This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
There are some individuals who are rarely or never troubled by the promptings of nature to perpetuate life, and yet are by no means incapable of doing so. They are indeed few in number, and are usually slow in mind and of an extremely lymphatic and lethargic temperament. They experience very little desire and no aversion toward the opposite sex. In a less degree, this trait is a national one. The poorly fed peasants of the north of Europe are remarkable for the little store they set by the indulgence of passion. Such a condition need cause no anxiety, and calls for no treatment.
A want of desire does, however, often occur under circumstances which give rise to great mental trouble, lest it be permanent. It may have many causes, some mental, others physical. Prolonged and rigid continence, excesses either with the other sex or in solitary vice, a poor and insufficient diet or the abuse of liquors and the pleasures of the table, loss of sleep, severe study, constant thought, mental disturbances, as sorrow, anxiety or fear, the abuse of tobacco, drugs, etc., all may lead to the extinction of the sexual feelings. So, too, may certain diseases of the organs, especially those brought about by impure intercourse, and by organic changes, the results of age, and also, in some persons, a natural intermission in the secretion of the procreative fluid, and occasionally, a dislike of the person to whom one is united. Athletic exercises, severe and long-continued, have always been known to bring about a temporary lethargy of the reproductive system, and persons who grow obese nearly invariably find their passions diminish until they almost wholly disappear.
Of these various causes, lethargy arising from muscular or mental exertion, from continence, from emotion, and from high living, need give no anxiety, as when the causes are removed, the natural instincts will quite surely re-assert themselves. "Men who gain their bread by the sweat of their brow," says a medical writer, " or by the exhausting labor of their brains, should know full well that they cannot hope to be always in a fit state to perform the sexual act.
During certain periods when occupied with other matters the thoughts can dwell but little on such subjects, and no disposition exists to indulge anything but the favorite or absorbing pursuit, mental or physical, as the case may be. After a lapse of time different in various individuals, such thoughts arise again, and the man who yesterday was so indifferent to sexual feelings, as practically to be temporarily impotent, now becomes ardent."
When such absence of feeling springs from self-abuse, from excessive alcoholic drinks, sexual indulgence, the employment of drugs, or the use of tobacco, it is more serious and more lasting. Then there is not only a temporary cessation in the secretion, but the action of the internal organs has been altered to a degree which may prove permanent. Some may think in classing tobacco under this head, we are going beyond what facts warrant. But our own observation, as stated on a previous page, leads us to indorse the views of Mr. William Acton, who uses the following language: "I am quite certain that excessive smokers, if very young, never acquire, and if older, rapidly lose any keen desire." The treatment in all such cases can only be successful when the sufferer is willing, and able to renounce definitely and completely, the habits which have brought about his condition. Of course, the hygienic advice we have to offer to all our readers is, never to allow themselves to be led into excess, and if they have already been guilty of such folly, the sooner they renounce it the happier and healthier they will be.
When lethargy arises from age or local disease it must be met by a judiciously regulated medical treatment, which we cannot detail here.