Another instalment in the Ladies’ Handbook series. The initial post is here. This instalment continues Chapter IV, “Sex Physiology and Hygiene“.
Here you can see masturbation-aversion, awful advice on interfering with childrens’ genitals, the magical thinking of today’s abstinence-only education mindset, the assertion of absolute parental ownership of sex education, hints at protective behaviours, and strictures about masculinity and femininity training from an early age. Now a bonus dash of eugenics!
There is also a physical side to this question of sex during childhood. The little child must be guarded against irritation of the immature sexual system. Even in infancy, the delicate nerve cells and fibres connection with the genital organs may be exposed to irritation through a lack of cleanliness of these parts and retained secretions due in the case of boy babies to undue tightness of the foreskin. Mothers do not generally know that in male infants the foreskin is always adherent, and requires to be either stripped back or removed by the operation known as circumcision. Nurses and midwives should teach mothers not only the need, but the methods, of thoroughly cleansing these parts in both girls and boys, and preventing any form of irritation from any cause whatsoever.
Any tendency to self-handling at its earliest manifestation will lead the wise mother to at once adopt means for its suppression. Only by the utmost vigilance and care can the formation of injurious habits be prevented. Such habits injure the mind through the excitation of the nervous system, and result in loss of self-control. Thus may follow later in life all the evils that result from this loss of mastery over self, including the formation of habits of immorality and drunkenness.
Perhaps the first real danger to which little children who have been so taught and trained are exposed is that of contamination through association with other children whose teaching in these matters has been neglected, or who have received their information from impure sources.
An important feature, therefore, of the home-training of children before they begin to go to school is warnings against receiving information from any source save the parents. Children should be encouraged to ask for information from their parents on all matters pertaining to their bodies or the process of reproduction. They will then as naturally come to the mother or father with their little perplexities and problems as they do with their questions about books and clothes. If by chance they hear impure words spoken, or see impure actions on the part of other boys and girls, they will confide these matters to their parents, and will learn that these things occur because of ignorance on the part of children whose training has been neglected. In many cases it would be well if such children’s parents were conferred with, and if their consent can be obtained, that their children also be instructed in a wise, pure, and tactful manner.
Care should also be taken that the associations of young children be under the mother’s observation, or that they be entrusted to the care of an adult or older child of known purity of character. The little girl should be taught never to be alone with a boy or man without her mother’s knowledge and consent. When old enough to go about by herself, she should also be instructed that it is neither proper nor safe for her to allow strangers to talk with her or to make her presents of sweets, toys, or other things. Little girls should be modest in their dress and conduct, and boys should learn at an early age to treat girls and women with respect.
Such training during the early years of childhood may be followed between the ages of eight and twelve with more specific warnings of the dangers to which both girls and boys are exposed. Special emphasis should be laid on the dangers of contamination through association with those who are impure in thought, word, or deed. The terrible results which follow the unlawful exercise of the reproductive function may be quite plainly pointed out to both girls and boys of this age. They should also understand their responsibility to unborn generations. The working of the laws of heredity, selection, segregation, and variation may be quite early explained, as they are continually acting with almost magical power throughout the plant and animal creation. The boys and girls may be told that as plants and animals have been improved through the recognition of these laws, so may men and women be ennobled and made strong in body, mind, and morals through their application.
Both boys and girls should be kept busy, their time being fully occupied with useful study, work, and recreation. The girl should be taught housewifely duties, and should become her mother’s helper. The boy should learn to be manly, active, and athletic. He should take pride in making his body a fine, strong, responsive machine, of the use and care of every part of which he possesses knowledge.
How immeasurably better equipped for the trying time which follows childhood are the boys and girls whose purity is based on knowledge than are their innocent but ignorant companions. How often, too, these companions are neither innocent nor ignorant, but wise beyond their years in impure thought, words, and habits. By way of comparison, however, take the child who through careful guarding has escaped contamination until the period of puberty has been reached. Without having been taught or warned, what safeguard has the boy who at this time is sent away to business or school? If he be ignorant, sin will be made seductive by impure companions, and thus the youth may be led thoughtlessly to indulge in one or other of the common forms of sexual sin.
What safeguard has the girl who at this trying time goes from the shelter of her home untaught as to the perils of impurity? Remember, as she goes out into the world she will encounter many dangers. Shall she meet them armed with a knowledge which will enable her to pass these perils safely? or shall she enter into them with eyes blindfolded? This is the problem the mother is called upon to solve at this time, and some facts which we shall place before her should help her to arrive at a wise and timely solution.
Next up: the White Slave Traffic.
Categories: education, gender & feminism, history
Wow… I also like that immorality is a disease (and slips awful easy into being one): contaigious and contaminating, oh yes, spreads like wildfire. Be sure your children are given sufficient prophylactics, all you mamas out there 😉
All the way through that excerpt I couldn’t help but think of Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper from Dr Strangelove and his “Precious Bodily Fluids”.
Perhaps his mother had the ladies handbook. . .
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I’m having visions of the scene from Airplane!…
Beyond the creepy eugenics part of it, I can’t help but read a tacit acknowledgment of evolution. Just saying.
Anyhow, I have to go back to my mom now and make sure she knows where I am and who I’m with. You aren’t of impure morals are you?
I’m afraid my morals are impure and I may have been known occasionally to drink alcohol to excess.
I, too, occasionally drink alcohol to excess, and I’ve been engaging in the unlawful exercise of the reproductive function for over two decades now, including the production of an illegitimate child. Thus defiled, I now lead a dissolute life of profligate debauchery.
I blame my parents, who sent me to a school with sex ed classes, and failed to scrub my delicate genital organs enough.
Sorry, polerin, it’s all downhill from here.
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TT: [snort] 🙂
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Is this a delicate way of acknowledging that boys were still expected to sow their wild oats?
kristi: Given the rest of the book, I’m guessing no. My take is that they really mean what they say, here: boys (and all children) are under a moral obligation to keep their bodies clean and strong and fit and masturbation-free. It’s more eugenics/ableism than it is a gender divide (in this particular case).
I just keep on thinking “Hitler Youth”, but I’m sure there are better and less loaded examples.