stale bread and a hard mattress

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.


Published in: on November 20, 2008 at 7:51 am  Comments (25)  

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25 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I got to the first sentence after the warning and thought it probably best not to continue…

    ‘a permanent loss of intellectual ability.’

    From winking, is how possibul and lickly

  2. “Early marriage is a good antidote to sexual desire.”

    Gosh. I thought ALL marriage was an antidote to sexual desire. Just sayin’.

  3. Amen

  4. I’m certainly glad I’m not a mid-19th century male being treated for masturbation. None of the treatments sound like any fun. Although I hear some people are into cold enemas. But I can’t fathom why.

  5. Nursey, you have excelled yourself. This post had me laughing out loud from “Spank Bank” onwards.

    Brilliant. Just brilliant.

    Urethral cautery has a 100% success rate in eliminating complaints.. Deary me, I think I may have wet myself hehehehehe

  6. “In some rare cases, a boy will be so overwhelmed by his passions that he masturbates himself to death.”

    Oh, but what a way to go.

  7. HA! “Spank Bank.”

  8. recently had surgery on right shoulder- all now is left-handed. recovering nicely from sunken eye.

    les moore

  9. “…the haggard expression, the sunken eye, the long, cadaverous-looking countenance, the downcast look…”

    um… this is how guys look when they suffer from DSBD, aka “Deadly Semen Backup Disease”. i think the doc had it all backward… they need MORE spankage! i need to open my own clinic….

    daisyfae – you and I should open our own clinic. hey – that might be a way to fund our next holiday together!

  10. Masturbation is, once again, made to look like the bad guy when it is, in reality, our best friend. I don’t have to spend a ton of money on a dinner date, there’s no begging involved and I can go to sleep straight away. What could be better?

  11. Don’t shoot, sheriff, you might hit me.

  12. Makes me wonder what on Earth happened to these people that caused them to speak out against wonderful theraputic and life enhancing pleasures of a healthy sex life. These “doctors” mental health seems to be the issue.

  13. I missed the warning…I really wish I had read the warning.

  14. “Warning: don’t read this next paragraph if you have a weak constitution or if your name is daddypapersurfer” – well that made me read it didn’t it!!!!! – sheeeeesh

    Just getting the teeniest weeniest bit of soap or shower gel in that particular orifice is worse than the slight discomfort of childbirth ….. I reckon …….

  15. *splutter*

    ok, that’s it! I’m ringing TG, Fracas and 70s right now…..

  16. Masturbation is indeed a dangerous occupation.

    If you’re doing it on the back of the bus, anyway.

  17. “ring, ring.. ring, ring. Hello! .. Hi Nurse Myra…. how are you hun? …what? .. he said what?….Oh my….Yes indeed get the caustic solution administered & I know/you know not even an a ickle bit of soap doesn’t have the same effect as child birth….but caustic soda solution!!??!! 😉

    Yes I am sure it will stop that stock line ‘is that a gun in my pocket or am I pleased to see you’ ”

    lol 🙂

  18. “In Acton’s opinion, a penis improperly deployed is as dangerous as a pistol in the hands of a novice.”

    That’s why I like to have my penis deployed in the hands of a professional… when my budget allows of course.

  19. Dr T Szasz wrote
    A hundred years ago, it was big business to diagnose “spermatorrhea” and “treat” it with spike-lined rings. Fitted around the flaccid penis before bedtime, when an erection began, the spikes pressed into the swollen organ, caused pain, and awakened the sleeper, preventing ejaculation. For a glimpse into this aspect of the medical-economics of the anti-masturbation business, the reader may consult the facsimile catalogue of the American Armamentarium Chirurgicum [1898] — introduction by James M. Edmonson and Terry Hambrecht (San Francisco, CA: Norman Publishing & The Printer’s Devil, 1998) — which contains pictures and prizes of many anti-masturbation devices.

    More criticism of psychiatry at


    see item 96

  21. i totally disagree.
    everyone needs to have a safety valve.
    abstinance is a poor pressure guage.

  22. hi mark, nice to have you drop by again, haven’t heard from you in a while. I did a post about Item 96 some time ago but have never seen Item 94 before. thanks for the tip 🙂

  23. seraphine: You and I are on the same wavelength babe

  24. I’ve had two children – hardly felt a thing …..

  25. !*#%

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