Fragments of Evolving Manhood: Do You Like Your Body 3 (Preliminary Notes On the Expendability of the Foreskin)
August 13, 2010
Author Richard Newman
First published 8/3/2010 in Sex in the Public Square
In 1834, Sylvester Graham—inventor of the cracker that continues to bear his name—published a book called A Lecture to Young Men, in which he warned that masturbation would transform a boy who practiced it regularly into:
a wretched transgressor [who] sinks into a miserable fatuity, and finally becomes a confirmed and degraded idiot, whose deeply sunken and vacant, glossy eye, and livid shrivelled [sic] countenance, and ulcerous, toothless gums, and fetid breath, and feeble broken voice, and emaciated and dwarfish and crooked body, and almost hairless head—covered perhaps with suppurating blisters and running sores—denote a premature old age, a blighted body—and a ruined soul! (Quoted in Kimmel)
Graham, who was one of the most popular and successful of the non-medical writers on this subject, believed the male body was simply not equipped to handle “the convulsive paroxysms attending venereal indulgence”—read: ejaculation—and so even married men, whose sexual activity with their wives was certainly beyond the moral reproach usually associated with masturbation, had to be very careful not to overindulge–which for Graham meant more than once a month. Otherwise, they risked
Languor, lassitude, muscular relaxation, general debility and heaviness, depression of spirits, loss of appetite, indigestion, faintness and sinking at the pit of the stomach, increased susceptibilities of the skin and lungs to all the atmospheric changes, feebleness of circulation, chilliness, head-ache, melancholy, hypochondria, hysterics, feebleness of all the senses, impaired vision, loss of sight, weakness of the lungs, nervous cough, pulmonary consumption, disorders of the liver and kidneys, urinary difficulties, disorders of the genital organs, weakness of the brain, loss of memory, epilepsy, insanity, apoplexy—and extreme feebleness and early death of offspring.… (Quoted in Kimmel)
Graham recommended dietary measures, specifically his crackers, to combat men’s temptation to pleasure. J. H. Kellogg, whose flakes were also originally developed and marketed as an anaphrodisiac, didn’t stop with food. In Plain Facts for Old and Young, published in 1888, Kellogg recommended a series of home remedies for masturbation, including bandaging a boy’s penis, covering it with a cage and tying the boy’s hands at night when he went to sleep. For particularly difficult cases, Kellogg recommended circumcision “without administering an anaesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if connected with the idea of punishment” (Quoted in Kimmel). Nor was Kellogg the only expert to suggest that pain was the best countermeasure to male masturbation. Other writers seemed to compete with each other to see who could come up with the cruelest form of intervention. Recommendations included applying leeches, punching a hole in the foreskin and inserting a metal ring, cutting the foreskin with jagged-edge scissors and applying a hot iron to a boy’s genitals.
Chia, Mantak, and Arava, Douglas Abrams. The Multi-Orgasmic Man: Sexual Secrets Every Man Should Know. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.