Our violently repressive, collective sexual history
Neither plague, nor war, nor smallpox, nor a crowd of similar evils, have resulted more disastrously for humanity than the habit of masturbation: it is the destroying element of civilized society.
- New Orleans Medical & Surgical Journal - 1850
"Scientific" declarations like these inspired Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (brother of the Corn Flakes Kellogg) in his campaign to eradicate masturbation from the United States.Though widely considered to be one of the leading sex educators of his day, Kellogg proudly claimed never to have had intercourse with his wife in over four decades of marriage.
As a medical doctor, Kellogg claimed the moral authority to instruct parents on the proper sexual education of their children. If you’re unfamiliar with the writings of Kellogg and others like him, their gloating disdain for basic human eroticism is chilling and unmistakable. In his best-selling Plain Facts for Old and Young (written on his sexless honeymoon in 1888), Kellogg offered parents guidance for dealing with their sons’ natural erotic self-exploration in a section entitled “Treatment for Self-Abuse and its Effects:”
A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision… . The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anaesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment… . [emphasis added]
If circumcising a struggling, terrified boy without anesthesia wasn’t quite what a parent had in mind, Kellogg recommended "the application of one or more silver sutures in such a way as to prevent erection. The prepuce, or foreskin, is drawn forward over the glans, and the needle to which the wire is attached is passed through from one side to the other. After drawing the wire through, the ends are twisted together and cut off close. It is now impossible for an erection to occur… ."
Parents were assured that sewing their son’s penis into its foreskin “acts as a most powerful means of overcoming the disposition to resort to the practice [of masturbation].”
Circumcision remains prevalent in the United States, though varying greatly by region, ranging from about 40 percent of newborns circumcised in western states to about twice that in the Northeast. This widespread procedure, rarely a medical necessity, has its roots in the anti-masturbation campaigns of Kellogg and his like-minded contemporaries. As sexologist John Money explains, "Neonatal circumcision crept into American delivery rooms in the 1870s and 1880s, not for religious reasons and not for reasons of health or hygiene, as is commonly supposed, but because of the claim that, later in life, it would prevent irritation that would cause the boy to become a masturbator."
Lest you think Kellogg was interested only in the sadistic torture of boys, in the same book he soberly advises the application of carbolic acid to the clitorises of little girls to teach them not to touch themselves.
- Sexual Repression: The Malady That Considers Itself the Remedy by Christopher Ryan
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