In the mid 19th century many doctors were convinced that masturbation was a dangerous occupation.
At every stage of male development from boyhood to the decrepitude of old age sexual excess in myriad forms can derail health, lead to impotence and disease, and even kill. The boy who masturbates before puberty damages his nervous system, since sex always shocks the brain’s delicate tissues, but the adolescent suffers even more.
If the youth fails to overcome his “vicious propensities,” he will suffer “the haggard expression, the sunken eye, the long, cadaverous-looking countenance, the downcast look which seems to arise from the dread of looking a fellow-creature in the eye and a permanent loss of intellectual ability. In some rare cases, a boy will be so overwhelmed by his passions that he masturbates himself to death.
poor old freddie mercury
The afflicted youth should be “taught to look upon masturbation as a cowardly, selfish, debasing habit “and encouraged to pursue “manly amusements compatible with health.” If the combination of exercise and shaming leads to the cessation of the “evil habit,” the patient’s system will rally, although his intellectual functions may never fully recover.
New dangers lurk in adulthood. Early marriage is a good antidote for sexual desire, and it allows a man to fulfill his mission as master of his household, but even marital intercourse can be taken too far. Acton never quite said how much sex is good – presumably it depended on the strength of a man’s constitution – but he repeatedly warned that three times a week is way too often
The treatment of spermatorrhea seems to have been Dr William Acton’s specialty. He developed an elaborate course that began with a cessation of excessive sex and a diet that sharply limited meat and alcohol, but favored stale bread. Beyond sexual and dietary restrictions, Acton recommended daily baths, exercise, cold enemas, and a hard mattress. If this regimen did not suffice, Acton was ready with a more extreme measure: chemical cautery of the urethra.
Warning: don’t read this next paragraph if you have a weak constitution or if your name is daddypapersurfer
A tube was inserted into the patient’s urethra and a caustic solution was injected via syringe, all without the benefit of anesthesia. The operation burned the lining of the entire urethra, and Acton was happy with the results. “I very rarely have occasion to repeat the procedure,” he wrote. It seems that after one urethral cautery, his patients never complained about spermatorrhea again.
In Acton’s opinion, a penis improperly deployed is as dangerous as a pistol in the hands of a novice.