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.
If the functions which connect us with our species are a source of pleasure when properly governed, so they are also the causes of acutest agony when disordered, or even when we only imagine they are so. "It is a weakness of our sex," justly remarks a well-known American surgeon, " to be over-sensitive upon everything which pertains to the generative function. A man will be more alarmed by a trifling ailment there, than if told that he has tubercles in his lungs."
Fully aware of this, and relying on the general ignorance on this subject, the most unblushing misrepresentations have been published by unscrupulous men for the sake of extorting money from terrified dupes. Nowhere do we see the lament-able effects of popular ignorance more sadly displayed than in the groundless alarms which so many young men suffer lest they are afflicted with the disease now very widely known even among unprofessional readers as spermatorrhoea. It is our object to do away with these fancied terrors, while at the same time we shall not hesitate to point out where real danger may be.
The long word itself means an involuntary loss of the secretion peculiar to the male. It may occur only in sleep, or else at stool, or when the passions are much excited, or when the parts are accidentally irritated. And at the outset we must correct an extremely prevalent error. We have often been consulted by young men who were badly frightened because they had once, or twice, or three times a week, or more rarely, involuntary losses during their sleep, usually associated with vivid, passionate dreams. They feared they were the subject of some terrible disorder; they believed they were losing their virility, and were fast becoming melancholy and debilitated. Their appetites were poor, their rest disturbed, their minds wandering.
Now all these symptoms were purely the results of a distempered fancy. There is no danger in such discharges when moderate. They are not a sign of weakness, but of strength. "They are natural to every healthy young man, and rarely lead to any bad results. They do not constitute the disease spermatorrhoea, and there is no necessity for a moment's anxiety about them.
Spermatorrhoea itself is a very rare disease, although it is undoubtedly a very serious one when it does occur. The patient cannot recognize it for himself, and it is therefore useless and foolish for him to worry his mind about it. If he feels his health running down, and fears this may be the cause, let him frankly state his case to some physician in whom he has confidence, and not worry his own mind about it. It is no disgrace, and nothing to be ashamed of, as it arises nearly as often in perfectly continent as in unchaste men.
The loss of the secretion then takes place more frequently than we have mentioned, without dreams, and on very slight provocation. It is associated with all the symptoms of an enervated nervous system, extending to a loss of memory, of mental power, and even of epilepsy and insanity. The countenance is pale or sallow; the features drawn; the eyes dull; the spirits depressed. Exercise of the functions is impracticable, or nearly so. Profound melancholy, altered sexual feeling - often an aversion to society of either sex - and impotence, may also present themselves. But here, as before, we shall avoid any long and terrifying catalogue of symptoms. When a man feels one-half of the disturbances of system that spermatorrhoea brings, he should, as we have said, have medical advice, and the physician already is ac-quainted with the characters of the disease.
We said a patient cannot decide whether he has this complaint. Every one of its symptoms may be produced by other affections, and that physical sign which is so particularly terrifying to patients, and which when they see, they conclude at once that all is over with them, the discharge of a white glairy fluid, is most deceptive and uncertain. Many comparatively innocent causes may give rise to just such discharges. Altered conditions of the kidneys and bladder, local inflammations, and specific diseases may do so. Nothing but a careful examination under the microscope can decide whether or not such a discharge is the seminal secretion. And if it does exhibit those peculiar appearances - the spermatozoids - which distinguish this fluid, they may arise from accidental and innocent causes. Finally, if it is shown beyond a doubt that it is a clear case of spermatorrhoea, unless there are severe general symptoms of depression, there is still nothing at which to be frightened. Men have lived on for years in perfect health with daily losses of the kind. Professor Niemeyer, relates that he knew personally a conductor on a railroad, who, for at least ten years, lost a considerable quantity with every stool, without any observable bad effect on his general health. He was married, and his wife had several healthy children. The British surgeon, Mr. W.F. Teevan, expresses his opinion that a habitual escape of semen when straining at stool " occurs to most men during some period of their lives without producing bad results."
This illustrates how grossly those swindlers impose upon the public, who would make the ignorant believe that any loss of the kind is attended with disastrous effects. Our advice is, Do not fret about yourself, and keep your thoughts and actions pure, and you will not suffer.
But while we say all this, and say it most emphatically, our duty would be but half done did we not warn in equally clear language against the evils which lead to the real dis-ease. Though it is rare, it is, when present, most destructive to happiness and to health, and, what is more to our purpose, it is always preventable. We shall speak, therefore, of What brings it about?
Undoubtedly in most instances this is self-abuse. It is another of the bitter penalties which nature has attached to this unnatural crime. What is more, these cases are the most hopeless, simply because the victims cannot break the fatal chains which bind them. The tongues of men or angels, the solemn warning of the gospel itself, are unavailing. The only choice that is left is death not very remote, or a surgical operation which absolutely prevents them handling the parts. This last resort has succeeded when everything else has failed. But such is the state of mind of most victims that they cannot nerve themselves to submitting to it.
A second cause is excess in indulgence. This may be in the marital relation, but far more frequently it occurs in the unmarried who are more apt to indemnify themselves for long self-government by renouncing all restraint when opportunity offers. Not a few wretched old bachelors wreck themselves in this manner. This class, too, are particularly exposed to another cause which leads to the same result - secret diseases. The after-consequences of these when neglected or ill-treated, often enough produce a weakening of the part, and a loss of power to retain the secretion. So, too, the indulgence in impure imaginings, and allowing the passions to become frequently excited, surely bring about a similar debility with a like tendency.
All these are causes which imply a degraded mind and disgraceful habits. But it must be understood that this disorder may arise where no blame whatever attaches to the individual. The change in the urine which takes place when the substance termed oxalic acid is secreted in large quantities renders the fluid irritating, and may lead to sperma-torrhoea. So unquestionably may stone in the bladder, ulcers and worms in the lower bowel, and some local inflammations arising from colds. Prolonged diarrhoea, neglect of cleanliness, certain skin diseases, the inordinate use of coffee, alcohol, or tobacco, excessive mental application to the neglect of exercise, and a hereditary predisposition, may all or any of them lead to the same result, without the individual being the least in fault. The judicious physician always bears this in mind, and we mention it, so that no unfounded fear lest he should be suspected or convicted of debasing practices may restrain the young man who fears he is suffering from this much-dreaded complaint from candidly laying bare his anxieties to his medical counsellor.
And if it be these habits which are the source of his suffering, he should have no hesitation in making a frank statement, for the physician's office is as inviolable as the confessional, and he knows too well that ignorance is at the source of this habit, to condemn or despise one who is or has been under its fell sway.