Nine Christian "Cures" for Masturbation

by Leigh Rutledge

During the Victorian era, masturbation was the focus of extraordinary anxiety among doctors and parents; "curing" it became an obsession. The hysteria surrounding the subject was fueled by righteous moralists who regarded masturbation as a worse sin than adultery, and by quack doctors who claimed that the loss of a single ounce of semen through masturbation was more debilitating to the body than the loss of several ounces of blood. One Victorian-era physician listed no fewer than 47 dire consequences of the act. Masturbation was believed to cause every thing from acne and epilepsy to mental retardation and death. Hoping to eradicate this "scourge of young manhood," parents subjected their children to dozens of torturous cures.


Recalcitrant young masturbators were sometimes castrated to annihilate their sex urge. In some cases, the entire penis was amputated and voodoo-istic doctors used nightmarish reasoning to console the anguished parents: it was better to cut off a boy's genitals entirely than let him go insane or die from masturbating too much.


Fearing that boys might masturbate in bed after the lights were turned out, some parents turned to pajama tops modeled after straitjackets. A boy's arms were laced into heavy sleeves that were then tied around the back of his body. Other parents gave new meaning to the admonishment "Keep your hands where I can see them," and simply tied their children's wrists to the bedposts every night.


These were expensive and complicated devices. A flexible metal band was secured around the base of the penis and then attached, with wires, to a small box on the nightstand. When an erection occurred, the penis expanded, and set off a loud electronic alarm. Parents sleeping in another room were notified that their son was on the verge of "abusing" himself - or of having a nocturnal emission, which was considered just as harmful.


Some physicians preached that masturbation was caused by constipation or by a build-up of unhealthy germs in the bowels. They recommended that parents give their children daily morning enemas with ice water.


Some parents had their sons' foreskins fastened shut with rings, clasps, or staples to prevent erection and masturbation. In extreme cases, the entire foreskin was sewn shut; only a tiny opening was left for urination.


Many Victorian physicians believed that the key to preventing masturbation was good nutrition. With that in mind, they developed a variety of wholesome foods specifically designed to purge a child's body of unhealthy impulses. The American physician and health food pioneer John Harvey Kellogg introduced a new line of such foods at his sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. They were called Kellogg's Breakfast Cereals.


Literally "the masturbation bandage," this was developed in Germany and endorsed by noted sexologist Havelock Ellis. It consisted of a little metal suit of armor that fitted snugly over the penis and testicles and was attached to a lock. The parents of course kept the key.


Cockrings with tiny razors or needle-like spikes on the inside were sometimes fitted around the base of a boy's penis to prevent him from attaining an erection.


"There is only one way in which a boy can ever break the habit of self-abuse," claimed the nineteenth-century sex guide, Light on Dark Corners. "He must determine to do it and he must be dead-in-earnest about it. The one supreme factor in the fight is a determined will. A boy can control his morbid curiosity about sex subjects if he will think on other matters. He can drive out the memory of old base pictures and stories and suggestions if he will simply determine to set his mind on the subjects that are fine and clean. And remember, there is no greater single means of help in the fight than to try definitely to help someone else in the same battle. It is wonderful how we get new strength when we try to help a friend break a bad habit that may also be afflicting us. So, pitch in and give a lift to the other fellow, for your own sake as well as for his."

(Editor: Honest folks, this is exactly what the book says, word for word!)