How Virility Is Destroyed
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THERE are two classes of sexual disorders in men, the venereal diseases or infections on the one hand, and the various sexual weaknesses and disturbances of function on the other. Through proper instruction and right living both, however, may be avoided. In this and the chapters immediately following we will consider the various special weaknesses of men and the disorders associated with them, after which we will take up the infectious complaints referred to.
The prevalence of sexual weaknesses is one of the most amazing conditions with which our civilization is threatened. Everywhere one finds great numbers of men lacking in the first essential of manhood—virility. To just what extent weaknesses of this kind prevail it is impossible to say, because owing to their private nature there is great difficulty in obtaining information upon which to base an estimate. Some investigators, however, after many years of study, have come to the conclusion that at least half of the people in this country are suffering from some degree of sexual weakness or disorder, either mild or severe. Naturally, I cannot venture an opinion as to whether or not such an estimate is correct, but it is probable that it is near the truth, and is rather an understatement than an exaggeration. The medical quacks find here a profitable field in which to enrich themselves.
In considering this lack, or lessening, of virility, often called "lost manhood," the first need is to understand its causes. If the cause or causes can be discovered in each individual case, it simplifies the problem of finding the correct remedial treatment, which of course must include the removal of these causes.
Virility, like health, is natural, and a natural life invariably means virility and all the superb mental and physical qualities associated there-with. Impairment or loss of virility is, in every instance, the result of an unnatural life, involving abuses or excesses of various kinds. The influences tending to destroy virility may be of two kinds, those which directly affect the generative system and those which indirectly affect it through lowering the tone of the entire bodily organism. In other words, virility is affected on the one hand by abuses of the generative system itself, and on the other hand by abuses of the body as a whole, as for instance through the use of alcohol or tobacco.
A point which cannot be emphasized too strongly is that loss of virility is not a condition which concerns merely the sexual organs, but one that means also a loss of energy and impairment of function throughout the whole body, involving, in most instances, a failing of mental faculties. Nothing indicates this more clearly than the difficulty of mental concentration in hard, sustained work that is experienced by those suffering in a marked degree from weaknesses of this type. The loss of memory that follows too frequent seminal drains shows very plainly the relation of virility and healthy sexuality to mental vigor. Accordingly those afflicted with such weaknesses should make every effort to overcome them not merely for the sake of an improved sexual condition, but for the sake of their general health, physical and mental, as well, and in order that they may. attain the very greatest success in life.
Remember that the generative system is not an isolated organism, something apart from the rest of the body, but is closely' related to every other part of it, its connection with the nervous system being especially intimate. I emphasize this point because so many are inclined to take a narrow view of the subject, not recognizing this relation-ship. And just as influences which lower the vitality of the body as a whole tend to destroy one's sexual power, so the special abuses of the sexual system weaken the entire system.
Masturbation is undoubtedly the first and most important of all the causes of sexual weakness. Not only, is it the active cause of trouble in by far the greater number of cases, but it is especially serious because it commonly begins earlier in life than other abuses. Owing to the importance of this. particular practice in causing both sexual and general debility I shall devote a special chapter to it. If this one evil could be eliminated it would save literally millions of men from sexual weakness and the generally lowered vitality that accompanies it.
Sexual excesses of any kind, whether within or without the sphere of marriage, tend to weaken and destroy virility. There is an old-fashioned idea that inasmuch as the marriage ceremony sanctions the sexual relation free indulgence therein between persons who have been united by that ceremony is perfectly proper. But excess is no less a crime against Nature because legalized by the marriage certificate. Whether within or without the marriage bond it is immoral, and destructive of sexual perfection. Unfortunately, as I have pointed out in some of the preceding chapters, sexual excesses in marriage appear to be the rule rather than the exception, with the result that there are many unhappy marriages and many debilitated men and women. However, I have already covered most of the practical aspects of this side of the question.
The effect of venereal disease in causing a permanent weakening of the sexual function de-serves special attention for the reason that such results are overlooked in most cases. Gonorrhea is especially destructive. Yet most people are accustomed to think of it simply as a local and temporary disorder which can be easily cured, leaving one's condition just as good as it was before. Even when the effects of gonorrhea in causing sterility—unsexing operations upon women and blindness in babies—are known, it is still supposed by the ordinary man that after the disease has been cured in his own case he will be through with its effects, and as good a man as ever. It is for this reason that I would emphasize the fact that if the disease has once become deep-seated, a man will probably never be quite the same after an attack of gonorrhea. A mild attack, which is confined to the anterior urethra, usually works no permanent injury, but where the infection has penetrated to the deeper structures the effects may remain even after the actual disease has been overcome. When the testicles, or their adjacent parts, have been invaded, the inflammation (epididymitis or orchitis) commonly results in sterility, as is well known, but this impaired condition of these essential glands is likely also to affect one's sexual power in every respect. Also by causing inflammation of the prostate gland or congestion of the posterior. urethra, this infection may cause varying degrees of weakness such as that known as prematurity, or even impotence.
There are some men who are uninfluenced by moral considerations of any kind, and who will not be frightened into good behavior by the prospect of an infection which they believe will cause temporary inconvenience only, but who would be keenly alive to any danger which seemed to threaten them with impotence, or any weakness tending in that direction. To such as these this question of the relation of venereal disease to lessened or lost virility is recommended for special consideration. ,
There are various abnormal and unnatural practices which are just as harmful as masturbation, in some instances even more so, and which may even be classed with masturbation.
Among these are unnatural methods of inter-course, which, if long continued, tend to bring on either impotence or other serious weaknesses associated with congestion of the prostate gland and other parts of the generative system. The most widespread of these practices is coitus interruptus, often spoken of as "withdrawal." This consists in terminating the sexual relation just previous to the climax, or moment of highest in-tensity. This naturally involves a severe shock to the nerve centers concerned and cannot fail to be injurious both locally and to the general system. It is debilitating to the man, but it is usually an outrage upon the woman. The relation, if entered into at all, should be carried through in an absolutely natural manner, resulting in the orgasm or climax being experienced by both husband and wife. If this does not occur, then it is devitalizing in its effect. Men who practice this method of intercourse for a term of years gradually experience a lessening of power, the ejaculation either being retarded or becoming more and more premature, and also develop a train of symptoms characteristic of nervous disorders as well as digestive and other functional disturbances.
Another injurious practice is the attempt to prolong the marital act beyond natural limits. The direct effect of this is to bring about a serious congestion of all the parts concerned, though it is probably most exhausting to the nerve centers involved. Of course the sexual act can only be prolonged by stopping it from time to time. Even then, if it is finally terminated in a natural manner, the result is not so bad as when the attempt is made to avoid the orgasm entirely. This is thoroughly unnatural and invariably harmful in the long run. Yet not only has this method been practiced by the members of the Oneida Community and by many others, but there are still some writers who advocate it, on the theory that by conserving vital energy through the retention of the seminal fluid it pro-longs life. There has been so much trash and nonsense written and thought about sexual matters: that it is a safe plan for the average reader to beware of any unscientific teachings upon the subject.
If one wishes to conserve vital energy by avoiding the waste of the spermatic fluid, then the way to do it is to live a continent life, free from sexual excitement of any kind. Or, if not a completely celibate life, one in which temperance in the marital relation results naturally from obedience to a wife's normal instincts, as suggested in previous chapters. To avoid waste of this fluid it is not necessary to practice absolute continence, and certainly there can be no advantage in achieving such an end by the sexually exciting and yet unnatural practice of engaging in sexual relation-ships in which the orgasm is suppressed. The harm done to the nervous centers, under such conditions, and the congestion of the parts will more than offset the fancied advantage of retaining the seminal fluid. If the passions have been aroused to the extent of demanding the sexual act, and if it has been entered into, then it should be concluded naturally.
Ungratified passion undoubtedly has a weakening effect in the course of time, and for this reason it is the height of folly—when it is impossible to gratify naturally the passions likely to be aroused—to persist in close personal intimacy with one of the opposite sex, with much fondling and caressing. I have referred to this in the chapter on "Love Making and Its Dangers," and it applies particularly to prolonged engagements in which the parties concerned take many personal liberties with each other in the way of ardent kissing and "spooning." An occasional experience of this kind would have comparatively little effect upon a healthy organism, but when it is repeated day after day for an extended period of time, it is weakening and destructive in the extreme. If the man finally marries, he ,will be likely to find himself suffering from prematurity or even more serious weakness. If passion can-not be gratified it should not be aroused.
Whether continence is harmful or not—a question which has been very widely discussed, with much difference of opinion—depends almost entirely upon whether or not one can live a life comparatively free from sexual excitement. If one can avoid sexual stimulation, it is both easy and beneficial to live a completely continent life. But if one has very strong sexual instincts and one's passions are frequently aroused, then continuous abstinence would not only be difficult but unsatisfactory in its influence on the general health.
To avoid sexual excitement it is not alone necessary to avoid the physical intimacies above mentioned. Erotic thoughts will do just as much harm, and after the habit of stimulating the sexual centers mentally has once been formed it is likely to be very persistent and insidious in its influence. This sensual state of mind keeps the sex centers in a state of constant excitement and the organs concerned in a state of congestion. It leads to prostate trouble, urethral congestion and irritability, varicocele, and a general weakening of the entire function. This habit can best be described by the term, "mental masturbation," and the fact is that after a time, as a result of its weakening effect, it becomes possible for the victim to induce an emission merely through his thoughts. Of course this indicates that he has reached a condition of serious weakness.
The general bodily influences which tend to destroy virility may be said to include almost everything that lowers vitality and weakens the body as a whole, and particularly anything that acts as a poison to the system.
Alcohol is regarded by many men in the medical profession as a sexual stimulant, but there is nothing more destructive of reproductive integrity in the long run. Without doubt its stimulating quality is only apparent, the result of a lessening of the moral sense, or the natural restraint which would be exercised in a normal and sober condition. Any sense of delicacy in behavior which one may possess is blunted through the influence of alcohol, and without doubt its reputation as a sexual stimulant is due largely to this fact.
Not only are the children of alcoholic fathers constitutionally weak, or prone to nervous and mental deficiencies, epilepsy and lunacy, but the direct result upon the drinker himself is a tendency toward impotence, greater or less according to the extent of his indulgence in intoxicants. It is true that some constitutions can stand a great deal more abuse than others, and in some cases one may imagine that the use of alcohol or tobacco is not doing any harm. But if so, it is only because their evil effects are not at first so pronounced as to be apparent, or because one's perceptions are blunted. Sooner or later their harmfulness will be manifested unmistakably. The fact is that in a great many cases of chronic alcoholism the victims are absolutely and permanently impotent. It is obvious that if the extended use of this poison will bring about this result, even a moderate or small indulgence must have a weakening effect upon the sex function.
There is a widespread notion that the so-called lighter alcoholic beverages, such as beer and wine, are comparatively harmless. There are some writers who even advocate a freer use of these as a means of doing away with the use of spirits. The "prohibition" movement in France is directed only against the sale of spirituous liquors, there being no hope of curtailing the sale or use of wines and beers, and perhaps no desire to do so. The truth is, that the lighter alcoholic beverages are likely to do just as much harm as the heavier beverages, because of the greater quantity consumed. One is likely to secure just as much alcohol in a large glass of beer, with its four and one-half per cent. of the poison, as in a very small portion of some spirit, with its forty or fifty per cent. of alcohol. It all depends upon the size of the portion. One great disadvantage of beer and wine is the tendency to use them regularly. It is known to life insurance actuaries and other students of the subject that the "moderate" indulgence which so many persons think harmless is the very worst form of alcoholism, because it is so often "regular." The continuous, daily use of alcohol, however moderate, under-mines the system and does most harm. Occasional actual drunkenness, with more or less extended intervals of complete sobriety, will do less harm to the liver, kidneys, heart and arteries than "regular, moderate" indulgence. And the same rule would doubtless apply to the reproductive system. Some authorities declare that beer is the most injurious of all intoxicants so far as the sexual function is concerned.
I know of no condition for which I can emphatically endorse the use of alcoholic liquors of any kind, though I must admit that some have been called to my attention in which it has been alleged that the use of wine and beer has been of advantage. In nearly all instances of this kind, however, the advantage, if any, has come from the increased use of liquid that was taken, rather than because of the alcoholic character of the drink, and in fact, in spite of the alcoholic character of the drink. As I have often said, many people following a sedentary occupation do not consume sufficient liquid. They gradually acquire the habit of avoiding water. The system needs an abundance of liquid. Such people should take especial pains to cultivate the habit of drinking more water. It is a good thing to have a glass of water standing near at hand as a constant reminder.
If one is in the habit of depending upon a mild alcoholic stimulant, and is not able to cease its use altogether, it is often a good thing to weaken gradually the alcoholic strength of the drink. For instance, if you are in the habit of using wine, make it half water; then make it three quarters, and in this way gradually eliminate the alcohol while you can still secure the benefit of consuming a considerable amount of liquid. I have known many examples where the alcohol habit has been broken in this manner, for after a while, one can dispense with the wine, but can continue to take a sufficient amount of water to meet the necessities of the physical system.
Many writers have commented upon the curious effect of alcohol in both increasing the sexual appetite and diminishing the capacity for its satisfaction. It is hardly necessary to do more than refer to the facts that rape, like most other crimes, is commonly committed under the influence of alcohol, and that the groggery and the brothel are usually found together. From this it does not follow that alcohol is a sexual stimulant, as I have already pointed out. The supposedly stimulating effect of alcohol on the sexual system is due largely to the fact that it first of all attacks the higher brain centers, thus lessening the power of inhibition, and naturally turning loose all of the most primitive animal impulses, even though the power of satisfying these desires may be either impaired or entirely lost for the time. On the one hand, alcohol causes young men to forfeit their self-respect and perhaps their health in houses of prostitution, young women to lose their virtue, and husbands and wives to commit adultery; on the other hand, it makes the sexual relation unsatisfactory, difficult or even impossible. Truly, no one can afford to indulge in a habit- of this - kind, whether the subject is regarded from the standpoint of morality and decency, physical and sexual integrity, or from that of the epicure.
I once received is letter from a woman asking advice in reference to her husband, whom she described as having been completely impotent for some years, though he was not over thirty. In detailing the case she referred to the fact that he smoked excessively, drank regularly every evening while playing cards, and took no physical exercise whatever. What should he do? It was no wonder that he was impotent. There may have been other causes for this result in the beginning, perhaps in the form of masturbation or excesses, but it would certainly have been hopeless for him to expect any improvement in his condition so long as he continued to use these narcotic poisons, no matter what treatment he might adopt.
Tobacco is one of the greatest of all foes to virility, because of its extensive use by millions of men. The effect is not so immediate as in the use of other poisons, but in the long run it has a most depressing effect upon the procreative function and without doubt is, in many instances, the main cause for sexual weakness or impotence. In all medical works tobacco is listed among the most important anaphrodisiacs, or agents for allaying the sexual desire and lowering the function. I have even known medical writers to advocate the use of tobacco in combating a habit like masturbation, just as they sometimes prescribe the bromides for this purpose. This is only corroborative evidence of the destructive effect of this alkaloid poison. When nicotine, the active principle of tobacco, is abstracted in its pure form, it is, perhaps next to prussic acid, the most rapidly fatal poison known. Of course in smoking one gets a very small amount of it, and the system is poisoned only gradually, but none the less the harm is done, and any man who values his reproductive vigor, and certainly one who wishes to overcome any weakness in this respect, should absolutely avoid the tobacco habit. Nicotine is a gastric irritant, it causes an undue flow of saliva, which is naturally a drain upon the system, it affects the vision, the heart, the lungs, the muscles, and especially it has a numbing effect upon the brain and nerves. No one can use tobacco freely and persistently and still retain steadiness or strength of nerves, and this is just as much true of mental keenness and sexual strength. It is true that many clever and capable men use tobacco freely, but there is no doubt that in all such cases they could do even better work and far more of it if their systems were free from the influence of this chronic narcotic poisoning.
Drugs and stimulants of all kinds are, similarly destructive to virility. There are certain drugs which are supposed to be sexually stimulating, but in the end they will be found to be injurious. Remember that anything which over-stimulates the sexual centers will only tend to exhaust them the sooner. Among physicians strychnine is a favorite drug for stimulating the sexual system in certain types of disorders, but some of the best authorities in this field are convinced that, strychnine is ultimately destructive to a man's potency. Likewise, in small doses morphine and cocaine are thought to stimulate the sexual centers, and yet we find that those who use these drugs habitually and extensively are almost invariably impotent.
There are other drugs which are immediately depressing in their effect upon the generative system, just as is tobacco. Most prominent among these are the bromides, but the list also includes potassium iodid, potassium nitrate, chloral, camphor, arsenic, belladonna and many others. In fact, all poisonous drugs and stimulants have a weakening effect in this particular direction, just as they are harmful to the body as a whole. So far as I know there has never been any ex-tended or detailed study of the effect of tea and coffee on the sexual function, but in view of the effect of caffeine upon the nerves and the general health I cannot doubt that the reproductive system is weakened to a certain extent by the extensive use of these beverages. The trouble is that the whole subject is obscure and it is difficult, in the very nature of things, to investigate it. It is well known that caffeine is much used by women, some of them drinking tea in almost unlimited quantities, and it appears to me that this fact probably has a great deal to do with the prevalence of what is called "frigidity" in women.
Some physicians have estimated that from twenty-five to fifty per cent. of women are deficient in their sex sensibilities, though it is impossible to make any definite statements on this point. Certainly the condition is fairly common. We must remember also that where there are likely to be various other factors contributory to this condition it is difficult to isolate any special cause, such as tea drinking. Yet in view of the effect of other drugs, and the general health-destroying effect of caffeine, I can see no reason why it should not act upon the reproductive system just as do other drugs.
And while we are talking about the effect of drugs in producing impotence or sexual weakness, it should be said that medical literature has much to answer for in this respect. It is true that the greater burden of blame falls upon medical quacks, but the fact is that standard medical works are quite as apt as the quack to advise treatment which robs the patient of what little vigor he may still have had when he applied for relief. I have had any number of letters from men telling of their experiences with medical treatment, and pointing out that after a course of medication, usually the taking of bromides, their power steadily declined, complete impotence being the outcome in many cases.
The use of the bromides is always to be condemned. It is undisputed that they are sexually depressing. For this reason they are employed in many cases to check the tendency toward masturbation and also to prevent excessive night losses. They actually do produce results in such cases. But how? Simply by paralyzing and destroying the sex function. If their use is continued long enough, they will "cure" masturbation and night losses by producing impotence and sexlessness. I may say that the better-informed and more careful specialists use these remedies with caution, and only when they find what seems to be occasion for reducing extreme activity and excitability of the organs and nerve-centers involved. When any pronounced weakness is present they will not use them ' at all. They know better. But under such conditions there is always weakness, and it must always be dangerous to use such methods. Besides, they are unnecessary. Cold water and other treatment will produce the same results. A prolonged cold pack to the spine will have the desired depressing effect. Many physicians, however, regard the bromides as established remedies to be used universally in sexual troubles, and prescribe them, in almost any kind of a case, with disastrous results.
Then how can the sufferer avoid mistakes? Certainly not by using the ordinary medical methods. Many books are now published upon the subject of "sex hygiene," and a large number of them are written by physicians. Practically always these books advise the young man to avoid quacks, but to "go to his family physician" in case of trouble. The "family phyician" is held up as an infallible authority in matters of this kind, but in some cases he is as ignorant as the layman. Don't go to your family physician unless he can treat you without the aid of drugs that must ultimately have a damaging effect.
The medical profession as a whole has never given much study to the subject of sexual weakness. For a long period venereal diseases were practically ignored, perhaps on the theory that the victim deserved punishment for his moral transgressions. But while as much attention is now given to venereal as to other diseases, the same cannot be said of other sexual disorders. The great reason why quacks and charlatans have been able practically to take possession of this field is that the reputable members of the profession know but little about it and have ignored it. Your family physician in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred will advise you to get married in order to cure a condition of complete unfitness for marriage, apparently ignoring the, fact that such an alliance is nothing more than a fraud and an outrage so far as the woman in the case is concerned. In some instances he will advise marriage only as a last resort, upon finding that his "treatment" has failed to benefit. "I can do nothing for you. The best thing you can do now is to get married." And a man is fortunate in-deed if, after a course of medical treatment, he does not find that he is infinitely worse off than he was before.
All this may be a diversion from the subject of the effect of drugs in destroying virility, but the use of the bromides is so nearly universal in the treatment of these disorders, and physicians are likely to do so much harm in this way, that it is important that the reader should be properly warned. The only safe plan is not only to steer clear of the more powerful drugs and poisons, but to avoid even the milder stimulants and narcotics. Certainly, manhood and all that goes with it in the way of nerve-force, mental energy, ambition, courage and its various other psychic characteristics, is worth infinitely more than the small effort required to avoid such influences.
All bodily influences of a debilitating nature tend to lessen virility. Anything that lowers vitality or weakens the constitution cannot fail to have some injurious effect upon reproductive strength. Nerve-strain, especially, has a weakening effect, and many years of mental overwork, such as is conducive to neurasthenia, may be the cause of serious weakness in the sex function or even of partial impotence. Naturally, we must distinguish between overwork and hard work, for a healthy, virile man, living under right conditions, can do a prodigious amount of hard mental work and still remain vigorous. Hard work does not hurt one. Under proper conditions it is the very best thing for one. But when it is carried too far, when the bodily health is not conserved by daily periods of exercise and outdoor life, when a man loses sleep year after year through working day and night, and especially when his labors are carried on in the face of worries and trials that involve excessive nerve-strain, the system will eventually break down, and virility will suffer at the same time.
Physical overwork is not so very common, and in no case is it so injurious as mental overwork, but physical overwork is likewise detrimental, as in the case of the man who begins his toil long before the sun rises and continues it into the evening. Physical overwork, or the daily and repeated expenditure of energy beyond the power of the organism to restore the loss, the continuous forcing of oneself to a state of fatigue from which one cannot quite recover, means in time the weakening of the kidneys, the overtaxing of the liver, the degeneration of the arteries and the premature aging of the various other organs. Men who live to a very great old age are usually professional men or others who have not injured themselves by working to excess.
Underwork is a condition likewise unfavorable to the highest degree of virility, for the reason that with too much loafing the body as a whole deteriorates, and all the organs suffer in common. It is only when living an active life that one can be at one's best. Vigorous exercise, or good hard work each day, both physical and mental, are highly desirable both for one's general welfare and reproductive strength. A great objection to underwork, too, is that idleness, in the case of one lacking in character, permits the mind to dwell too much upon erotic fancies. Also, in some instances, the failure to use the energy of the body in legitimate ways sometimes leads the idler to divert an unnecessary and undesirable amount of it to sexual channels.
Furthermore, underwork favors the accumulation of flesh. Obesity is seldom a favorable sexual indication. Fat often accompanies senility, and its accumulation in men previous to middle age usually means a loss of much of that energy and power both of mind and body that go with virility at its best. The vigorously sexed man is usually hard and rugged. There are exceptions to this rule, as when a man carries a moderate amount of fat and is still full of energy, apparently as active and quick and strong as ever. We have all known such men. But fat accumulated beyond this point, and accompanied by the phlegmatic tendencies of the obese generally, usually means a loss of virility. Keep strong, keep active, keep hard and vigorous.
Social dissipations, especially when they involve much excitement, are as bad as, or worse, than mental overwork. It is all a question of the amount of nerve-strain involved. Late hours and excitement are among the very worst of dissipations. It used to be thought that dissipation meant smoking, drinking and other immoral behavior, but one can be dissipated while doing none of these objectionable things, simply because one is wasting one's forces. Novels and plays of an exciting, stirring character, too much indulged in, have a decidedly weakening effect. The same is true of worry and other depressing mental states. I do not mean to say that a short period of worry, in the case of one possessing vigorous sexual health, will have the effect of producing any material disorder, but it is true that a state of worry and mental depression, continued over a long period of time, will not only undermine the health generally but the reproductive system as will. Sexual weaknesses are a common source of worry. Many cases of impotence are of a "psychic" character, the result of long brooding or worrying over weaknesses or mistakes of the past, until the victim is unable to utilize even such strength as he may possess. But the more he worries over it the worse the condition be-comes. This, however, is a matter to be taken up in detail later.
An appreciation of these various causes of sexual weakness will enable the reader to judge somewhat of the requirements of his own case. To know the cause of the trouble is half the battle. In most cases of impaired or lost virility favorable results may be expected by avoiding the causes of the weakness in the future, and by building up the body and increasing vitality. Definite results cannot be promised in all cases, for the results will, to a certain extent, depend upon the character of the abuses to which one's body has been subjected, and the extent to which they have been carried. Nature will work wonders, however, if given a chance, and the methods which I will outline in the following chapters have accomplished remarkable results in the cases of thousands of sufferers from these various disorders.