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In this witty and provocative study of sex and marriage manuals, M.E. Melody and Linda M. Peterson reveal that permissiveness, prohibition, and, tellingly, persuasion and enforcement-from sermons and hellfire to mutilation and electroshock-have informed popular sex education over the past hundred and twenty years.
From the late Victorian obsession with masturbation and hygiene, to the "if it feels good, do it" ethos of The Joy of Sex, America's disposition to sex has evolved from a general squeamishness to a veritable cult of mutual orgasm. But despite the recent emphasis on "voluptuous pleasure," the basic power dynamic underlying the discourse on sex has been remarkably resistant to change. The authors reveal that, even as sexual behavior changed during periods of upheaval, the prescriptive literature on sex has remained traditional at its core, promoting sex within marriage for the purpose of reproduction.
A cross-generational account of the major constructions of masculinity and femininity from 1880 to the present day, Teaching America About Sex serves up a lucid and entertaining reading of the twentieth century's vexed relationship with sex.
The Late Victorians and the
Spermatic Political Economy
As the nineteenth century progressed, America underwent profound social changes. Urbanization went hand in hand with industrialization as well as increased social mobility. In urban centers sons and some daughters could find employment and lodging outside the family sphere, and parental authority was eroded. Cities like New York had rentable furnished rooms along with services like cafeterias for single men and women. Clusters of unmarried men and women could be found in the Bowery and Times Square areas, among other places. Social isolation in burgeoning cities also lessened the traditional moral authority of churches. The shame that grounded their moral power depended on people living in small communities where moral transgressions would be known and pressure brought to bear on recalcitrant individuals or couples. Governments, as D'Emilio and Freedman note, had less interest in enforcing family and sexual mores and turned instead to property issues.
Men and women as well as doctors and health reformers wrote tracts filled with marital and sexual advice. Some writers focused on the importance of sexual intimacy for building relationships and attaining spiritual transcendence. Health reformers emphasized fears of venereal diseases and even cholera, which swept through New York City several times in this period with devastating effects. The emphasis on being master of one's domain resonated with men seeking their fortunes through thrift, industry, andself-improvement. Sexual self-control seemed merely one more discipline along the way to success. Dr. John Cowan, for example, explicitly linked self-control with success in commerce: "for the doing of this not only enables him to lead a continent life, but it as surely guides to success in all business undertakings." Many writers believed in a spermatic political economy, focused on the retention and spending of sperm, which led them to decry the horrors of masturbation, since it depleted male energy that could be better utilized in commerce. Masturbation preoccupied many writers: John Harvey Kellogg, for example, urged marital continence. But some writers, like Henry Hanchett, did not apply the concern over the loss of vital fluid to marital relations.
Late Victorian writers urged men to direct their sexual desires toward procreation within the marital relationship. They stressed that sexual congress constituted a spiritual bond between husband and wife and (in procreation) between God and man. Some authors thought that women experienced no sexual desire, while others taught that they merely had much less than men. All the advice literature emphasized controlling desire and managing sex. In the same period, the middle class discovered romantic love, which quickly became a reason to wed and produced a renewed emphasis on intimacy as the basis of marriage (D'Emilio and Freedman 1988, 66-73; Chauncey 1994, 78, 136, 158).
Health and Sex
Henry Hanchett, a medical doctor, published Sexual Health: A Plain and Practical Guide for the People on All Matters Concerning the Organs of Reproduction in Both Sexes and All Ages in 1887. A popular book, Sexual Health went through three editions. The elaborate subtitle indicates that Hanchett intended the work for a general audience, both women and men. In a comment typical for authors in this genre, he states that he will not apologize for dealing in plain terms with "delicate subjects." Decades later Theodore Van de Velde, another medical doctor, will express similar sentiments. By the 1970s, as the marital advice literature evolves into much more explicit sex manuals, medical doctors like Alex Comfort will no longer apologize or express reticence. In his preface Hanchett suggests that ignorance leads to vice, which in turn can cause disease. By implication, Sexual Health will lessen ignorance and, hence, disease. Parents, as many authors of the advice literature note, neglect to instruct their children in "delicate subjects." In a remark that suggests that Hanchett views women as temptresses, he states, "Young ladies do not know that by exposing their persons in evening dress and allowing intimacies and even receiving caresses from young gentlemen, they often awaken passions in the latter which sends them to brothels for gratification." In keeping with the need to restrain male desire, he adds that circumcision is necessary to prevent constant irritation of the glans, which can ignite animal passions. Hanchett quotes Emerson on the strength of such animal passions. For the sake of preservation, nature "immensely overloaded passion at the risk of perpetual crime and disorder." He then cites St. Paul to the effect that God ensures that men can triumph over temptation. As Hanchett sees things, education about disease, sin, and shame juxtaposed with consecration, self-denial, righteousness, and honor can provide a check on animal passions (Hanchett 1887, 4-5).
Hanchett addresses male sexuality first and suggests that a boy's erotic life begins long before puberty. In terms of sex education, he advises parents that the early years are the most important ones. Circumcision prevents dangerous stimulation and provides for cleanliness. Though Hanchett does not dwell on the evils of masturbation to the same extent as some of his medical colleagues, he does add that it can lead to "nervous disorders," bed wetting, stammering, headache, and epilepsy. To avoid all this, parents should keep their boys physically active with a multitude of playmates. Keeping boys exhausted makes it less likely that "morbid tendencies" will ensnare them (9, 11, 13).
When a boy reaches puberty he should be taught that "nature has determined that the species shall be preserved at any cost" and reminded of the insidious dangers of masturbation. The sexual organs have only one use in light of nature's purpose. Both nature and revelation teach that marriage remains the proper state for intimate activities. Pleasure, according to Hanchett, cannot be divorced from duty, though many temptation await. "The grade of his manhood is established by the amount he can overcome, and that his value in the world depends much on the question as to whether he will rule his body, or his body him." Unlike some of his colleagues, Hanchett does not regard the occasional loss of vital fluid as a serious medical problem. To forestall masturbation, one should follow a diet rich in grains and vegetables and take meat in moderation. Gymnastic exercise helps, as do a hard bed and a cool bedroom. Cold sponge baths every day before breakfast or bed also help. Overall, "the more completely the ... [genitalia] are left alone the better." Intimate behavior "exhausts vitality" rapidly, so young men must be warned not only about masturbation, but also about prostitution, which is degrading and results in disease almost all the time. Prostitution also strikes at the family, which is the core institution of society (15-21).
Hanchett, as is typical of the time, views intimate matters within a theological and philosophical context as well as a medical one. Scientific medicine had yet to take charge of the profession. Hanchett believes that nature intends man to govern and master his animal impulses in light of his higher obligations to society and posterity. In this context, he takes a hydraulic approach to male sexuality. The buildup of seminal fluid influences the mind. As pressure increases, men will desire sex. If no other relief is available, the energizing fluid will be discharged during sleep. If this occurs, on an occasional basis it poses no problem to either morals or health. If a man ignores the erotic tensions caused by the accumulation of vital fluid, his body will produce less of it over time. Hanchett reserves normal discharge for the "only right, natural, and healthful course ... of marriage," and in this state women get raised to the "lofty pinnacle of motherhood" (22-24).
Hanchett goes on to attack prudery within the marriage relationship. "Any attempt ... to deny to ... [the sexual organs] their full dignity and activity, can only result in local excitement but little better than masturbation, save that it can result in offspring of a puny, bloodless, half-vital sort." On the other hand, discharge outside the confines of marriage causes "moral poison" and probably disease as well. Such forbidden activity with prostitutes
involves the soul-consuming excitements of law-breaking, of skulking from discovery, and of spasmodic, irregular, and inordinate sexual activity; costs health, strength, wealth, self-respect, and virtue; sacrifices purity and the restraining and purifying power of a true valuation of womanhood; exchanges liberty for the domination of a creature too vile to be called a woman; barters useful citizenship for the state of the criminal sapping the foundations of society by striking at marriage and the family. (24)
Sex exhausts men, it saps their vitality. Semen is an "expensive" fluid for the body to produce and so spending decisions must be made carefully. Some of his colleagues, like Kellogg and Guernsey, will elaborate on the horrific fate of spendthrifts. Men do differ on how often they can drain this "nerve force." A long period of fatigue following intimacy indicates excess. Hanchett goes on to discuss diseases of the sexual organs, and he adopts a theory of innocent transmission, venereal insontium. Some nineteenth-century physicians believed that venereal diseases could be transmitted without any intimate contact at all. The usual culprits included public water fountains, towels, bedding, and eating utensils. This theory, of course, afforded privileged women who utilized doctors the status of innocent victims without any taint of sin or corruption or any suggestion that their husbands might be the source. As one woman put it,
At first it was unbelievable. I knew of the disease only through newspaper advertisements [for patent medicines]. I had understood that it was the result of sin and that it originated and was contracted only in the underworld of the city. I felt sure that my friend was mistaken in diagnosis. When he exclaimed, "Another tragedy of the public drinking cup!" I eagerly met his remark with the assurance that I did not use public drinking cups, and I used my own cup for years. He led me to review my summer. After recalling a number of times when my thirst had forced me to go to the public fountain, I came at last to realize that what he had told me was true.
This woman lived in fear of discovery and was horrified by the thought that she could pass on the odious contagion. A meal with a friend could do it.
Every day I expected to be accused of unspeakable things.... Even though I was not discovered I had perhaps a more dire possibility to face. Daily, hourly, momentarily I was haunted by the dread of passing on the disease to another.... Every act of my life was carefully weighed under the influence of that feverish fear.... I was strained, tense—afraid, afraid. Night and day, day and night I bore my burden of fear.
Hanchett goes on to describe treatments for these conditions and discuss venereal diseases as well as impotence and sterility as impediments to marriage for men (Hanchett 1887, 21, 25-34; Brandt 1985, 9, 21, 22 for the quotations; brackets in the original).
Unlike some of his colleagues, Hanchett believes that women can experience some sexual feelings. A girl's sexual life, like that of young boys, begins before puberty, and parents must be vigilant against nurses who will sometimes stimulate the genitalia to quiet a child. Though young girls can experience sexual feelings, they remain less likely to be "awakened" in them. This pattern holds throughout life; "distinctly sexual desires are, on the average, less imperious in the female than in the male." Hanchett notes that society, reasonably enough, is organized on the basis of this difference in arousal systems since women lack men's "mainspring" of passion. The hydraulic understanding, in other words, does not apply. Hanchett pities girls without any sexual feelings and considers this an abnormal condition. Parents should teach their daughters about delicacy, modesty, and the necessity of activity. They are not to touch their private parts except for washing. Though girls do masturbate, they do so less than boys, but they too can experience mental, moral, and physical disasters as a consequence (Hanchett 1887, 36-41).
Again Hanchett criticizes prudery. "It is no shame to have organs which can house and nurture a budding human life; it is no shame to study those organs and learn how they can best serve the new being that will be dependent upon them and their healthy condition." On the other hand, "it is a shame to consider those organs either nuisances, able to put unwelcome responsibilities upon us, or mere sources of animal gratification and pleasure." In puberty young women should check their ambition, work, or studies to deal with the body's new demands. Every month during her period, a girl gets a reminder that "she is responsible to posterity for her habits and daily behavior, and that the important relations of her sexual life to every other part of her being, show that she should never fail to consider whatever she does in the light of its possible influence upon her children." Hanchett also introduces the concept of vicarious menstruation: he believes that nature can discharge the egg by way of the nose, lungs, or some other route. Impediments to marriage for women include a lack of sexual organs, an unyielding hymen, and some diseases (41, 42, 44, 47).
Having discussed the sexual organs, Hanchett devotes his attention to marriage. He begins by asking what he considers a perennial question. Why do women marry? Hanchett notes that new possibilities in the professions and business complicate the issue. Some women, as he says, marry to achieve motherhood, which proves "the most exalted office open to humanity." Earlier in the text Hanchett linked biology with destiny. "Every part of her body and every facility of her mind is in subtle communication and sympathy with the organs in which sexual life centers." Marriage accords with divine intention, brings a woman glory, and satisfies feminine nature. On a more practical level, he adds that often a woman marries because some man has asked her (37, 41, 60).
Parents should teach girls to avoid the blunder of marrying for money and instruct them about the disgrace of divorce. Contrary to what many believe, romantic love as portrayed in novels does not provide a sound basis for marriage; what is crucial is "that devoted, pure, self-sacrificing love which the Master's command makes it the duty of each of His creatures and disciples to feel for all his fellows." The real basis of marriage, as Hanchett puts it, resides in the development of character. Marriage also includes parenthood, which "the all wise Father has seen fit to associate with this institution." Though God implanted the sexual instincts and they are honorable and beautiful in their proper use, these instincts do not merit the "sacred name of Love." The sexual instincts, however, prove necessary to drive men into marriage. Hanchett enjoins women to enjoy sexual relations and suggests intervals of three to four days (61-63, 65).
According to an often repeated story, an English novelist, Captain Frederick Marrayat, on a tour of America in 1837, reportedly saw piano legs covered by pants at an academy for young women (Lystra 1989, 56). Hanchett does not endorse such prudery. He teaches wives that the sex act is a duty to their husbands, but this particular obligation can provide pleasure for both of them. He recommends nakedness as well as "endearing caresses" during the act. He also endorses the American custom of sharing the same bed—unless restraint proves impossible. Hanchett does supply a practical basis for these recommendations. Women need to satisfy their husbands to keep them faithful as well as to engage the very forces that ensnared them into marriage in the first place. Women also need to stop thinking of the sex act as one marked by shame or disgrace (1887, 66).
Hanchett rejects what he terms the "avoidance of offspring." More than thirty years later Margaret Sanger will popularize the term "birth control" as a substitute for such awkward expressions. According to Hanchett, the only proper way to avoid children is to either remain single or live together as if single. Hanchett condemns interference with nature's design and condemns abortion as a "cowardly crime, if it be not actual murder" (70-71).
Hanchett reserves his highest praise for the chaste life defined by active charity, that is, working for the betterment of humankind. "This is undoubtedly the highest ideal and gives best promise of health, happiness, and usefulness." Not everyone can live up to this ideal. For these people—the majority actually—Hanchett teaches that marriage remains both natural and proper. Hanchett relies on 1 Corinthians, chapter 7 for his statement of the ideal. As St. Paul wrote,
An unmarried man can devote himself to the Lord's affairs, all he need worry about is pleasing the Lord; but a married man has to bother about the world's affairs and devote himself to pleasing his wife: he is torn two ways. In the same way an unmarried woman, like a young girl, can devote herself to the Lord's affairs; all she need worry about is being holy in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has to worry about the world's affairs and devote herself to pleasing her husband.
Though Hanchett rejects prudery for the married, he explicitly proclaims chastity the ideal, and this ideal can be readily transformed into marital continence.
As is typical of this period, Hanchett roots his work in natural philosophy as well as theology. Adopting a standard approach drawn from ancient Greek philosophy, Hanchett postulates that humankind possesses both an animal nature, which he identifies with the sexual instinct, and a faculty of reason and will, which distinguishes homo sapiens. The latter faculty comes into play when women and men reject the evils of masturbation or live a chaste life in God's service. Though women in his view do experience some sexual desire, men feel much more of it as seminal fluid builds up in the system and ignites sexual desire. Sooner or later, release must be had. Masturbation—a form of release—can lead to various evils, but Hanchett views this mainly as a personal issue. Several of his colleagues, like Kellogg and Guernsey, will add a political dimension and argue that masturbation engages the fate of the nation. Like Kellogg and Guernsey, Hanchett views masturbation in terms of self-control, the need to be master of one's domain. Reflecting ancient Greek thought, Hanchett believes that reason should govern the body. Though Hanchett remains well aware that caresses, among other things, can ignite a man's passions, he sees this resulting only in visits to bawdy houses. Some of his colleagues who view these issues in political terms will see the fate of nations involved in caresses and thus will urge much more caution than Hanchett. When great issues are involved, prudery becomes prudence. In a common view that others will elaborate into a spermatic political economy, Hanchett notes that seminal fluid is costly for the body to produce. Rather than romantic love, Hanchett celebrates the self-sacrificing form, which draws its inspiration from scripture. Hanchett's references to St. Paul underline the Christian premises that inform his work. Hanchett does encourage women to be sexually responsive, which, of course, ensures their own pleasure. He also supplies a practical reason. As sexual fluids build up and men must have release, women can ensure the faithfulness of their husbands by engaging in sexual relations, not avoiding them.
Sexual Restraint and the Fate of Nations
John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., of breakfast cereal notoriety, first published Plain Facts about Sexual Life in 1877. A revised edition dropped the explicit reference to sex and was simply entitled Plain Facts for Old and Young. In Plain Facts, Kellogg explicates the natural laws regulating human sexuality as well as the penalties for their transgression. Like other late Victorians, he remains reluctant even to discuss the subject and writes in such a way as not to appeal to prurient interests. Even so, he calls for judicious circulation of his book. The "cordial reception" that greeted the original edition (about one hundred thousand copies were sold) required a new one with additional chapters written especially for boys and girls.
Kellogg laments that previous books functioned as parts of advertising schemes and were filled with "misrepresentations" and "falsehoods." Illustrations in these works aimed to stimulate "animal propensities" and had a corresponding "pernicious influence." Kellogg approaches the subject differently. Unlike previous authors, he will often divert the reader's attention with examples from the animal and plant kingdoms, an appeal (in his understanding) to innocence and loveliness. His goal is to discuss human sexuality divorced from its "sensuality." He even aims to bring this difficult subject before youth. He argues that children already have some sexual knowledge before puberty and that it is better to supply a proper understanding rather than let them get "distorted images" and "exaggerated conceptions" from "evil sources." On balance, he finds partial knowledge more dangerous than full knowledge. Kellogg advises parents to teach their children "just and religious views of the nature and purpose of the relation which the Creator has established between the two sexes." Hanchett would agree. Parents should supply information in reaction to their children's natural curiosity and should avoid sparking "sexual excitement" (Kellogg 1888b, V-32).
Early in the text Kellogg heralds his vision of creation: "The universe of life presents the most marvelous manifestations of the infinite power and wisdom of the Creator to be found in all his works." Man, as noted in Genesis, stands at the apex of creation. Women, in this traditional view, are derivative, literally from a rib. Nature itself testifies that the Creator "gave to certain bodies the requisite arrangement or organization to enable them to perform certain functions, and delegated to them the power to transmit the same to other matter, and thus to perpetuate life. The Creator alone has the power to originate life." As a result of Eve's sin as detailed in Genesis, women justly suffer in giving birth, but bad habits and modern civilization add to the required quotient. Monogamy, marriage, and family all derive from divine law (34-35, 42, 76-77, 139).
In Kellogg's traditional Christian view men and women have both an animal nature (which he also terms human nature) and a soul or spiritual nature. To overcome our natural tendency to evil—a result of the Fall as told in Genesis—as well as "unseen agencies," we need divine grace. Unaided human nature would only rarely gain victories over evil. Prayer can indeed help but will not ensure victories. "The struggling soul beset with evil thoughts, will find in prayer a salvation which all his forces of will, and dieting, and exercising will not, alone, insure him." To gain victories, one must add faith and works to prayer. "All that one can do to work out his own salvation, he must do; then he can safely trust in God to do the rest, even though the struggle seems almost a useless one." Sin consists of thoughts as well as actions. "It is vain for a man to suppose himself chaste who allows his imagination to run riot amid scenes of amorous associations." Such "mental unchastity" scars the soul, and is "photographed upon the books of heaven, they each appear in bold relief, in all their innate hideousness" (166-67, 169-70).
In Kellogg's view physical imperfections can cause many vices. "When the full bearing of physical influences upon the mind is allowed, it is difficult to avoid pleading extenuating circumstances in the case of the greater share of transgressors of both moral and civil laws." But culpability remains, and only emphasizes the necessity of grace (194).
Human nature, as previously remarked, is prone to evil. In Kellogg's view, modern living adds to this innate propensity. Public amusements, fairs, sedentary employment, and superheated rooms all cause "abnormal excitation and precocious development of the sexual functions." In fact, modern living makes "absolute chastity" almost impossible and calls for additional help from Providence. People engaged in physically strenuous occupations such as agriculture have somewhat of an "antidote" to their inborn tendency to evil. Turning away from evil is what cures individuals of maladies. "When a sick person gets well, it is usually because he has reformed from his evil ways, and nature has ceased to punish him for his physical sins." Health and morality are thus linked; illness can be the physical manifestation of sin. Kellogg then links ill health, morality, and crime. "We have long held that a great share of the crime among civilized people might be fairly charged to bad physical conditions, which by impairing the physical health, lower the nerve tone, and then the moral tone, so that there is not a proper appreciation of moral principles and obligations." Though Kellogg at times seems to strike a Rousseauan note about the goodness of unsullied nature, his Christian view tends to predominate; all nature is fallen. Even though "Indian [Native American] boys do not masturbate," natural peoples share a corrupt human nature. Modern living only makes things worse (196-98, 247, 635, 636).
God delegates the divine fructifying power to humankind. According to Kellogg, nutrition and reproduction constitute the two main functions of life. Nutrition he views as a selfish function, while reproduction is unselfish—though humankind can make it selfish. The great purpose of marriage is to pass along life as well as to improve the race. In his view, "the perfection of the new being, then, must be largely dependent on the integrity and perfection of the sexual elements [from the parents]." To achieve such perfection, couples must practice continence within marriage. Hanchett, on the other hand, rejects marital continence, but as a man of faith holds the chaste, single life in service to God as the ideal. Being a student of the Bible, Kellogg must be aware that God commanded humankind in Genesis to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Kellogg does not deny this, but he postulates a view of physical and moral illness that requires even marital continence (118).
The early exercise of the sexual function by men, usually through masturbation, saps vital energies. Lacking energy to put into maturation and growth, the mind as well as the body become "dwarfed." The masturbator cannot look another man in the eye. Over time, improvident use of the sexual function leads to degeneration of the testes, the inability to have healthy children, impotence, and sterility. Nocturnal emissions in men (which seem normal to Hanchett) actually reflect sexual excess or mental incontinence. Other factors such as stimulating foods and the use of feather beds and pillows also help to spark nocturnal emissions. If such emissions are infrequent and are experienced by a "robust" person, Kellogg is not all that alarmed, but if they are relatively frequent and occur in a "feeble" person they create "great injury." Lassitude, languor, despair, and even suicide mark such men. "Headache, indigestion, weakness of the back and knees, disturbed circulation, dimness of vision, and loss of appetite" are other effects. Losing semen more than once a month, even in marital relations, should cause alarm. Hanchett, on the other hand, endorses intercourse every three or four days.
Kellogg, like Hanchett, views seminal fluid as a kind of élan vital. "The seminal fluid is the most highly vitalized of all the fluids of the body, and that its rapid production is at the expense of a most exhaustive effort on the part of the vital forces, is well attested by all physiologists." In Kellogg's view, the male body uses semen internally to repair damaged tissue. He goes on to cite medical authorities who argue that all emissions are injurious in that they lead to nervous exhaustion and debility. Whether through marital excess or masturbation, a man comes to find his "manhood lost, his body a wreck, and death staring him in the face." Imbecility, insanity, idiocy, melancholy, and suicide await (250, 253, 266-72, 276-77, 283-84). Sexual excess, whether masturbatory or marital, has related effects in women. Though women do not experience seminal losses, they do experience "nervous exhaustion," which serves as a common cause of hysteria. Like other "higher animals," women also undergo "the rut." His argument at this point rests on an animal analogy. Right after menstruation, women may experience sexual feelings. Citing medical authority, Kellogg notes that "the majority of women, happily for them, are not very much troubled with sexual feeling of any kind. What men are habitually, women are only exceptionally." Sexual desire, insofar as it exists at all, comes only temporarily after menstruation. "She submits to her husband, but only to please him; and but for the desire of maternity." This, of course, corresponds to Kellogg's recommendation that sexual relations be experienced once a month. Monthly intercourse, then, fulfills a man's duty to beget children and lets him experience pleasure with minimal semen loss, while it also corresponds to a woman's cycle of desire, if she has any at all. The purpose of intercourse is to conceive children, and this also fulfills a woman's "motherly instinct" and serves as the "noblest function of womanhood." Maternity, according to Kellogg, "is the most sacred and elevated office which a woman can perform in the world" (89, 287, 401-2, 462-63, 473-74).
Semen loss and excessive rutting have drastic consequences not only for individuals, but also for future generations. In an implicit riff on Lamarckian genetics, Kellogg believes that acquired characteristics, even a propensity to sin, can be transmitted to the next generation. As he argues: "it is in this way only that we can explain the early and apparently almost irresistible propensity in generation after generation to indulge similar habits and feelings." In Kellogg's view, then, some people inherit a propensity to indulge sexual passion, and this inheritance is inflamed by modern living. "The children of libertines are almost certain to be rakes and prostitutes." Thus parents can commit a "crime against the race" by producing less than healthy offspring. Criminal classes increase this same way. Thieves, for example, transmit a "secretive, dishonest, sneaking disposition; and the child comes into the world ticketed for the State prison by the nearest route." Thus nations fall. "In these disgusting facts we find one of the most potent agents in effecting the downfall of the nations. Licentiousness sapped their vitality and weakened their prowess. Empires fall victim to their lusts and are then succeeded by more virtuous ones" (114-15, 146, 149-50, 175, 203).
Kellogg presents the "Juke" family as a case in point. We begin with five sisters. Several of them were illegitimate, and three of them were unchaste. They later married men sired by a licentious, drinking, lazy father. Among their 709 offspring that can be accounted for, 280 were paupers, 140 were criminals, 60 were thieves, 7 were murderers, and 165 were prostitutes and adulteresses. They also spawned almost a hundred illegitimate children, and over four hundred descendants later afflicted with syphilis. In Kellogg's mind, as go the Jukes, so goes America (447).
Since the fate of nations is at issue, Kellogg calls for decisive action. His book raises the hue and cry. The remedies for masturbation, seemingly the root of evil, provide an example. Masturbation, in Kellogg's view, presents a serious medical condition. The treatment depends on the age of the patient. Like Hanchett, he recommends that children not be left alone and that they be occupied with tasks that tire them. "It is best to place such a child under the care of a faithful person of older years, whose special duty it shall be to watch him night and day until the habit is thoroughly overcome." In younger children bandaging the parts, tying the hands, and covering the organs with a cage have met with success. Circumcision almost always works. It should be done without anesthetic so that the child associates pain with the penis; the resulting soreness certainly will cause a cessation of the evil practice. For adults, a physician can explain the drastic consequences for the mind and body of the "secret vice." Citing the practice of a superintendent of the Iowa Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children, Kellogg endorses the use of sutures through the prepuce (foreskin) for "refractory cases." Erection thus becomes impossible and the "slight irritation" will help to overcome the disposition to masturbate. For women, Kellogg recommends the use of carbolic acid on the clitoris. Other treatments include sitz baths, hot and cold applications to the spine, vaginal douches, and saline sponge baths. The local application of electrical current works for some men, while the same treatment can be used for sexual apathy in women (294-95, 269, 318-21).
Castration, according to Kellogg, is an efficient but not justifiable remedy. "Even a father has no right thus to mutilate his own son, though we must confess that the lad's chances for becoming a useful man are fully as good as they would have been had he continued his course of sin." In one specific case, a father brought his ten-year-old daughter to the good doctor. She had acquired the habit of self-abuse from a German servant girl. All the methods suggested by Kellogg had failed to cure her. "It finally became necessary to resort to a surgical operation by which it is hoped that she was permanently cured.... It was a severe remedy, and may seem a harsh one, but every other means utterly failed, and the father insisted upon the performance of the operation as a trial." The father declared that he would abandon his daughter to die if she could not be cured and his other children spared. Thus, fathers have no justifiable right to castrate their sons, but can have clitoridectomies performed of their daughters. The fate of nations, races, and individuals sometimes requires genital pain and mutilation, especially for girls and also for boys trapped in midwestern asylums (363, 418-19). Hanchett, as previously remarked, does not teach that masturbation impacts the fate of nation and views it mainly as a personal problem.
Moral education serves as the counter to mutilation. Children, according to Kellogg, should be taught self-control and self-denial. Such education should not aim to make children merely efficient calculators of their self-interest. This only instills selfishness and not love for what is noble or right. Children should be taught to act for the good for its oversake. Giving children rewards also teaches selfishness. Even the hope of a future life in heaven falls into this category. Kellogg wants to "instill into the mind a love for right and truth, and purity, and virtue, and an abhorrence for their contraries." In this way, children can be raised to to be free from the "assaults of passion, of vice, of lust." Thus the individual, the family, and the nation can be saved. The alternative is the Juke family with its physically and morally sick offspring.
Besides a reference to Alexander the Great as a sodomite and a motion of a patient who wished to masturbate another man, sodomites/homosexuals do not figure in the work. Hanchett makes no references at a Kellogg does refer to the Scythians and the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico to demonstrate that men can become women. The opposite possibility receives no discussion. The Pueblo Indians, for example, select a strong man to become a "mujerado," a figure necessary for religious rituals He is masturbated several times a day and rides bareback, which causes a great deal of stimulation. Seminal losses occur constantly and, as a consequence, his sexual organ begins to shrink. Over time, masculine eros itself disappears and is replaced by a desire for feminine things. The Scythians achieve the same result through "excessive equitation." So even though Kellogg seeks to instill a love of the good for itself through education, his rhetorical strategy threatens disease and damnation, insanity and impotence, and in extreme cases, transformation into a woman (138-39).
Much like Hanchett, Kellogg presents us with a unified Christian worldview and mainly a traditional view of the role of sexuality within the great scheme of divine creation. Following common Christian teaching, which itself draws from classical Greek philosophy, Kellogg dichotomizes human nature into an animal part and a spiritual one. Procreation, according to Kellogg, embodies humankind's participation in divine power. Though only God can create ex nihilo and by word, men and women participate through the reproductive function of marriage. A notion of the Fall suffuses Kellogg's work, and he regards illness as a typical consequence of sin. Besides a propensity to evil resulting from the Fall, modern living itself provides a myriad of near occasions of sin.
Like other late Victorians Kellogg postulates a spermatic political economy, what Fellman and Fellman term a mercantile conception, as the basis of sexual relations (Fellman and Fellman 1981, 75-77). The body uses sperm to repair and vitalize internal tissues, and it should not be wasted even within marriage. Wasting this élan vital can easily lead to "imbecility, insanity, idiocy, melancholy and suicide." Men must, of course, control their sexual urges. In fact, God stands ready to punish any transgressions of the moral code. If men maintain self-control and since women really do not have (or barely have) any sexual desires, there is no need for men to lose sperm except within marriage for the purpose of having children. Kellogg's book thus becomes an exhortation mainly addressed to men about the necessity of preserving sperm. His rhetorical strategy relies on references to the divine plan and reason, but if this fails Kellogg, unlike Hanchett, is ever willing to threaten "imbecility, insanity, idiocy, melancholy and suicide." A particular type of breakfast cereal might also help. Women, on the other hand, largely bereft as they are of sexual feelings, are mainly advised to fulfill their part of the divine plan. Eve is the prototype; the pain of childbirth awaits.
Modern readers can readily dismiss Kellogg's work as the rantings of a religiously deluded, possibly impotent medical doctor from those old times before medicine truly became scientific. On the other hand, we can take his work as an example of an earlier type of medical knowledge that fused religion, natural philosophy, and science. Kellogg certainly was not deluded. Part of the American tradition includes a view of a righteous God who punishes moral transgressions. In Kellogg's view, these transgressions are acts of treason against divine governance and, hence, call for decisive responses. Though his teaching about masturbation seems extreme, the act must be understood as rebellion against divine governance, an ostensibly minor event that can, if amplified, cause the destruction of nations. The issue is rebellion and its potential amplification. Thus Kellogg calls for remedies including circumcision without anesthetic to thwart wider rebellion.
Sexual pleasure is an incidental by-product of an act whose purpose is to bring children into the world according to the divine plan. Thus, sexual relations are about man's participation in God's fructifying power, and woman's eternal enactment of Eve's punishment. The act represents a couple's participation in and even renewal of the divine plan. Pleasure has little to do with it. The divine plan in fact calls for humankind to turn from pleasure to the transcendent good. Hanchett, relying on St. Paul, would add that marriage itself is a distraction from the splendor of the good. The Fall itself and the consequent tendency toward evil resulted from one such turn away from God, and couples are reminded of this by the pain of each childbirth.
More Plain Talk about Restraint
A Victorian consciousness also permeates Dr. Henry Guernsey's Plain Talks on Avoided Subjects. Plain Talks was first published in 1882 and was reprinted four times before a revised edition came out in 1915. The first edition of Plain Talks was published at a time when patriarchal systems attempted to deny that women experienced sexual desire; at the most, some writers like Hanchett acknowledged that women felt some desire, but much less than men did. The marriage ceremony in this period typically included references to St. Paul's epistle demanding that women be subject to their husbands, and "giving away the bride" was a normative custom in which one man, the father, gave his daughter's hand to another man, the husband. No one, of course, gave men away. Though it is a marriage manual, Plain Talks on Avoided Subjects does not make any direct references to the mechanics of intercourse. Really plain talk, even that between gentlemen over cigars in a drawing room, invited social anarchy.
Henry Guernsey, M.D., seeks to expose the evils that seduce young people for lack of warning. Parents, unfortunately, often shirk their responsibility—a constant observation in this genre—and thus there is a need for a book that not only talks plainly, but also addresses the general public as well as the medical profession. Kellogg and Hanchett agree with the need to educate parents and their children. All three authors are terribly circumspect. Kellogg does not even deal with the sexual organs at all; he does, however, constantly preach about the evils of alcohol and tobacco (Kellogg 1888a).
Guernsey assumes a functional view of the human body and quickly asserts an Aristotelian approach. A thing (an organ like the kidneys, for example) is good when it performs its function properly: "everything was created for use." Happiness consists of following natural function to its God-given end, the fulfillment of its nature. Taking the classical view again, Guernsey asserts that the brain exists to "govern and rule all below. It is the first organ formed and in an orderly life should control all the others" (Guernsey 1882, 13-14, 23).
The major organization of the text follows the life cycle: from infancy to childhood to adolescence and then marriage. Infancy takes up only three pages, but reveals a major preoccupation of the good doctor. In "Embracing the First Year of the Child's Life," he warns that "particular care and the utmost solicitude should be bestowed upon the genital organs. No rubbing or handling of these parts should be permitted under any pretense whatsoever—beyond what may be absolutely necessary for cleanliness" (24). "Early impressions upon these animal passions ... are very abiding" (24-25).
To avoid "sexual precocity" in childhood, parents should maintain surveillance over play activities. One could inadvertently cause sexual impressions in young children by "allowing them to repose playfully on their belly, to slide down banisters, to go too long without urinating, constipation or straining at stool, cutaneous affections, and worms." Sliding down banisters is especially dangerous, since this can lead to "inveterate masturbation." Priapism (persistent, involuntary erections) in male children requires medical aid, since this indicates a functional problem and can also lead to masturbation. In some extreme cases, death has been known to result. As always, touching the genitals either by the child, by parents, or by nurses, must be minimized. Above all, parents must seek to avoid the "secret vice of the worse kind": masturbation.
This act is repeated time after time until the degrading and destructive (morally and physically so) habit is confirmed. As a result, the boy grows thin, pale, morose and passionate; then weak, indolent and indifferent; his digestion becomes impaired, his sleep short, disturbed and broken; he sometimes becomes epileptic or falls into a state of marasmus [wasting]; in any case he is in great danger of being totally ruined forever. (29-35)
Children should "banish all thoughts of a sexual nature," speak with their parents about their struggles, and pray for help. Guernsey also recommends running, reading "good, pure stories," and taking part in useful endeavors. In these ways, a boy can conquer any lascivious thoughts and "rise to the dignity of a true man." "All sexual emotions should be subjugated." Following classical philosophy once again, Guernsey emphasizes the importance of instilling good habits in children so as to help the rational faculty control the passions. Teaching good habits is so important that masturbation is "a sin chargeable to the parent." Parents should be vigilant and make confidants of their children "for there should be chastity above all things." Guernsey devotes most of his attention to boys and mentions girls only toward the end of the chapter. His admonitions, however, apply equally (27-41; italics in original).
In discussing male adolescence, Guernsey reiterates his view that reason and will, ennobled by the divine one, should govern passions, desires, and tastes. The more animal passions rule a man, the more he becomes like a beast. Evil approaches through the mind. "If this evil be masturbation, then they are on the direct road to ruin.... If it be the commission of sexual intercourse with women, their ruin is still more certain." Poisons such as syphilis and gonorrhea await, and millions die annually from them. Catastrophic moral corruption assuredly follows physical corruption. "He loses all respect for the truth and all regard for his word; no dependency of any kind can be placed upon him, and he will not pay his debts or fulfill any moral obligation." Men in such a condition no longer find any pleasure in life. They wish to die; often they become suicides. "A search in any insane asylum will show that a very large proportion of patients are made up from those who masturbate or have syphilis. Stamp out these two evils, or rather curses ... and the supply that feeds our insane asylums, aye and our penitentiaries, too, will become vastly lessened" (50; italics in original). Purity manifests itself positively in a man's countenance, carriage, and deportment. Vice produces opposite effects. Lewd thoughts, of course, must be avoided. They have "a debasing and deteriorating effect upon that well-developed form, upon that conscience so free, and upon that countenance so open and bright." Loss of seminal fluid must always be avoided. Its retention is promoted by good habits, which, in turn, lead to a lessening of sexual feelings. Similarly, the more a young man indulges sexual feelings, the more they will reoccur. Some misguided physicians, but certainly not Kellogg or Hanchett, mistakenly urge sexual indulgence for the sake of health, but Guernsey considers this a great error. Abuse—not neglect—causes the sexual organs to atrophy. Abuse in Guernsey's construction means "any irregular or premature exercise of their [organs of generation] functions; any application of them which cannot have, as its result, the propagation of the species." Abuse manifests itself for all to see. Vice cannot remain secret.
Look at the habitual masturbator! See how thin, pale and haggard he appears; how his eyes are sunken; how long and cadaverous is his cast of countenance; how irritable he is and how sluggish, mentally and physically; how afraid he is to meet the eye of his fellows; feel his damp and chilling hand, so characteristic of great vital exhaustion. Taken as a class, how terrible are their lost virility, their miserable night's sleep, their convulsions and their shrunken limbs. They keep by themselves, seeking charm in solitude and are fit companions for no one; they dare not read their bible, they cannot commune with good angels nor with the Lord, our Savior. Is this picture not deplorable? It is at the last end of the chain I admit, but it is reached link after link, one at a time. (61)
Semen must be saved! Guernsey and Kellogg agree on this. Its waste, like the mark of Cain, clearly manifests itself. Semen, according to Guernsey, exists in a bank account that permits only withdrawals. Atrophy, moral bankruptcy, and ruin await spendthrifts.
Man in a healthy state need not and should not lose one drop of seminal fluid by his own hand, by nightly emissions or pollutions, or in any way, until he becomes conjoined to a wife of his choice in the holy bonds of matrimony. Every time the seed of his body is lost in a disorderly or unnatural way, he injures the finest textures of his brain correspondingly, as well as the finest and most exalted condition of his mind and soul, because the act proceeds in its incipiency from a willful prostitution of these higher powers. (61)
When temptation comes, read an interesting book, exercise to exhaustion, plunge your arm into very cold water, or take a rapid walk. Nocturnal emissions and other abnormalities result from mistakes in diet and the consumption of liquor. Seminal losses make men "weak, pale, and feeble in mind, while all that was manly and vigorous has gone out of them" (42-67).
In adolescence, women undergo more change than men and, accordingly, should not be expected to have as much "power left for the tasks of school." Menstruation is a privilege and a "blessing from Heaven." It lends "loveliness to ... [a woman's] character, beauty to her expression, music to her voice, and gracefulness to her form and movements." The monthly flow must not be suppressed, and injections to clean the vaginal canal should be avoided. Besides, such cleansing can often "excite sensations in the parts to which they are applied, that should remain perfectly dormant in the unmarried state." Daily external washings, however, are acceptable. As a girl grows into womanhood, she also develops the feminine mental state: "She must not allow herself to bear malice towards anyone, must not plot evil or attempt to `pay off others in their own coin,' as it is called, or seek revenge in any way; but she must ever cultivate a forgiving disposition, good thoughts and good feelings towards everyone" (75-76). A pure mind embracing Christian virtue "lends enchantment to the eye, sweetness of expression to the face, music to the voice, and gracefulness of carriage." Men should be kept at a distance. "Do not allow any approach or touch beyond what is customary in the best of society at social gatherings." No kissing! After betrothal, a woman can accept affection from her intended as if it were from a father or brother. If a young woman has been properly educated, she has not "as a rule, any sexual propensity, or amorous thoughts or feelings." The laws of creation require that a woman sacrifice her feelings upon marriage and submit sexually to her husband. To act to the contrary subverts the laws of nature and could cause her husband's health to suffer.
Women, however, can inherit morbid conditions. As in the case of men, impure thoughts seem to reflect physical realities. Nymphomania—apparently understood as any sexual desire at all in a woman—can be cured through treatment of the constitutional symptoms. Sometimes women err and resort to "self-abuse" or turn to the opposite sex. Then they are ruined forever. The effect of "self-indulgence" is comparable to the damage done to men.
Since women really have no sexual feelings, why should they marry? Hanchett, as previously noted, poses the same question. According to Guernsey, women "have an innate principle of love for the male sex; and this love is drawn from the Lord above." In this assertion, Guernsey shares a rhetorical strategy with both Hanchett and Kellogg. Women, in his view, represent "good," while men embody "truth." Marriage thus conjoins goodness and truth. The physical manifestation of this truth in sexual intercourse has less importance than its spiritual reality. Sexuality in this view forms part of the order of creation and is "never" intended for mere pleasure. Carnal pleasures are profanations and perversions. Guernsey goes on to link love of God, conjugal love, and the love of infants. Women who do not yield willingly to their husbands are insubordinate. They disgrace their families and scandalize their friends. Worse yet, they sin against God. Children function as a gift from God, future angels in heaven, and should be welcomed. Guernsey advises against avoiding pregnancy and suggests that this brings physical miseries. Since pregnancy, in Guernsey's view, causes the mingling of the blood of the father—truth—and mother—goodness—by way of the embryo, pregnancy also transforms women spiritually, and they can transmit this enhanced being—truth conjoined with goodness—to their children. Marriage thus offers women a "new order of life" through a spiritual transformation; this understanding is foreign to both Kellogg and Hanchett (84-89, 90-99; italics in original).
Guernsey also presents the normative image of an economically privileged, white housewife of the time.
How much it consoles, encourages, lifts up, and rests a man to return to his home after the trying scenes of a day busily spent in providing for the support of his family are over, to find his wife affectionate and serene, and all about the house brilliant with contentment. Such a wife if she has troubles, ... and wishes to call the attention of her husband to them, will do it at a proper time, when she knows it will annoy him the least, and when he will be able to give her the most assistance. She will never try to annoy him; but endeavoring to be a true help-meet will seek in a proper and loving way to get him to be the same to her. (107)
In moving toward his conclusion, Guernsey adds another admonitory chapter on masturbation. Plain Talks ends by briefly discussing the purpose of intercourse once again. In sexual congress, an individual man's power becomes conjoined with the "Divine power," which then infuses a soul into the fetus and creates life. The womb thus becomes a sacred vessel filled with the results of male action, both divine and human.
Young women, as a consequence of biological necessity, do not do as well in school as young men. Besides natural educational deficiencies, the feminine character itself—understood mainly as niceness (see Brownmiller 1984, 13-19 as modified by Wolf 1991)—would preclude an active life in a laissez-faire public realm. Though women embody goodness, it seems to have no use except for self-beatification and the benefit of future generations. Uncorrupted women do not experience any sexual desire, and Guernsey seems to reserve the term "nymphomania" for any women that do. Given this assertion, Guernsey must then marshal reasons to convince women to fulfill their wifely duty: God commands it, nature requires it, and beatitude awaits. Men, unlike women, do have sexual inclinations, and masturbation is a constant preoccupation of Guernsey to an even greater extent than it is with Kellogg and certainly Hanchett.
Guernsey would subject children to a panoptic gaze so as to preclude abuse. Abuse, any stimulation of the genitals, is a serious matter. It can lead to death and manifests itself for all the world to see. The results are destruction, disease, and death, if not prison and the insane asylum. Guernsey, like Kellogg and Hanchett, conflates theology, philosophy, and science; all three serve to enforce his Victorian virtue. Guernsey teaches that reason elevates man above the animals and that it should master sexual passion in men even in marriage. Married love has a divine dimension, and at conception God joins together with a man to infuse life into the womb. Wasting semen offends God's law, reason, and medical science. Its waste leads to atrophy of the testes, moral bankruptcy, and even death. Since sexual excitement causes the production of semen, sexually exciting situations should be avoided. Logically then, private morality needs to become public law. In making the private public, society should seek to eliminate occasions of sexual excitement to protect future generations, the beatitude of women, and the virility of men, and to reduce the populations of prisons and insane asylums. Since all the world can see moral corruption in even the gait of a person, vice already manifests itself publicly.
Men represent truth, and in Guernsey's view truth and goodness mix in the womb. This mingling of truth and goodness enhances the being of the mother and is transmissible to children. Thus women, unlike men, can embody both truth and goodness. In fact, the greater this mixing through pregnancy, the more substantial the beatitude for the wife and the children. Nature, divine law, and beatitude bring women to marriage and motherhood.
Guernsey and Kellogg sketch gender roles for economically privileged white men and women. They write for people who have learned through good habits to subordinate appetite to reason. Lower classes and recent immigrant groups around 1880, presumably, propagate mainly animal qualities and will keep prisons and insane asylums full. Anxiety marks the works of these authors. "They published ... to reassure others and themselves; they constantly referred to laws in nature which they could not easily find replicated in the human world: all their calls echoed their fears of a lawlessness, of uncertainty, of a chaos beneath" (Fellman and Fellman 1981, 21).
Guernsey's conjoining of medical science, philosophy, and theology, combined with a dash of Lamarckian genetics, implicitly calls for the generation of social movements that would uplift lower classes, Americanize them, and bring them within the Victorian sexual regime of male self-restraint and female subordination. Guernsey's view also implicitly supports colonialism and eugenics. Kellogg mainly shares Guernsey's beliefs, while Hanchett restricts his focus to individuals and couples. Though Hanchett writes that women do experience some sexual desire, his praise of the chaste, single life as well as his general reliance on Christian theology puts him in the same league as his medical colleagues. According to Kellogg, modern living also serves as an impediment to chastity, and he is reacting to social forces such as urbanization and immigration. Lower-class dating patterns (dating itself being a relatively recent innovation) allowed and even fostered a loosening of sexual morals, which, of course, invited the degeneration of the race as well as the wrath of God (see, for example, Polsky 1991; D'Emilio and Freedman 1988, 203).
Since in this view women do not really experience sexual desire or have much less than men do, they cannot actually challenge the sexual regime except by refusing to breed. Men, on the other hand, can threaten the sexual regime (see Gordon 1978, 62). Male desire can not only subvert the regime, it can also challenge an economic system built on delayed gratification. The seemingly simple act of masturbation presents a microcosm of the problem. This act, taken symbolically, represents a turning away from God and nature's plan for the sake of selfish pleasure. If amplified, it could undermine the self-restraint built into both the marriage and economic systems. The rhetorical goal of these authors is to reinforce self-restraint among men of privileged classes, to get the message of self-restraint to the middle and lower classes, and to bring immigrant groups within the sexual regime, which assumes that middle- and lower-class males as well as immigrant ones should be brought to understand the spermatic economy. In fact, variations of this belief exist in the literature until the revised edition of Van de Velde's Ideal Marriage in 1965.
If Kellogg and Guernsey fail in their rhetorical project, with all their threats of insanity and God's wrath, immigrant groups and the lower classes could potentially bring down the nation by creating generations of imbeciles. Men must be educated to ignore the call of sirens; Guernsey and Kellogg are, in effect, supplying wax for their ears. National survival is at stake, and the first turn fro m self-restraint to gratification heralds ruin. Thus, some of our late Victorians are indeed fixated on masturbation, but mostly for its symbolic importance as rebellion against God and nature's plan. Semen must be spent only in marriage for the purpose of procreation. Men want children in order to demonstrate their virility, potency, and power. Children are trophies of male power (both human and divine). Guernsey suggests that large families help move humankind toward a better race.
Lystra in Searching the Heart classifies both Kellogg and Guernsey as restrictionists. They preach restraint and self-control and try to intimidate readers with visions of death and damnation (Lystra 1989, 108-9, 111). Kellogg and Guernsey, however, share many of the premises of more moderate late Victorians like Hanchett. All of them agree that men need to restrain their animal passions, and most of their admonitions, if not threats, are directed at men. The measure of manliness, in other words, resides in self-control. Hanchett merely adds a stronger admonition for women, since in his view they do experience some sexual desire. Hanchett unlike his colleagues does attack prudery. All these medical doctors agree on the evils of prostitution. It saps strength, health, wealth, and self-respect and strikes at the family itself. Kellogg and Guernsey, of course, stress all the horrible consequences in great detail. They all view marriage as a divinely ordained institution.
Kellogg and Guernsey stress continence, but Hanchett does not differ radically. Hanchett employs a hydraulic metaphor for male sexuality, while Kellogg and Guernsey adopt that of a bank account with limited withdrawals. Hanchett's metaphor leads him to write that discharges such as nocturnal emissions are inevitable when pressures mount and that this does not necessarily lead to damnation or disease. He even endorses intercourse every three or four days. The bank account metaphor, on the other hand, leads both Kellogg and Guernsey to view any withdrawals as a serious matter. Kellogg, for example, recommends intercourse on a monthly basis. All of them agree that the vital fluid is difficult to produce and exhausts male vitality. Kellogg and Guernsey go further in viewing it as having restorative powers. The view they share, however, reflects more than common medical beliefs and includes more than a horror of modernity, as Lystra would have it (1989, 110).
Hanchett's assertion that women do have some erotic desires and can experience sexual pleasure makes him appear moderate when compared to severe restrictionists, but Hanchett does share their Christian worldview. The purpose of marriage, according to Hanchett, does not lie in sex or even reproduction, but rather in the development of character. This combined with his fondness for Pauline theology leads him to regard the chaste, single life as ideal. The celibate life leads to health, happiness, and usefulness and allows individuals to focus on the "Lord's affairs." Marriage, though appropriate for most people, is second best and fills one's life with distractions. Kellogg and Guernsey urge continence for the sake of male health and vitality as well as the future of the nation, while Hanchett endorses chastity as the highest expression of Christian love. None of them accept sexuality as a secular religion, which Lystra argues actually defined the period (1989, 249-50). In fact, all of them are reacting to this development as well as changes brought about by industrialization and urbanization. Guernsey and Kellogg dream of Arcadian times and in some ways are Luddites as they call for continence in the face of the early stirrings of modernity. Hanchett's praise of the chaste, single life puts him in the same category as those arguing for continence and calls attention to Manichean influences that underpin their shared theology. All of them neglect a specific teaching of Genesis: "For God created humankind in His own image, ... And all that God created was good." Guernsey and Kellogg demur when it comes to sexuality, while Hanchett prefers St. Paul (Jaeger 1961; Jonas 1958; Cochrane 1968; Voegelin 1968).
Though a Luddite and a Manichean in some ways, Kellogg also suggests a glimmer of a more modern truth: sex and gender categories are not immutable. Kellogg presents this in his example of the "mujerado" among the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. Men, in his view, can change gender and become women in that they desire feminine things. These "mujerados" can also change sex. Kellogg thinks this results from excessive masturbation, which causes the penis to atrophy. Of course, he probably considered this the ultimate threat to men of his time. Loss of self-control could make them women. This can also be read as an explanation for the existence of gay men. On the other hand, Kellogg does not suggest that women can become men. About ninety years later, Alex Comfort's Joy of Sex debunks all that Hanchett, Kellogg, and Guernsey hold dear, and twenty years after the Joy of Sex we find RuPaul, an African American cross-dresser, as a cultural icon.
Both Kellogg and Guernsey argue that God's plan works itself out in nature. This leads both of them to discuss grace as a divine beneficence that helps people overcome temptation and evil. Both find it inadequate. Hanchett also writes about grace, but he does not dwell on the theological issues besides noting that it proves adequate in rejecting temptation. Both Kellogg and Guernsey, on the other hand, find all God's stratagems that call humankind to salvation inadequate. Implicitly, Kellogg and Guernsey seek to amend the divine plan to make it work better. In their own religious terms, this is truly sacrilegious. They themselves are in rebellion against God—in Dostoyevsky's sense—and seek to improve on the grand salvific design written into the nature of things. As Grand Inquisitors, they substitute their judgment for that of God and become in the very act cocreators. They are more than angry prophets, as Lystra would have it; their books function as new gospels that call humankind back to the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Dostoyevsky 1957, 218-44). (For a similar argument, see Goerner 1965, 55-56.)
Less privileged economic groups in America as well as the upper class had access to other books that rejected the prevailing Victorian sexual regime. Aristotle's Masterpiece by [Pseudo] Aristotle presents a case in point. J. How first published the book in London in 1684, and it went through more than 150 editions over the next two hundred years. The British editions circulated in America; the first American edition was probably printed in 1766. American publishers printed the early editions as "pack books" that were probably sold by peddlers. The text was widely available in eighteenth-century America and informed popular knowledge and attitudes. By the time of Hanchett, Guernsey, and Kellogg there had been at least fifty American editions (Lee-Riffe 1992, 29, 38; Beall 1963, 208, 219).
[Pseudo] Aristotle, the author of the work, postulates different premises for understanding sexuality and demonstrates some of the threat that motivated Hanchett, Kellogg, and Guernsey to take pen in hand. Unlike them, [Pseudo] Aristotle uses religion as a smokescreen to disguise his intent, and the anonymity of the author offers even more protection from legal charges.
According to Aristotle's Masterpiece, sex is pleasurable to both parties, and women can even "have greater pleasure and receive more content than a man." The text teaches that the primary purpose of marriage is procreation, but also adds that a lack of sex for women causes ill health. Mutual orgasm, according to the text, is necessary for conception to take place. Articulating a piece of folklore, [Pseudo] Aristotle also teaches that pregnant women have the power to "mark" their fetuses by some "telepathic or extrasensory operation." Guernsey much later gives this piece of folklore a basis in medicine by holding that goodness and truth mix together in the womb (Beall 1963, 213 for the citations; Lee-Riffe 1992, 32, 34; Fellman and Fellman 1981, 9; Porter and Hall 1995, 48}.
[Pseudo] Aristotle recognizes the clitoris as the locus of a woman's pleasure and compares it to a penis. The clitoris "stirs up lust and gives delight in copulation: for without this, the fair sex neither desire mutual embraces nor have pleasure in them, nor conceive by them." It is called "the sweetness of love, and the fury of venery." Hanchett, on the other hand, does not refer to the clitoris at all ([Pseudo] Aristotle 1796, 14, 16, with modernized spelling; Lee-Riffe 1992, 33).
[Pseudo] Aristotle is aware of what will later be termed "gender inversion." He thinks that effeminate men and masculine women result from male and female embryos attaching to the wrong side of the uterus. In his view, the different sides of the uterus are gendered: the right side is male, the left female. Gender inversion, thus, reflects biology (Lee-Riffe 1992, 33).
These old, probably well-thumbed little books with their archaic English also point us to another fundament of the sexual regime. [Pseudo] Aristotle uses the term "yard" for penis ([Pseudo] Aristotle 1796, 11, 12, 13, 14, 41, for example). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, as noted by Lee-Riffe, the archaic meaning of the term is penis, but it is also "associated" with its medieval usage as a "rod or staff carried as a symbol of office or authority" (Lee-Riffe 1992, 33; Porter and Hall 1995, 50; Compact OED, 3850). Kellogg and Guernsey implicitly accept this meaning. They instruct men to use their staffs of authority sparingly and only for conceiving children, and in the latter activity men share in the divine plan. Guernsey, as previously noted, allows women more of a role than Kellogg. [Pseudo] Aristotle teaches that the clitoris is like a penis and that it produces pleasure, but it is still not a yard in the full sense of the term. Women, in other words, lack authority, and only [Pseudo] Aristotle and Hanchett, among our authors, grant that they can have any sexual desire. All men have authority and its symbol at birth; all women, simply put, lack it. A century later, theorists like Judith Butler will distinguish between the penis as an organ and the phallus as a social structure (1990, 1993).
The Victorians and Their Virtues
Victorian virtue envisions a combination of the Christian gentleman and the robust self-made man. Women, passionless creatures in themselves or certainly having less desire than men do, helped tame masculine assertion, and silence about sexuality in the home, church, and press enforced the code. If necessary, working-class women were available for sexual gratification, though this was never to be talked about. Thus the Victorian system acknowledged that sometimes robust masculinity would triumph over reason and religion and that some men would seek sexual release. Of course, this creates a double standard from a contemporary viewpoint, but assuming that Victorians, both women and men, really believed that uncorrupted women remained strangers to sexual passion or experienced much less of it, then in their view what we see as a double standard would be a realistic adjustment to the natural world or God's plan. The major challenge in this sexual regime is to channel and control male sexuality. Though Hanchett is the only one of the medical authors who acknowledges that women do experience sexual desire, Victorian women undoubtedly did experience orgasm. How, one wonders, did they understand this synaptic hurricane? How does a woman experience and understand intimate pleasures in a sexual regime that barely grants its existence and offers only silence in the guise of Plain Talk or Plain Facts?
Supposedly Queen Victoria told her daughter on the eve of her wedding to "Lie still and think of the Empire." Though much of the advice literature propounds the view that women are mainly passionless creatures, married woman, as diaries and letters indicate, did take their sexual feelings as normal and did not consider themselves "freaks, deviants, or even strange for having sexual needs or expressing sexual interest to men in private." As Lystra argues, the ethic of romantic love sparked a mutuality in marital bedrooms as sex became a "sacrament of love" that bridged the gap between the ideology of the sexual regime with its emphasis on purity and the needs and experiences of married couples. Middle-class marriages became less patriarchal and more companionate, while men began to assert masculine privilege in the language of romantic love and sought to govern more by consent. Romantic love in some ways became a form of secular salvation as the ideology of the sexual regime and practice diverged (Lystra 1989, 58-60, 228, 235, 257; italics in original). Hanchett, Kellogg, and Guernsey, on the other hand, articulate the norms of the old regime and reject romantic love on medical, philosophical, and theological grounds.
Despite the norms of the old sexual regime, dating evolved as a social system and premarital intercourse increased. A new robust masculinity arrived center stage. These changes, combined with other factors such as urbanization, the gradual shift in the economy from production to consumption, and the newer understanding of Protestantism as a form of gentle deism, led to the triumph of the flapper in the 1920s. In large cities some men became bohemians or even flappers themselves. Chauncey's Gay New York persuasively demonstrates that these bohemians lived alongside fairies and gays. Thus America had its first sexual revolution of the twentieth century (see D'Emilio and Freedman 1988, 171-235; White 1993, 2-15, 189; Chauncey 1994).
|1||The Late Victorians and the Spermatic Political Economy||20|
|Henry Hanchett, M.D.||21|
|Sexual Health: A Plain and Practical Guide for the People on All Matters Concerning the Organs of Reproduction in Both Sexes and All Ages|
|John Harvey Kellogg, M.D.||27|
|Plain Facts for Old and Young|
|First Book of Physiology and Hygiene, revised edition|
|Henry Guernsey, M.D.||35|
|Plain Talks on Avoided Subjects|
|Plain Talks on Avoided Subjects, revised edition|
|2||"No Gods No Masters": Margaret Sanger and America's Sexual Future||49|
|Women and the New Race|
|The Pivot of Civilization|
|Happiness in Marriage|
|3||The 1920s and America's First Sexual Eruption||72|
|Joseph Collins, M.D.||76|
|The Doctor Looks at Love and Life|
|Ira S. Wile and Mary Day Winn||80|
|Marriage in the Modern Manner|
|Robert Binkley and Frances Binkley||83|
|What Is Right with Marriage: An Outline of Domestic Theory|
|Ernest R. Groves||86|
|The Marriage Crisis|
|Marie Stopes, Ph.D., D.Sc||88|
|Married Love: A New Contribution to the Solution of Sex Difficulties|
|4||Sexual Eruption and Then Reaction: The Interwar Years||93|
|Theodore van de Velde, M.D.||93|
|Ideal Marriage: Its Physiology and Technique|
|Sexual Tensions in Marriage: Their Origin, Prevention and Treatment|
|Fertility and Sterility in Marriage: Their Voluntary Promotion and Limitation|
|Ideal Marriage: Its Physiology and Technique, revised edition|
|5||One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: Sex and Pleasure in the 1950s||115|
|Hannah M. Stone, M.D., and Abraham Stone, M.D.||122|
|A Marriage Manual: A Practical Guidebook to Sex and Marriage|
|Eustace Chesser, M.D.||125|
|Love without Fear: How to Achieve Sex Happiness in Marriage|
|6||Sexual Upheaval in the 1960s: Counterculture, Counter-Sex||137|
|David Reuben, M.D.||147|
|Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex, but Were Afraid to Ask|
|Any Woman Can! Love and Sexual Fulfillment for the Single, Widowed, Divorced ... and Married|
|7||Joy through Peak Experiences in the 1970s||158|
|Alex Comfort, M.D.||159|
|The Joy of Sex: A Cordon Bleu Guide to Lovemaking|
|More Joy: A Lovemaking Companion to The Joy of Sex|
|The New Joy of Sex|
|8||Does Pleasure Demand the Conjunction of Particular Body Parts? Gay and Lesbian Sex||179|
|Charles Silverstein, M.D., and Edmund White||180|
|The Joy of Gay Sex: An Intimate Guide for Gay Men to the Pleasures of a Gay Lifestyle|
|Charles Silverstein, M.D., and Felice Picano||181|
|The New Joy of Gay Sex|
|Emily L. Sisley, M.D., and Bertha Harris||198|
|The Joy of Lesbian Sex: A Tender and Liberated Guide to the Pleasures and Problems of a Lesbian Lifestyle|
|9||Another Reaction: Dr. Ruth Defends Marriage||207|
|Ruth Westheimer, Ed.D.||208|
|Dr. Ruth's Guide to Good Sex|
|Dr. Ruth's Guide for Married Lovers|
|Dr. Ruth's Guide to Safer Sex|
|The Art of Arousal|
|Sex for Dummies|
|10||On Penetrative Power||234|
|About the Authors||287|