1857: Soft chairs lead to self abuse and idiocy, says doc


idiocy
Dr Gregory’s humble grave marker in Boston

Samuel Gregory (1813-1872) was an American physician who specialised in several areas, including obstetrics and women’s health. Born and raised in Vermont, Gregory obtained a medical degree at Yale, graduating in 1840. Eight years later he founded the New England Female Medical College, the first medical school for women in the United States, if not the world. Gregory was no champion of gender equality or women’s rights, however. He was simply a prude who considered it highly inappropriate for male doctors to be at the pointy end during childbirth. The business of delivering children and inspecting lady parts, Gregory argued, should be left to suitably trained women.


Like other wowsers of his day Gregory was also obsessed with sex and masturbation. In 1857 he published a short but pointed diatribe titled Facts and Important Information for Young Women on the Self Indulgence of the Sexual Appetite. Gregory’s tract drew heavily on other anti-masturbation hysterics like Tissot. The first half of Gregory’s book contained case studies of young women who, after becoming addicted to self pleasure, either wasted away or ended up “masturbating their way to a state of idiocy”. He followed this with his list of ‘dos and don’ts’ for avoiding temptation – and it was a long list. Foods that “stimulate the animal propensities” should be avoided, including tea, coffee, candies, meat, chocolate, spices and alcoholic drinks. Certain behaviours in young girls also needed curtailing:

“Young persons should not be permitted to lie on [feather down] beds, nor to sit on soft chairs, to which rush or wooden-bottomed ones are greatly preferable. Neither should they be allowed to remain in bed longer than requisite, or to lie down needlessly on couches.”

Doctor Gregory also blamed literature and the creative arts, which had the capacity to stimulate unhealthy desires in young women:

“All books depicting exaggerated sentiments must be withheld… Even the study of the fine arts may render the imagination too active… Music, being the language of passion, is the most dangerous, especially music of the more impassioned and voluptuous nature… Fashionable music, especially the verses set to it, being mostly love sick songs, [are] all directly calculated to awaken these feelings.”

Source: Dr Samuel Gregory, Facts and Important Information for Young Women on the Self Indulgence of the Sexual Appetite, Boston: 1857. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1791: Self-pleasuring shepherd divides penis in two


Francois Chopart (1743-1795) was a French physician and surgeon. Born and trained in Paris, Chopart became professor of surgery at the Ecole Pratique before his 30th birthday. During his medical career Chopart developed several new procedures, including facial surgery, skin grafts and partial amputations of the foot. He was best known, however, for his pioneering research into urology and urological disorders. Writing in his 1791 book Traité des Maladies des Voies Urinaires, Chopart described the strange case of a French shepherd, whose masturbatory habits led him to cleave his penis into two:

“A shepherd from Languedoc named Gabriel Gallien engaged in acts of onanism [masturbation] from the age of 15, sometimes as many as eight times each day. In time he would persevere for an hour without emission, sometimes only passing blood… He employed his hand for 11 years [but] by his 27th year could only induce a state of constant erection, which he attempted to resolve by introducing a piece of wood, six inches in length, into the urethra…”

Gallien found that inserting and gently pistoning this foreign object in his urethra enabled him to reach orgasm. He maintained this method for another six years until, according to Chopart, the inside of his urethra became “hard, insensitive and calloused”. Gallien was again reduced to a state of constant erection. Being “of total repugnance to women, which is often the case with masturbators” the frustrated shepherd had no means of sexual relief. It was then he took drastic measures:

“In utter despair he took a pocket knife and made an incision in the glans of the penis. This was accompanied by minimal pain but was followed by an agreeable sensation and orgasm and copious emission… Once again able to satisfy his venereal desires, he frequently performed the same operation, with the same result. After carrying out this shocking mutilation perhaps a thousand times, he at length failed. He then divided the penis, by a lengthways incision, into two equal halves, from the opening of the urethra to the symphysis pubis [base of the penis].”

Some shepherds have too much time on their hands
Some shepherds have too much time on their hands

Such a development might have concerned others but Gallien simply tied a ligature around his now two-pronged member. He also kept masturbating, “introducing a thin piece of wood into what remained of the urethra, titillating the seminal ducts and producing an ejaculation”. He persisted with this method for another ten years until the wood ended up lodged in his bladder, triggering an infection and requiring a hospital visit. Doctors found Gallien’s penis in two halves, both capable of erection. It was then that Gallien was questioned and recounted his tale of self mutilation in search of self pleasure. The dual-pronged shepherd from Languedoc died three months later from a chest abscess. Though probably unconnected, doctors attributed this abscess to almost 40 years of masturbation. Francois Chopart himself died of cholera in 1795.


Source: Francois Chopart, Traité des Maladies des Voies Urinaires, Paris, 1791. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1917: Mr Jones’ anti-masturbation overalls


1917: Mr Jones of Des Moines has patented his anti-masturbation overalls – they “curtail self abuse in both sexes”.

masturbation

Source: United States Patent US1215028, February 6th 1917. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1821: Hot iron and straightjacket cures self pollution


self pollution
One word: “Ouch”.

In 1826 the British medical journal Lancet reported a case of “idiocy accompanied with nymphomania”, successfully treated by Dr Graefe of Berlin. The unnamed patient was born in 1807 and remained apparently healthy until 14 months of age, at which point she was struck down by a severe fever and bedridden for almost two years. This illness took a toll on the girl’s mental faculties: according to her childhood physician she was unable to talk and “exhibited unequivocal marks of idiocy”. The patient’s deterioration continued until 1821, shortly after her 14th birthday, when Dr Graefe was first called to attend:

“He soon perceived that the girl had an insatiable propensity for self pollution, which she performed either by rubbing her extremities on a chair, or by the reciprocal fright of her thighs. From this time there could be no doubt [about] the treatment of the case.”

Dr Graefe ordered a three step treatment for self pollution:

“A bandage was applied, capable of preventing friction in the sitting position… A straight waistcoat was put on her at bedtime, and counter-irritation by the application of a hot iron to the neighbourhood of the part affected.”

In June 1822 Dr Graefe, deciding that insufficient progress had been made, carried out an “excision of the clitoris”. After the wound had healed the patient made a slow but steady recovery, to the point where she can “talk, read, reckon accounts, execute several kinds of needlework and play a few easy pieces on the pianoforte.”


Source: Revue Medicale, Oct. 1826, cited in The Lancet, vol. 9, 1826. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1839: Self pollution forces Mr Kinney into teaching

Published in the 1830s, the Graham Journal of Health and Longevity was a vehicle for the ideas of New England dietary reformer and social puritan Sylvester Graham (1794-1851). Funded by Graham and his supporters, the journal’s articles emphasised healthy living, vegetarianism and the dangers of sexual excess and self pleasure. Evidence of the latter can be found in an ‘obituary’ for A. F. Kinney, a 35-year-old man who died near Boston the previous month. According to the report Mr Kinney had “enjoyed vigorous health” in his youth, reaching “the full size of manhood” by his 14th birthday. Then he discovered masturbation:

“In consequence of his rapid growth, excessive labor, errors in diet and that practice which is secretly sapping the constitutions of thousands of our youth… his robust frame shrunk under the action of disease. HIs spine and the bones of the chest became greatly distorted; his body was much deformed and his manly stature considerably diminished.”

Kinney’s onanistic hobby rendered him physically incapable of labouring on the family farm. As a consequence he was forced to “turn his attention to study” and become a teacher of mathematics. Kinney persevered with teaching for 15 years, despite ongoing poor health, until “he was attacked last August with his old complaint [masturbation], attended with more than the usual symptoms of constitutional derangement”. His health continued to deteriorate and he was forced to abandon teaching. Kinney died in October 1839 at the Massachusetts home of Dr Alcott, an associate of Sylvester Graham. Genealogical records confirm Kinney’s existence and death, though the real medical reasons for his demise are unknown. As for Graham, he continued his campaign against unhealthy sexual urges, championing clean living, bland diets and the cracker that bears his name.


Source: “Obituary notice of A. F. Kinney, A. M.” in Graham Journal of Health and Longevity, vol. 3 no. 24, November 23rd 1839. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2016. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.