I speak not as a moral fanatic but as a physician; and, notwithstanding the ridicule that has been heaped upon Tissot, Voltaire, Lallemand and others, for their so-called fanatical condemnation of the vice, modem medicine furnishes so formidable an array of unquestionably great thinkers who sustain their views that no writer need fear being found in their company.
Among the host of those who make masturbation a certain source of pkysical and mental evil, are Spitzka, Anstie, Chapman, Lacassagne, Peyer, Skene, Lewis, Moraglia, Winckel, Pouillet, Grüner, Gowers and Mackenzie, not to speak of thousands of lesser note.
Doubtless there has been much exaggeration, much willful misrepresentation, and not a little real ignorance, displayed in painting the consequences of a vice which is probably as common today as at any other period of the world's history; but when we find ophthalmologists so world-renowned as Hermann Conn, of Breslau, and Power, of England, setting forth a long list of diseases as incident to the effect of this practice on the delicate mechanism of the eye; such alienists as Sir William Ellis, Spitzka and Maudsley, recognizing its influence in producing insanity; and physicians of every country, and of every degree of standing, uniting in their testimony as to its deplorable effects on the nervous and muscular structures of the body, surely it is time to discard whatever hesitancy the fine-wrought theories of certain speculators may have engendered in reference to the baneful effects of a habit which human instinct, as well as morality, decency and religion, long ago united in pronouncing a most filthy, degrading and damning vice.
To say, as some of the apologists of the habit have said, that masturbation has no more injurious effect than excessive natural intercourse, is to grossly insult reason. To lend a coloring of truth to such an assertion the sexual act would have to be a purely physical one, which every tyro in sexual psychology knows is not the case. The sexual orgasm is bound up with such a network of psychical influences, that not even the act of masturbation can be performed wholly without them.
The normal masturbator always calls up the image of the woman to perfect his act; and if it were possible, which in some cases it is not, to induce the orgasm without such imaginative aids, the result would be both mechanical and unsatisfying. This phenomenon, alone, proves the abnormality of the act, its opposition to nature, and its consequent amenability to the punishment which, it would be exceedingly unphilosopbic to deny, follows every infraction of natural law.
Auxiliary to this positive and primary argument is the secondary one that, if masturbation "does no more harm, within reasonable limits, than normal sexual intercourse"—quoting an absurd statement only to refute it—no one will dispute that it certainly does less good; and if it does less good, how are we to evade the conclusion that it does more harm.
That sense of well-being, that physical and mental uplift, the consciousness of manhood and of manhood's highest prerogative, which follow the normal sexual act—even though joined with fear of a possible cowhiding, or a dose of clap—are absent in the experience of the solitary masturbator.
A roue, a Sardanapalus, a Byron or a Richelieu, may be a hero; a masturbator never. The latter may enter a cloister, become a fanatical devotee, a religious dreamer, a poet, but he can never become a famous figure in the broad field of the world's manly activity.
Thousands of men, I am convinced, fail in business solely because they are masturbators. Why? Because it is the very nature of the practice to engender a love of solitude, and a shrinking from the healthy human contact which is the very touchstone of success in every business; and because, for a psychological reason not easily definable, there is an atmosphere of repulsion about the victim of the habit, antagonistic to healthy manhood and womanhood, and which makes the masturbator what he himself has deliberately chosen to be, a moral leper and outcast from the great family of humanity.