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.
It is gratifying to observe that with the increase in intellectual enlightenment, always comes a confidence in the belief that this enlightenment not only is consistent with, but is an aid to, sound morals.
In nations and ages which may be called mediaeval, ignorance was anxiously defended by good men, under the mistaken notion that it is the best safeguard of purity. But the dissemination of knowledge has, in point of fact, proved a better protection. In many countries of Europe to this day it is the custom to allow unmarried girls hardly any liberty, and a very circumscribed reading. The American girl, with almost untrammeled independence in both directions, is unquestionably superior in moral self-reliance. The publication of a volume full of the titles of works which are forbidden to be read - the Index Expurgatorius - has not improved, but has deteriorated the Roman Catholio Church.
So, on physiological subjects, the objections which were vehemently urged, at first, against all popular instruction, have been, one by one, giving way, until now it is only in regard to sexual physiology that prejudice is in the as-cendant.
Even here, it is evident that the barriers of the mediaeval doctrines are disappearing. The very important researches of naturalists into the laws of descent, the effects of intermarriage, the transmission of mental and moral qualities, and the like, show that it is becoming more and more recognized that these are questions about which the general public should be informed without loss of time.
Since the first publication of this work, we note a decided advance in this direction. Several works of a popular charac-ter have been published, whose authors explain, in proper language, those physiological facts which it is well for all to be acquainted with. Thoughtful physicians have come more and more to recognize the large number of maladies which take their rise in ignorance of the laws of health in the relations referred to. Thus one of them writes, in a recent treatise:-
"So grave are the errors of ignorance in the married re-lation, that, in my opinion, to encourage, or even to allow young people to marry without having received such instructions, is as foolish and wicked as to place in the hands of a child a loaded pistol or a paper of poison, for no other reason than that it wanted them and had reached a certain age, and yet to offer no word of advice or of warning respecting the dangers of their employment.
"But, alas, how few parents, how few instructors, have the knowledge, the discretion, the tact, the judgmant, to qualify them for such an office ?
" Until parents feel it an essential part of their duty to acquire this information themselves, from reliable sources, and to impart it fully and freely to their children, as soon as it can be comprehended by them, no teacher of physi-ology can hold himself wholly guiltless of the sins or misfortunes of those under his charge, if, from mistaken delicacy or other motive, he refrains from including in his instruc-tions an account of the processes of generation, and the perils which attend the violation of their laws."
These words of Professor Burt G. Wilder, m.d., of Cornell University, indicate an enormous advance since the time, not a score of years ago, when any public instruction in physiology was condemned by more than one teacher of the branch in medical schools.
Several other efforts have been made, and successfully, to disperse the mystery which has only served as a stimulus to morbid imaginations, and which has kept its hold under the mistaken notion that it is the protection of purity of mind.