How Masturbation Pollutes Your Mind                 Back to Front
Scientific Knowledge of the Laws of Sex Life and Heredity 
T.W.Shannon, A.M. (Publisher: S.A. Mullikin, 1904)
The following is an excerpt from the book:

Chapter XV - Self Pollution
By far the worst form of venereal indulgence is self-pollution, or, as it is called by medical writers, onanism or masturbation. And it is incomparably the worst for several important reasons.

ITS EVIL EFFECTS - It is wholly unnatural, and, in every respect, does violence to nature. The mental action, and the power of the imagination on the genital organs, forcing a vital stimulation of the parts, which is reflected over the whole nervous system, are exceedingly intense and injurious; and consequently the reciprocal influences between the brain and the genital organs become extremely powerful, irresistible and destructive. The general, prolonged and rigid tension of the muscular and nervous tissues is excessively severe and violent. In short, the consentaneous effort and concentrated energy of all the powers of the human system to this single forced effect cause the most ruinous irritation, violence, exhaustion and debility of the system.

YOUTH SUFFERS MOST - All who are acquainted with the science of human life are well aware that all excesses and injuries of every kind are far more pernicious and permanent in their effects on the youthful and growing body than when all the organs and parts are completely developed, and the constitution and general economy fully and firmly established. This is the great reason why many men who fall into ruinous habits, after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, will live on, in spite of those habits, by the virtues of a well-established and vigorous constitution, till they arrive at what we commonly call old age; while the children of the same men, following their fathers' evil example and forming ruinous habits when very young, become early victims and fall prematurely into the grave.

WHERE BOYS FREQUENTLY LEARN - The common notion that boys are generally ignorant in relation to this matter and that we ought not to remove that ignorance is wholly incorrect. Most boys do know about this, even if they do not practice it. Servants and people of loose morals often become the secret teachers of children in this debasing sin. But it is more frequently communicated from boy to boy. One corrupt boy will corrupt many others.

NO SECOND PERSON TO RESTRAIN - It is a secret and solitary vice, which requires the consent of no second person, and therefore the practice has little restraint as to its frequency. The general conditions are such that the practice becomes more and more frequent.

DESTROYS BOTH BODY AND MIND - It impairs the intellectual and moral faculties and debases the mind in the greatest degree, and causes the most deep and lasting regret, which sometimes rises to the most pungent remorse and despair. It would seem that God, as an instinct law in the innate moral sense, remonstrates against this filthy vice; for, however ignorant the boy may be of the moral character of the act or of the physical and mental evils which result from it; though he may never have been told that it is wrong; yet every one who is guilty of it feels an intinctive shame and deep self-loathing even in his secret solitude, after the unclean deed is done! - and that youth has made no small progress in the depravity of his moral feelings who has so silenced the dictates of natural modesty that he can, without the blush of shame, pollute himself in the presence of another, even his most intimate companion! Hence all who give themselves up to the excesses of this debasing indulgence carry about with them, continually, a consciousness of their defilement, and cherish a secret suspicion that others look upon them as debased beings. They can not meet the look of others, and especially of the female sex, with the modest boldness of conscious innocence and purity; but their eyes fall, suddenly abashed, and the glow of mingled shame and confusion comes upon thier cheeks, when they meet the glance of those with whom they are conversing, or in whose company they are.

A WANT OF SELF-RESPECT - They feel none of that manly confidence and gallant spirit and chaste delight in the presence of virtuous females which stimulate young men to pursue the course of ennobling refinement and mature them for the social relations and enjoyment of life; and hence, they are often inclined, either to shun the society of females entirely or to seek such as is by no means calculated to elevate their views, or to improve their taste or morals. And if, by the kind offices of friends, they are put forward into good society, they are continually oppressed with shrinking embarrassment, which makes them feel as if they were out of their own element, and look forward to the time of retirement as the time of their release from as unpleasant situation. A want of self-respect disqualifies them for the easy and elegant courtesies which render young men interesting to the other sex; and often prevents their forming those honorable relations in life, so desirable to every virtuous heart; and frequently dooms them either to a gloomy celibacy or an early grave. This shamefacedness or unhappy quailing of the countenance, on meeting the look of others, often follows them through life; in some instances, even after they have entirely abandoned the habit, and become married men, and respectable members of society.

DESIRE DEVELOPED - One of the first effects of the abuse of the genital organs is the development in them of an unhealthy degree of their peculiar sensibility - rendering them far more susceptible of excitement and establishing something like an habitual desire for indulgence. Of course, this state of things can not be carried very far without considerably affecting the whole nervous system and disturbing the functions of the several organs, more or less, according to their relative importance to the immediate welfare of the whole body.

SEXUAL EXCESS ON THE NERVOUS SYSTEM - The nervous system is the grand medium of injury to all the other tissues and substances of the body. Not only are the nerves generally debilitated and the nerves of organic life tortured into a diseased irritability and sensibility, but there is also a great deterioration and wasting of the nervous substance. The special nervous properties suffer in due proportion - varying in different persons with different peculiarities. The sense of touch becomes obtuse and less discriminating, and in some instances a numbness of the extremities and limbs, and even of the whole body, is experienced, sometimes actually reaching that state which is called numb palsy.

EFFECT ON THE SENSES - The sense of taste is equally blunted, and loses that delicate perception of agreeable qualities on which the delightful relish of proper and healthful food depends; and hence the unnatural demand for vicious culinary preparations and stimulating condiments, and the utter distaste for simple diet. The sense of smell becomes impaired, and loses its nice, discriminating power, and but faintly perceives the rich fragrance which the vegetable kingdom breathes forth for man's enjoyment. The ear grows dull and hard of hearing, and oftentimes a continual and distressing ringing, like the knell of ruined health, and the prognostic of evils yet more fearful, is the only music which occupies it.

EFFECT ON THE SIGHT - But, of all the special senses, the eyes, more generally, are the greatest sufferers from venereal abuses. They become languid and dull, and lose their brightness and liveliness of expression, and assume a glassy and vacant appearance; and fall back into their sockets, and perhaps become red and inflamed, and weak and excessively sensitive, so that wind, light, etc., irritate and distress them. The sight becomes feeble, obscure, cloudy, confused, and often is entirely lost, so that utter blindness fills the rest of life with darkness and unavailing regret.

EFFECT ON THE BRAIN - The brain is neither last nor least in these terrible sufferings. Associated as it is with the genital organs, it participates largely in all their direct excitements. Its extreme irritability, and its morbid sympathy with the alimentary canal, heart and lungs, as a mere animal organ, cause it not only to suffer excessively from all their irritations, but to reflect those irritations back upon the same organs, and throughout the whole system, mental and physical.

DOCTORS DIFFER - There have been, unfortunately, many wretched books put forth upon this topic filled with overdrawn pictures of its result, and written merely for the purpose of drawing the unwary into the nets of unscrupulous charlatans. There is also a wide diversity of opinion among skilful physicians themselves as to its consequences. Some treat the whole matter lightly, saying that a large proportion of boys and young men abuse themselves thus without serious or lasting injury, and hold, therefore, that any special warning is uncalled for. On the other hand, the large majority of practitioners are convinced that not only occasionally, but frequently, the results are disastrous in the extreme.

QUOTATIONS FROM NOTED PHYSICIANS - "I could speak of the many wreaks of high intellectual attainments, and the foul blot which has been made on the virgin page of youth, of shocks from which the youth's system will never, in my opinion, be able to rally, of maladies engendered which no after course of treatment can altogether cure, as the consequences of this habit." "I would not exaggerate this matter or imply that those who have occasionally gone astray are necessarily incurably diseased, or their souls irretrievably lost. But I do consider that the effect upon the constitution is detrimental in the extreme. Enfeebling to the body, enfeebling to the mind, the incarnation of selfishness, hardly the person exists who does not know from experience or from observation its blighting effects." "The deleterious, the sometimes appalling, consequences of this vice upon health, the constitution, the mind itself, are some of the common matters of medical observation. The victims of it should know what these consequences are; for to be acquainted with the tremendous evils it entails may assist them in the work of resistance." "Nothing is more certain than that continued self-abuse will produce an enervation of nervous element, which, if the exhausting vice be continued, passes into degradation and actual destruction thereof." "I myself have seen many young men drop into premature graves from this cause alone." "I consider this one of the most certain means which shorten and derange life." These are well-considered views of the ablest men in the profession of medicine.

THE OTHER SIDE - That there are physicians who treat lightly this censurable indulgence is not surprising. We could readily quote equally high authorities who see no great dangers in the use of alcohol, of opium and of illicit amours. There are many, sat they, who yield to all these temptations, and yet do not obviously suffer, and ultimately reform. Is the counselor wise who therefore pooh-poohs their peril? Certainly not; for our part, we shall not, can not, follow their example.

ITS PREVENTION - It is in childhod, and in early boyhood, that in most cases it is commenced. But it is frequent about the age of puberty, when the passions become stronger, and local irritations of various kinds lead the thoughts and suggest the act. In childhood, degraded companions and vicious domestics instruct in bad practices; at puberty the natural passions often prompt, without the need of bad examples. In both cases an utter ignorance of danger is present, and this is the first point that the parent and teacher must make up their minds to face.

CHILDREN MUST BE TAUGHT - Children must be taught purity. There is no doubt that in many of them an improper tone of thought is established even before the period of puberty. For a boy to reach his teens without learning from his associates something of these matters is simply impossible. We urge, therefore, parents and teachers not to permit a natural, and under other circumstances very proper delicacy, to restrain them from their bounden duty to warn their charges of these dangers. If wisely done, there is no risk whatever of exciting impure thoughts; and if there *is* any risk, it is infinitely less than that of leaving children in ignorance.

READING AND DANCING - The regimen should be plain, and the imagination allowed to remain in abeyance. Sensational love stories, and even such warmly colored pictures as are presented in the Arabian Nights and the amorous poets, had better be tabooed. The growing custom of allowing very young people of both sexes to associate at parties, balls, dances and similar amusements can not be approved on the score of health. It is nearly certain to favor precocity.

ITS CURE - Many a victim with flagging body and enfeebled will is ready to cry out: Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Let them know for their consolation that very many men, now hale and happy, have met and conquered the tempter; that so long as the mind itself is not actually weakened, there is good hope for them; that the habit once stopped short of this point, the system recovers from its prostration with surprising rapidity; and that we come provided with many aids to strengthen their wavering purpose.

PURITY OF MIND - First and most essential, is the advice that they must resolutely strive for *purity of mind*. All exciting literature, all indecent conversations, all lascivious exhibitions must be totally renounced. Next, all stimulating food and drink, and especially coffee and alcoholic beverages, must be dropped. The mind and body must both be constantly and arduously employed, the diet plain and limited, the sleep never prolonged, the bed hard, the room ventilated, the covering light, and the habits as much broken into as practicable. Generally the temptation comes at some particular hour, or under some especial and well-known circumstances. At such times extra precautions must be taken to occupy the thoughts with serious subjects, and to destroy the old associations and opportunities.

MEDICAL AID - There are also medical means which can be employed in some cases with good success, such as the administration of substances which destroy desire, and local applications, and even surgical operations which render the action physically impossible, but these means we do not propose to enter into, as they can only be properly applied by the educated physician, and do not form part of a work on hygiene.

HOPEFUL CASES - When the habit is not deeply rooted, an earnest endeavor, backed by rigid observance of the rules we have laid down, will enable a youth to conquer himself and his unnatural desires.

WILL MARRIAGE HELP? - Certainly marriage need not be recommended to the confirmed masturbator in the hope or expectation of curing him of his vice. He will most likely continue it afterwards, and the circumstances in which he is placed will aggravate the misery and the mischief of it. For natural intercourse he has little power or no desire, and finds no pleasure in it; the indulgence of a depraved appetite has destoryed the natural appetite. Besides, if he be not entirely impotent, what an outlook for any child begotten of such a degenerate stock! Has a being so degraded any right to curse a child with the inheritance of such a wretched descent? Far better that the vice and its consequences should die with him.

MAN MAY RECOVER - We wish most clearly to be understood that even after great excesses of this nature, a young man *may* recover perfect health, and that where the habit has been but moderately fostered, in nearly every case, by simply ceasing from it, and ceasing thinking about it, he *will* do so. Therefore there is no cause for despair or melancholy.

BAD ADVICE - It is hardly credible, and yet it is true, that there are medical men of respectability who do not hesitate to advise illicit intercourse as a remedy for masturbation. In other words, they destroy two souls and bodies, under pretence of saving one! No man with Christian principle, or even with a due respect for the statutes of the commonwealth, can approve for a moment such a course as this. Careful regulation of life according to sound hygenic rules, aided perhaps with appropriate medication which the physician can suggest, will generally effect good results.

WHEN EVERYTHING ELSE FAILS, THEN WHAT? - When everything else fails we have no hesitation in recommending surgical treatment. This is of various kinds, from repeated blistering to that ancient operation which Latin writers tell us was practiced upon the singers of the Roman stage, called infibulation. This is of such a character as to render the act impossible or nearly so. Castration, which some have suggested, need never be resorted to. By one means or another we can say that there are exceedingly few cases, except the actually insane, who can not be broken of their habit, and considerably or wholly relieved of its after effects.

A GREAT STUMBLING BLOCK - A serious obstacle in the way of such reform is the unwillingness of sufferers to ask advice for fear of disclosing their weakness. They are ashamed to tell the truth about themselves, and, when they do apply to a physician, conceal the real cause of their debility, and deny it when it is asked. To such we may say that if they can not have implicit faith in the honor as well as the skill of a medical adviser, they had better not consult him, for on their frankness his success will often depend.


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