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.
The Oriental nations from the dawn of history to the present hour, as a rule, confine the females of the family to separate apartments, restrict their knowledge of the world, and debar them from social intercourse. Young men grow to maturity without having any general female society.
In Italy, Spain, and many other of the European coun, tries, unmarried girls of the better classes are sedulously secluded in seminaries or convents. If allowed to enter general society at all, it is under the strict surveillance of duennas, or other elderly female friends. Freedom of social intercourse among the young is not approved. Parents fear that the effect will be injurious.
In England there is much difference in this respect. From ancient times the women of Anglo-Saxon lineage enjoyed greater freedom than those of the South of Europe. They were never shut up in latticed boudoirs, and hidden from mankind by impervious jalousies. Their children grew up as playmates and companions.
The theory of seclusion is based on the belief that moral restraint applied to women is insufficient, that they cannot be trained to a virtuous self-control, and that the only efficacious means to guard them from social dangers are to keep them in profound ignorance and to deprive them of every opportunity of transgression. What the consequences of such a theory, deliberately carried out, are upon the woman we need not explain to those at all conversant with the social morals of Spain or Italy.
But the effects of this plan upon the male sex are even worse. The young man, with all his instincts drawing him toward the society of the opposite sex, finds none of it which suits his age and aspirations. He naturally turns to where it can be found, namely, to that class of society which spurns the restrictions of the social code, and, naturally enough, those also of the moral code.
This is why, in all the continental cities, there is an extergive and well-defined circle known as the demi-monde, an attractive, agreeable, and dangerous resort for the young. The polish and training which the votaries of this circle obtain may indeed satisfy the superficial demands of the world, but to the moralist, to the admirer of the sterner virtues, to the lover of his country, such a training is portentous in the extreme.
The nation which educates its youth in this school provides for itself an enervated and false civilization, and prepares for its own downfall.
The best physical training is not that which sedulously guards against every shock, and every breath of cold air, but which gives to the body endurance and vigor to enable it to bear with impunity the blasts of winter and the struggles of the arena. So the best moral training is not that which diligently shuts out all knowledge of the world, and is based on an utter distrust of natural virtue, but that which teaches self-control, ability to resist evil and cleave to the good, to fight and overcome temptation, and to be actively virtuous.
This training is not to be had on the theory of seclusion. To attain it we must commence education from a different point, and wholly alter the relation of the sexes in early youth.