Compare Dr. Pierce's The People's
Common Sense Medical Adviser; or, Medicine Explained, (cover)
1895, Buffalo, New York, from Pierce's own press at his World's Dispensary
Medical Association: "Spermatorrhea' (loss
of semen without copulation, which usually means masturbation)
Trade card, "The Truant Boys," for Dr.
Abbey's book and medicine (1877)
The Sexual System and Its Derangements,
(selections), by Dr. E. C. Abbey, more than 87 pages (the covers and the
last pages are missing)
(1882; Buffalo, New York, U. S. A.)
Doctors in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
sure had their hands full - as did their patients - with nymphomania, menstruation,
but especially masturbation, which this physician
writer says directly causes a "great majority
of the ills of humanity." Dr. Abbey devotes 12 pages to it and
its cure - nymphomania gets four - more than to any other subject, including
tumors, cancer, venereal disease, etc.
But since almost everyone masturbated at one time or another,
he had a captive and guilty audience, and better yet, he had a cure for
$10 a month, which he does not reveal.
He regards male masturbation - the loss of the incredibly
important semen (he writes that semen "moulds
character"!) - as more destructive than female self-abuse, I
think because of the greater valuation of men at that time (the balance
is more even now). In the "sex" (gender) section, he writes, "The size of the testicles
marks the courage and determination of the man,"
a statement hinting at the tone of the book.
Interestingly enough, Dr. Abbey's book came from Buffalo,
New York, the city in which another great anti-masturbator, Dr.
R. V. Pierce, had a patent medicine empire. I don't know if they worked
together - mutual anti-masturbation? - and each sold his own patent medicine.
To be fair to the doctors, masturbation was generally despised,
and not just in America. In a back room of the Smithsonian's National Museum
of American History I flipped through an 1890s French medical supplies catalog
advertising restraint clothing for babies to prevent their playing with
their genitals. Sinful tots!
But at this time, the late 19th century, some American
doctors were using an English invention to masturbate their hysteria patients
(and some male patients). Rachel Maines describes this amazing practice
in her The Technology of Orgasm:
"Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual
Satisfaction (Johns Hopkins Press, 1999).
I can't imagine how these two opposite practices could be reconciled.
Enjoy Dr. Abbey's outrageous language, claims and cures!
The booklet is a gift from SarahAnne Hazlewood.
© 2000 Harry Finley. It is illegal
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