( Originally Published 1918 )
IT sometimes happens that a wife will discover after marriage that she has a husband who is physically unable to enter into the marriage relation. Probably the majority of women are not aware that it is necessary for the sex organs of a man to respond actively to a nerve stimulation, in order that he may be able to perform his part in the marriage relation. If for any reason this stimulation fails to receive a proper response, so that the external organs are properly energized, the relationship becomes a physical impossibility.
This debilitated condition is what is meant by loss of manhood, and it comes as the result of excesses in one form or another. Every young man should know that he has no right to marry when he is in this weakened and abnormal physical condition. Unfortunately, however, men are not taught this. In fact, too often their physicians will advise marriage as a last resort in their effort to cure a condition of partial impotence. This, of course, is absolutely unjust to the woman whose welfare and happiness are not at all considered by a physician who gives such advice. So unfair is it, that it is recognized by law as an unquestionable cause for divorce, or rather for annulment of the marriage. For where marriage cannot be consummated, it is not considered a marriage. The woman who has been led into such ,a union is looked upon as having been deceived and defrauded, and has therefore a right to seek redress in the courts.
It is necessary to make these statements for the protection of unsuspecting women who, finding themselves in this sad situation, may think that they are bound for life. Not only that, but they may be called upon by the unfortunate creature whom they have married to permit unnatural practices, which he may hope will result in stimulating nerves that have refused to respond to the normal stimulation. Wives have sometimes submitted to this sort of thing be-cause they thought it was their duty. They should realize, however, in the first place, that they are absolutely under no obligation whatsoever to permit these things ; and, in the second place, that all such unnatural practices are rendering more serious the condition of the poor creature who has recourse to them as a last resort.
It must be understood that while this condition may be the result of a permanent debilitated state known as loss of manhood, it is not necessarily so. It may be simply a temporary condition, due, possibly, to the nervousness of the young husband at his entrance upon a new experience. It would not be well for the young wife to jump to the conclusion that this condition on the part a comparatively short space of time. Six months of careful adherence to the rules of health will often bring a marked improvement.
There are various ways in which this condition of impotence may have been brought about. Probably the most frequent is through the habit known as masturbation, or self-abuse. Because of the cloud of ignorance which has shrouded the subject of sex for so many generations, the majority of children are still growing up without any authoritative knowledge upon this very important side of their own natures. Their parents are afraid to talk with them upon this subject, and leave them to pick up their information from chance acquaintances, which too often means the acquisition of many perverted ideas. The general impression given them is that the sex powers are intended as a source of gratification, and that the knowing ones of the world use them for this purpose. Very early in life, boys—and girls, too—may be initiated into the sensations which may be aroused by the undue handling of the sex organs, and in time the desire for these sensations may become a dominating impulse and eventually grow into an overpowering habit. The victim of this habit is a most pitiable creature, for even though he may come to know how destructive is its effect upon his physical, mental and moral being, he seems many times to be almost powerless to overcome it. This is especially true where he has been allowed to remain in ignorance for years, until the habit has become thoroughly established.
Much that has been written in the past upon this habit was exaggerated. Some physicians at the present time are endeavoring to offset that exaggeration by going to the other extreme, and maintaining that, because this temptation comes to almost every child, it is practically a normal experience. That, of course, is as false as the exaggerations. It may be a natural temptation, but the indulgence in this habit cannot rightfully be called normal. It is an abnormal manifestation of an unduly aroused sex consciousness.
When a young man has been struggling for months, it may be years, to overcome this habit, frequently his physicians will advise him to marry as his last hope, never stopping to consider the injustice to the woman. Unfortunately, if his habit has been maintained long enough, he may find himself unable to enter into the marriage relation. If his wife truly loves him, how-ever, and wishes to prove what love and devotion can do, she has now an opportunity to help him fight one of the biggest battles of his life, with the result that his manhood may eventually be restored to him and the normal pleasures of family life made possible.
First of all, however, he must make up his mind to make no attempt whatsoever to enter the marriage relation for at least six months. He must put it completely out of his mind, so that there will be no mental unrest for him to contend with. He must also centre his thought and determination upon his ultimate aim, vowing to himself that he will not give up the battle until he has won the victory. He has now the wonderful advantage of a devoted ally who will aid him in every way in her power, and her very presence in his life will be of untold value in helping him to gain a true attitude toward the subject of sex. He realizes now that a normal sex life is one of the greatest blessings in life, that it should be looked upon with reverence, and that all prurient and lascivious thought should be resolutely put aside as unworthy of a self-respecting human being. He will discover that as he refuses to let his mind dwell upon those aspects of sex which in the past were to him a source of degrading pleasure, the impulse to wrong acts will pass away from him. Purity is a matter of thought, first of all. Let a man cleanse his mind and heart, and he will then find it an easy matter to gain the mastery over his body.
He must at the same time, live the most normal sort of life in every particular. Plenty of outdoor air, both night and day, plenty of healthful exercise, simple food, simple pleasures, plenty of sleep, cheerfulness and contentment in the home, all of these things will serve to steady his nerves and give him a normal outlook upon life. Let him follow the regimen suggested in detail in my book, "Manhood and Marriage," and he will be amazed to see how quickly results will follow. Especially advisable is it for him to avoid all stimulants, such as alcohol or tobacco, tea and coffee, and particularly those drugs which have so deleterious an effect upon the reproductive system.
In all of these efforts the wife can be of inestimable value. She it is who will revive his courage when he feels as though the battle were lost, and will inspire him to continue his struggles, no matter how discouraging the prospect seems. He must not expect to be able to overcome in a few days or weeks that which has been years in building, and she is the one who can give him the necessary patience. If she never loses faith in him, he eventually will come to have the requisite faith in himself, and this period of struggle can be made a means of drawing them closer together. He will learn the priceless value of a woman's faith and courage and persistency, and she will rejoice in knowing how essential she is to her husband's welfare. When at last the victory is won, there will be a mutual rejoicing in the prospect of lifelong happiness that opens out before them.
There are other causes for impotence, however, beside this abnormal habit. Alcohol has been looked upon as a sexual stimulant, but in reality it is most destructive of reproductive integrity in the long run. Some constitutions can stand a great deal more alcoholic stimulation than others, but, although the evil effects may not at first be so apparent, sooner or later their harmfulness will be unmistakably shown. A great many cases of permanent impotence may be traced to a state of chronic alcoholism. Even the lighter 'alcoholic beverages will be found ultimately to have a similar effect. These are considered comparatively harmless because of the smaller proportion of alcohol contained in them, but the truth is they are just as likely to do as much harm as the heavier beverages because of the greater quantity consumed. An added disadvantage in the use of beer and wine is the tendency to drink them regularly. The moderate indulgence in alcohol is the very worst form, because it is so continuous. Where the system is allowed to return to a normal condition after an occasional bout of drunkenness less harm is done; but where the body is kept constantly under the domination of this stimulant, the reproductive system is not exempt from its deleterious effect. By some authorities, beer is considered the most injurious of all intoxicants, so far as the sexual function is concerned.
The excessive use of tobacco has a most depressing effect upon the creative powers, and is, in some instances, the main cause of sexual weakness. Tobacco is sometimes prescribed by physicians in attempting to combat a habit like masturbation, because of its depressing effect upon the nerves. Such depression, however, if long continued, might result in a most disastrous condition. No man who values his reproductive vigor would wish to become the victim of tobacco, and certainly one who desires to overcome any sexual weakness should absolutely abjure the weed.
There are certain drugs which are supposed to be sexually stimulating, but it must be remembered that anything which overstimulates the nerve centres also tends to ultimate depression. For example, morphine and cocaine are supposed 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, prominent among them being the bromides. These drugs also have been used in many eases to check the tendency toward masturbation, and to excessive night losses. They may actually produce results in such cases, but they do so by paralyzing and destroying the sex function. In other words, they may "cure" masturbation and night losses, but it will be by producing impotence and sexlessness. It will be well for the wife to know that, when the depression of the nerve centres is desirable, it_ can be secured by means of a prolonged cold pack applied to the spine.
It is necessary for married people to remember that sex excesses, even within the marriage bond, will have a deleterious effect upon both husband and wife. These excesses tend to weaken and destroy virility and bring about a correspondingly weakened condition in the wife.
A temporary condition of sexual weakness may be brought about through nerve strain, due to a long continued state of worry or mental overwork. When a man is going through a severe business crisis, he may find it impossible for him to enter into the marriage relation, and this may throw him into a still greater panic through the fear that he has lost his virile powers. Here again the wife can be of a great assistance by allaying this unnecessary fear. Let her be absolutely assured, and then transfer this condition of confidence to her husband, that the apparent impotence is simply an indication of a depleted nervous condition. As soon as the strain is re-moved and the man is able to take a little needed rest, he will find that, as physical recovery sets in, his manly powers will be fully restored to him. Of course this condition can be hastened in its return through healthful living, and especially through a refusal to worry over little things, or even over the big ones. It is worry that kills rather than work. The man who lives a healthful life out of doors, taking daily periods of exercise and securing plenty of sleep, will be able to pass through any sort of crisis without such a loss of power. But if a man allows his business worries to remain with him night and day, losing more and more sleep because of them, he need not be surprised if he suffers a temporary col-lapse of his sex powers.
It is interesting to note that lack of sufficient work may also be productive of weakened sex powers, the whole body suffering a deterioration which affects all of the organs. In this condition, also, the mind is apt to dwell too much upon erotic fancies, which, overstimulating the nerves of the sex centers, may result in a condition of partial or complete impotence. Moreover, this sort of a life is also conducive to the accumulation of flesh. Obesity is seldom a favorable sexual indication. The man who carries a moderate amount of fat and is still full of energy, is, of course, as virile as any one need desire. But the man who has accumulated fat through lack of sufficient exercise is generally in a more or less debilitated condition, and that is not conducive to the fullest sex powers.
In other words, the man who keeps strong, active, hearty and vigorous, need have no fear for the loss of his sex powers. It is the man who is too indolent to exercise, who gives himself up to detrimental bodily habits, who allows his mind to wander in forbidden paths of thought, who spends the hours when he should be asleep in social diversions, that need not be surprised if eventually his virility leaves him. In all such cases there is only one way of regaining his virility, and that is by climbing the rugged path of self-denial. Such compensations will come to him, however, as he makes the climb, that, having once attained the heights of full manhood, he will never desire to return to the lower planes of self-indulgence.