A POPULAR ERROR.
I cannot omit definite notice of a prevalent perver sion of creative power, generally regarded as innocent, which is increasing the nervous diseases which are be coming so common in our own and other lands.
There are many sources of nervous irritation and overstrain to be avoided, and, among others, the one now referred to — onanism — is, for adults who are married, or have thoughts of taking upon them its grave duties, a matter of earnest consideration. I have previously explained that in the organization of men and women, the procreative organs, through the sym pathetic nervous system, are in the closest relation, not only with each portion of the body, but with every soul capability. It is for this reason that the life forces can be so easily and powerfully called there, and given to organize a new life. It must be kept in mind that this downward action, perfected, is the influence which leaves the brain and spinal cord quiet after the intense exaltation and the consequent exhaustion of the genesic act. If, instead of this downward flow of all the vital energies, a sudden check reverses, in part and frequently, this necessary order of things, the nerve centres are disturbed as by an intense double shock, and general nervous weak ness and excitability is the certain consequence.
The old Roman Emperor Nero, in his wretched slavery to all forms of self-gratification, after a fine dinner, would relieve the surfeit by vomiting, and then repeat his gluttony. There is this analogy between the action of Nero and the onanist, —both reverse the established order of important functions in a way which must soon induce disordered action and loss of powers. A minister and his wife, both
estimable persons, aged thirty-five and thirty years respectively, had been married about eight years when they consulted me. They had decided, pre vious to their marriage, to give themselves wholly to religious work, and avoid the cares of a family. To secure this end, they had resorted to the practice of partial intercourse, now so common that its crim inality and dangerous results are little thought of.
Both husband and wife were sufferers equally from nervous weakness and excitability. I have rarely seen individuals in good flesh, with no marks of especial disease, where such symptoms of nervous exhaustion were present. In both, the bands and voices were tremulous, like those of aged persons; both admitted great and increasing irritability of temper, and of the nervous system generally; and wakefulness, with declining muscular vigor, were among the marked symptoms. There had been no undue mental or physical overstrain, except excess in the perverted marital relation referred to, and I must not omit to mention the fact • that the sexual excitement increased with the progress of the ner vous unbalancing. There was good reason for the then late injunction, to give rest as fully and for as long time as possible to the reversed and fretted functions, and never again exercise them in any but the full natural way.
A life of happy, useful celibacy is far more health ful than a married life like the one just detailed, or approaching it in any degree. I am sure no result but evil to body and soul can result from this crime.