Chapter I – Sexual Health of the Male



Nature never intended that animal impulses should over-ride the will and the free choice of any individual man, that they should be masters and make him slave. Properly understood, sexual desires make a man better, for they call to mind his duties to society and posterity, and show him that he cannot indulge his baser nature, give rein to appetite and passion, and neglect his mind and spirit, without stamping upon some other life more or less of the evil consequences of his acts. Properly used, sexual desires lead a man into the holiest, happiest, and most useful relations in life, and give him a right to the name which God himself has chosen as best symbolizing the relationship which He would have us consider His toward us–Father. Let us then seek to understand the proper nature and use of the sexual organs.

A healthy man develops from his blood a fluid which in some mysterious way is capable, under certain circumstances, of calling into life a new being who, starting from an egg less than one one-hundredth of an inch in diameter, and developing in and out of the mother’s body for some years, will eventually and throughout life present unmistakable evidences of the source of the fluid which originated this new life, in the form of remarkable resemblances to certain traits of the person in whose body that fluid was secreted. This fluid (called “semen” or the “seminal fluid”) gradually collects in a small sac which it sooner or later distends, and by so doing sets in motion a train of phenomena designed to bring about its discharge, but extremely complicated and very imperfectly understood.

The mind is influenced powerfully, and either a vague instinctive attraction toward members of the opposite sex, or a very definite impulse toward the sexual act is aroused, according to the experience, previous habits, knowledge, or moral stamina of the particular individual. This mental impression reacts upon the sexual organs themselves, which thus more powerfully attracts attention to their desires, while their physical condition is automatically made more favorable for carrying the fluid to be discharged into proximity to the egg to be vitalized by it; a change of form and position occurring in these organs, that closes the outlet from the urinary bladder and arranges nerves, muscles, and passages conveniently for the emptying of the little sac containing the vitalizing fluid.

If, now, no attention be paid to the demands of the organs in question, the fluid sets up nervous influences which result in its discharge, usually during the hours of sleep, a fact which is of itself amply sufficient to overthrow any claims that the sexual act is absolutely necessary. Habitual and persistent neglect of the sexual desires will result in their subsidence and the lengthening of the intervals at which they are felt, owing to diminished production of the fluid which is their prime excitant; and eventually the accumulation of this fluid will entirely cease, but not till long after maturity and persistent repression shall have fixed the character and state in life of the individual.

But if, on the other hand, indulgence be accorded to sexual desires, only one right, natural, and healthful course is open to the man–that, namely, of joining in the bonds of holy wedlock the woman who commands the love of his heart, the respect of his mind, and who, recognizing that the sexual organs, so- called, by no means fully comprehend all the sexual functions, meets his advances actively with eyes, lips, breasts, limbs, and body as well as with the organs upon which her capacity for motherhood depends, assured that in so doing she is responding to the heaven-appointed impulses and methods than can raise her to the lofty pinnacle of motherhood, and give her children animated with the qualities which have called forth her love for her husband and given her a right to respect herself.

In this way, and in this way only, can the sexual instincts fulfil the design of the Creator. Any attempt to limit the act exclusively to the organs which false shame or prudery would ignore, and to deny to them their full dignity and activity, can only result in local excitement but little better than masturbation, save that it can result in offspring of a puny, bloodless, half-vital sort. Any attempt to give play to these instincts out of wed-lock involves contact with moral poison and physical, disease-breeding filth; involves the soul-consuming excitements of law-breaking, of sulking from discovery, and of spasmodic, irregular, and inordinate sexual activity; costs health, strength, wealth, self-respect, and virtue; sacrifices purity and the restraining and elevating power of a true valuation of woman blood; exchanges liberty for the domination of a creature too vile to be called a woman; barters useful citizenship for the state of the criminal sapping the foundations of society by striking at marriage and the family; and degrades the impulse toward fatherhood into a disgusting animalism.

Nor can these facts be too widely proclaimed or too much emphasized. The mothers and fathers of this land are too prone to nurse the flattering delusion that their sons are pure and innocent, and will escape the wiles of the strange woman, and hence the impressionable and teachable period of youth is allowed to pass without the needed warning, for fear that the warning itself may open the avenue to temptation. The idea is delusive. The danger of the warning is nothing in comparison with the danger of silence, which exposes ignorance to the inevitable, the positively unavoidable temptation the power of which probably few women realize. The temptress lurks and bides her opportunity. Rarely does she speak when a woman is within hearing. The whispered word in the ear of youth is her weapon, and what man would be likely to say to the woman he esteems that such a word had been spoken by one of those who have often every outward appearances of being ladies? This evil lurks and hides, and those who would fight it must neglect no safeguard and spare no warning. No man can reach twenty without being tempted many times -no matter whether he live on the farm, in village, or in city. For any mother to believe that her son will not be put to the test is the height of folly and blindness. But there is hope that he may pass through the fire of temptation unscathed if he be but thoroughly armed and equipped with knowledge of the danger and the way of escape, with principle and strength of character, and a high idea of his responsibilities to God, society, and himself.

The sexual act is an exhausting one. It takes hold of the whole body, and demands the best energies of every part of the system. It requires so much of nerve-force that it ought always to be followed by a period of rest. It is true that there are states of the system in which vitality is low while the impulse to the act is unusually strong, as is sometimes the case in consumption and with those who have indulged the sexual appetites to excess; but such demands are abnormal, and should be resisted precisely as should the ravenous, insatiable hunger that is a symptom of some forms of dyspepsia. No rule can be given regarding the frequency with which the sexual act may be performed. Men differ greatly in regard to their capacities in this as in all other respects. It may be said, however, that when anything more lasting or unfavorable than a temporary feeling of lassitude follows the act, it is indicative of excess. But the act should always be fully completed when once begun. With some men this is impossible by a single effort. On account of some idiosyncrasy they experience a discharge of semen almost as soon as they attempt sexual intercourse–a premature and unsatisfying result that should be followed in from two to three hours by another effort which will usually fully and properly empty the sac of its semen.

In this connection is the proper place to speak of the disadvantages of long engagements. It is, probably, too much to expect of human nature that two young persons should be very much in love with each other, and should have frequent opportunities of seeing each other alone, without indulging in sundry endearing words, looks, and embraces; nor has the author one word to say in disparagement of what goes so far to turn life into a poem, and put softness and sweetness into natures too prone to harshness and selfishness. But there are proper limitations for all things. No man can indulge in such caresses without experiencing more or less activity in the sexual organs. This is a matter wholly involuntary and beyond his control; so his body has been made and so it must act, whether he will or no, if he put himself in a position to apply the stimulus. Now this is well enough within bounds, but for this excitement and partial activity of the sexual organs to go on for months with no result will surely have a bad effect. Three months is long enough for an engagement, especially if the parties can see each other frequently. A courtship conducted by correspondence might continue longer without the same danger, but long engagements should be avoided where possible.

The diseases of the sexual organs to which men are specially liable are Gonorrhoea, which in popular language is designated Clap; Syphilis, which is limited to the sexual organs only in its first stage, and may even enter the system through other channels, and which is popularly known as the Pox; and Chancroids or Venereal Sores. These disease are none of them suitable for treatment by the patient himself, or by domestic methods. They should send the patient to his physician as soon as they are recognized. But a few remarks upon their causes, nature, and proper treatment will be appropriate here, and may save the sufferer from mistakes, and unnecessary anxiety. Many misconceptions regarding these diseases are prevalent, and result in much evil. Quacks thrive upon them, partly because of these misapprehensions, partly because patients are reluctant to have the family physician know of their existence, and partly, no doubt, because of the medical gullibility of a class still large in the community.

Gonorrhoea is an inflammation of the membrane lining the canal through which the urine passes after leaving the bladder. In women the disease has a different seat, but it is the purpose here to speak only of gonorrhoea in men. It is caused by the contact of irritating matters of a certain kind directly with this membrane, and many authors claim that the only substance that will produce it is the discharge from another case of the same disease. Be that as it may, there is a disease known as Urethritis, or inflammation of the lining membranes of this same urinary canal, which an unprofessional person would be unable to distinguish from a true gonorrhoea, unless by positive knowledge of its cause, and no attempt will be made in this place to distinguish the two. The enormous prevalance of this disorder, and its indiscriminate invasion of all classes of society, are among the most shocking revelations that come to a medical practitioner, and if known generally, would doubtless do much to break down that hugely false idea that safety for the young is to be found in ignorance on sexual subjects. Ignorance lends power to temptation, and temptation comes to all in some degree. For nine hundred and ninety-nine of every thousand cases of gonorrhoea are due to impure sexual intercourse. The contact of the mucous membrane with the impure and irritating discharges which are very common among women who submit their bodies to indiscriminate intercourse, sets up an acute inflammation which occasions, first, a tingling and itching on passing water, and later, a discharge which at the start is slight and merely glues up the outlet, but soon becomes abundant, thick, like matter, and accompanied with intense pain in passing water, and erections which are also very painful.

As has been said, it is not the intention to fully describe the disease or its treatment in this place, but to allude to some misapprehensions concerning it.

And, first, the disease is not always due to impure sexual intercourse. The irritating substance which causes it may be a discharge of the “whites” in the wife of the patient-a disease to which she may become a victim in the most innocent manner possible-or it may be the menstrual discharge itself. Again, the disease may be caused by simple excesses of intercourse, or by irritating discharges in the urine of the patient himself, as in some cases of gout, and the inflammation may result from accidental wounding of the penis by some mechanical injury. There is perhaps a bare possibility that in some cases the disease has been communicated from one man to another by the patient’s allowing the discharge to touch some article which was afterward touched by the private member of another person–such cases are, however, too rare to be worth considering.

Secondly, the disease is by no means a trivial affair. It is the most fatal of all the venereal diseases, and often results in permanent, or at best very intractable injuries to the sexual organs, and to the body generally. One attack makes the patient more liable to a second, and each subsequent attack is more difficult to cure than its predecessors.

Thirdly, it is not a disease to be quickly or easily cured, nor is the patient wise who takes his case into his own hands, who delays treatment, or who seeks the advice of either a druggist or a quack. Moreover, it seems almost unnecessary to remark, the disease can never be cured by “giving it away” to someone else. The patient who gets entirely rid of an ordinary attack of gonorrhoea in six weeks may count himself unusually fortunate. Many patients continue treatment for from two to five or six months, and strictures, inflammations of the testicles, bladder, eyes, or deeper organs may easily complicate the case and make longer treatment necessary.

With regard to treatment, as has been said, a physician should be consulted, and one should be selected who is neither afraid of local measures or so bound to them that he will use them indiscriminately in every case. In the four or five days that usually intervene between the contact, and the development of the inflammation, injections offer the most promising and helpful mode of treatment, but they are never safe in the hands of patients, are never admissible in the stage of inflammation, although they may come in again after that is passed and while a mild discharge–a Gleet–still persists. Late in the treatment, too, it may be necessary to pass steel sounds into the bladder once a week or so. The best medicine is usually the oil of sandal wood, which may be had put up in capsules each containing one dose, or the oil itself may be taken on a lump of sugar, ten drops, four times a day. The medicines wanted in the disease are numerous, and no one of them has a record of universal success. The treatment is very greatly facilitated by absolute rest in bed and the use of a diet of very plain food, chiefly vegetable, and absolutely excluding all drinks containing the least alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tomatoes, rhubarb, onions, garlic, strawberries, sorrel, water-cresses, asparagus, and even meats. An abundance of water should be drank, and of course, sexual indulgences must be entirely abandoned.

Chancroid or the venereal sore, is a disease which seems to be almost exclusively propagated by direct contagion in impure sexual intercourse, but the sore is one that can only be distinguished from the chancre or first symptom of syphilis by the careful examination of a physician, and even he is hardly warranted in pronouncing a positive opinion in all cases without making experiments and holding his judgment in reserve for several days. The disease is mentioned here merely for the purpose of informing those who may be afflicted with a sore on the private parts that it does not necessarily prove that they have that justly dreaded disease, syphilis. While a chancroid may give rise to much trouble and is the usual cause of buboes–those distressing abscesses in the groin popularly named “blue balls”– it is still a purely local disease, and when cured it leaves no blood-taint behind.

Syphilis, however, is a constitutional disease of the most dreadful proportions, pronounced by many eminent medical authors to be incurable, eating its way, year after year, into the very bones and marrow, making a wreck of both body and mind, and destroying innocent children as well as the victim who can trace to his own act the origin of his plague. Probably the disease is curable by long-continued, patient, and persistent effort, but it so often suddenly breaks out again, after the most thorough treatment has suppressed, perhaps for months, all signs of its existence, that one is disposed to doubt the reality and permanence of many of the so-called cures. But this is not the place to discuss the disease or its treatment further than to say that as its first symptom–a chancre–is very similar to another and perfectly curable disease–venereal sore so its later expressions resemble quite closely other maladies, many of which are of inconsiderable importance. Many a man has been rendered miserable by the thought that he was afflicted with the dire plague of syphilis when his sole trouble was a tetter or some other harmless skin disease. When in doubt, then, consult some regular, well-known, honest physician; tell him your whole story, and when you know positively what is the matter, it will be time enough to consider what has to be done about it.

Syphilis first manifests itself by a local sore at the point of contact of the poison conveying the disease. This sore may be so small as to escape notice, or it may be considered of no importance, for, as we shall soon see, it is by no means limited to the sexual, organs. After a time, which is extremely variable extending from ten days to even six months, this first sore will be followed by other symptoms of a superficial character. Eruptions on the skin and on the lining membrane of the mouth will be noticed, the glands may enlarge, the hair may fall off, perhaps the throat will be sore; and from this beginning the disease will go deeper and deeper into the body unless arrested by treatment.

Any discharge from a syphilitic patient is capable of communicating his disease, if it be active at the time in the patient. There are periods of seeming quiescence during which the poison of syphilis is apparently dormant in the system, and at such times contact with the patient may not result in the communication of the disease; but except at such times the plague passes from one person to another with fearful facility. A pipe or drinking-cup used by a patient may communicate his malady, a kiss may easily convey the poison and the kissing of infants born of syphilitic parents has done much to spread the disease. Of course the principal mode of contagion is in sexual intercourse, and thus many an innocent wife has acquired this loathsome and deadly plague from a vicious husband. No matter what the stage of the disease, it can be communicated in these ways, and it always begins with the local sore at the point of contact.

It will be seen from the above, that a person afflicted with this disease, cannot be too careful to avoid every possible form of contact with his fellows, and of course no such person, if single, has a right to think of marriage until he is not merely pronounced to be cured, but until he has passed a full year after his cure is pronounced without the smallest sign of relapse. One cannot be too careful on this point for, as remarked above, long periods are often passed without a sign of the disease, which will then break out in full vigor and proceed with its work of spreading a living death through the system. Syphilis is probably a curable disease but its consequences are so dreadful that no man who has the slightest self-respect will run any risk of contaminating the blood of an innocent wife and of causing her to endure the pains of child-birth only to bury only to bury her infant within a few months or years. The only way of avoiding such risks is by submitting the case to professional treatment, and when it is cured by still waiting long enough to leave no doubt that the cure is permanent before venturing to enter the bonds of matrimony.

With regard to the other impediments to marriage on the part of the man-impotency and sterility–they are not conditions that an unprofessional person could recognize, and therefore, no man should give himself any concern about them till he has secured the opinion of a physician regarding them; but of course no man who has any reason to suspect the existence of such impediments should contract a marriage without consulting a medical man. Impotency signifies a permanent condition of inability to effect sexual connection, such as might result from an entire destruction of the penis and such as does occasionally result from nervous causes brought on by long-continued misuse of the sexual organs or by disease. Sterility signifies a condition in which the fecundating germs are absent from the seminal fluid, thus preventing a man from becoming a father, although he may be able to have connection and to discharge a fluid which can only be known to be sterile after a careful microscopic examination. There are temporary conditions which are perfectly curable which simulate impotency, and these are magnified by quacks into an importance which does not belong to them, in order to frighten the ignorant out of money for worse than useless treatment. The important relations and the delicate character of the sexual organs make it necessary to put the treatment of their diseased conditions into the hands of the physician, but the advertising specialist and his false and over-drawn printed statements and insinuations should be shunned, and the honest, settled, regular practitioner should be frankly consulted and his advice confidently followed.

Henry Granger Hanchett
HENRY G. HANCHETT, M.D., F.A.A., (1853-1918)
Member New York State and County Homoeopathic Medical Societies ;
Formerly Staff-Physician to the College and Wilson Mission
Dispensaries ; Fellow of the N. Y. Academy of Anthropology ; Member American Historical Association,