The Value of Continence
An opinion has gained ground in modern times, not only among the general public, but also among physicians, that the belief in the physiological value of continence belongs to the dark ages of religious superstitions and scientific ignorance, and is incompatible with physiological knowledge. Certain pseudosexologists have exploited this idea to their commercial advantage and have created in the public mind a phobia in regards to continence, which is regarded as a cause of nervous and mental diseases and a positive health danger. On the basis of this belief, physicians and psychoanalysts have looked on continence for the cause of the nervous ailments of youth and have advised young men to visit prostitutes and risk venereal infection as a lesser evil than the assumed hazards of abstinence.
A careful reading should, however, convince any open-minded reader that the above view is false, and that continence per se can never do harm, but is always beneficial; and that when trouble occurs in an individual not practicing normal sex relations, the fault is not continence but some vicarious means of sex expression, excessive nocturnal emissions, etc. In view of the richness of the semen in lecithin, cholesterol, phosphorus and other constituents of nervous and brain tissue it is clear that it is incontinence, or loss of these valuable nerve-nourishing substances which, by promoting under nutrition, is responsible for disturbed functioning of the nervous system and brain, and never true continence, contrary to the unscientific views of the psychoanalysts.
We have seen that the internal secretions of the sex glands stand at the basis of the individual’s physical and mental vitality and that sex hormones are present in the external as well as in the internal secretions of the gonads. Many of the effects attributed to such hormones, as we have seen, are due to the physiological effect of resorbed semen. Conservation of semen means conservation of sex hormones and increased vigor, while loss of semen means loss of hormones and diminished vitality; also chronic deficiency of such hormones leads to the symptoms of senility, which Voronoff and Steinach strove to overcome by increasing the amount of sex hormones in the blood.
The semen is a viscid albuminous fluid, alkaline in reaction, which is very rich in calcium and phosphorus, also in lecithin, cholesterol, albumen, nucleoproteins, iron, vitamin E, etc. In the ejaculation of the normal man, about 226 million spermatozoa are given off; these are rich in phosphorized fats (lecithin), cholesterol (the parent-source of sex hormones), nucleoproteins and iron. An ounce of semen is considered to be equal in value to sixty ounces of blood, of which it constitutes an extract of some of its most valuable of constituents, as far as its vitalizing power is concerned. Dr. Frederick McCann remarks on this point, “From what has been stated it must be admitted that the spermatic fluid does possess potentialities justifying the belief of ancient writers concerning its vital properties.
The semen contains substances of high physiological value, especially in relation to the nutrition of the brain and nervous system. If resorption of semen through the wall of the female genital tract has a vitalizing effect on the female organism, the same should be the case in the body of the male in which it is formed and conserved. And conversely, loss of semen must deprive the organism of vitality and valuable substances necessary for the nutrition of nervous tissue, such as lecithin, which has been used therapeutically with great success for the cure of neurasthenia resulting from sexual excess.
The following are among the many physiological evidences which demonstrate the value of continence:
- There is a remarkable similarity of chemical composition between the semen and the central nervous system, both being especially rich in lecithin, cholesterin and phosphorus compounds, which would indicate that seminal emissions withdraw from the body substances necessary for the nutrition of nervous tissues.
- Excessive voluntary seminal losses (through masturbation, coitus, coitus interruptus, and contraceptive practices) are debilitating and harmful to the body and brain.
- Excessive involuntary seminal losses (through nocturnal emissions, diurnal emissions, spermatorrhea, etc.) are debilitating to the nervous system and may cause neurasthenia.
- Observations of the immediate effects of the sexual orgasm indicate that it temporarily exhausts the nervous system, and when repeated too frequently leads to chronic nerve- weakness (sexual neurasthenia).
- Continence is beneficial to the brain (for conserved lecithin from retained semen is a true brain food.) Hence some of the greatest intellectual geniuses in ancient and modern times led continent lives. These include Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Spinoza, Newton, Kant, Beethoven, Herbert Spencer, etc.
- Recent physiological evidence, pointing to the fact that the seminal fluid contains substances of great physiological value (such as Poehl’s Spermine, which is a nerve-stimulant, lecithin, cholesterin, vitamin E, male sex hormones, etc.) supports the idea that continence is beneficial to health, as do the experiments of Prof. Brown-Sequard on the vitalizing effects of testicular extracts and those of Prof. Steinach on the rejuvenation that follows the enforced conservation of semen through ligature of the efferent testicular duct.
- Leading physiologists, urologists, genito-urinary specialists, neurologists, psychiatrists, sexologists, gynecologists and endocrinologists endorse the physiological value of continence. Among such authorities are Moll, Kraepelin, Marshall, Lydston, Talmey and others.
Dr. Jacobson sent two hundred letters to professors of physiology, hygiene, venereal diseases, nervous diseases, neurology and psychiatry, inquiring as to their opinions concerning continence. All answers with few exceptions declared continence to be conductive to health. The following were among the answers received.
Kraepelin says that continence is not injurious, and that its advantages in avoiding venereal infection are apparent. Gaertner also does not think that continence is injurious to young men. Gramer writes, “Sexual continence before marriage is not injurious. Finkler answered that sexual continence is not injurious to young men, but, on the contrary, is beneficial to body and mind. Lassar also thinks that sexual continence is not injurious to young men. Seiferts says that his experience teaches him that continence is not injurious. Gruber says “There is no reason why continence should be injurious.” Jurgensen thinks that sexual continence per se is not injurious. Strumpell thinks that continence is indirectly useful in preventing venereal infection, and is not injurious. Hoffman considers sexual continence useful. Strumpell thinks that continence is indirectly useful in preventing venereal infection, and is surely not injurious. Tuczek is of the opinion that continence is beneficial. Prof. von Leyden says that, in his experience, he has never seen injurious consequences from continence. Hein says that in most men sexual continence is not injurious. Prof. von Grutzner writes that in his opinion sexual continence is almost never injurious. Prof. Meschede, during 47 years of psychiatric practice, has never seen a case of insanity caused by sexual continence. Weber writes that that continence is not injurious to young men, but, on the contrary, is useful. Hoche is of the opinion that sexual continence is not injurious to young men and does not lead to masturbation. Neisser writes: “Most of our young men could remain continent much longer than in the case nowadays.” Aschffenberg writes: “Even those who are predisposed to nervousness do not suffer any harm from sexual continence if the impression is awakened in them that abstinence can never be injurious.” Moll says: “At the present time, most medical men agree that sexual abstinence, in a general way, is not harmful.” Hutchinson says: “The belief that the exercise of the sex function is necessary to the health of the male at any age is a pure delusion while before full maturity it is highly injurious.”
Among eminent authorities on sex who believe that sexual continence is without harm and beneficial to health are the following: Forel, Moll, Professor Montegazza, Professor Alfred Fournier, Prof. Dubois; professor of neuropathology at Berne; Prof. Furbringer, Loewenfeld, Krafft-Ebing, Prof. Lydston, Ruggles, Prof. Oesterling of Tubingen University, Chassaignac, Professor Beale of the Royal College of London, the eminent gynecologist, Ribbing, the great authority, Acton, the gynecologist, Hegar, the eminent English authority on the physiology of sex, Marshall, Dr. L. Robinowitch, neurologist and psychiatrist, formerly president of the New York Neurological Society, the eminent psychiatrist, Dr. Spitzka, also once president of the New York Neurological Society, the New York gynecologist and sexologist, Dr. B.S. Talmey, Professor Sajous, dean of American endocrinologists; Dr. Bruce of the University of Oklahoma, Professor Brown-Sequard, world-famous physiologist and father of the science of endocrinology, and others.
Professor von Gruber of Munich, an eminent European authority on sex, writing on “The Hygienic Significance of Marriage”, says that it is absurd to regard the semen as an injurious secretion like the urine, which requires periodic evacuation, but as vital fluid which is not only reabsorbed during sexual abstention, but this reabsorption appears to have a beneficial effect on the physiological economy, as shown by the large number of intellectual geniuses who have led continent lives. Dr. Bernard S. Talmey, an eminent American gynecologist and authority on sex, expresses a similar opinion, and states that in the absence of sexually exciting stimuli, the semen and spermatozoa are produced in smaller amounts and are completely resorbed through the seminal vesicles, so that continence becomes easy and natural; the conservation of this vital fluid, he claims, is necessary for the attainment of the greatest vigor of body and brain, while its loss is harmful, and a man may live through a lifetime in a state of complete continence, without injury, but only with benefit, as proven in the case of such men as Leonardo da Vinci, Kant, Beethoven, Spencer, etc. Dr. Dubois, the neuropathologist, says that sexual indulgence, not continence, is the cause of neurasthenia, contrary to the erroneous conclusions of the Freudian school. Professor Alfred Fournier, a physiologist of note, ridicules the idea of “the dangers of continence for the young man”, and that during his years of medical practice, he has never come across one such case. Professor Montegazza, on the other hand, praises the benefits of chastity, both upon the body and upon the brain. Dr.John Harvey Kellogg, points to the fact that many of the famous Greek athletes of antiquity (as Astylos, Dopompos and others mentioned by Plato) practiced total continence during their training, which contributed to their extraordinary vigor. Professor Furbringer, a prominent German authority on sex, writes: “Sexual continence is in the unanimous opinion of the medical profession not injurious to health as is generally believed.” Writing on “Sexual Hygiene in Married Life”, he states that when neurasthenia occurs in an unmarried person it is generally due to masturbation or some other form of lasciviousness. Krafft-Ebing, the great authority on sexual questions, considers the “diseases of abstinence” a myth. The gynecologist, Loewenfeld, considers it possible for a sexually normal individual to live in permanent continence without any ill-effects whatsoever. According to the noted sex physiologist and endocrinologist, Prof. F.G. Lydston of the University of Illinois, “Continence per se, probably never is harmful. The non- elimination of the seminal secretion from the testes often is productive of great bodily and mental vigor.” In his opinion, “one may be perfectly healthy and physically vigorous while leading a life of absolute continence.” Ruggles writes: “Sexual abstinence is compatible with perfect health and tends to increase vitality through resorption of the semen.”
Forel, the eminent Swiss authority on sex, says: “Abstinence, or sexual continence, is by no means impractical for a normal young man of average constitution, assiduous in intellectual and physical work and abstaining from artificial excitants”, adding, “The idea is current among young people that abstinence is something abnormal and impossible, and yet the many who observe it prove that chastity can be practiced without prejudice to health”. Dr. Perier points out the falsity of the notion of the imaginary dangers of sexual continence, and considers it a “physical, moral and mental safeguard to young men”. Rohleder considers as unscrupulous the advice of physicians who recommend sexual intercourse to young men. Chassaignac claims that the healthier the individual, the easier to practice complete abstinence; it is only the diseased and neurotic person who finds it difficult to do so. Professor Oesterling of Tubingen says, “one cannot repeat too often that abstinence and the most absolute purity are perfectly compatible with the laws of physiology and morality, and that sexual indulgence is not more justified by physiology and psychology than by morality and religion. Professor Beale of the Royal College of London says that “sexual abstinence has never yet hurt any man when it has been observed.” The gynecologist, Ribbing, says that he has known many young men who have lived in total continence without difficulty or injury. Clarke says that continence increases health and energy, while incontinence does the reverse. According to Surbled, “the evils of incontinence are well known and undisputed; those produced by continence are imaginary.” The great authority, Acton, says that the popular idea that abstinence causes the genital organs to atrophy and produces impotence is a grave error. “Chastity no more injures the body than the soul,” he says. The gynecologist Hegar, considers the “sexual necessity” myth an illusion, while Ribbing, another eminent gynecologist, points out the needs for sexual control and continence. The noted physiologist, Marshall, in his “Introduction to Sex Physiology”, points out the need for such restraint over the reproductive function and the sublimation of sex energy into higher cerebral forms of expression, as was the case with many intellectual geniuses of the past, who led continent lives. Dr. L. Robinowitch, a prominent American neurologist, says that “sexual continence is not only harmless but beneficial”.
American Medicine”, in its editorial of July 1, 1905, remarks, “It should be an easy matter to convince any developed man that continence can be a normal state of civilized man.” In 1906, the American Medical Association passed a resolution that “continence is not incompatible with health”. The International Brussels Congress also declared that a chaste life for a man is not prejudicial to health, but, on the contrary, can be recommended from a purely hygienic standpoint. The congress stated, “It is the consensus of most of the great medical thinkers that it is not prejudicial to the health of a man to keep his body clean”. The medical faculty of Christiania University issued the following statement: “The assertion that a chaste life will be prejudicial to health rests, according to our unanimous experience, on no foundation. We have no knowledge of any harm resulting from a pure an moral life”.
Convincing evidence of the benefits of continence and that the assumed “sexual necessity” is an illusion is afforded by the study of the debilitating effects of sexual orgasm, which are immediate and striking. Though these have been attributed to purely nervous origin, there can be no doubt that they are chiefly due to the harmful effects of the seminal discharge, which involves a sudden withdrawal from the body of calcium, lecithin and other substances necessary for the normal functioning of the nervous system. Havelock Ellis, in his “Studies in the Psychology of Sex”, quotes the observations of Dr.F.B.Robinson on this subject, as recorded in the New York State Medical Journal. He notes that when a stallion cohabits with a mare for the first time, after a short, vigorous coition, he is apt to fall down in a dead faint, which Robinson traces to brain anemia thus produced. He mentions one case of a mare falling dead immediately after. Young bulls frequently faint away after the first connection with a cow, and it is very common to observe a young bull so exhausted that he sneaks off to a quiet corner and lies down for a couple of hours. Fainting, however, does not occur in dogs, for the dog’s connection is prolonged and thus shock is avoided; also the dog has no seminal vesicles. In the case of the boar, the orgasm rises to such a pitch that the animal seems on the verge of pain, and is usually exhausted for several hours.
Havelock Ellis writes:
“When we have realized how profound is the organic convulsion involved in [the] process of detumescence, and how great the motor excitement involved, we can understand how it is that very serious effects may follow coitus. Even in animals this is sometimes the case. Young bulls and stallions have fallen into a faint after first congress; boars may be seriously affected in a similar way; mares have been known even to fall dead. In the human species, and especially men, probably, as Bryan Robinson remarks, because women are protected by the greater slowness with which detumescence occurs in them – not only death itself, but innumerable disorders and accident have been known to follow immediately after coitus, these results being mainly due to the vascular and muscular excitement involved in the process of detumescence. Fainting, vomiting, urination, defecation have been noted as occurring in young men after the first coitus. Epilepsy has been not frequently recorded. Lesions of various organs, even rupture of the spleen, have sometimes taken place. In men of mature age, the arteries have at times been unable to resist the high blood-pressure and cerebral hemorrhage with paralysis has occurred. In elderly men the excitement of intercourse with strange woman has sometimes caused death, and various cases are known of eminent persons who have thus died in the arms of young wives or prostitutes.”
The celebrated Russian general, Skobeloff, died while cohabiting with a girl of ill-fame. Robinson refers to the case of a judge who died shortly after connection with a girl in a brothel, and to the case of a man of seventy who died after intercourse with a prostitute. He also mentions the case of a man of 48 years of age who was found dying in a Chicago hotel after cohabiting with an accommodating widow. Also the case of a young man who fainted away at the first coitus, and that of a man sixty years old who had connection with a strange woman and fell dead as he walked to the door immediately after the act. Such deaths usually occur in elder men, and usually as the result of intercourse with strange women, which is more violent and intensive than with their wives. Atilla king of the Huns, died while cohabiting with his young wife.
Acton, the great medical authority, points out that in some persons the termination of the orgasm is accompanied by an epileptiform convulsion of more or less severity. This is succeeded by a great amount of prostration. This is seen in a very exaggerated form in the buck rabbit, which, after each copulation, may be noticed to fall on his side in a sort of epileptic fit, the whites of the eyes being turned up. The animal then gives several spasmodic twitches with its hind legs, and lies panting for several moments until the nervous system recovers itself. Acton mentions cases of deaths occurring in houses of prostitution as well as in the marriage bed as arising from the adverse influence of the sexual orgasm on the nervous system and on the body as a whole, especially in susceptible individuals. Entomological works abound with cases in which death follows copulation. Geddes and Thomson, in their book, “The Evolution of Sex”, refer to the fact that some spiders normally die after fertilizing the female, and such sacrifice of the male occurs also in other species. The association of reproduction and death is well known in the case of flying insects, as the common mayflies. Emergence into winged liberty, the love-dance and the process of fertilization, the deposition of eggs and the death of the parents, are often the crowded events of a few hours. “In higher animals”, say these authors, “the fatality of the reproductive sacrifice has been greatly lessened, yet death may tragically persist, even in human life, as the direct nemesis of love….. The temporarily exhausting effect of even moderate sexual indulgence is well known, as well as the increased liability to all forms of disease while the individual energies are thus lowered….. Reproduction is the beginning of death.”
Some years ago the author received the following interesting letter from a reader of this writings: July 29, 1936 Dear Dr. Siegmeister: I was wondering if the draining, at any time, of the lecithin and phosphorus, and other valuable substances during any sexual act, hindered achievement of the higher intellectuality, and if the brain and body were debilitated? Please answer this very important question. I am having great difficulty to understand how a person as myself, can store up vast amounts of sex forces without expending it. To make a long story short, I do not understand the very function of the sexual apparatus. Please send me any literature that you have on hand, concerning this matter, and I will greatly appreciate it. Also refer me to some excellent books which will cover this subject in full. I beg of you. Do not neglect answering any question asked in this letter. Thank you, ……………………
To this letter he made the following reply: Dear Mr. L_____________: “You ask whether the draining from the body of lecithin and phosphorus through the sexual act will hinder the highest intellectual achievement and debilitate body and brain. Most definitely this is the case. Read my article on “Do Neuroses and Psychoses have a Chemical Origin?” in the June, 1936 issue of The Modern Psychologist, in which I show that the loss of these nerve-and-brain foods through sexual indulgence in any form deprives the nerves and brain of needed nourishment and leads to nervous and mental disorders. Our insane asylums are now overfilled with the victims of thoughtless sexual indulgence which has withdrawn valuable nutrients from the brain and disordered its functioning. These pitiful individuals, when in possession of their normal brain-structure, never realized that with each discharge of seminal fluid, they are pouring forth the very substance of their nerves and brain, until a time is reached when their brain is so sapped of lecithin that it ceases to function. Measurements have shown an actual decrease in the lecithin content of the brains of the insane. This was due to previous sex indulgence, as a result of which the sex glands took up the blood’s lecithin to replace expended fluids.
“The greatest intellectual geniuses in both ancient and modern times led continent lives, and there is yet to be recorded one individual who freely expended seminal fluid who ever amounted to anything. In most cases, individuals who have achieved have been forced by necessity to abstain from sexual indulgence, as Cervantes, who wrote Don Quixote while in prison, or Dante who wrote his Divine Comedy while in exile. Milton wrote “Paradise Lost” when blind and when he did not indulge in sex. Sir Isaac Newton, active in intellect until the age of 80, led a continent life from birth, and so did Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, both of whom retained their creative genius [until] an advanced age.
“You also ask how a person like yourself could store up vast amounts of sex force without expending it. To do so is easily accomplished if you try the right methods. In my booklet, ‘Diet and Sex’ I show how it is possible through a low-protein vegetarian diet to control the sexual impulses and how debilitating nocturnal emissions may be made to cease forever, since involuntary sexual losses are as debilitating as voluntary ones, for the same lecithin and cholesterin are lost. The morning after a nocturnal emission you will notice that the nerves are weakened and the body cannot stand the cold as well.
“You say: `I do not understand the very function of the sexual apparatus.’ It has two functions: Internal Secretion, which is primary, and Reproduction, which is secondary. Any other use of these endocrine organs is a perversion which will reap its penalty in the form of nervous disorder and premature old age and death.
“You ask me for good literature on the sex question. Permit me to introduce to you some of the most daring and original writers in this field, Melville Keith, M.D. The following is quoted from his work, “The Marriage Law:”
“`We tell you that at every emission of semen you are losing the food and the best portion of the (blood) corpuscles, inasmuch as every particle of semen which is ejected will be replaced by more taken from the blood. This is enough to convince you that when you are ejecting the semen which should stay in the body and become reabsorbed so as to go and form the oil for the joints, new muscles, the brain material, as well as every other part of the body, you are really destroying or throwing away your life.
“`You eject the substance of the synovial fluid. You send forth, to gratify a moment’s passion, the very material of which the brain is made. This is a fact which you will acknowledge when you consider that all this semen is the material of which all these substances are made and supplied, and when the semen is ejected you have selected the best part of the body to go out and become to you a useless inert mass, which can never be restored to you under any circumstances. It is lost and gone. Then, the semen being out of the body, the sexual penalty comes apace. The penalty for this loss of semen is so far reaching and so concealed from the body of people of the present day that we do not know the exact spot to look for it. But we tell you, when you see paralysis, palsy, apoplexy, rheumatism, brain softening, bent shoulders and haggard face; when you observe a young old man and the dried up young lady, in all of these cases, and in dozens of others, you may set it down that there have been sexual losses and a waste of the bodily substance from the sexual orgasm.
“`You will see this penalty all around you, and there is no place where you may go but you will see the fruits of this sexual indulgence to excess. The penalty may be denied, and all these diseases may be attributed to every other cause under the sun, but you will be right in laying it at the proper place, and that is to the sexual drain which has sapped the blood corpuscles of the victim before you. We assure you nothing can be so very enervating as this sexual excess, and any sexual mating is an excess, providing it is not for the purpose of having children.
“`The penalty for the disobedience of this law is in the shortened lives and the increased amount of disease which are everywhere around us.” The resemblance of the sexual orgasm to the epileptic attack has been noted by many authors. The sudden withdrawal of calcium produced by the seminal discharge biochemically produces the tetany-like symptoms of the orgasm, which are so similar to those of the epileptic attack which usually follows it in those who are constitutionally predisposed. According to Acton, the sexual orgasm resembles the epileptic attack both in its phenomena and its effects. The mental hebetude and physical prostration following the discharge of nerve force characteristic of an epileptic attack also follow the sexual orgasm. The latter profoundly affects the whole nervous system with such intensity that Acton says that “it is only mature individuals who can bear even infrequent acts of copulation without more or less injury. In young persons all the vital powers should be conserved for growth and development.”