One of the most pleasant aspects in the writing of this series of editorials on the social and sexual ills of society has been the response it has elicited from readers. Several hundred letters on The Playboy Philosophy come in each month from every part of the United States, and a number of foreign countries as well. We try to personally read just as much of this correspondence as possible, and the most interesting comments are published regularly in The Playboy Forum.
Whatever else they have to say, most of the correspondents are enthusiastic about the existence of these articles and the fact that a great many problems previously treated only superficially in the popular press are here, at last, being given full and open consideration.
Many who write, enclose books, articles and clippings on subjects related to those we have been discussing, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for this, for much of it has been quite useful as an additional source of research—giving us new facts and sometimes suggesting new areas that deserve attention.
A few weeks ago we received a volume in this way that is of such pertinence and interest that we’ve decided to devote this installment to a consideration of its contents. The book was sent to us by James Brooks of Homestead, Florida, who states that he found it in the hayloft of a barn. The binding is broken and worn, but it was obviously an impressive volume when first published, with a cloth cover and more than 500 pages.
The book is titled Plain Facts for Old and Young. It was written by J.H. Kellogg, M.D., and originally published by Segner and Condit of Burlington, Iowa, in 1879. It is a guide to sane sex life, as it was viewed in the United States in that period of extreme puritanism at the end of the last century. No amount of editorial comment by us can establish the excessive antisexuality that is our American heritage nearly so well as the statements to be found in this manual of love and marriage.
In the last two installments of the Philosophy (February and April), we discussed the irrational and suppressive sex laws of the United States, and a great many readers found it difficult to understand how such preposterous legislation could ever have been established in this supposedly free society. This book supplies the answer, for it documents the sexual sickness from which we suffered less than a century ago—many symptoms of which are still to be found in the supposedly enlightened society of today.
Before exploring the book, a few words about its author. John Harvey Kellogg, M.D., LL.D., F.A.C.S., was no hysterical, moralistic screwball, of the sort to be found in every age, but a highly respected, internationally renowned man of science, and the opinions on sex expressed in Plain Facts are representative of those held by a significant portion of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries.
Dr. Kellogg resided in Battle Creek, Michigan. He was a member of the Michigan State Board of Health from 1878 to 1890 and from 1912 to 1916. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American College of Surgeons, Royal Society of Medicine in England, and the National Geographic Society. He was a member of the American Public Health Association, the superintendent of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, and the founder and president emeritus of Battle Creek College. On his death in December 1943, at the age of 91, he received tributes from Herbert Hoover, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Senator Vandenberg and Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy.
Dr. Kellogg was a prolific writer, producing more than 50 books in his lifetime, two of which had a circulation of over a million copies each; Plain Facts is listed in his obituary as one of the more important works. He wrote physiology texts that were used in public schools and founded and edited Good Health magazine. The good doctor was a health evangelist and a vegetarian, who was strongly opposed to the use of tobacco and alcohol. As we shall see, he was also strongly opposed to the use of sex.
With Dr. Kellogg’s avowed avoidance of so many earthly pleasures, even if he had not lived for nearly a century, it probably would have seemed that long. In abstaining from meat, tobacco, whiskey and women, the doctor must have had a lot of spare time on his hands and he apparently spent it in research. He is credited with the invention of corn flakes and peanut butter.
In a preface to Plain Facts for Old and Young, the author indicates that the purpose of the book is “to dispel the gross ignorance which almost universally prevails” regarding sex. Which, after a perusal of the volume’s contents, might seem intended as a bit of wry humor. In simple fact, the entire book would be outrageously funny if we gave no thought to the countless thousands who, in their search for some thoughtful, authoritative, helpful and humane words on the problems of sex, turned to this tome of ignorant gobbledygook and, believing what they read, suffered for a lifetime from the misunderstanding, guilt and shame of their own natural sexuality.
The copy of the book in our possession is not the first edition, and the author comments in the preface on the “warm reception” it had already received from both public and press: “The cordial reception which the work has met from the press everywhere has undoubtedly contributed in great measure to its popularity. The demand for the work has exhausted several editions in rapid succession, and has seemed to require its preparation in greatly enlarged and in every way improved form in which it now appears. The addition of two whole chapters for the purpose of bringing the subject directly before the minds of boys and girls in a proper manner, adds greatly to the interest and value of the work, as there seemed to be a slight deficiency in this particular in the former editions.”
Index to Sexual Enlightenment
Having been reassured in the introduction that the slight deficiency in former editions had been corrected in this one, we turned to the index. For a book devoted to the development of a happier, healthier sex life, authored by an eminent man of science, the subject headings are something less than reassuring. They include: Abortion…Afterbirth…Amaurosis…Amenorrhea…Antediluvian wickedness…Bad books…Bad company…Bad language…Balls, demoralizing influence of…Beer, evil effects of…Birth, changes at…Bladder, irritation of…Boarding-schools, danger of…Brain, male and female…Breasts, atrophy of the…Breath, causes of foul…Castration…Cider, evil effects of…Clitoris…Coitus…Colds, how to prevent…Cunjugal onanism…Constipation… Consumption…Continence…Copulation…Courtship…Criminality, hereditary…Dancing… Daydreams…Diet, influence on chastity…Divorce, loose laws on…Dozing, danger of…Dreams, how to control…Dress and sensuality…Dress reform…Drinks, stimulating…Drugs…Dwarfs… Dypepsia…Egypt a hot-bed of vice…Electricity…Epilepsy…Eyes, weakness of…Female organs…Fetus, respiration of…Filthy dreams…Filthy talkers…Flirtation, evils of…Flowers, polygamous…Foods, stimulating…Girls, how ruined…Gluttony…Heart disease… Hermaphrodism…Hymen…Hysteria…Idiocy, cause of…Idleness…Ignorance…Imbecility… Impotence…Infantcide…Insanity…Internal emissions…Intestinal worms…Labia, the…Labor… Libidinous blood…Licentiousness, results of…Literature, poisonous…Male organs…Mammary glands…Marital excesses…Marriage…Marriage, of cousins, of criminals, of paupers… Masturbation, prevention of, effects on females, effects on offspring…Menopause, the… Menstruation…Moderation…Modesty…Monsters…Mormonism…Navel, the…Nervous diseases…Nocturnal emissions…Novel-reading…Nursing…Nympomania…Obscene books… Obscenity…Ovary…Ovum…Paralysis…Passion, inherited…Penis, the…Pernicious books, influence of…Pictures, vile…Piles…Pimples…Poisonous literature…Polyandry…Polygamy… Precocity, sexual…Pregnancy…Prostate gland…Prostitution…Puberty…Quacks…Race degeneration, cause of…Religion, help of…Religious novels…Reproduction…Reproduction in the honey bee…Satyriasis…Scrotum, the…Secret Vice, evidences of, prevalence of, terrible effects of…Self-abuse, causes of, effects of, the signs of, results of, treatment of…Self-pollution…Seminal fluid, the…Senility…Sentimental literature, influence of…Sentimental young women…Sexual activity, the limit of…Social lepers, evil of, causes of, cure of…Solitary vice, alarming prevalence of, unsuspected cause of…Sterility…Suicide, cause of…Tea and coffee…Testicles…Thoughts, evil…Throat disease, cause of…Tobacco…Twins…Urinary disease…Vagina, the…Vision, dimness of…Waltz, the, its sensuality…Weak backs…Wine, evil effects of…Woman, servitude of… and, concluding the index on an upbeat note, Womb, cancer of the.
The Prevention of Puberty
In the very first chapter of his book, Dr. Kellogg establishes that he knew a good deal more about corn flakes than sex. After a brief description about the sex lives of plants and animals, with disappointingly little moralizing on the promiscuous behavior of the bees and flowers, he concludes that people are really grown-up plants: “In short, men and women are blossoms in a strictly scientific sense.” (Though he offers no explanation as to why some of us turn out to be snapdragons and others pansies.) There follows a scientifically accurate description of the structure and function of the human reproductive organs, and an explanation of fecundation, gestation and parturition, with the natural pain of childbirth caused, according to this eminent physician, by Original Sin in the Garden of Eden and the degeneracy of modern civilization: “Although the curse pronounced upon the feminine part of the race, in consequence of the sin of Eve, involves suffering in the parturient act, yet there is no doubt that the greater share of the daughters of Eve are, through the perverting and degenerating influences of wrong habits and especially of modern civilization, compelled to suffer many times more than their maternal ancestor.”
The arrival of puberty is viewed with something other than pleasure by Dr. Kellogg and he advises avoiding it as long as possible: “Habits of vigorous physical exercise tend to delay the access of puberty. For this reason, together with others, country boys and girls generally mature later than those living in the city by several months, and even a year or two. Anything that tends to excite the emotions hastens puberty. The excitements of city life, parties, balls, theaters, even the competition of students in school, and the various causes of excitement to the nervous system which occur in city life, have a tendency to hasten the occurrence of the change which awakens the sexual activities of the system into life. Hence, these influences cannot but be considered prejudicial to the best interests of the individual, mentally, morally, and physically, since it in every way desirable that a change which arouses the passions and gives to them greater intensity should be delayed rather than hastened.” (We must grudgingly admit that that is the most original argument we’ve ever heard for keeping ‘em down on the farm.) In addition to getting the hell out of the city, Dr. Kellogg indicates that diet can play an important part in delaying puberty and he advises against “stimulating food, such as pepper, vinegar, mustard, spices, and the condiments generally, together with tea and coffee, and an excess of animal food [meat].”
The doctor states that “in girls the occurrence of puberty is earlier in brunettes than in blondes"—a fact that the Clairol people have obviously failed to take into account, with their presumptuous advertising claim that blondes have more fun. The doctor adds: "In Jews the change is commonly a year or two in advance of other nationalities in this country. It also occurs somewhat sooner in Negroes and Creoles than in white persons….”
Dr. Kellogg dramatizes the importance of putting off puberty just as long as possible with this topper: “A fact which is of too great importance to allow to pass unnoticed is that whatever occasions early or premature sexual development also occasions premature decay. Females in whom puberty occurs at the age of ten or 12, by the time the age is doubled, are shriveled and wrinkled with age. At the time when they should be in their prime of health and beauty, they are prematurely old and broken. Those women who mature late retain their beauty and their strength many years after their precocious sister have become old, decrepit and broken down.” How’s that to scare the bejesus out of a youngster just entering into adolescence—a little item to make any boy or girl fear the arrival of the first signs of sexual maturity?!
And just where did kindly Doc Kellogg get this fascinating hypothesis, that he offers to “old and young” as statement of undisputed fact? Why, he made it up, of course. In actual fact, whatever correlation there may be between sexual precocity and the aging process operates as just the reverse of what Kellogg suggests. And in its extensive study of the sexual patterns of American males and females, the Institute for Sex Research of Indiana University found that those who are sexually precocious are also more inclined than the average to remain sexually active in the latter years of life. There is a considerable difference in the innate sex drives of various individuals, and it is the person with the weakest drive who is apt to reach sexual maturity latest and become sexually impotent earliest, as well as being less inclined to overall physical vigor and, therefore, more likely to succumb to the ravages of old age and senility.
Dr. Kellogg says, regarding sexual interests prior to puberty: “If raised strictly in accordance with natural law, children would have no sexual notions or feelings before the occurrence of puberty. No prurient speculation about sexual matters would enter their heads. Until that period, the reproductive system would lie dormant in its undeveloped state. No other feeling should be exhibited between the sexes than that brotherly and sisterly affection which is so admirable and becoming.” When sexual interests were observed in the young, Kellogg explained them as unnatural perversions caused by improper upbringing.
At the very same time that the doctor of Battle Creek, Michigan, was expounding these views, another doctor in Vienna named Sigmund Freud was beginning his study of human behavior that established the existence of natural sexuality in the youngest infants.
Chastity and Continence
Dr. Kellogg devotes a chapter apiece to chastity and continence and makes clear his conviction that all manner of ills will befall those of either sex, whose surrender to the desires of the flesh, who even think about surrendering.
“Mental unchastity” is, according to Kellogg, as serious as the act itself: “Though [a man] may never have committed an overt act of unchastity, if he cannot pass a handsome female in the street without, in imagination, approaching the secrets of her person, he is but one grade above the open libertine, and is truly unchaste as the veriest debauchee.
"Man may not see these mental adulteries, he may not perceive these filthy imaginings; but One sees and notes them. They leave their hideous scars upon the soul. They soil and mar the mind; and as the record of each day of life is photographed upon the books in Heaven, they each appear in bold relief, in all their innate hideousness.
"O purity! How rare a virtue! How rare to find a face which shows no trace of sensuality!
"Foul thoughts, once allowed to enter the mind, stick like the leprosy. They corrode, contaminate, and infect like the pestilence; naught but Almighty power can deliver from the bondage of concupiscence a soul once infected by this foul blight, this moral contagium.”
Kellogg warns his readers of the outcome of improper daydreams: “Those lascivious daydreams and amorous reveries, in which young people—and especially the voluptuous, and the sedentary and the nervous—are exceedingly apt to indulge, are often the sources of general debility, effeminacy, disordered functions, premature disease, and even premature death, without the actual exercise of the genital organs!”
The author discusses, in some detail, the causes of unchastity in modern civilization, which include:
Hereditary Predisposition—"A child conceived in lust can no more be chaste by nature than a Negro can be a Caucasian.“
Improper Upbringing—"The sexes should be carefully separated from each other at least as early as four or five years of age, under all circumstances which could afford opportunity for observing the physical differences of the sexes, or in any way to serve to excite those passions which at this tender age should be wholly dormant.”
Improper Diet—"Flesh, condiments, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate, and all stimulants have a powerful influence directly upon the reproductive organs. They increase the local supply of blood, and through nervous sympathy with the brain, the passions are aroused. Overeating, eating between meals, hasty eating, eating indigestible articles of food, late suppers, react upon the sexual organs with the utmost certainty.“
Clerical Impropriety—"Our most profound disgust is justly excited when we hear of laxity of morals in a clergyman…. But when we consider how these ministers are fed, we cannot suppress a momentary disposition to excuse, in some degree, their fault. When the minister goes out to tea, he is served with the richest cake, the choicest jellies, the most pungent sauces, and the finest of fine-flour bread-stuffs. Little does the indulgent hostess dream that she is ministering to the inflammation of passions which may peril the virtue of her daughter, or even her own. Salacity once aroused, even in a minister, allows no room for reason or for conscience.”
Tobacco—"Few are aware of the influence upon morals exerted by that filthy habit, tobacco-using. When acquired early, it excites the underdeveloped organs, arouses the passions, and in a few years converts the once chaste and pure youth into a veritable volcano of lust, belching out from its inner fires of passion torrents of obscenity and the sulphurous fumes of lasciviousness. If long-continued, the final effect of tobacco is emasculine; but this is only the necessary consequence of previous super-excitation.“
Bad Books—"Another potent enemy of virtue is the obscene literature which has flooded the land for many years. Circulated by secret agencies, these books have found their way into the most secluded districts. Nearly every large school contains one of these emissaries of evil men and their Satanic master. Largely through the influence of Mr. [Anthony] Comstock, laws have been enacted which promise to do much toward checking this extensive evil, or at least causing it to make itself less prominent…. It is a painful fact however, that the total annihilation of every foul book which the law can reach will not affect the cure of this evil, for our modern literature is full of the same virus. It is necessarily presented in less grossly revolting forms, half concealed by beautiful imagery, or embellished by wit; but yet, there it is, and no law can reach it. The works of our standard authors in literature abound in lubricity. Popular novels have doubtless done more to arouse a prurient curiosity in the young, and to excite and foster passion and immorality, than even the obscene literature for the suppression of which such active measures have recently been taken. The more exquisitely painted the scenes of vice, the more dangerously enticing. Novel-reading has led thousands to lives of dissoluteness.”
Idleness—"To maintain purity, the mind must be occupied. If left without occupation, the vacuity is quickly filled with unchaste thoughts.“
Fashion—The fashionable dress of the women of the day leads to unchastity in two ways, according to Dr. Kellogg: "1. By its extravagance; 2. By its abuse of the body.” The latter, he notes, may “produce permanent local congestions, with ovarian and uterine derangements. These affections have long been recognized as the chief pathological condition in hysteria, and especially in that peculiar form of disease known as nymphomania, under the excitement of which a young woman, naturally chaste and modest, may be impelled to the commission of the most wanton acts. The pernicious influence of fashionable dress in occasioning this disorder cannot be doubted.”
Dancing - “In addition to the associated dissipation, late hours, fashionable dressing, midnight feasting, exposure through excessive exertions and improper dress, etc., it can be shown most clearly that dancing has a direct influence in stimulating the passions and provoking unchaste acts, and are in themselves violations of the requirements of strict morality, and productive of injury to both mind and body.”
Modern Modes of Life—"Superheated rooms, sedentary employments, the development of the mental and nervous organizations at the expense of the muscular, the cramming system in schools, too long confinement of schoolchildren in a sitting position, the allowance of too great freedom between the sexes in the young, the demoralizing influence of most varieties of public amusement, balls, church fairs, and other like influences too numerous to mention, all tend to lead in one direction, that of abnormal excitation and precocious development of sexual functions.“
Constipation—"In males, one of the most general physical causes of sexual excitement is constipation…. When this condition is chronic, as in habitual constipation, the unnatural excitement often leads to the most serious results. One of these is the production of a horrible disease, satyriasis [the male equivalent of nymphomania]…. Constipation in females has the same tendency, though the dangers are not quite so great. The irritation is sufficient, however, to lead to excitement of the passions.”
Intestinal Worms—"often produce the same result in children.“
The author lists, as Helps to Continence: The Will, Diet, Exercise, Cold Baths and Religion. Since he advises against early marriage, young men and women of normal sexual inclination are apt to need all of these, and then some, to remain as chaste in thought and deed as Kellogg asserts they should.
Courtship and Flirtation
Dr. Kellogg is hesitant about openly endorsing any of the social customs of foreign countries over those of America, lest this be taken as un-American by the 19th century equivalent of the John Birch Society, but he suggests that the "distinctly American custom” of courting can be a dangerous thing, leading to all manner of sexual excesses, and that perhaps the Old World tradition of keeping the sexes apart until they are ready for marriage is not such a bad idea.
He abhors the acceptance of flirtation, on the part of both sexes: “We cannot find language sufficiently emphatic to express proper condemnation of one of the most popular forms of amusement indulged in at the present day in this country, under the guise of innocent association of sexes…. We have not the slightest hesitation in pronouncing flirtation as pernicious in the extreme. It exerts a malign influence alike upon the mental, the moral, and the physical constitution of those who indulge it. The young lady who has become infatuated with a passion for flirting, courting the society of young men simply for the pleasure derived from their attentions, is educating herself in a school which will totally unfit her for the enjoyment of domestic peace and happiness…. More than this, she is very likely laying the foundation for lifelong disease by the dissipation, late hours, late suppers, evening exposures, fashionable dressing, etc., the almost certain accompaniments of the vice we are considering….
"It may be true, and undoubtedly is the case, that the greater share of the guilt of flirtation lies at the door of the female sex; but there do exist such detestable creatures as male flirts. In general, the male flirt is a much less worthy character than the young lady who makes a pastime of flirtation. He is something more than a flirt. In nine cases out of ten, he is a rake as well. His object in flirting is to gratify a mean propensity at the expense of those who are pure and unsophisticated. He is skilled in the arts of fascination and intrigue. Slowly he winds his coils about his victim, and before she is aware of his own real character, she has lost her own.
"Such wretches ought to be punished in a purgatory by themselves, made seven times hotter than for ordinary criminals. Society is full of these lecherous villains. They insinuate themselves into the drawing-rooms of the most respectable families; they are always on hand at social gatherings of every sort. They haunt the ballroom, the theater, and the church, when they can forward their infamous plans by seeming to be pious…. They are the sharks of society, and often seize in their voracious maws the fairest and brightest ornaments of a community. The male flirt is a monster. Every man ought to despise him; and every woman ought to spurn him as a loathsome social leper.”
Kellogg condemns all forms of sex outside of marriage, and says of it: “A vice that has become so great an evil, even in these enlightened times, as to defy the most skillful legislation, which openly displays its gaudy filthiness and mocks at virtue with a lecherous stare, must have its origin in causes too powerful to be ignored.”
Chief among these causes are: Libidinous Blood (“In no other direction are the effects of heredity to be more distinctly traced than in the transmission of sensual propensities. The children of libertines are almost certain to be rakes and prostitutes.”); Gluttony (“It is an observed fact that 'all liberties are great eaters or famous gastronomists.’”); Precocious Sexuality (any interest in sex whatever, prior to puberty); Fashion; Lack of Early Training and Sentimental Literature (“City and school libraries, circulating libraries, and even Sunday-school libraries, are full of books which, though they may contain good moral teaching, contain, as well, an element as incompatible with purity of morals as is light with midnight darkness. Writers for children and youth seem to think a tale of ‘courtship, love, and matrimony’ entirely indispensable as a medium of conveying their moral instruction. Some of these ‘religious novels’ are actually more pernicious than the fictions of well-known novelists who make no pretense to having religious instruction a particular object in view….”).
The doctor indicates that anyone who takes the trouble to examine the books of such a library will be able to select the most pernicious ones by their external appearance: “The covers will be well worn and the edges begrimed with dirt from much handling. Children soon tire of the shallow sameness which characterizes the ‘moral’ parts of most of these books, and skim lightly over them, selecting and devouring with eagerness those portions which relate the silly narrative of some love adventure. This kind of literature arouses the children premature fancies and queries, and fosters a sentimentalism which too often occasions most unhappy results. Through their influence, young girls are often led to begin a life of shame long before their parents are aware that a thought of evil has ever entered their minds.”
Our friendly physician finds a direct correlation between “ignorance,” by which he apparently means lack of either intellect or knowledge, and sensuality. “As a general rule,” he says, “as the intellect is developed, the animal passions are brought into subjection.” He notes that “prostitutes come almost entirely from the more ignorant classes,” but fails to point out that the motivations of the prostitute are usually monetary rather than sexual.
The doctor offers this example of “ignorance” and sensuality from his personal experience: “… An idiot was brought before our medical class in a clinic at Bellevue Hospital, New York [where Dr. Kellogg received his medical degree]. The patient had been an idiot from birth, and presented the most revolting appearance, seemingly possessing scarcely the intelligence of the average dog; but his animal propensities were so great as to be almost uncontrollable. Indeed, he showed evidences of having been a gross debauchee, having contracted venereal disease of the worst form. The general prevalence of extravagant sexual excitement among the insane is a well-known fact.”
The results of licentiousness are, according to Dr. Kellogg, almost too horrible to relate, but he relates them—in glowing detail—just the same. The most fearsome result of sexual transgression is, of course, venereal disease—gonorrhea, chancroid and syphilis—which the doctor seems to view as a penalty properly befitting the crime of immorality: “Apparently as a safeguard to virtue, nature has appended to the sin of illicit sexual indulgence, as penalties, the most loathsome, deadly, and incurable diseases known to man.” It must have shook the doctor up a bit when modern medical science removed this “safeguard to virtue” by discovering simple cures for these diseases. The needless spread of venereal disease is now clearly caused by lack of public sex education, and those of Dr. Kellogg’s moral persuasion will have to search out other loathsome “penalties” to keep the sexual nature of man in check.
Apparently as naive on the subject of sex in animals as in humans, Kellogg erroneously reports: “Man is the only animal that abuses his sexual organization by making it subservient to other ends than reproduction; hence he is the only sufferer from this foul disease, which is one of the penalties of such abuse.”
Nonprocreative sex play of every sort, heterosexual and homosexual, is common among the higher forms of infrahuman animal life; it is only the lower animals in whom sexual desire coincides with ovulation in the female. A fact which prompted Dr. N. Papania to observe, in a letter in last month’s Playboy Forum: “One must therefore conclude that having sexual relations for reproduction alone is bestial, not vice versa.”
Kellogg’s second conclusion—that venereal disease is somehow related to man’s subverting sex to ends other than reproduction—is an example of deductive reasoning that completely escapes us. For these diseases are transmitted equally, whether the sex act is engaged in for purposes of reproduction or solely for pleasure. The tiny microorganisms involved display, in truth, a distressing lack of interest in the moral intent of the individuals engaged in sexual congress.
Dr. Kellogg seems determined to compound his scientific error on this subject, for the next he discusses the “Origin of the Foul Disease,” wherein he makes the most incredible medical misstatement of all: “Where or when the disease originated is a mystery. It is said to have been introduced into France from Naples by French soldiers. That it originated spontaneously [emphasis ours] at some time can scarcely say be doubted, and that it might originate under circumstances of excessive violation of the laws of chastity is rendered probable by the fact that gonorrhea, or an infectious disease exactly resembling it, is often caused by excessive indulgence, from which cause it not infrequently occurs in the newly married, giving rise to unjust suspicion of infidelity on both sides.”
In Kellogg’s simple view of sensuality, “Prevention is the Only Cure.” He writes, “Those who have once entered upon a career of sensuality are generally so completely lost to all sense of purity and right that there is little chance of reforming them. They have no principle to which to appeal. The gratification of lust so degrades the soul and benumbs the higher sensibilities that a votary of voluptuousness is a most unpromising subject for reformatory efforts.”
In this, the doctor is essentially correct, though his explanation as to why it is so reveals more personal prejudice than scientific objectivity. What he is really saying, beneath the intemperate tirade, is that most individuals who engage in sex prior to marriage do not, as has often been assumed, regret the experience. He’s right, they like it; and, in the majority of cases, if they had it to do over again, they would do the same as before—probably quicker.
Modern sex research confirms this fact: Dr. Alfred Kinsey and his associates report that relatively few of those persons, of either sex, who have premarital intercourse express any unhappiness about the experience afterward.
A person’s chastity may seem quite important until the decision is made to give it up; after which, it seems much ado about nothing.
When to Wed
The overly optimistic reader of Plain Facts might have anticipated an end to all this sexual negation with the taking of a spouse. Not a bit of it! Dr. J.H. Kellogg’s approach to sex is just as severe and joyless within the bounds of matrimony as without. And this general truth about Puritan antisexualism is something the casual observer of American sex mores fails to realize: that in restrictive sexual attitudes that persist in our present-day society have their origins in a puritanical period of a few decades ago in which all sexual interest and desires were considered depravity inspired by the Devil.
Kellogg counsels against early marriage—not for the sound social or psychological reasons that might be advanced for such an idea—but as another means of putting off the ugly business of sex just as long as possible.
Since he precludes the possibility of premarital sex in the morally upright, the postponement of marriage means the postponement of sex, and he underscores this point by offering a fascinating physiological explanation of why women should never contemplate marriage before the age of 24. “Physiology,” he says, “fixes with accuracy the earliest period of which marriage is admissible. This period is that at which the body attains complete development, which is not before 20 for the female, and 24 in the male. Even though the growth may be completed before these ages, ossification of the bones is not fully effected, so the development is incomplete.”
This prominent American medical authority then proceeds to explain why it is hazardous and foolhardy to contemplate marriage before your bones are fully ossified. Under the heading, “Application of the Law of Heredity,” the doctor states, “A moment’s consideration of the physiology of heredity will disclose a sufficient reason why marriage should be deferred until the development of the body is wholly complete. The matrimonial relation implies reproduction…. The perfection of the new being [offspring], then must be largely dependent on the integrity and perfection of the sexual elements [of the parents]. If the body [of either parent] is still incomplete, the reproductive elements must also be incomplete; and, in consequence, the progeny must be equally immature.”
Since Dr. Kellogg devotes several pages elsewhere in this guide to sexual happiness to describing in some detail the assorted monsters, cretins, dwarfs and Mongolian idiots that are sometimes sired by seemingly normal parents, the reader is not forced to depend upon his own meager imaginings in contemplating what the immature, incomplete, or not fully developed child of too-young parents might be like.
Premature sex is equally harmful to the participating couple, the doctor goes on to explain, and he enumerates:
“1. During the development of the body, all its energies are required in perfecting the various tissues and organs. There is no material to be spared for any foreign purpose. [And it must be clear now that for Dr. J.H. Kellogg, nothing is so "foreign” as sex.]
“2. The reproductive act is the most exhaustive of all vital acts. Its effect upon an undeveloped person is to retard growth, weaken the constitution, and dwarf the intellect.
"3. The effects upon the female are even worse than those upon the male; for, in addition to the exhaustion of nervous energy, she is compelled to endure the burdens and pains of child-bearing when utterly unprepared for such a task, to say nothing of her unfitness for the other duties of a mother. With so many girl-mothers in the land, is it any wonder that there are so many thousands of unfortunate individuals who never seem to get beyond childhood in their development? Many a man at 40 years is as childish in mind, and as immature in judgment, as a well-developed lad of 18 would be. They are like withered fruit plucked before it was ripe; they can never become like the mellow and luscious fruit allowed to mature properly. They are unalterably molded; and the saddest fact of all is that they will give their children the same imperfections; and the children will transmit them to another generation, and so the evil will go on increasing, unless check by extinction.”
At this point the thoroughly shaken young man and maid, yet contemplating matrimony in granddad’s day, might have set aside their copies of Plain Facts and wondered, half aloud (to themselves, of course, for one would never have considered reading a book on such a subject in the presence of the opposite sex), whether the early 20s was really long enough to delay—perhaps it would be wiser to wait, well, with the picture Dr. Kellogg has been painting, perhaps indefinitely….
Kellogg offers no reassuring word to offset such fears in the innocent. The best he can manage additionally on the subject of premature marriage is: “It is probable that even the ages of 20 and 24 are too early for those persons whose development is uncommonly slow.” After digesting this book, the development of a great many was slowed appreciably. It takes far less than this to instill in the impressionable the seeds that will one day produce the bitter fruits of impotence and frigidity.
The chapter devoted to wedded bliss is titled, in Kellogg’s customary upbeat fashion, “Marital Excesses.” The author commences this section with the declaration: “It seems to be a generally prevalent opinion that the marriage ceremony removes all restraint from the exercise of the sexual functions.” He devotes the rest of the chapter to tearing this supposition to shreds.
Dr. Kellogg gives us this cheery appraisal of humankind: “Man, in whatever condition we find him, is more or less depraved. This is true as well of the most cultivated and refined ladies and gentlemen of the great centers of civilization, as of the misshapen denizens of African jungles, or the scarcely human natives of Australia and Tierra del Fuego. His appetites, his tastes, his habits, even his bodily functions are perverted.” In many respects, the doctor concludes, civilized man is the most perverted of all.
Man demonstrates his depravity, according to the author, whenever he engages in sex for anything but reproduction. Reproduction is normally possible at only one time of the month—in the middle of the female menstrual cycle—and that, proclaims Dr. J.H. Kellogg, M.D., L.L.D., F.A.C.S., is the only time in which sexual intercourse between husband and wife is proper, natural and moral.
He then proceeds to “prove” this statement—not, he assures us, on the basis of morality or “theory,” but by relying solely on “established physiological facts by quotations from standard medical authors….” To do this, he incorrectly presupposes that what is natural in the lower animals must also be natural in man, relying upon “standard medical authors” as misinformed on animal behavior as he; or, as in the example below, basing erroneous conclusions on accurate data.
Kellogg quotes John C. Dalton, whom he describes as “one of the most distinguished and reliable of modern physiologists,” adding, “the facts which he states being confirmed by all other physiologists.” Dalton says: “‘It is a remarkable fact that the female of these animals will allow the approaches of the male only during and immediately after the oestrual period; that is, just when the egg is recently discharged, and ready for impregnation. At other times, when sexual intercourse would be necessarily fruitless, the instinct of the animal leads her to avoid it; and the concourse of the sexes is accordingly made to correspond in time with the maturity of the egg and its aptitude for fecundation.’”
What Dalton states is true; what Kellogg concludes from the statement is entirely false. The phenomenon described by Dalton is true only in the lower forms of animal life, where the sex act is dependent almost entirely upon instinct. It is not true if any of the primates, including man. But Kellogg proceeds as though it were.
He is thus able to reach the following faulty conclusions:
“1. The fact that in all animals but the human species the act can be performed only when reproduction is possible, proves that in the animal kingdom in general the sole object of the function is reproduction.
"2. The fact that the males of other animals besides man in which the sexual organs are in a state of constant development do not exercise those organs except for the purpose of reproduction is proof of the position that the constant development in man is not a warrant for their constant use.
"3. The general law that the reproductive act is performed only when desired by the female is sufficient ground for supposing that such should be the case with the human species also.”
And having concluded that it is the woman alone who properly establishes the time for coitus, Kellogg adds to this comedy of errors the statement: “This desire for sexual congress naturally exists in the female only at or immediately after the time of periodical development.”
Kellogg knew full well that a great many women desire sex at other times besides the middle of their menstrual cycle, when impregnation is most likely to occur (on or about the 14th day, in an average 28-day cycle, beginning from the first day of menstruation). But he was careful to insert the word “naturally” in his statement, and any examples of feminine sexual appetite at other times of the month were damned as unnatural, immoral, and a further evidence of human depravity.
Sex is for procreation, not for pleasure, concludes the doctor, evidencing a most unpleasant bedside manner; and modesty and chastity are just as important within the marriage bower as elsewhere. It becomes clear in this chapter that Dr. Kellogg actually considers all sex evil; marital sex, rigidly restrained, is a necessary evil for the reproduction of the race, but an evil nevertheless.
He quotes approvingly another writer whom he does not name, who states: “It is a common belief that a man and woman, because they are legally united in marriage, are privileged to the unbridled exercises of amativeness. This is wrong. Nature, in the exercise of her laws, recognizes no human enactments, and is as prompt to punish any infringement of her laws in those who are legally married, as in those out of the bonds. Excessive indulgence between the married produces as great and lasting evil effects as in the single man or woman, and is nothing more or less than legalized prostitution.‘ ”
Results of Excess on Husbands
Kellogg next sets down some of the hair-raising results of “marital excess” (too frequent sexual intercourse)—upon husbands, wives, and their unborn children.
He observes that “the principal blame in this matter properly falls upon the husband; but it cannot be said that he is the greatest sufferer; however, his punishment is severe enough to clearly indicate the enormity of the transgression, and to warn him to a reformation of his habits.”
The author then quotes “an eminent medical authority,” whom he also fails to identify. (Through the reference to “life-giving fluid” in the quotation brought to mind a character in the film Dr. Strangelove, we dismissed the association as meaningless.) The anonymous authority states: “'Any warning against sexual dangers would be very incomplete if it did not extend to the excesses often committed by married persons in ignorance of their ill effects. Too frequent emissions of the life-giving fluid, and too frequent excitement of the nervous system are, in themselves, most destructive. The result is the same within the marriage bond as without it. The married man who thinks he can commit no excess, however often the act of sexual congress is repeated, will suffer as certainly and as seriously as the unmarried debauchee who acts on the same principles in his indulgences….
” 'The shock on the system each time connection is indulged in is very powerful.’“ according to this "eminent medical authority,” and “the expenditure of seminal fluid must be particularly injurious….‘” He credits these as the causes of “'premature old age, many forms of indigestion, general ill health, hypochondriasis, etc., so often met with adults….’”
Kellogg quotes Dr. William Acton, a Victorian antisex crusader and prominent English surgeon, whose statements appear frequently throughout the book. Dr. Acton adds to the already dismal domestic scene, as follows: “‘It is not the body alone which suffers from excesses committed in married life. Experience every day convinces me that much of the languor of mind, confusion of ideas, and inability to control the thoughts, of which some married men complain, arise from this cause.’”
Kellogg has already established, as we have noted, that undue sensuality may cause spontaneous venereal disease in husband and wife; sexual abuse in marriage is also “a very potent cause of throat disease,” says the doctor; and a major cause of consumption—"this fatal disease finds a large share of its victims among those addicted to sexual excesses….“
Dr. Kellogg adds this postscript from his personal medical experience: "A case came under our observation in which the patient, a man, confessed to having indulged every night for 20 years. We did not wonder that at 40 he was a complete physical wreck.”
Results of Excess on Wives
The doctor’s descriptions of depraved domesticity become more extravagant as he expounds on the evil effects of sexual excess upon wives, and he here seems to be truly warming to his subject: “If husbands are great sufferers, as we have seen, wives suffer still more terribly, being of feebler constitution, and hence less able to bear the frequent shock which is suffered by the nervous system.”
Dr. Kellogg describes a female patient who came to him for treatment suffering from “the serious effects of the evil named.” In the author’s words, “She presented a great variety of nervous symptoms, prominent among which were those of mild hysteria and nervous exhaustion, together with impaired digestion and violent palpitation of the heart.”
Under the heading “Legalized Murder,” Kellogg relates the following story, “the counterpart of which,” he says, “almost anyone can recall having occurred within the circle of acquaintance; perhaps numerous cases will be recalled by one who has been especially observing.”
Dr. Kellogg then tells his tale: “A man of great vital force is united to a woman of evenly balanced organization. The husband, in exercise of what he is pleased to term his ‘marital rights,’ places his wife, in a short time, on the nervous, delicate, sickly list. In the blindness and ignorance of his animal nature, he requires prompt obedience to his desires; and, ignorant of the law of right in this direction, thinking that it is her duty to accede to his wishes, she allows him passively, never lovingly, to exercise daily and weekly, month in and month out, the low and beastly habit of his nature, and eventually, slowly but surely, to kill her. And this man, who has as surely committed murder as had the convicted assassin, lures to his net and takes unto him another wife, to repeat the same program of legalized prostitution on his part, and sickness and premature death on her part.”
Having shed a tear or two for the victims in this sexual soap opera, while privately admiring the prowess of the husband, we attempted to recall a counterpart of the incident within our own circle of acquaintances, as Dr. Kellogg suggested, but without success; the wives of our friends are apparently made of sterner stuff. We must confess, in fact, that when we really concentrated on the matter, we couldn’t even come up with a similar occurrence from outside our circle of acquaintances. In simple truth, we were hard put to name a single female of our acquaintance who couldn’t take on any male of our acquaintance, if she had a mind to, and turn him into a hospital case in less than a year.
A certain amount of the pain and suffering that the author attributes to “sexual excesses” was probably real enough, for in such a Puritan period, with so much guilt and shame associated with the normal sexual appetite and the act of sex itself, we would expect to find numerous cases of impotence and frigidity, and the emotional hysteria and hypochondria that can produce all the symptoms of a variety of physical disorders. The symptoms were caused by sexual repression, however, and not by sexual excess.
Results of Excess on Offspring
Scientific insight disappears almost completely when Dr. Kellogg describes the effects of marital licentiousness upon the hereditary makeup of offspring. The