This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
We have now described the most important anatomical features of the genital organs with the same composure and desire to instruct, as when we described the anatomy of the other organs, and I am sure that all of my correct-minded readers have read the same with equal equanimity and desire to learn. It is altogether owing to a false and foolish modesty that everything descriptive of the anatomical differences of the sexes is declared to be indelicate or obscene. It is only obscene when used to awaken and excite the imagination to dwell on amatory objects, and not when used for the purposes of legitimate instructions as in these pages. Extreme reticence with regard to matters referring to the genital part of the economy is not always indicative of a pure modesty or continence, nor is it healthy conservatism, but often the promoter of disease and imbecility. Those who are diseased at this part of their anatomy, usually became so because they were ignorant of either the anatomy or physiology of the organs. This fact leads me to have no sympathy with any prudish illiberality, but forcibly impresses me with the great necessity existing for instruction and enlightenment relative to this part of the economy. I will therefore break loose from the trammels of prudery, and attempt, in a measure, to properly inform my readers, in a discreet manner, of all the bearings of philosophy relative to the economy of the genitalia. Knowledge of this kind, in obeisance to a proscriptive spirit, is now isolated within a narrow precinct of intelligence, while the demands of the highest welfare of humanity are urgent for universal dissemination. Medical men have long been aware of the necessity of popularizing intelligence relative to this subject, but lacked the wisdom to ignore the illiberal countenance that banished it within their own limits of intelligence. If any medical knowledge is worthy of popular acceptance and guidance, it is that pertaining to the genital part of the economy; on no other subject are unprofessional people so ignorant, and no other species of ignorance is conducive to greater misfortunes.
Discusssion of this subject in the decorous language of science in a popular work, will not lead to lewdness nor encourage lechery; on the contrary, my convictions are that such information as will be imparted will tend to give a healthy tone to modesty and encourage continence. This is my purpose, all others I ignore and condemn.
Excessive modesty is often the offspring of ignorance. The physician who is fully acquainted with the anatomy and physiology of the generative organs, finds nothing suggestive in such knowledge; it is to him as common-place as the anatomy and physiology of other parts of the economy. And should unprofessional people be possessed of proper knowledge of the anatomical features and physiological functions of the organs, any decent and necessary allusion to them would not be regarded as indelicate or offensive. Such intelligence is not subversive of the moral nature, nor provocative of impure thought; the conventional illiberality deemed proper by certain people, is far more hurtful than judicious instruction. Knowledge with reference to the human economy is capable of great injury if permitted to be buried, and this is as true of the organs in the pelvis as of those in the thoracic region. We should all know, and not be ashamed to admit, when admission is proper and right, that Nature completed her work in case of our own persons; injudicious reservation in this respect, does a great deal of harm, as it often obliges the unfortunate to suffer in secret with serious affections, the locality of which makes them ashamed or unwilling to confide in those whose counsels may be of benefit. Few parents have the wisdom to take their children in their confidence and teach them the evils consequent on solitary indulgence, and but few mothers acquaint their daughters with the phenomenon of womanhood before its appearance. The son is unwilling to seek the counsel of his father, and the daughter does not avail herself of her mother's wisdom and experience. It is the experience of every medical man whose practice extends largely among females, that questions concerning the integrity of the organs in the pelvic cavity are unwillingly answered. What young female is willing to intrust to her medical attendant the knowledge of her disordered menstruation? She refuses to answer his questions, and probably hides her chlorotic face under the bed clothes. The doctor only gains the truth after he is taken to another room where the mother or nurse acquaints him with the fact. This round-about way of imparting the required information, places the patient in an embarrassing attitude towards her physician, and it would be far better for her own welfare and individual independence did she herself state the fact, and freely and composedly answer the interrogations of her medical attendant. Who can admire the sickly modesty of Dr. Abernethy's patient, who enveloped her wrist in a linen handkerchief before she would permit him to ascertain the condition of her pulse. The Doctor, however, gave the proper rebuke, for he immediately put his hand in his coat-tail, and remarked that "a linen patient requires a woolen physician." Those of the author's sex are also very often uncomfortable in the physician's presence, if questioned with regard to diseases of the generative organs. This is radically wrong, for such timidity and unwillingness induces the patient to defer medical treatment until absolutely driven to it by the extreme gravity the affection assumes. Modesty is an admirable virtue, as far as social intercourse is concerned, but under circumstances requiring medical aid or counsel, the re-establishment of the organs to healthy physiological action should not be embarrassed by a diseased modesty, or timid and foolish resrevation. As this work is intended to bear a relation to the reader the same as the physician does to his patient, it is hoped that the knowledge contained in these essays, will receive commendation instead of condemnation, that they will be considerately read by all who have need of such intelligence; and that errors of habit may be abandoned and the proper observance of the laws of health respecting the generative organs be followed instead.
In conclusion, I hope there are not many of my readers who are offended with Nature for making us distinct as to sex, and who endeavor to remedy her mistakes by hushing up the fact altogether.