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.
In the legal treatises we have consulted in order to ascertain the view which that profession takes of various ques-tions concerned in virility, it appears that no distinction is made between impotence and sterility. Bouvier in his Law Dictionary expressly calls attention to this inaccuracy. The researches of physicians have recently placed it in a strong ight. It is perfectly possible for a man to consummate carriage, when it is utterly impossible for him ever to have children. His power of transmitting life is gone forever.
The condition of sterility in man may arise either from a condition of the secretion which deprives it of its fecundating powers, or it may spring from a malformation which prevents it reaching the point where fecundation takes place. The former condition is most common in old age, and as a sequence of venereal disease, or from a change in the structure or functions of the glands. The latter has its origin in a stricture, or in an injury, or in that condition technically known as hypospadias, or in debility.
We wish distinctly to add that neither self-abuse nor spermatorrhoea, nor excess in natural indulgence leads to sterility. In all these conditions, the secretion is, barring exceptional cases, perfectly capable of transmitting life; though we may presume certainly not such vigorous life as in healthy and moral individuals.
Dr. Marion Sims, of Paris, has recently given much attention to sterility in man, and his researches have thrown much light on the subject. As, however, they will particularly interest the profession, we shall not spare space for them here, but proceed to the discussion of the practical question: Ought a man who believes himself sterile to marry ? He is able, we will say, to consummate his union, but can have no expectation of offspring.
This inquiry is not rarely put. Old men who contemplate matrimony must take it as their own. Men with certain deformities have also to discuss it. They cannot explain their condition to the women they love; hardly can they disclose it to the most sympathizing and discreet medical friend.
Oar suggestions to them may relieve them from the necessity of either. The only question really at issue is, whether they should deprive a woman of the sweet satisfaction of having little ones of her own to love and cherish. Therefore if she be of such mature years as to have passed the epoch when she can hope for such joys, certainly there is no objection to the match. But if young, with all the motherly yearnings and capacities unsatisfied, it will be a cruel and a dangerous thing to condemn her to a childless life.
It is possible, however, even where there is sterility in the male, providing the secretion is not absolutely devoid of life-producing properties, for the husband to have children, This, one of the latest and most brilliant discoveries in this branch of medical science, has been successfully carried out by Dr. Girault, of Paris, whose essay " on the artificial production of the human species" was published in 1869. It would lead us into details of altogether too technical a character to do more than mention the fact.
Those professional readers who would look into the subject further will find the references at the end of this section. Suffice it to say, that with such resources at hand, no man need hesitate about matrimony on account of sterility, unless that condition arises from a permanent and absolute degene-ration of his functions.
So far as the propriety of employing such means are concerned, we cannot doubt that under many circumstances they are perfectly justifiable. They do not in any way violate nature, or go contrary to her plans, but assist her in carrying them out. Frequently it is of the utmost importance to the happiness of a married couple that they should have a child. When it is found that the sterility in either partner is owing to one of the causes which the plan of Dr. Girault can alone counteract - and it may be either the fault of wife or hus band - there can be no good reason urged against carrying it out.
Where sterility depends upon a deficient secretion of the seminal fluid, the patient may have a fair chance of improvement, always provided no organic disease is present. A regulated diet, tonics, and a change of climate will do much; but it is the judicious application of electricity from which most is to be hoped.
"It appears not unreasonable to expect," says Dr. Julius Althaus in his recent work on Electro-therapeutics, " that the secretion of semen may be restored when lost, or improved when deficient, by the use of galvanism. A deficient secretion of milk in the breasts of a female, of cerumen in the ears, of nasal mucus, and of saliva, may be stimulated by the application of electricity. The same effect may naturally be looked for by acting with the continuous current upon the secretory glands of the semen."
The value of this medicinal agent in debility and failure of the generative powers has long been recognized by professional men. As long ago as the close of the last century it was even extravagantly vaunted as a restorer of virility.
It acts as a powerful stimulant, and when combined with proper general treatment holds out a promise of improvement and often of cure, in most cases where no structural change has taken place. But it is a useless and even a dangerous remedy in ignorant hands.
Excessive passion in either sex leads to sterility. Sometimes this passes to a condition of true monomania, technically known as erotomania. In such cases it is usually connected with some serious disease of the brain or spinal cord, and may well give grounds for uneasiness.
When in men, it is known under the names of priapism and satyriasis. The unfortunate subjects of these distressing complaints are constantly goaded by passion; their thoughts dwell most of the time on lascivious images; sleeping or waking they are besieged by passion ; and yielding to their desires so far from assuaging only incites them more, until the constitution breaks down under the unnatural strain. Male Messalinas, they are fatigati, sed non satiati.
The secretion under such circumstances is non-fecundating, as a rule, showing the condition to be one of disease. And further proof to the same effect is the fact that it may arise in persons who have lived continent lives.
Whenever such is the case, it is the part of prudence to abstain as far as possible from any indulgence whatever, to take a regular course of treatment, to have a thorough examination, and in all respects to regard one's self in the light of a sick man. Those who ignorantly and rashly imagine that such excessive sensations are a mark of vastly increased vigor, and felicitate themselves on the change, will have bitterly to rue their error in after years.