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To this eloquent writer's indignant remonstrance may we not add a still more disinterested witness-even the old heathen Ovid.
"Sumite in exemplum pecudes ratione carentes
Turpe erit ingenium mitius esse feris.
Non aries placitam munere captat ovem
Sola locat noctes; sola locanda venit.
Et pretium, quanto gaudeat ipsa, facit.” If, then, the benefits of continence be so great and the results of incontinence so deplorable, and if, as has been suggested, mere ignorance is so dangerously likely to lead youths astray, what reprobation can be too strong for those advisers, medical or not, who deliberately encourage the early indulgence of the passions,
, on the false and wicked ground that self-restraint is incompatible with health? What abhorrence can be too deep for a doctrine so destructive, or for the teachers who thus, before the eyes of those whose youthful ignorance, whose sore natural temptation, rather call for the wisest and tenderest guidance and encouragement, put light for darkness, evil for good, and bitter for sweet?
Unfortunately, it is not only among the dregs of either the medical or literary professions that these false teachers are to be found. The following opinions, enunciated by a writer of no mean standing or ability, may serve as an example of the kind of principles (if they can be so called) which I am deprecating.
“To have offspring is not to be regarded as a luxury, but as a great primary necessary of health and happiness, of which every man and woman should have a fair share.
“ The ignorance of the necessity of sexual intercourse to the health and virtue of both man and woman, is the most fundamental error in medical and moral philosophy.
“ The hopes of man lie in a nutshell; they are all comprehended in this question of questions—Is it possible to have both food and love? Is it possible that each individual among us can have a due share of food, love, and leisure ?
“Rather than resign love, rather than practice increased
sexual abstinence, and so check population, they (mankind) have been willing to submit to the smallest proportion of food and leisure which the human frame could for a season endure. The want of love is so miserable a state of constraint, and, moreover, so destructive to the health of body and mind, that people who have a choice in the matter will rather put up with any evils than endure it.
“ It may be mentioned as curious, that a young man entering on puberty is to indulge the exercise of all his organs, all his feelings, except that of the most violent_namely, love."
Few will be surprised, after reading the above, to find that this writer feels himself obliged, for consistency's sake, to admit, that what he calls unmarried intimacy should be sanctioned, precautions being taken to prevent the females having children; and to propose that the frail sisterhood should be received into society, because both they and their paramours but follow Nature's laws, and indulge sexual desires which Nature has given them for their own gratification.
I mention these opinions here, not with the intention of refuting them, but as showing the consequences such an argument must lead to, if carried out. I leave it to the reader's imagination to depict the state of society which would ensue.
Fortunately, such sophistry as that I have quoted is rare among English authors of reputation or ability. Similar sentiments, nevertheless, no doubt often float vaguely in the minds of many, especially in early life. The answer to them is very clear in the case we are now considering, viz. that of boys who have only just reached the age of puberty. For them it is sufficient to state the simple physiological fact, that, merely considering a
1 The anonymous author when he wrote this dangerous volume was a medical student. Let us hope that ere this he has seen reason to alter his views, although, I regret to say, the latest edition of the work still contains these untrue and unphysiological statements. I presume it is from such evidence as is gleaned from this writer that Professor Newman, an Emeritius Professor of University College, has in a recent pamphlet taken the medical profession to task for recommending fornication—a charge which I wish most energetically :o repel.
boy of sixteen years old as an animal, any indulgence of his sexual passion is a direct and unmitigated mischief.
To himself, as we shall presently see, it is attended with the worst possible consequences. And as regards any progeny he may beget, the results are no less deplorable. His children are almost certain to be weak, sickly, difficult to rear, and wretched burdens to themselves and others if they are reared.
Even among the lower animals the provisions of nature and the experience of breeders indorse the rule which Tacitus tells us obtained
among the ancient Germans
“ Sera juvenum Venus, ideo que inexhausta pubertas."
Nature does not permit animals to gratify their passions at the earliest moment that indulgence becomes possible. We find that the young bucks are driven away from the hinds by the older and stronger ones. In a farm-yard the cock must show his prowess, and win his spurs, before he is allowed by the more powerful birds to tread the hens. Breeders of cattle have long since ceased to raise their stock from either young males or females. The frame of the sire or dam must be perfected before their owners can call on them to dischage their procreative functions. I am told that the demand for horses some years ago induced Yorkshire dealers to breed from mares at two years old. This injudicious practice was soon given up, as it was found that the system of the mother became impaired, and that the produce was good for nothing
Parise has said, very truly, “to diffuse the species, the species ought to be perfect and in perfection.” Puberty must not be just dawning; it must be in full vigor.
On this point, indeed, the testimony of all scientific and practical authorities is singularly unanimous. Carpenter says
“ This development of the generative organs at puberty is attended with manifestations of the sexual passion, but it can only be rightly regarded as preparatory to the exercise of these organs, and not as showing that the aptitude for their exercise has already been fully attained. It is only when the growth and development of the individual are completed that the procreative
power can be properly exerted for the continuance of the race; and all experience shows that by prematurely and unrestrainedly yielding to the sexual instincts, not merely the generative power is early exhausted, but the vital powers of the organism generally are reduced and permanently enfeebled, so that any latent predisposition to disease is extremely liable to manifest itself, or the bodily vigor, if for a time retained with little deterioration, early undergoes a marked diminution."
One argument in favour of incontinence deserves special notice, as it purports to be founded on physiology. I have been consulted by persons who feared, or professed to fear, that if the organs were not regularly exercised, they would become atrophied, or that in some way impotence might be the result of chastity. This is the assigned reason for committing fornication. There exists no greater error than this, or one more opposed to physiological truth. In the first place, I may state that I have, after many years' experience, never seen a single instance of atrophy of the generative organs from this cause. I have, it is true, met with the complaint—but in what class of case does it occur? It arises in all instances from the exactly opposite cause—abuse: the organs become worn out, and hence arises atrophy. Physiologically considered, it is not a fact that the power of secreting semen is annihilated in well-formed adults leading a healthy life and yet remaining continent. The function goes on in the organ always, from puberty to old age. Semen is secreted sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, and very frequently under the influence of the will. We shall presently see that when the seminal vessels are full, emission at night is not unfrequent. This natural relief will suffice to show that the testes are fully equal to their work when called upon. No continent man need be deterred by this apocryphal fear of atrophy of the testes from living a chaste life. It is a device of the unchaste-a lame excuse for their own incontinence, unfounded on any physiological law. The testes will take care that their action is not interfered with.
That continence is not followed by impotence is shown most forcibly in animals. Mr. Varnell, late a professor at the Veterinary College, told me of an entire horse, kept by a friend of his hunting. This animal was never allowed to have mares, yet was quiet in their presence, and hunted regularly. When twenty years old he was allowed to mount mares for the first time, and became a sure foal-getter.
It is, I repeat, my deliberate and earnest advice to all boys as well as young men to live a perfectly continent life, in thought, word, and deed. It is quite possible; and the means I have pointed out in the foregoing part of this work, pages 69 to 77, viz. regular training of the will—and careful attention to exercise and general hygienic training of the body-are, even apart from the greatest preservative of all-true religious feeling-amply sufficient to attain this end, unless in a few exceptional cases.
To parents and guardians I offer my equally earnest advice that they should make common cause with their charges, and by hearty sympathy and frank explanations of the true state of the case, aid them in maintaining a pure and chaste life. Much difference of opinion may exist on the conduct which parents and schoolmasters should pursue towards young boys in warning them against self-abuse, but there can be no question as to the injustice of allowing young men to remain in profound ignorance of all appertaining to sexual matters, except such as they may gather from experience—from vague and erotic conversation with each other, or with servants-or from that equivocal and unscientific information to be obtained from newspapers in the perusal of divoree cases and police reports. Perhaps few of my readers have considered the matter as I am now putting it; but they cannot fail to observe the eagerness of many young persons for this dangerous kind of knowledge. At the risk of repeating myself, I would again urge that it is not right that their unnatural craving should be only satisfied by such irregular means. For want of more authentic instruction which might have served to guide their feelings in the right way, many have been led by a curiosity, scarcely vicious perhaps at first, to seek for information on sexual matters from the male and female veterans of “the town,” or the obscene literature of such circles, which hands down its traditions from one century to another, with additions