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.
Actual impotence during the period of manhood is a very rare complaint, and nature very unwillingly and only after the absolute neglect of sanitary laws gives up the power of reproduction. Whatever mercenary quacks may write for base, interested motives, and however they may magnify the ill-results of abuse, it is very uncommon to find complete and permanent inability to consummate the marriage rite.
Professor Lallemand gives the following definition of this condition: " True impotence consists of want of power, not once, but habitually; not only with prostitutes, but with those whom we most love; not under unfavorable circumstances, but during long periods of time, say five, fifteen, or twenty years." It is well that it is rare, for as Prof. Nie-meyer remarks: " Not only sensual women, but all, without exception, feel deeply hurt, and are repelled by the husband whom they may previously have loved dearly, when, after entering the married state, they find that he is impotent. The more inexperienced and innocent they were at the time of marriage, the longer it often is before they find that something is lacking in their husband; but, once knowing this, they infallibly have a feeling of contempt and aversion for him." It is the knowledge that they are becoming contemptible and disgusting to their wives, that brings so many young husbands, fearing they are impotent, to the physician. And as Professor Niemeyer goes on to say, unhappy marriages, barrenness, divorces, and perchance an occasional suicide, may be prevented by the experienced physician who can give correct information, comfort, and consolation when consulted on this subject.
Therefore we are careful to repeat that actual, permanent impotence is very rare in early and middle life, that nature is long-suffering in this respect and slow to bring in her revenges for even very gross violations of her laws. In by far the most numerous instances, supposed cases of impotence and actual cases of inability to consummate marriage depend for their cause either on lethargy or debility of the function, and are temporary, or at any rate curable.
When a single man fears that he may be unable to fulfil the duties of marriage, he should not marry until this fear is removed, as the very existence of such a suspicion will strongly tend to bring about the weakness which he is so anxious about. Rather let him state his condition fully to some intelligent physician, and always preferably to one whom he knows and in whose skill and discretion he has confidence, and never to the specialists whose advertisements he reads in newspapers, and whose only aim is to foster his terrors to the extent of frightening him out of large sums of money without doing him a pennyworth of good. And under no circumstances should he adopt the scandalous and disgusting advice which immoral associates may give him, to experiment with lewd women in order to test his powers. Such an action must meet with unequivocal condemnation from every point of view.
Should there be good medical reasons to believe that he is actually impotent, he must not think of marriage. Such an act would be a fraud upon nature, and the law both of church and state declares such a union null and void. Yet even with this imperfection, he need not give way to despair, or to drink. There is plenty to live for besides the pleasures of domestic life. Thousands of men deliberately renounce these. There are careers of usefulness and of pleasantness in abundance in which he can pass his days and hardly miss those joys which are denied him. Certainly it would be far more deplorable to lose sight or hearing than this faculty so rarely and sometimes never called into play. There is good cheer, therefore, even for such unfortunates.
That the causes of such loss may be guarded against, in so far as they are preventable, as every man is bound to do, we shall briefly recapitulate them.
First, old age. As we have explained in the first part of this work, the period of virility in man, like that of child bearing in woman, is naturally limited to but a fraction of the whole term of life. The physiological change which takes place in the secretion in advanced years deprives it of the power of transmitting life, and at last the vigor of the function is lost. The spermatozoa, which in manhood are bodies formed, as we have said, of a conical head and a long, vibrating extremity, lose the latter portion of their body, and become mere rounded cells, without the power of independent motion. With the impotence of decrepitude, however, we have little to do, and as to its prevention - cure, there is none - we refer to what we have already said in the earlier portion of this book, in regard to prolonging virility.
The second cause is venereal diseases. M. Liegeois, who has most closely examined the effects of these diseases on virility of any recent writer, considers that they lead, more frequently than any other class of maladies, to permanent, incurable impotence. They may do so either by an actual destruction of the part, or by exciting inflammation in the secretory apparatus, or by attacking the adjacent structures.
Malformations are another cause. These may be natural, dating from birth, or accidental, from injury, or from some necessary surgical operation, or from design, as in the case of eunuchs. They are so various that we cannot give any special directions for such cases. When the secreting glands are absent from birth, there may or may not be impotence, but generally it is present. Cases are on record, however, where men in this condition have married and had large families of children. Stock-raisers, however, look with well-grounded suspicion on the males of the lower animals which present this malformation.
The influence of self-abuse in producing impotence has been much overrated for selfish purposes by writers who cared nothing how much mental suffering they caused, so that they only bled their victim's purse. This habit causes perversion of feeling, and debility, but does not affect the character of the secretion, except when carried to great excess.
"The diminished power of the onanist is usually first increased to temporary impotence by reading popular medical treatises on the results of his vice," says Professor Niemeyer, and it is the manifest truth of this remark that leads us to believe that some better information than that now generally current on this topic will do good, and save many from months of needless anguish. This is true also of sperma-torrhoea. It leads to debility, but exceedingly rarely to permanent incapacity.
M. Liegeois. in the paper from which we have already quoted, says this complaint, "as a general rule, does not modify the secretion." All that is required in the temporary condition of incapacity which arises from this cause is to cease from the evil, to commence a course of tonic medicines, and to place the body under the best hygienic conditions. Given these, and the most alarming symptoms will disappear, with a rapidity as gratifying to the mind as it is beneficial to the body. Of course we do not deny that in some very few cases the insidious corruption of the system has progressed to such an extent that recovery is hopeless; but they are so uncommon that few physicians meet with them.
Every one knows that repeated excesses in indulgence enfeeble the powers, and result at length in actually annihilating them. Dissipated single men, professional libertines, and married men who are immoderate, usually pay the penalty of oft-recurring violation of natural laws, by a complete loss of virility long before the average period. We tan but admonish such, that they indulge at their own peril, and that years of ceaseless care cannot repair the damages which months of intemperance have brought about.
We have already referred to the fact that obesity di minishes the generative faculties. It may altogether extin. guish them. Trainers of domestic animals are well aware that there is an antagonism between the fat producing and the reproductive powers. Capons are more readily fattened than cocks, steers than bulls. So it is in the human race. Both men and women, as a rule, commence to grow stout about the time their reproductive powers flag; and eunuchs always increase in flesh.
Dr. Dancel, in his treatise on obesity, says this condition of body may lead to impotence, either mechanically, by causing such an unwieldy growth that the conjugal relation is rendered impossible, or by diminishing desire and power.
As far back as classical antiquity, this fact was familiar to physicians. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, cites a number of instances where a too robust habit had brought about virtual or actual impotence. Fat children sometimes never manifest in after years any desire for the opposite sex, and there are examples of young men of thirty who were completely devoid of feeling from the same cause.
The remedy for such a condition is to observe a regimen which will reduce the flesh without impairing the strength. This can be accomplished with ease and certainty by a judicious application of what is now familiarly known as the " Banting system." The details of this can be readily ascertained from Mr. Banting's pamphlet, or from other sources.
" I have never failed to observe," says Dr. Dancel, in this connection, "that a man, not yet old, who is delivered by a judicious diet of even twelve or fifteen pounds weight, is astonished at the advantageous change which has taker place in his virile powers since he has commenced to grow thinner."
So that we can add a judicious regulation of the weight of the body to the precepts we gave on an earlier page, "how to prolong virility."
There are some special causes of impotency not generally known, and therefore not guarded against. The habitual use of opium or hasheesh induces a general prostration of the nervous system, and a debility of the powers of generation, which in the slaves to those pernicious habits passes into complete impotency. General mal-nutrition of the body (sine Cerere friget Venus, is an ancient classical expression), lead poisoning, diabetes, and some diseases of the spinal coid, also may bring about this condition.
Arsenical poisoning has the same effect, and it is worth while to remember that poisoning from both lead and arsenic are more common than people generally believe, on account of the very extensive use made of the salts of those metals in the arts. We have known and read of repeated instances of lead poisoning from drinking water brought in lead pipes, and of arsenical poisoning from the coloring matter in green wall paper, and such familiar sources. Nearly all the hair-tonics and hair-color restorers sold so extensively contain sugar of lead, and may produce the results of that poison by their outward application.