Ladies’ Handbook: On quacks, hormones, abstinence, and the sexual double standard


Another instalment in the Ladies’ Handbook series! The initial post is here. This instalment is part three of Chapter IV, “Sex Physiology and Hygiene”. (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.)

But, again, in youth as in childhood; and, indeed, throughout life, the sexual impulse has its physical basis. It is more than unwise to ignore this fact; it is simply perilous to do so. Young men and women of pure motives who cause their bodies to suffer through unwise eating and drinking, through indulgence in injurious practices and habits of whatever nature, through failure to bathe and exercise regular and to dress healthfully, through allowing their bodies to become irregular in their functions – young men and women who fail to regard the laws of nature in these ways, even though their motives be pure, are liable to fall into sin, for these delinquencies weaken moral as well as physical strength, and increase the power of temptations.

Then there is the potent mental side, the thought side of this important question. What prospect for purity have young men and women who habitually read immoral novels and witness indecent plays and pictures? They who would keep themselves pure must recognise the standard of perfection: “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in her heart.”

Young men are sometimes kept in despair for years, and systematically robbed of their hard-earned money by quacks who advertise to restore “lost vitality” or “lost manhood”.

That there is such a thing as lost manhood is proven by the methods of these quacks who are in sore need of having theirs restored. But in the sense in which the term is used in the advertisements of these tricksters, manhood is very rarely lost. The dreadful pictures they portray of young men who have lost their vitality are drawn wholly from their own imaginations; and the diseases they describe so minutely are very rare diseases indeed, though the symptoms enumerated are so many that no one could be free from all of them.

Take spermatorrhoea, for example, a most uncommon disease; and varicocele, another which, though not so uncommon as the first, is generally a trivial affection which would not hurt a young man at all were it not that he worries about it. Indeed, so much do some young men distress themselves about these two ailments and night losses, or emissions, that they are not infrequently made ill by their undue anxiety. And the men who worry most are the ones who have least reason to worry; they are almost without exception the young men who have led clean, conscientious lives, but who through ignorance in youth may have practised for a time self-abuse. In other cases, no such mistake was ever made, and yet because of an occasional emission, there is anxiety and depression. This ought not so to be. The young man who is clean and temperate in his habits has no occasion to worry because of an occasional night loss or imaginary varicocele. We do not hesitate to say that these troubles are, in almost every case, either wholly or in part, imaginary; and as physicians, we advise those who are troubled and worried and whose minds are not relieved by these words, to go to some trusted physician who will explain these matters to them more full. If they cannot go, let them write to one in whom they have faith. By all means keep away from quacks and self-titled “doctors” who advertise their secret remedies, electric belts, and other “cures”.

Perhaps young women should also be warned against these secret nostrum vendors. There are many advertised cures for women as well as for men, not one of which is worth the least notice. All of this advertising business would quickly cease if knowledge were increased. Ignorance of the body as a whole, but especially of the reproductive system, renders both men and women easy victims of this class of pickpockets.

The teachings of physiology plainly indicate that up to the time of full maturity the reproductive system should remain in a quiescent condition. Sex hygiene consists in so safe-guarding this system as to render its inactivity almost unconsciously possible, or at least possible through the exercise of a reasonable degree of self-control. Whether complete success of comparative failure through the ignorant or wilful exercise of the reproductive function has been experience during childhood and youth, that should be the experience of adolescence both previous to and after marriage.

Natural laws again remind us that the function of the sexual instinct is to lead men and women to mate and found happy homes with all their privileges and blessings wherein children can be reared and the future welfare of the race assured. By holding out what seems to be a substitute for marriage, exconjugal sexual relations defeat this object, and lead men and women to shirk life’s great responsibilities and in so doing miss its chiefest blessings. Not only so, but through dissemination of venereal diseases, such irregular relations render both men and women sterile, and so defeat the purpose of even those who see their mistake and later seek to correct it. Plainly, then, the exercise of the reproductive function outside the marriage relation weakens character, mars happiness, and injures health. Promising pleasure it yields pain; offering fruit it gives husks.

But can nothing be said in defence of those who by circumstances are debarred from the legitimate exercise of the sexual function in marriage? Must they keep the reproductive system in a state of inactivity for years, and will they not suffer by doing so? This question, though often asked, is never intended to apply to woman. It is generally supposed that she should wait for sex experience till after marriage, and if she should not marry, she need never know sex satisfaction. Woman is thought to be no loser, healthwise at any rate, through having failed by experience to gain sexual knowledge.

But with the man it is different, a common view apparently being that failure to use his sex organs after they are fully matured will result in injury to health. What a preposterous notion! No more mischievous idea could become current than this. The fact is the sexual system serves a twofold purpose. To the individual it is a reservoir of womanly grace or manly vigour; to the race it is the sole means of perpetuation. Two kinds of secretion are produced, an internal for the individual, and an external for procreation. The less the demand for the latter, the more there will be of the former. It is this internal secretion of the sexual glands which makes man and woman differ in qualities of body and mind. Remove these glands, or through injury, disease, or abuse prevent them becoming well developed, and the boy and girl fail to mature, while the man and woman lose to a great extent the traits which make them male and female. So, too, through undue stimulation and excessive demands made upon these glands for procreative or pseudo-procreative purposes, men become effeminate and women coarse.

Such facts explain the remarkable strength of character of certain men who are known to have lived free from sexual stimulation of any kind for many years or throughout life. They also explain the unusual purity and beauty of the lives of certain chaste women who have reserved all their energies of body, mind and spirit for the accomplishment of some great purpose. In this connection it should be remembered that the same result may be obtained without complete suppression of the sexual instinct. Had the reproductive function been reserved exclusively for procreation, no doubt the world to-day would be peopled with a truly great and noble race. It may safely be concluded from the facts that instead of being injured by sex abstinence, both men and women greatly benefit. And the same is true of perfect sex control. Both modes of living are conducive to the achievement of the highest and best of which an individual is capable. By both courses, health of body, mind, and morals is improved, and character is greatly strengthened.

Categories: education, gender & feminism, health, history

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10 replies

  1. ok, I’m not sure if I read this right or not….
    but did the second-last paragraph actually say that masterbation impedes a persons development to a specific gender!?
    could someone clear me up on this? ’cause at the moment I’m not sure what to say.

  2. Tam, that’s exactly what it says. This was the thinking back in 1905. One thing I find particularly interesting is the multiples echoes of this style of thinking that are still prevalent today, at least in some groups.

  3. one hand I’m glad that was written a hundred+ years ago and thus the ideas are seen as less credible (feminine I am not and I wouldn’t like people assuming too much about my personal life ’cause of that)
    But on the other hand? people who think anything like the author of this book make me feel ill and I KNOW they exist.
    Gah! the stupid, it burns!

  4. Was this written in 1905? I thought it was part of Govenor Palin’s stump speech.
    Grendels last blog post..Commercial Domination

  5. So, too, through undue stimulation and excessive demands made upon these glands for procreative or pseudo-procreative purposes, men become effeminate and women coarse.
    Wait – sex makes men LESS “manly” in this book? That’s unexpected.
    (I know its meaning, but the word “coarse” as applied to people always makes me think they resemble a piece of burlap.)
    Large parts of the rest of this excerpt are depressing. I’ve heard them repeated too recently to find them amusing.

  6. So, too, through undue stimulation and excessive demands made upon these glands for procreative or pseudo-procreative purposes, men become effeminate and women coarse.
    Wait – sex makes men LESS “manly” in this book? That’s unexpected.

    Only if the sexual urge is used outside procreation, Aphie. Somehow, just somehow, the body knows exactly where the products of that orgasm are aimed, apparently.

  7. Tig – I read that passage as giving equal weight to procreative and “pseudo” procreative activity, and condemning both equally when done in excess, not just outside legitimate exercise of the sexual function in marriage, although that was the ultimate and approved expression of restrained orgasms.
    Is there something I’m missing in another part of the post?

  8. Aphie, you’re right, I was the one misreading that passage! I think it was the combination of the eyes glazing-over, rolling and crossing at the dense prose that got me.

  9. I think it was the combination of the eyes glazing-over, rolling and crossing at the dense prose that got me.


  10. I think this is about the best I can do:

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