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.
These topics, we well know, lie without the field of medical inquiry, and we feel that we may be criticized for having spoken on matters which other and abler pens could treat with greater power. Nor would we thus have ventured beyond the legitimate limits of our sphere, had we not been persuaded that for reasons heretofore urged, there has been and is an injurious reticence about the subject.
We have had placed at our disposal a library of recent theological works tolerably comprehensive, and we have spent a number of hours in examining the works of recent divines and religious instructors. But in not one of them have we found as definite and positive warnings on the dangers of a misunderstood relation of the sexes as we have already referred to in the Bible itself. "We may, and hope we have overlooked some works which do contain them. But that there is no longer any need of such warnings, or that it would be of doubtful utility to give them, or that it Would be unadvisable on the score of propriety, are excuses or their absence which we cannot admit.
There is far greater latitude customary in social relations in this country than in the old world; there is a precocity of intellect and a susceptibility of the nervous system which is scarcely met elsewhere. Unless these traits are guided by morality and intelligence, they will soon bring forth a corruption unsurpased in our times. Concealment and attempts to enforce ignorance will not succeed. These instruments of crafty despots and a bigoted priesthood are inconsistent with our institutions.
What then, to sum up, are the questions concerning the moral relations of the sexual life, which remain open to day, and which it is our duty, without hesitation, to confront ?
They are the duty which each man owes himself not to sin against the ordinances of his own life by violating his functions ; the duty which he owes the other sex to rescue them from the gulf of prostitution, and to withhold the temptations which attract them there; the duty he owes his children in keeping himself free from the taint which will render them miserable invalids. Marriage is to be rescued from the views which are degrading it once more to a mere civil contract, a legalized concubinage. The lay sentiments about divorce are not to pass unchallenged. The relations of husband and wife are to be redeemed from the estimate which places them upon a plane with a business partnership or with those of employer and employed.
There is also the prohibitory part of the moral statute to be enforced. If there is one sign more portentous than another concerning the tendency of American civilization, it is the remarkable activity of the press, and even of the pulpit (in some of its forms), in disseminating a false view of sexual morality.
On the one hand, we see on every news-stand illustrated books and papers familiarizing the public mind to indecency - the periodicals of widest circulation are filled with tales of morbid sentimentality ; and not a few through their advertisements offer concealment and aid to debauchery.
On the other hand, a populous State is sunk in polygamy; another dissolves the marriage tie as readily as a copartnership ; and at many points over the land communities are found who dispense with marriage altogether, and live in a condition of miscellaneous fornication.
A talented English traveller who visited this country a few years ago. and who chose to study the tendencies rather than the statistics of our people, considered these aberrations of the healthy sexual instinct as at once the most remarkable and the most ominous features of our civilization. As a nation, we were not well pleased with Mr. Dixon when we read what he had to say about us, and sought rather to discover the motes which exist in the eyes of his own countrymen than to remove the beams he had so clearly pointed out in ourselves.
But the facts he recorded are undeniable, and nothing but their familiarity prevents them from impressing us as unpleasantly as they did him. The remedy for them is not remote nor difficult. It is to insist upon better understanding of the ethical bearings of the reproductive function, upon the purity and permanency of marriage, and upon those sounder views of duty which we have already explained.