat Grape Nuts, drink Postum, and think positive thoughts." La Vita's original purpose, to teach people to simply to think positive thoughts, grew into a grand commercial enterprise, so much so that Post quietly closed La Vita and focussed on the health food revolution.
Other people knew a good thing when they saw it and jumped on the bandwagon. Ralston Health Food marketed tiny grains it claimed were "Full of vegetable Phosphorous that makes children grow like magic and develop strong mentally," giving the brain "all the phosphorus it can use in heavy thinking." The American Cereal Company, which eventually became Quaker Oats, sold Apetiza for producing healthy red blood.
But, back to Dr. Kellogg. The poor guy had a multitude of problems. The San burned down. The SDA excommunicated him. And his food company was losing money.
William K. Kellogg
However, he had a brother, William who had worked at the Sanitarium for years. William possessed an excellent business mind. And he couldn’t care less who jerked off and who didn’t. He was interested in having money, lots of money. But Dr. Kellogg got more idealistic and extreme as time went by. Finally, in 1906 William K. Kellogg convinced his brother to form a new Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, and let him manage it. The good Dr. was the majority stockholder with the rest divided among the Sanitarium doctors. One day W. K. saw his chance. When Dr. Kellogg was away in Europe he bought out enough of the other shareholders until he gained control. He then immediately renamed the company, put his signature on the box, and it is now known as Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.
Sad to say when he died at age 91 the good Dr. Kellogg had lived long enough to see changes that must have distressed him greatly. His cereals were altered with sugar, and promoted for their great taste and not their health benefits. And the medical establishment proved many of his health theories wrong, especial the ones about masturbation. He remained a true believer till death. And sadly, long after his death some of his erroneous ideas about solo sex still permeate the culture.
These “health” advocates were only some of the “experts” who wrote against solo sex. There certainly were others. One of them wrote in a popular home health manual (1871) that masturbation was "...a very degrading and destructive habit...There is probably no vice which is more injurious to both mind and body...it retards the growth, impairs the mental faculties and reduces the victim to a lamentable state. The person afflicted seeks solitude, and does not wish to enjoy the society of his friends; he is troubled with headache, wakefulness and restlessness at night, pain in various parts of the body, indolence, melancholy, loss of memory, weakness in the back and generative organs, variable appetite, cowardice, inability to look a person in the face, lack of confidence in his own abilities...[Eventually] there will be an irritable condition of the system; sudden flushes of heat over the face; the countenance becomes pale and clammy; the eyes have a dull, sheepish look; the hair becomes dry and split at the ends; sometimes there is pain over the region of the heart; shortness of breath; palpitation of the heart; symptoms of dyspepsia show themselves; the sleep is disturbed; there is constipation; cough; irritation of the throat; finally the whole man becomes a wreck, physically, morally and mentally."
"Some of the consequences of masturbation, are epilepsy, apoplexy, paralysis, premature old age, involuntary discharge of seminal fluid, which generally occurs during sleep, or after urinating, or when evacuating the bowels. Among females, besides these other consequences, we have hysteria, menstrual derangement, catalepsy and strange nervous symptoms."
Imagine having that book on a shelf in your home library! No wonder people were willing to put their young through all kinds of horror to keep them from fondling their genitals. The most tragic method included clitoridectomies. And they believed male circumcision would help. After all, a boy might feel some stimulation while cleaning his uncircumcised penis, and that could have tragic results.
Another mid-19th century book said that masturbation is “man's sin of sins, vice of vices [which had caused] incomparably more sexual dilapidation, paralysis and disease as well as demoralization than all the other sexual vices combined." It is scary to think that the book sold half a million copies.
Some believed that too much masturbation led to insanity, nervous disorders, hair growth on the palms, and damaged eyesight. (“Can I do it just until I need glasses?") Others believed that masturbation would, among other things, reduce the size of a male's penis. (Which is true, but only after it makes it enlarge!)
And just imagine reading a book with the following illustration!
As I have read the resource material on the movement against masturbation I could not but feel sorry for all the young people, and adults as well, who were made to feel not just bad, but terrified, about a simple pleasurable activity that, when done, is not only enjoyable but makes life more pleasant. Imagine the stress all of this added to people’s lives in the 19th century.