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.
All these precautions are to what end ? To avoid exciting the passion of sex. It is veil to hold this clearly in view; and it is also well to understand distinctly what this passion is. Through a want of this understanding, the most extravagant vagaries, the most areadful asceticism, and the wildest debauchery, have alike claimed sanction from the holiest of religions.
Is this passion a fire from neaven. or a subtle flame from hell ? Is this " furious task-master," as Cicero calls it, to be regarded as an ever-present witness to our fallen nature, as one of the imperfections inevitably rooted in our bodies by the disobedience of our first parents? We cannot to such a degree accuse the benevolence of the Creator; we cannot so violate the analogy of organic life; we cannot so do in. justice to our own consciousness.
The noblest and the most unselfish emotions take their rise in this passion of sex; the most perfect natures are moulded by its sweet influence; the most elevating ties which bind humanity to holy effort are formed by it. True, it is like the genii which obeyed the magic ring in oriental tale; so long as the owner of the jewel did not violate its law, that long the genii were his willing slaves, and brought him wealth and glory; but when he became untrue to himself, then they rose upon him, and hurried him away defenceless to the gloomy cavern, and the unquenchable flames. The wise man, therefore, will recognize in the emotions of youth a power of good, and a divinely implanted instinct, which will, if properly trained, form a more symmetrical and perfected being than could possibly be in its absence; and he will have impressed upon him the responsibility which devolves on those who have to control and guide this instinct.
It is not at the period of puberty that passion commences. In fact, it is hard to say, how early it may not be present; and this point we wish to impress the more emphatically, because parents and teachers, in spite of their own boyish experiences, if they would but recall them, are too liable to persuade themselves that at the age of five or ten years no particular precautions are necessary. But the physician knows that even in infants it is not very rare to witness excitement of the organs, which must depend on the action of those nerves which control passion. Self-abuse not uncommonly prevails at the ages we have mentioned, and proves the early development of the instinct. In such cases it is a purely nervous phenomenon, not associated with the discharge of the secretion, which does not yet exist, nor necessarily with libidinous thoughts. But these, too, come very soon, as any once must confess who is a close observer of boys; and at whatever age the habit exists, it is equally re-prehensible.
The danger that threatens is not to be obviated by a complete repression or an annihilation of this part of our nature as something evil in itself, but by recognizing it as a natural, prominent, and even noble faculty, which does but need intelligent education and direction to become a source of elevated enjoyment and moral improvement.
Should the false modesty, the ignorance, or the neglect of those who have charge of youth at the critical period when the instinct first makes itself felt, leave it to wander astray, it is with the certainty of ensuing mental anguish, physical injury, and moral debasement. To what a hideous depth these aberrations of passion may descend we dare not disclose ; for, as the apostle says, " it is a shame even to speak of such things."
Sufficient to say, that every unnatural lust recorded in the mordant satires of Juvenal, the cynical epigrams of Martial, or the licentious stories of Petronius, is practised, not in rare or exceptional cases, but deliberately and habitually in the great cities of our country. Did we choose to draw the veil from those abominable scenes with which our professional life has brought us into contact, we could tell of the vice which called vengeance from heaven on Sodom practised notoriously; we could speak of restaurants frequented by men in women's attire, yielding themselves to indescribable lewdness; we could point out literature so inconceivably devilish as to advocate and extol this utter depravity. But it is enough for us to hint at these abysses of iniquity. We cannot bring ourselves to do more; and we can only hope that the fiery cautery of public denunciation will soon destroy this most malignant of ulcers.