Satan In Society… God Kills a Kitten or two in the 1870s

I hold in my hand a 1974 republication of a book published in the 1870s, which was a “well-selling book” of some fame, entitled Satan in Society. Basically it boils down to an anti-sex book. I can not tell what the anonymous author, “A Physician”, decrees the most evil act which Satan is casting out over our fair nation, descending us into a state of moral turpitude. “Masculine women” and “feminine men” raise his ire — the “masculine women” being in abundance in the Women’s Rights Movement.  Prostitution gets a curt three pages, pithy and concise — only Christianity can save them.  Abortion is called the Great Sin of the 19th Century, which it may or may not be but somehow pales in rhetorical flourish to what the anonymous physician has to say, for two relatively long chapters divided by gender, about …
Viewing the world over, this shameful and criminal act is the most frequent, as well as the most fatal, of all vices.  In our country, however, it is second in frequency — though, not surely, in importance — only to the crime of libertinism.  It is encountered in all ages, from the infant in the cradle to the old man groaning upon his pallet.  But is is from the age of 14 to 20 that its ravages are most frequent and most deplorable.  Nothing but a sense of inexorable duty, in the hope of effecting a radical reform by awakening the alarm of parents and teachers to the enormous frequency and horrible consequences of this revolting crime, could induce the author to enter upon the sickening revelation.
And thus he parades through the victims of males onanism.  I never would have known.  I think they were hired as cast members several decades later for “Refer Madness”.  And then … the final WARNING to society:
The author has had patients from many boarding schools and has learned facts which convince him that in all of them masturbation is practiced to a fearful and most injurious extent.  In saying all, he means literally ALL without a single exception.  If there exist a single exception, it must be a boarding school of angels.

It was the case in every boarding school in which we ourself [SIC] were sent as a boy, and in our whole professional career we have never lost an opportunity of satisfying ourself upon the question of its continued existence. [Really?  Satisfying?] In conversation with professors and teachers of both sexes, from the university to the village school, these horrible apprehensions have been more than confirmed.  Let those who read these pages reflect upon the numberless instances, which must have come within the observation of all medical or lay observers, of youths who stood high in their classes, and ranked quite as intellectual prodigies up to or a little beyond the age of puberty, say from 14 upward — who suddenly, without obvious cause, became stupid or dunces, or losing their vivacity, seemed to fail rapidly in intelligence, and to disappoint the high hopes which had been entertained of them.  99 percent of these examples are case in point.

And with that we can skip to the other gender, title “Female Masturbation”:

ALAS, that such a term is possible!  (I don’t see why it would be possible for males and not for females.  But, then again, the section that deals with sex where it belongs — on a conjugal couch in marriage — and mind you, there is no room for any sort of mutual self-love there — I’m just reporting what our anonymous highly respected physician says — seems to preclude much of a sexual appetite for the wife.  If it were otherwise, she would be a nymphomaniac, I suppose.)  O, that it were as infrequent as it is monstrous, and that no stern necessity compelled us to make the startling disclosures which this chapter must contain!  We beseech, in advance, that every young creature into whose hand this book may chance to fall, if she be yet pure and innocent, will at least pass over this chapter, that she may still believe in the general chastity of her sex; that she may not know the depths of degredation into which it is possible to fall.  The rest of us, creepy old men included and probably especially, I suppose can continue on and enjoy — er — no, not enjoy — but… become really, really stern in the knowledge of this most important of maladies inflicting the body politic.

The moral symptoms are similar to those of the opposite sex.  They are sadness or melancholy, solitude or indifferance, an aversion to legitimate pleasures (The authors appears to be a bit unsure what the “legitimate pleasures” are for girls, but in the chapter about boys he passes by an interest in sports.) and a host of other characteristics common to the two sexes.  The condition called “nymphomania” sometimes ensues, in which the most timid girl is trandformed into a termagant, and the most delicate modesty to a furious audacity which even the effrontery of prostitution does not approach.
I think “nymphomania” has always been a transparent ruse, a reflection more on those who would diagnose such a thing than on the “nymphomaniac”, but what do I know?  Anyway… in conclusion:

We could give facts almost without number in our own immediate experience, and in reported cases, to show the prevalence and destructive nature of this vice among girls in our own country, but we forbear; the subject is painful and revolting to contemplate. […] We remark, however, in conclusion, that it is not sufficient to use merely ordinary precautions of a judicious watchfulness; direct and skillful interrogation must be from to time employed; at least in every suspected case.  The subject should never be avoided through false delicacy, and such lessons should be impacted on the dreadful consequences of the habit, as shall effectually deter the perpetrators from persisting in it.
I don’t want to be near that conversation.  We are instructed that if the girl blushes upon this confrontation, it is defacto proof of this — not the Crime of the 19th Century but apparently the Crime of All Time.

I don’t think it is possible to read anything in this book except with a mental state of a 13 year old.  But that has to be about the only rational response to Anonymous Physician of the 19th century.  Maybe someone out there can provide historical or sociological analysis examining such or such, but that seems just kind of superfluous.

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