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Let's See How Much You Know About Sex In The 1880s

For example: Should you bath your genitals in cold water before bed?

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Maybe you're a 21st century sexpert, but do you know as much about 19th century sex stuff as this guy's mustache?

Segner and Condit

This guy is J.H. Kellogg, MD, the author of Plain Facts for Old and Young, which was published in 1881. It's guide for girls and boys to all things puberty, sex, and sexuality. Below are a mix of quotes and questions, some of which are taken from the text, others are taken from inside my mind. See if you tell the difference and test your 19th century sexpertise!

  1. 1. "The genital organs should be daily bathed in cold water just before retiring."

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    Brrr. This is not real advice.
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    I can see it. This is real advice.
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    I can see it. This is real advice.

    Here you go: "The genital organs should be daily bathed in cold water just before retiring." And not only should one bathe their genitals in cold water nightly, "simply dashing water upon the parts for two or three minutes is insufficient; more prolonged bathing is necessary." (Fifteen minutes should do it, he says.)

  2. 2. "Nocturnal emissions are punishment from the Creator himself for the moral delinquency that is masturbation."

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    Wet dreams are a punishment from god? Lol no way.
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    Seems like pretty plausible logic for the 19th century. It's real!
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    Wet dreams are a punishment from god? Lol no way.

    Did the author believe that wet dreams were the result of reprehensible sexual behavior? Yes. Was god involved? Not that he mentioned. Kellogg explains that wet dreams aka "the disease" are the result of sexual excess. For example, having too much sex with your wife or engaging too much in "mental unchastity" aka sexual fantasies, can both cause nocturnal emissions.

  3. 3. Which of the following is Kellogg's euphemism for masturbation?

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    The secret vice
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    The covert corruption
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    Satan's handsy-ness
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    The devil's perversion
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    Solitary wickedness
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    The secret vice

    Masturbation is referred to by the author as "the secret vice." Also, sometimes "self-abuse."

  4. 4. The earliest period at which marriage is admissible is not before 20 in the female, and 24 in the male.

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    This makes no sense; it's not real.
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    This makes no sense; it's real.
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    This makes no sense; it's real.

    According to the author, this is the period at which the body attains complete development, and is therefore ready to make and bear children (which of course required getting married first).

  5. 5. "If a married man does not engage in intercourse at least once per fortnight, his prowess could be reduced, causing his organ to atrophy [i.e. impotence]."

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    No one has ever said this.
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    This sounds like something people actually thought would happen.
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    No one has ever said this.

    Phew!

  6. 6. Excessive indulgence in sex can cause throat disease, consumption (a fatal wasting disease), and uterine disease.

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    Yes, this was thought to be the case.
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    No, this was never thought to be the case.
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    Yes, this was thought to be the case.

    According to the author, excessive sex can cause many different kinds of physical ailments, like the ones mentioned above. What a shame!

  7. 7. "What many men mistake for an urge to release semen through sexual indulgence is actually a need to move one's bowels."

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    That...makes no sense. It's not real.
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    I can see it. It was real!
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    I can see it. It was real!

    The author explains that the pressure of the distended rectum on the sex organs causes men to conflate the feeling of needing to ejaculate with needing to move one's bowels. Who knew?!

  8. 8. "Regarding the social evil [sex outside marriage], it must not be denied that women are, to the greatest extent imaginable, to blame."

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    Sounds about right for the time.
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    Nah, men are culprits and history knows.
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    Nah, men are culprits and history knows

    Actually the author says that when it comes to illicit sex, the most monstrous vice of all, it is men's lewdness that is to blame. He explains that if men didn't seek out illicit sex, illicit sex wouldn't even be a thing.

  9. 9. "Though masturbation may be a vice best kept secret, man's natural urges must be recognized and, within reason and propriety, allowed."

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    This sounds real.
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    This sounds fake.
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    This sounds fake.

    Actually, the author explains that masturbation is a crime more abominable than illicit sex. This sums it up: "In solitude he pollutes himself, and with his own hand blights all his prospects for both this world and the next. Even after being solemnly warned, he will often continue this worse than beastly practice, deliberately forfeiting his right to health and happiness for a moment's mad sensuality." DELIBERATELY FORFEITING HIS RIGHT TO HEALTH AND HAPPINESS.

  10. 10. "Candies, spices, cinnamon, cloves, peppermint, and all strong essences, powerfully excite the genital organs."

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    No way was this a thing.
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    This was a thing.
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    This was a thing.

    According to the author, these stimulants encouraged young people to masturbate (and for that reason should be avoided). Pass the scented candles, amirite?

  11. 11. Carrying and birthing a child is the most sacred and important thing a woman can do.

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    This is made up.
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    This is not made up.
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    You did not make this up.

    The author explains that The Whole Reason woman has a "sexual system" is to bear children. Cool, glad we cleared it up!

  12. 12. A nation's most valuable property is its girls.

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    This is real.
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    This is not real.
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    This is not real.

    Actually, the author says that a nation's most valuable property is its boys, for they are the beginnings of men. He adds: "a nation which has poor, weakly, vicious boys, will have still weaker, more vicious, and untrustworthy men." *hands in "W" formation*

  13. 13. "Let not the fact that it be custom among lower classes for husband & wife to share a bed discourage the married gentleman and lady from doing the same. For only when lying together nightly do the natural urges to reproduce make themselves known."

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    This sounds like real advice.
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    This doesn't sound like real advice.
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    This doesn't sound like real advice.

    Actually, the author recommends that married couples sleep in separate beds divided by a curtain so that both parties can maintain the modesty necessary to keep sexual desire in check. What a bummer.

  14. 14. "'Tis a popular misconception that the minds of girls are less supple, and therefore less agreeable to pursuits of intellect, than the minds of boys."

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    This is real.
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    This is not real.
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    This is not real.

    The author never said this.

  15. 15. "Once this now wretched, disgraced creature was an attractive, pure, innocent little girl...God only knows what will be her sad end." What "ruined" this woman?

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    Unchaste thoughts
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    Going on an excursion with a boy to whom she was not related (with no chaperone)
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    Masturbation
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    Engaging in an act of sexual indulgence with another young lady
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    All of the above
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    Masturbation

    The author tells the story of "A Ruined Girl" who refused to stop masturbating, even after treatment for her habit by a physician. Because she had no desire to be better, she was "ruined utterly, and rendered so wholly perverse." Sad!

 
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