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]."