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Health and Purity
Duties of Parents-Abuse of the Sexual Function-False Teachings-Criminal Neglect-Secure the Child's Confidence—The Best Corrections-Marriage Relations.
EVERY individual should know how to care for the sexual organs as well as those of any other part of the body, providing that the instruction be given by the proper person and at the proper time and place. Such information should be imparted to children by parents, guardians, or physicians at an early age and, if this is neglected through ignorance or false modesty, erroneous ideas of the nature and purpose of the sexual function will very surely be supplied later by ignorant and probably evil-minded persons with correspondingly bad results. There is no other responsibility in the whole range of parental duties which is so commonly shirked and with such deplorable consequences. When the subject is shorn of the morbid and seductive mystery with which custom has foolishly surrounded it in the past, and considered in the same spirit with which we study the hygiene of the digestion and other natural functions, it will be found possible to give instruction about the sexual function in a natural way and without exciting unhealthy and morbid curiosity.
A word in the beginning as to the harm produced by abuse of the sexual function. The injury thus received is purposely magnified tenfold for reasons of gain by quacks who work upon the fears of their victims for their own selfish purposes. The voluntary exercise of the sexual function-unlike that of any other important organs-is not necessary to health until maturity has been reached; on the contrary, continence is conducive to health, both physical and mental. Even after maturity, unless marriage occurs, or by improper living the sexual desires are unnaturally stimulated, it is quite possible to maintain perfect health through life without exercising the sexual function at all. Undue irritation of the sexual organs causes disorder of the nervous system, and if continued it will result ultimately in overfatigue and failure of the nervous activities which control the normal functions of every organ in the body. In other words, it will result in nervous exhaustion.
Damage is also wrought by exciting local irritation, congestion, and inflammation of the sexual organs which result in impairment of the proper functions of these parts and in local disorders and distress. It is unnecessary further to particularize other than to state that abuse of the sexual organs in the young is usually owing to the almost criminal neglect or ignorance of the child's parents. But so far from increasing alarm in the patient it is almost always possible to enable the child to be rid of the habit by
kindly instruction and judicious oversight in the future, and no serious permanent local damage to the sexual organs or general injury to the nervous system will be likely to persist. The opposite teaching is that peculiar to the quack who prophesies every imaginable evil, from complete loss of sexual function to insanity. Any real or fancied disorder of the sexual function is extremely apt to lead to much mental anxiety and depression, so that a cheerful outlook is essential in inspiring effort to correct bad habits and is wholly warranted in view of the entire recovery in most cases of the young who have abused their sexual organs. Insanity or imbecility are seldom the result but more often the cause of such habits. It is a sad fact, however, that, under the prevailing custom of failure of the parents to exercise proper supervision over the sexual function of their children, self-abuse is generally practiced in youth, at least by boys.
This often leads to temporary physical and mental suffering and is very prejudicial to the morals, but does not commonly result in permanent injury except in the degenerate. Children at an early age-three to four years should be taught not to touch, handle, rub, or irritate their sexual organs in any way whatsoever except so far as is necessary in urination or in the course of the daily cleansing. If there seems to be any inclination to do so it will usually be found that it is due to some local trouble to which a physician's attention should be called and which may generally