Last night, I was doing some supplementary reading for one of my psych courses on sex differences, from “The New Male Sexuality” by Bernie Zilbergeld, Ph.D. (1999).
While reading about the earlier history of our culture’s view on masturbation, I came across some amusing information that had me cracking up, so I thought I’d share a little excerpt with you.
“In the middle 1800s Sylvester Graham led one of the first health-food crusades in America. He thought that bad health was related to sexual excesses such as intercourse more than once a month, masturbation, and erotic dreams, all of which were caused by eating rich and spicy foods. These foods “increase the concupiscent excitability and sensibility of the genital organs.” The antidote he prescribed was a vegetarian diet of plain and boring foods, one key element of which was coarse, whole-wheat flour. Although you have probably never heard of Mr. Graham, you have undoubtedly tasted a processed and sweetened version of his attempt to reduce sexual excess – the graham cracker.”
But wait! There’s more…
“Graham wasn’t the only nut rolling around in nineteenth-century America; many others were also concerned about curbing sexuality. John Harvey Kellogg gained a reputation as both a nutritionist and a sexual adviser. He thought sex the ultimate abomination and remained chaste even in marriage. Masturbation was the worst sin of all, “the vilest, the basest, and the most degrading act that a human being can commit.” In his view, it led not only to the usual stuff like tuberculosis, heart disease, epilepsy, dimness of vision, insanity, idiocy, and death, but also in bashfulness in some people, unnatural boldness in others, a fondness for spicy foods, round shoulders, and acne. Kellogg introduced a number of foods designed to promote health and decrease interest in sex, one of which he called Corn Flakes. The rest, as they say, is history.”
Zilbergeld, B. (1999). The New Male Sexuality: The truth about men, sex, and pleasure. Revised edition. (pp. 70-71). New York: Bantam.