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.
What we have to say on this subject we address to parents and educators. For on them devolves the serious responsibility of preventing the formation of this habit, which, when once firmly fastened on its victims, is as difficult to break as confirmed intemperance or opium eating. It is in childhood, and in early boyhood, that in ninety-nine cases in a hundred it is commenced.
We say in childhood, for, as we have said, the sexual passion is not absent even from the immature child. It commences almost with life itself, and so early must also the watchfulness of the parent begin. " There are," says Dr. Maudsley, "frequent manifestations of the instinct of propagation in early life, both in animals and children, without there being any consciousness of the aim or design of the blind impulse. Whoever avers otherwise must have paid very little attention to the gambols of young animals, and must be strangely or hypocritically oblivious to the , events of his own early life." It is not at all unfrequent to find patients who date the commencement of their vicious indulgence from five, six, and seven years of age. Dr. Albert Muller gives the history of one who abused himself from his third year to the age of puberty, when he was destroyed by the fatal consequences of his action.
But it is more frequent about the age of puberty, when the passions become stronger, and local irritations of various kinds lead the thoughts and suggest the act. In childhood, degraded companions and vicious domestics instruct in bad practices; at puberty the natural passions often prompt, without the need of bad examples. In both cases an utter ignorance of danger is present, and this is the first point that the parent and teacher must make up their minds to face.
They must determine, as they expect to answer for the responsibilities they have assumed, not to blind themselves with the idea that their young charges are too innocent and too pure for such thoughts; they must not deceive themselves in the belief that sound advice here is either dangerous or needless; they must give such advice earnestly, solemnly, clearly. " I have noticed," says Mr. Acton, " that all patients who have confessed to me that they have practised this vice, lamented that they were not, when children, made aware of its consequences, and I have been pressed over and over again to urge on parents, guardians, schoolmasters, and others interested in the education of youth, the necessity of giving their charge some warning, some intimation of their danger.
To parents and guardians I offer my earnest advice that they should by hearty sympathy and frank explanation, aid their charge in maintaining a pure life."
Dr. H. R. Storer remarks to the same effect: "Children must be taught purity. There is no doubt that in many of them an improper tone of thought is established even before the period of puberty. For a boy to reach his teens without learning from his associates something of these mat. ters is simply impossible."
"We urge, therefore, parents and teachers not to permit a natural, and under other cricumstances very proper delicacy, to restrain them from their bounden duty to warn their charges of these dangers. If wisely done, there is no risk whatever of exciting impure thoughts; and if there is any risk, it is infinitely less than that of leaving children in ignorance.
In the first part of this work we have given at length the hygienic precautions necessary to avoid and diminish sexual precocity. These should scrupulously be enforced, and will be found of great value. To none of them do we attribute greater importance than continued, systematic, gymnastic exercises. Use of the muscles to the point of fatigue every day should be an unalterable regulation in schools. Not only is the general health promoted, and the form perfected, but the nervous forces are thus centred on providing increased nutrition for the muscular structure, and withdrawn from the parts essential to propagation. Next to this is the study of mathematics. This requires such mental application and fixity of thought, that the passions remain almost wholly at rest.
The regimen should be plain, and the imagination allowed to remain in abeyance. Sensational love stories, and even such warmly colored pictures as are presented in the Arabian nights, and the amorous poets had better be tabooed.
The growing custom of allowing very young people of both sexes to associate at parties, balls, dances, and similar amusements cannot be approved on the score of health. It is nearly certain to favor precocity.
Whether the education of the two sexes in the same institution would have the same effect we do not know. Those who advocate this system assert that it is extremely favorable to the maintenance of a simple and natural relation between the sexes, and consequently to the repression of the vice we are discussing. The experiment is being tried on a large scale in our country, so we may expect definite knowledge ere long. Certain it is that one of the peculiarities of the young man who addicts himself to secret vice is a desire to avoid persons of his own age of the opposite sex. His self-respect is impaired, and though others do not know it, he feels conscious of it himself, and shows it in mixed society. It might, therefore, act as a restraint on his self-degradation to have him frequently in the company of female scholars, just as association with pure and refined women is one of the best safeguards which can be thrown around the adult young man.