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spermatazoa - minute organisms which are essential to reproduction.
Under the stimulus of sexual thoughts this fluid is secreted in such
quantity as to give rise to involuntary discharge during sleep. These
nocturnal emissions are so often found among boys and young men that
some physiologists consider them to be quite normal. My experience
leads me to doubt this conclusion.

Another physical change associated with puberty is the growth of hair
on the pubes and on the face: in this latter situation the growth is

With the capacity for fatherhood comes a very strong awakening of the
sexual instinct, which manifests itself in passion and in lust - the
unconscious and the conscious sex hunger. The passion shows itself in
a ludicrously indiscriminate and exaggerated susceptibility to female
attractions - a susceptibility the sexual character of which is usually
quite unrecognised. Among boys who have sex knowledge there is also a
tendency to dwell on sexual thoughts when the mind is not otherwise
occupied. Passion and lust do not at once develop their full strength;
but, coming at a time when self-control is very weak, and coming with
all the attraction of novelty, they often dominate the mind even in
normal cases, and may become tyrannous when the reproductive system
has been prematurely stimulated.

A heightened self-consciousness and an antagonism to authority so
often follow the attainment of puberty that they are usually
considered to be its results. My own experience with boys satisfies me
that this conclusion is not correct. Self-consciousness, when it
occurs in boyhood, is usually the result of an unclean inner life.
Puberty merely increases the self-consciousness by intensifying its
cause. When the mind is clean there is no marked change in this
respect at puberty. The antagonism to authority so often observed
after puberty is the product of unsatisfactory external influences.
With puberty the desire to stand well with others, and in particular
the desire to seem manly, increases. If a debased public opinion
demands of a boy the cheap manliness of profanity, tobacco, and
irreverence, the demand creates a plentiful supply, while it also
suppresses as priggish or "pi" any avowed or suspected devotion to
higher ideals. A healthy public opinion, working in harmony with a
boy's nobler instincts, calls forth in him an earnest devotion to high
ideals, and causes him to exercise, on the development of his powers
and in a crusade against wrong, the new energies which a wholesome
puberty places at his disposal.



Of the perils which beset the growing boy all are recognised, and, in
a measure, guarded against except the most inevitable and most fatal
peril of all. In all that concerns the use and abuse of the
reproductive organs the great majority of boys have hitherto been left
without adult guidance, and have imbibed their ideas from the coarser
of their companions and from casual references to the subject in the
Bible and other books. Under these conditions very few boys escape two
of the worst dangers into which it is possible for a lad to fall - the
artificial stimulation of the reproductive organs and the acquisition
of degraded ideas on the subject of sex. That many lives are thus
prematurely shortened, that many constitutions are permanently
enfeebled, that very many lads who might otherwise have striven
successfully against the sexual temptations of adult life
succumb - almost without a struggle - to them, can be doubted by no one
who is familiar with the inner life of boys and men.

Of these two evils, self-abuse, though productive of manifold and
disastrous results, is distinctly the less. Many boys outgrow the
physical injuries which, in ignorance, they inflict upon themselves in
youth; but very few are able wholly to cleanse themselves from the
foul desires associated in their minds with sex. These desires make
young men impotent in the face of temptation. Under their evil
dominance, even men of kind disposition will, by seduction, inflict on
an innocent girl agony, misery, degradation, and premature death. They
will indulge In the most degrading of all vices with prostitutes on
the street. They will defile the atmosphere of social life with filthy
talk and ribald jest. Even a clean and ennobling passion can do little
to redeem them. The pure stream of human love is made turbid with
lust. After a temporary uplifting in marriage the soul is again
dragged down, marriage vows are broken and the blessings of home life
are turned into wormwood and gall.

That a system so destructive of physical and of spiritual health
should have lasted almost intact until now will, I believe, shortly
become a matter for general amazement; for while evidence of the
widespread character of youthful perversion is a product of quite
recent years, the assumptions on which this system has been based are
unreasonable and incapable of proof.

Since conclusive evidence of the prevalence of impurity among boys is
available, I will not at present invite the reader to examine the
assumptions which lead most people to a contrary belief. When I do
so, I shall hope to demonstrate that we might reasonably expect to
find things precisely as they are. In the first and second chapters we
shall see to what conclusions teachers who have actual experience in
the matter have been led.

There are several teachers whose authority in most matters stands so
very much above my own that it might seem presumptuous to begin by
laying my own experiences before the reader; but I venture to take
this course because no other teacher, as far as I know, has published
quite such definite evidence as I have done; and I think that the more
general statements of such eminent men as Canon Lyttelton, Mr. A.C.
Benson, and Dr. Clement Dukes will appeal to the reader more
powerfully when he has some idea of the manner in which conclusions on
this subject may be reached. I have some reason, also, for the belief
that the paper I read in 1908 at the London University before the
International Congress on Moral Education has been considered of great
significance by very competent judges. By a special decision of the
Executive of the Congress it - alone of all sectional papers - was
printed _in extenso_ in the official report. Later on, it came under
the notice of Sir R. Baden-Powell, at whose request it was republished
in the _Headquarters Gazette_ - the official organ of the Boy Scout

It certainly did require some courage at the time to put my results
before the public, for I was not then aware that men of great eminence
in the educational world had already made equally sweeping, if less
definite, statements. Emboldened by this fact and by the commendations
above referred to, I venture to quote the greater part of this short

"The opinions I am about to put forward are based almost entirely on
my own twenty years' experience as a housemaster. My house contains
forty-eight boys, who vary in age from ten to nineteen and come from
comfortable middle-class homes.

"Private interviews with individual boys in my study have been the
chief vehicle of my teaching and the chief source of my information.
My objects in these interviews have been to warn boys against the
evils of private impurity, to supply them with a certain amount of
knowledge on sexual subjects in order to prevent a prurient curiosity,
and to induce them to confide to me the history of their own knowledge
and difficulties. In my early days I interviewed those only who
appeared to me to be obviously suffering from the effects of impurity,
and, of late years, the extreme pressure of my work has forced me very
reluctantly to recur to this plan.

"For several years, however, I was accustomed to interview every boy
under my care during his first term with me. Very rarely have I failed
in these interviews so to secure a boy's confidence as to learn the
salient facts of the history of his inner life. Sunday afternoon
addresses to the Sixth Form on the sexual dangers of late youth and
early manhood have resulted at times in elder boys themselves seeking
an interview with me. Such spontaneous confidences have naturally
been fuller, and therefore more instructive, than the confidences I
have invited.

"Many people are inclined to look upon the instruction of boys in
relation to adolescence as needless and harmful; needless because few
boys, they imagine, awake to the consciousness and problems of sex
until manhood; harmful because the pristine innocence of the mind is,
they think, destroyed, and evils are suggested of which a boy might
otherwise remain unconscious. To one who knows what boys really are
such ideas are nothing less than ludicrous.

"Boys come to our school from many different classes of preparatory
and secondary schools. Almost every such school seems to possess a few
boys who delight to initiate younger boys into sexual knowledge, and
usually into knowledge of solitary vice. The very few boys who have
come to me quite ignorant of these matters have come either straight
from home at ten or eleven, or from a school in which a few young boys
are educated with girls. Of boys who have come under my care as late
as twelve I have known but two who even professed total ignorance on
sexual subjects, and in one of these cases I am quite sure that no
such ignorance existed.

"In a large majority of cases solitary vice has been learned and
practised before a boy has got into his teens. The lack of insight
parents display in relation to these questions is quite phenomenal.
The few who mention the subject to me are always quite satisfied of
the complete 'innocence' of their boys. Some of the most precocious
and unclean boys I have known have been thus confidently commended to
me. Boys are wholly unsuspicious of the extent to which their inner
life lies open to the practised eye, and they feel secure that nothing
can betray their secrets if they themselves do not.

"In no department of our life are George Eliot's words truer than in
this department: 'Our daily familiar life is but a hiding of ourselves
from each other behind a screen of trivial words and deeds, and those
who sit with us at the same hearth are often the farthest off from the
deep human soul within us - full of unspoken evil and unacted good.' We
cannot prevent a boy's obtaining information on sexual questions. Our
choice lies between leaving him to pick it up from unclean and vulgar
minds, which will make it guilty and impure, and giving it ourselves
in such a way as to invest it from the first with a sacred character.

"Another idea which my experience proves to be an entire delusion is
the idea that a boy's natural refinement is a sufficient protection
against defilement. Some of the most refined boys I have had the
pleasure of caring for have been pronounced victims of solitary sin.
That it is a sin at all, that it has, indeed, any significance, either
ethical or spiritual, has not so much as occurred to most of them. On
what great moral question dare we leave the young to find their own
way absolutely without guidance? In this most difficult and dangerous
of all questions we leave the young soul, stirred by novel and blind
impulses, to grope in the darkness. Is it any wonder if it fails to
see things in their true relations?

"Again, it is sometimes thought that the consequences of secret sin
are so patent as to deter a boy from the sin itself. So far is this
from being the case that I have never yet found a single boy (even
among those who have, through it, made almost complete wrecks
physically and mentally) who has of himself connected these
consequences with the sin itself. I have, on the other hand, known
many sad cases in which, through the weakening of will power, which
this habit causes, boys of high ideals have fallen again and again
after their eyes have been fully opened. This sin is rarely a
conscious moral transgression. The boy is a victim to be sympathised
with and helped, not an offender to be reproved and punished."

I desire to call the attention of the reader to two points in the
foregoing extract. I was particular in giving my credentials to state
the character and limitations of my experience. Everywhere in life one
finds confident and sweeping generalisations made by men who have
little or no experience to appeal to. This is specially the case in
the educational world, and perhaps most of all in discussions on this
very subject. Some men, at least, are willing to instruct the public
with nothing better to guide them than the light of Nature. It would
greatly assist the quest of truth if everyone who ventures to address
the public on this question would first present his credentials.

There is danger lest the reader should discount the significance of
the statements I make in the foregoing paper by falling into the error
of supposing that the facts stated apply, after all, to one school
only. This is not by any means so. The facts have been collected _at_
one school; but those which refer to the prevalence of sex knowledge
and of masturbation have reference solely to the condition of boys
when they first entered, and are significant of the conditions which
obtain at some scores of schools and in many homes. I venture here to
quote and to warmly endorse Canon Lyttelton's opinion: "It is,
however, so easy to be misunderstood in this matter that I must insert
a caution against an inference which may be drawn from these words,
viz. that school life is the _origin_ of immorality among boys. The
real origin is to be found in the common predisposition to vicious
conceptions, which is the result of neglect. Nature provides in almost
every case an active curiosity on this subject; and that curiosity
must be somehow allayed; and if it were not allayed at school, false
and depraved ideas would be picked up at home.... So readily does an
ignorant mind at an early age take in teaching about these subjects
that there are no conceivable conditions of modern social life not
fraught with grave peril to a young boy, if once he has been allowed
to face them quite unprepared, either by instruction or by warning.
And this manifestly applies to life at home, or in a day-school, or
in a boarding-school to an almost equal degree."[A]

[Footnote A: _Training of the Young in Relation to Sex, p. 1 et

One of the facts which I always tried to elicit from boys was the
source of their information, or rather the character of that source,
for I was naturally anxious not to ask a boy to incriminate any
individual known to me. In many cases, information came first to the
boy at _home_ from a brother, or cousin, or casual acquaintance, or
domestic servant. In one of the worst cases I have known the
information was given to a boy by another boy - an entire stranger to
him - whom he happened to meet on a country road when cycling. Since
boys meet one another very much more at school than elsewhere and
spend three-fourths of their lives there, of course information is
more often obtained at school than at home. My own experience leads me
to think that in this respect the day-school - probably on account of
its mixed social conditions - is worse than the boarding-school.

Before passing from matters of personal experience, it may interest
the reader if I give particulars of a few typical cases to illustrate
some points on which I have insisted.

_Case A._ - The father and mother of a boy close on thirteen came to
see me before entering the lad. They had no idea that I was specially
interested in purity-teaching; but they were anxious to ascertain what
precautions we took against the corruption of small boys. They struck
me as very good parents. I was specially pleased that they were alive
to the dangers of impurity, and that the mother could advert openly to
the matter without embarrassment. I advised them to give the boy
explicit warning; but they said that they were anxious to preserve his
innocence as long as possible. He was at present absolutely simple,
and they hoped that he would long remain so. It was a comfort to them
that I was interested in the subject, and they would leave the boy
with confidence in my care. As soon as I saw the boy, I found it
difficult to believe in his innocence; and I soon discovered that he
was thoroughly corrupt. Not merely did he begin almost at once to
corrupt other boys, but he actually gave them his views on brothels!
In a private interview with me he admitted all this, and told me that
he was corrupted at ten years of age, when he was sent, after
convalescence from scarlet fever, to a country village for three
months. There he seems to have associated with a group of street boys,
who gave him such information as they had, and initiated him into
self-abuse. Since then he had been greedily seeking further
information and passing it on.

_Case B._ - A delicate, gentle boy of eleven, an only son, was sent to
me by an intellectual father, who had been his constant companion. The
lad was very amiable and well-intentioned. A year later he gave me
particulars of his corruption by a cousin, who was three years older
than he. Since that time - particularly of late - he had practised
masturbation. He had not the least idea that it was hurtful or even
unrefined, and thought that it was peculiar to himself and his
cousin. He knew from his cousin the chief facts of maternity and
paternity, but had not spoken to other boys about them. He was
intensely anxious to cleanse himself entirely, and promised to let me
know of any lapse, should it occur. In the following vacation he
developed pneumonia. For some days his life hung in the balance, and
then flickered out. His father wrote me a letter of noble resignation.
Terribly as he felt his loss, he was greatly consoled, he said, by the
knowledge that his boy had died while his mind was innocent and before
he could know even what temptation was. It is needless to add that I
never hinted the real facts to the father; and - without altering any
material detail - I am disguising the case lest it should possibly be
recognised by him. I have often wondered whether, when the lad's life
hung in the balance, it might not have been saved if Death's scale had
not been weighted by the child's lowered vitality.

_Case C._ - A boy of fourteen came to me. He was a miserable specimen
in every way - pale, lethargic, stupid almost beyond belief. He had no
mother; and the father, though a man of leisure, evidently found it
difficult to make the lad much of a companion. I felt certain from the
first that the boy was an exceptionally bad victim of self-abuse; And
this I told his father, advising him to investigate the matter. He was
horrified at my diagnosis, and committed the great indiscretion of
taxing the boy with self-abuse as though it were a conscious and
grave fault. The father wrote during the vacation saying that he
found I was entirely mistaken: not, content with the lad's assurance,
he had watched him with the utmost care. As soon as the boy returned
to school I interviewed him. He admitted readily that he had long
masturbated himself daily - sometimes oftener. He had first - as far as
he could remember, at about six - had his private parts excited by his
nurse, who apparently did this to put an irritable child into a good
temper! My warning had little effect upon him, as he had become a
hopeless victim. He was too delicate a boy for us to desire to keep;
and after a brief stay at school, during which we nursed him through a
critical illness, he left to finish his education under private
tuition at home.

_Case D._ - This boy came to me at thirteen. He was always a
conscientious and amiable boy, but was nervous and dull. By fifteen
his dullness had increased, and he complained of brain-strain and
poorness of memory. Finally he began to develop St. Vitus's dance. I
sent him to our school doctor, who returned him with a note saying
that his condition was serious - that he must stop all work, &c. &c. I
was in my study when the lad came back, and I at once told him what
was the matter. He frankly admitted frequent self-abuse, which he had
learned from an elder brother. He had not the least suspicion that the
habit was injurious; but was very apprehensive about his future until
I reassured him. He wanted me to write at once and warn a younger
brother who had fallen into the habit. By great effort he got himself
rapidly under control. His nervous twitchings disappeared, his
vitality improved, the brain-fag gradually ceased; and when he left,
eighteen months later, he was fairly normal. His improvement continued
afterwards, and he is now a successful man of business and a married

_Case E._ - This boy entered at twelve. He was very weak physically and
highly nervous - owing, his people thought, to severe bullying at a
previous school. He was an able boy, of literary and artistic tastes,
and almost painfully conscientious. He was very shy; always thought
that he was despised by other boys; and was a duffer at games, which
he avoided to the utmost. With my present experience I should have
known him to be a victim of self-abuse. Then, I did not suspect him;
and it was not until he was leaving at eighteen for the University
that we talked the matter over, on his initiative. Then I found that
he had been bullied into impurity at eleven, and was now a helpless
victim. After two years at the University he wrote me that, though the
temptation now came less frequently, he seemed absolutely powerless
when it did come; that he despised himself so much that the impulse to
suicide often haunted him; but that the cowardice which had kept him
from games at school would probably prevent his taking his life. With
the assistance of an intense and devoted religious life he gradually
began to gain self-mastery. It is some years now since he has
mentioned the subject to me.

These are merely specimen cases. Cases A, B, and C illustrate my
assertions that parents are wonderfully blind; Cases B and E, that
quite exceptional refinement in a boy gives no protection from
temptation to impurity; Case D, that a boy, even in an extreme case,
does not know that the habit is injurious. In respect of their
severity, C, D, and E are not normal but extreme cases. The reader
must not imagine that boys ordinarily suffer as much as these did.



I propose now to make clear to the reader the fact that the
conclusions I have reached as to the existence of sexual knowledge
among boys, and as to the prevalence of self-abuse, are entirely borne
out by the opinion of the most distinguished teachers and medical men.

Canon Lyttelton writes with an authority which no one will question.
Educated at Eton, he was for two years an assistant master at
Wellington College; then, for fifteen years, headmaster of Haileybury
College, and has now been headmaster of Eton for over six years. He
has intimate knowledge of boys, derived, as regards the question of
purity, from confidential talks with them. The quotations which follow
are from his work _Training of the Young in Laws of Sex_. Canon
Lyttelton does not think it needful to make statements as to the
prevalence of impurity among boys. He rather assumes that this
prevalence is obvious and, under present conditions, inevitable. I
have already quoted one passage which involves this assumption, and
now invite the reader to consider two others. "In the school life of
boys, in spite of very great improvements, it is _impossible_ that
sexual subjects should be wholly avoided in common talk.... Though, in
preparatory schools of little boys under fourteen, the increasing
vigilance of masters, and constant supervision, combined with constant
employment, reduce the evil of prurient talk to a minimum, yet these
subjects _will_ crop up.... It should be remembered that the boys who
are talkative about such subjects are just those whose ideas are most
distorted and vicious. In the public school, owing not only to freer
talk and more mixed company but to the boy's own wider range of
vision, sexual questions, and also those connected with the structure
of the body, come to the fore and begin to occupy more or less of the
thoughts of all but a peculiarly constituted minority of the whole

"Men, as I have shown, have been severely dealt with by Nature in this
respect: she has forced them, at a time of life when their minds are
ill compacted, their ideas chaotic, and their wills untrained, to face

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