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.
We have just spoken of the peculiar dangers to which the unmarried condition is exposed. Our purpose now is to take these up in detail, and suggest what we can toward their prevention and cure.
The first we shall speak of is one which is much more frequent before the age of virility, and even before puberty than later in life ; we mean self-abuse. It is the danger to which, of the various abuses of the masculine function, boys are peculiarly liable. But it is not confined to them. We had a patient at one time under our charge in a public institution, who, although sixty years of age, was a slave to this detestable practice; and instances of men over thirty who carry it on in spite of warning, are not very rare.
There is hardly any part of our subject which is more difficult to treat than this, and yet there is none which demands more urgently plain speaking, and emphatic language. There have been, unfortunately, many wretched books put forth upon this topic filled with overdrawn pictures of its result, and written merely for the purpose of drawing the unwary into the nets of unscrupulous charlatans. There is also a wide diversity of opinion among skilful physicians themselves as to its consequences. Some treat the whole matter lightly, saying, that a large proportion of boys and young men abuse themselves thus without serious or lastin injury, and hold, therefore, that any special warning is uncalled for. On the other hand, the large majority of prac. titioners are convinced that not only occasionally, but frequently, the results are disastrous in the extreme. " 1 could speak," says that excellent authority, Mr. Acton, " of the many wrecks of high intellectual attainments, and the foul blot which has been made on the virgin page of youth, of shocks from which the youth's system will never, in my opinion, be able to rally, of maladies engendered which nc after course of treatment can altogether cure, as the consequences of this habit."
•' I would not exaggerate this matter," says Dr. Horatio R. Storer, of Boston, "or imply that those who have occa-sionally gone astray are necessarily incurably diseased, or their souls irretrievably lost. But I do consider that the effect upon the constitution is detrimental in the extreme." Elsewhere he says : " Enfeebling to the body, enfeebling to the mind, the incarnation of selfishness, hardly the person exists who does not know from experience or from observation, its blighting effects."
In like manner the late Professor John "Ware, of Massachusetts, says in a little work intended for popular instruction: "The deleterious, the sometimes appalling consequences of this vice upon the health, the constitution, the mind itself, are some of the common matters of medical observation. The victims of it should know what these consequences are ; for to be acquainted with the tremendous evils it entails may assist them in the work of resistance." " Nothing is more certain," writes Dr. Maudsley, " than that continued self-abuse will produce an enervation of nervous element, which, if the exhausting vice be continued, passes into degeneration and actual destruction thereof."
"I myself," says the Rev. John Todd in his Student'*
Manual, "have seen many young men drop into premature graves from this cause alone."The venerable Dr. Hufe-land, in his Art of Prolonging Life, says : " 1 consider this one of the most certain means which shorten and derange life," and his words are quoted with approval by Professor Lallemand, of France, and Erasmus Wilson, of England. And we might continue the list of our quotations almost indefinitely, and all of them would be found to speak in the same train.
These are the recent and well-considered views of the ablest men in the profession of medicine. They are borne out l>y a number of facts in oar personal knowledge. And sanctioned and fortified in this manner, we believe it a duty to speak with no uncertain sound, and we believe that our intentions cannot be misconstrued in so doing.
That there are physicians who treat lightly this censurable indulgence is nothing surprising. We could readily quote equally high authority who see no great dangers in the use of alcohol, of opium, and of illicit amours. There are many, say they, who yield to all these temptations, and yet do not obviously Buffer, and ultimately reform. Is the counsellor wise who therefore pooh-poohs their perils? Certainly not ; and for our part, we shall not, cannot, follow their example.