Satan’s Bed

As promised to la doctorita in this thread: the dangers of Secret Vice, or Self-Pollution.

Published in Chicago by the “Vitalogy Association” in 1926 is the comprehensive home health encyclopaedia, “Vitalogy”, by E. H. Ruddock.

The encyclopedia covers everything under the sun, but I suspect most people flip straight to the sex pages, and the comprehensive advice to young women and men. This includes a four-page spread on the dangers of addiction to Secret Vice, which I present here for your edification. The spread comes complete with before and after shots, so that you may be the judge of exactly how severe these ravages are.



Here is the text. (Click through for larger versions. I think it’s best read in the original, but I’ve transcribed below for those who can’t view images, retaining some formatting, bold and italics.) Of interest is that fact that the author acknowledges the existence of both female masturbation and female ejaculation; I’m not sure how common such acknowledgement was at the time. From the description of the early “symptoms”, it sounds like young introverts and allergy sufferers were likely to be in deep trouble with their parents. The screed comes complete with comprehensive advice to parents on addressing the “problem”, and betrays a deep fear of boarding school homosexuality and masturbation-contagion. Enjoy.



There are various names given to the unnatural and degrading vice of producing venereal excitement by the hand, or other means, generally resulting in a discharge of semen in the male and a corresponding emission in the female. Unfortunately, it is a vice by no means uncommon among the youth of both sexes, and is frequently continued into riper years.

Symptoms – The following are some of the symptoms of those who are addicted to the habit: Inclination to shun company or society; frequently being missed from the company of the family, or others with whom he or she is associated; becoming timid and bashful, and shunning the society of the opposite sex; the face is apt to be pale and often a bluish or purplish streak under the eyes, while the eyes themselves look dull and languid and the edges of the eyelids often become red and sore; the person can not look any one steadily in the face, but will drop the eyes or turn away from your gaze as if guilty of something mean.

The health soon becomes noticeably impaired; there will be general debility, a slowness of growth, weakness in the lower limbs, nervousness and unsteadiness of the hands, loss of memory, forgetfulness and inability to study or learn, a restless disposition, weak eyes and loss of sight, headache and inability to sleep, or wakefulness. Next come sore eyes, blindness, stupidity, consumption, spinal affection, emaciation, involuntary seminal emissions, loss of all energy or spirit, insanity and idiocy – the hopeless ruin of both body and mind. These latter results do not always follow. Yet they or some of them do often occur as the direct consequences of the pernicious habit.

The subject is an important one. Few, perhaps, ever think, or ever know, how many of the unfortunate inmates of our lunatic asylums have been sent there by this dreadful vice. Were the whole truth upon this subject known, it would alarm parents, as well as the guilty victims of the vice, more even than the dread of the cholera or small-pox.

Preventive Measures – When the parents are satisfied that their child is indulging in this habit, take immediate measures to break it up. It is a delicate matter for parents, especially for a father, to speak to his son about. It is different with the mother; she can more readily speak to a daughter upon subjects of that nature, and if guilty, portray to her the danger, the evil consequences and ruin which must result if the habit is not at once and forever abandoned. If persuasion and instruction will not do, other measures, such as will prove efficient, must be resorted to.

In case of a son, perhaps the better way will be for the services of the family physician to be engaged. He can portray to the misguided young man the horrors and evils of the habit in their bearing, and his caution and advice will have weight.

How to Detect and Prevent Secret Vice. – Examination of the linen is usually conclusive evidence in the case of boys; the genital organs, too, receive an undue share of attention. The patient should be constantly watched during the day until he falls asleep at night, and be required to arise directly he wakes in the morning. In confirmed cases the night-dress should be so arranged that the hands cannot touch the genital organs.

Under no circumstances should nurses ever be permitted unnecessarily to handle or expose the genital organs or children, and children should be taught at the earliest period that it is immodest and even wrong, to handle the parts. When at school, as well as at home, every boy should have a separate bed. The neglect of this important advice is a frequent cause of bad habits being taught and practiced. In addition to a separate bed, he should be able to dress and undress apart from the observation of others. The necessary privacy may be secured by partitions placed between the beds, but not extending up to the ceiling, so as to interfere as little as possible with the ventilation. One of the few articles necessary in the sleeping room is a sponge bath. This, with a good-sized piece of honeycomb sponge, and a large towel or sheet, complete the outfit. The regular daily use of the sponge bath conduces greatly to the cure or prevention of self-abuse. The too free use of meat, highly-seasoned dishes, coffee, wine, late suppers etc.; strongly tend to excited animal propensities, which directly predispose to vice.

A Terrible Evil. In the City of Chicago in one school, an investigation proved that over sixty children under thirteen years of age were habitually practicing this degrading, health and life destroying habit, while among the older ones the habit was even worse, though not so easily detected.

In a country school in Black Hawk Co., Iowa, one bad boy secretly taught all the rest until the entire school practiced this private vice during the noon hour when the teacher was away.

In New Orleans nearly all the pupils in a large female boarding school were practicing this horrible vice and the scandal of the fearful discovery is not yet forgotten.

Worth Millions. – The foregoing article on self-abuse should be in the hands of every young person as it would be the means of saving many bright intellects from becoming stupid or imbeciles, or lunatics or from filling premature graves and be worth to them more than Astor’s millions.

Categories: health, history, medicine

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14 replies

  1. Oh, those before and after pics! Think how much more convincing with a dab of Photoshopping.

    What an absolutely fascinating piece of social story.

  2. “female ejaculation”
    My impression was that they were simply referring to…”natural lubrication” 🙂
    The phrase “corresponding emission” being just more of “the male is the default, and everything female is somehow a lesser version of the male.”
    But, oh god, that’s just…wow.
    And yeah, gotta love the pre-photoshop photoshop job.

  3. Very funny. When I was in college a few years back, I was taking this human sexuality class and our fantastic teacher read to us from a book that is very similar to this one. This was a book his parents owned and he was reading it to us as a bit of humor and sexual history. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was some Christian-based book on how parents should treat their children’s sexuality. The part that I most vividly remember was about cleansing the male genitals. Parents and child alike were instructed to avert their eyes and get it done as quickly and with as little touching as possible. Otherwise, the boy may become aroused – and then god knows what would happen after that!!!
    Although its totally backward, its almost refreshing that boys’ private parts were treated as taboo, shameful and dirty as girls’! Maybe there’s some equality after all!

  4. This is horrible, misleading sex education that probably screwed up millions. OTOH, I can’t help but think it would be nice if someone could convince the Cheeto-stained, basement-dwelling wankers of the Internet that this was really true.

  5. If you can, next could be a review of those old “Ettiquette for Young Boys/Girls” books – I agree that it’s staggering how much society has changed in almost a century.

  6. This is awesome that you found the pamphlet and posted it online.

  7. thank god somebody finally had the guts to come out and say that masturbation is worse than cholera and smallpox! when will our scientific community start working on a vaccine? oh, wait, all we need is a sponge bath and an early dinner. well, that’s all right, then.
    i’d love to know what the unmentioned “other measures” that one should use if one’s child doesn’t respond to reason are. straightjackets? chastity belts, perhaps?
    also, is it just me, or do the pictures imply that too much masturbation will turn you into ventriloquist’s dummy? 🙂
    thanks for another great post, lauredhel!

  8. tigtog
    Oh, those before and after pics! Think how much more convincing with a dab of Photoshopping.
    It reminds me of the retouched pictures of the Kallikaks in Goddard’s book as shown in Stephen Jay Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man”, though I have an alternate explanation: the subject may have had an unusually small glans, so there was nothing to stop his hand flying off the end on the upstroke. As a result, he appears to have beaten himself up, rather than off, more often than not.
    ”female ejaculation”
    My impression was that they were simply referring to”¦”natural lubrication” 🙂

    That was my reading too, with the caveat that the author may not have encountered either phenomenon, considering their general demeanour on the subject.
    This is horrible, misleading sex education that probably screwed up millions. OTOH, I can’t help but think it would be nice if someone could convince the Cheeto-stained, basement-dwelling wankers of the Internet that this was really true.
    Maybe for them, it is. (Believe me, it would explain almost everything.)
    Cheetos: harmless cheese-flavoured convenience snack, or masturbation-triggered mutagen? Tonight, on Sixty Minutes…

  9. I don’t care what you say, the fella looks happier in ‘after’. Very well satisfied with himself—and as Woody Allen said, there’s nothing wrong with masturbation, after all it’s sex with somebody you love.
    Will nobody mention fluoridation? That’s the real threat to the purity and essence of our bodily fluids.

  10. thank god somebody finally had the guts to come out and say that masturbation is worse than cholera and smallpox!

    Not only is it worse than cholera and smallpox, but it causes TB! Won’t anybody think of the children?

  11. This is awesome that you found the pamphlet and posted it online.

    And not just a pamphlet – there’s a whole book of this stuff, nearly 1000 pages. Mostly home disease management (lots of special diets and herbal remedies), some advice to young onions, and so on. I’ll post bits and pieces, if you like. Any requests?

  12. Was this taken from the Family First health manifesto?


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