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an ordeal which demands above all things reverence based on knowledge
and resolution sustained by high affections. An _enormously large
proportion_ flounder blindly into the mire before they know what it
is, not necessarily, but very often into the defilement of evil habit,
but, still more often, into the tainted air of diseased opinion, and
after a few years _some of them_ emerge saved, but so as by fire."[B]

[Footnote B: Pages 4 _et seq._: the italics are mine.]

The following are quotations from the _Upton Letters_, written by Mr.
A.C. Benson. Mr. Benson is one of the most distinguished of modern
teachers: he has had long experience of public-school life both as a
boy and as a master: he has that insight into the heart of boyhood
which can come only to one who has affectionate sympathy with boys and
has been the recipient of their confidences. It will be abundantly
evident from the passages which follow that in Mr. Benson's opinion no
boy is likely to preserve his "innocence" in passing through a public

"The subject is so unpleasant that many masters dare not speak of it
at all, and excuse themselves by saying that they don't want to put
ideas into boys' heads. I cannot conscientiously believe that a man
who has been through a big public school himself can honestly be
afraid of that." "The standard of purity is low: a vicious boy does
not find his vicious tendencies by any means a bar to social success."
This, of course, assumes that the vicious tendencies are a matter of
notoriety. A similar implication is involved in the following: "I do
not mean to say that there are not many boys who are both pure-minded
and honest; but they treat such virtues as a secret preference of
their own, and do not consider that it is in the least necessary to
interfere with the practice of others or even to disapprove of it." He
further gives it as his opinion that "The deadly and insidious
temptation of impurity has, as far as one can learn, increased," and
tells us "An innocent-minded boy whose natural inclination to purity
gave way before perpetual temptation and even compulsion might be
thought to have erred, but would have scanty, if any, expression of
either sympathy or pity from other boys; while if he breathed the
least hint of his miserable position to a master and the fact came
out, he would be universally scouted.... One hears of simply
heart-rending cases where a boy dare not even tell his parents of what
he endures." It would thus appear that in some of the premier schools
of the world impurity is a matter of notoriety, sometimes of
compulsion; and that, to a boy's own strong inclination to
concealment, is superadded, by the public opinion of the school, an
imperious command that this concealment shall, even in heart-rending
cases, be maintained.

No one, I think, will maintain that private schools _as a class_ are
in the least degree lees corrupt than public schools; while there are,
I am sure, at least a few schools in which public opinion condemns
_open_ impurity, and will not tolerate impure talk. And while I am
confident that it is possible, not merely to attain this condition in
a school, but also to reduce private impurity to a negligible
quantity, impurity - in one form or another - is, in general, so widely
spread in boys' schools of every type, that it is difficult to
understand how anyone familiar with school life can doubt its

Let us now consider the opinion of Dr. Clement Dukes, the medical
officer of Rugby School and the greatest English authority on school
hygiene. In the preface to the fourth edition of his well-known work
_Health at School_, Dr. Dukes writes: "I have studied children in all
their phases and stages for many years - two years at the Hospital for
Sick Children in 61 Ormond Street, London, followed by thirty-three
years at Rugby School - a professional history which has provided me
with an almost unique experience in all that relates to the Health and
Disease of Childhood and Youth, and has compelled constant and steady
thought upon every aspect of this problem." In an earlier work, _The
Preservation of Health_, Dr. Dukes gives his estimate of the
prevalence of masturbation, and quotes the opinion of other
authorities whose credentials he has verified; In this work, on page
150, he writes of masturbation: "I believe that the reason why it is
so widespread an evil - amounting, I gather, although from the nature
of the case no complete evidence can ever be accurately obtained, to
somewhere _about 90 to 95 per cent. of all boys at boarding-schools_ - is
because the boy leaves his home in the first instance without one word
of warning from his parents ... and thus falls into evil ways from his
innocence and ignorance alone.... This immorality is estimated by some
at 80 per cent., by others at 90 per cent. Another says that not 10
per cent. are innocent. Another that it has always begun at from eight
to twelve years of age. Others that it is always worst amongst the
elder boys. Others that 'it is universal.'" Professor Stanley Hall,
in his great work on _Adolescence_, after a similar and exhaustive
review of the numerous works on this subject in different languages,
concludes: "The whole literature on the subject attests that whenever
careful researches have been undertaken the results are appalling as
to prevalence." And yet there are people who deprecate purity-teaching
for boys because they feel that a boy's natural modesty is quite a
sufficient protection, and that there is danger of destroying a boy's
innocence by putting ideas into his head! To hear such people talk,
and to listen to the way in which they speak of self-abuse as though
it implied monstrous moral perversion, one would think that the
condition of morals when they were young was wholly different. The
great novelist Thackeray gives little countenance to this opinion when
he writes in _Pendennis_: "And, by the way, ye tender mothers and
sober fathers of Christian families, a prodigious thing that theory of
life is as orally learned at a great public school. Why if you could
hear those boys of fourteen who blush before mothers and sneak off in
silence in the presence of their daughters, talking among each
other - it would be the woman's turn to blush then. Before he was
twelve years old little Pen had heard talk enough to make him quite
awfully wise upon certain points - and so, madam, has your pretty
rosy-cheeked son, who is coming home from school for the ensuing
holidays. I don't say that the boy is lost, or that the innocence has
left him which he had from 'Heaven, which is our home,' but that the
shades of the prison-house are closing fast over him, and that we are
helping as much as possible to corrupt him."

Before concluding this chapter I would caution the reader against the
error of supposing that the opinions expressed by Canon Lyttelton and
Dr. Dukes are indicative merely of the conditions they have met at
Haileybury, Eton, and Rugby. They are equally significant of the
conditions which obtain in the innumerable schools from which
Haileybury, Eton, and Rugby are recruited; and as there is no reason
why other preparatory schools should differ from these, they are
significant of the almost universal condition of boys' schools.



The evidence I have adduced in the previous chapters will convince
most of my readers that few boys retain their innocence after they are
of school age. There may, however, be a few who find it impossible to
reconcile this conclusion with their ideas of boy nature. I will
therefore now examine current conceptions on this subject and expose
their fundamental inaccuracy.

There are some people who imagine that a boy's innate modesty is quite
sufficient protection against defilement. Does experience really
warrant any such conclusion? Those who know much of children will
recognise the fact that even the cardinal virtues of truthfulness and
honesty have often to be learned, and that ideas of personal
cleanliness, of self-restraint in relation to food, and of
consideration for others have usually to be implanted and fostered.
Among people of refinement these virtues are often so early learned
that there is danger lest we should consider them innate. The
susceptibility of some children to suggestions conveyed to them by the
example and precept of their elders is almost unlimited. Hence a
child may, at two, have given up the trick of clearing its nostrils
with the finger-nail, and may, before five, have learned most of the
manners and virtues of refined people. The majority, however, take
longer to learn these things, so that a jolly little chap of ten or
twelve is often by no means scrupulously clean in hands, nails, ears,
and teeth, is often distinctly greedy, and sometimes far from

That cleanliness and virtue are acquired and not innate is obvious
enough from the fact that children who grow up among dirty and
unprincipled people are rarely clean and virtuous. Were it possible
for the child of refined parents to grow up without example or precept
in relation to table manners and morals, except the example and advice
of vulgar people, who would expect refinement and consideration from
him? Is there anyone who has such faith in innate refinement that he
would be content to let a child of his own, grow up without a hint on
these matters, and with such example only as was supplied by
association with vulgar people? Yet this is precisely what we do in
relation to the subject of personal purity. The child has no good
example to guide him. The extent to which temptation comes to those
whom he respects, the manner in which they comport themselves when
tempted, the character of their sex relations are entirely hidden from
him. He is not only without example, he is without precept. No ideals
are set before him, no advice is given to him: the very existence of
anything in which ideals and advice are needful is ignored.

If in conditions like these we should expect a boy to grow up greedy,
we may be certain that he will grow up impure. At puberty there awakes
within him by far the strongest appetite that human nature can
experience - an appetite against which some of the noblest of mankind
have striven in vain. The appetite is given abnormal strength by the
artificial and stimulating conditions under which he lives. The act
which satisfies this appetite is also one of keen pleasure. He has
long been accustomed to caress his private parts, and the pleasure
with which he does this is greatly enhanced. He does not suspect that
indulgence is harmful. This pleasure, unlike that of eating, costs him
nothing, and is ever available. His powers of self-control are as yet
undeveloped. He can indulge himself without incurring the least
suspicion. He probably knows that most boys, of his age and above,
indulge themselves. The result is inevitable. He finds that sexual
thoughts are keenly pleasurable, and that they produce bodily
exaltation. He has much yet to learn on the subject of sex, and he
enjoys the quest. Wherever he turns he finds it now - in his Bible, in
animal life, in his classics, in the encyclopædia, in his companions,
and in the newspaper. Day and night the subject is ever with him. It
is inevitable. And at this juncture comes along the theorist who is
aghast at our destroying the lad's "innocence," and at our "suggesting
evils to him which otherwise he would never have thought of." "The
boy's innate modesty is quite a sufficient protection"!

To me the wonderful thing is the earnestness with which a boy sets
about the task of cleansing his life when once he has been made to
realise the real character of the thoughts and acts with which he has
been playing. Boys, as I find them, rarely err in this matter, or in
any other, from moral perversity, but merely from ignorance and
thoughtlessness. Severe rebukes and punishments are rarely either just
or useful. The disposition which obliges the teacher to use them in
the last resort, and the rebellion against authority which is said to
follow puberty, arise almost invariably from injudicious training in
the home or at school. Boys who have received a fair home training,
and who find themselves in a healthy atmosphere at school, are almost
invariably delightful to deal with; and even those who have been less
fortunate in their early surroundings adapt themselves in most cases
to the standards which a healthy public opinion in the school demands.

It may be thought that the mere reticence of adults about reproduction
and the reproductive organs would impress the child's mind with the
idea that it is unclean to play with his private parts or to talk
about their functions with his companions. This is a psychological
error. For some years past adults have avoided any allusion to the
subject of excretion, and the child assumes that _public_ attention to
bodily needs and _public_ reference to these needs are alike
indelicate. He does not, however, conclude that excretion in private
is an indelicate act, nor does any sense of delicacy oblige him to
maintain, with regard to companions of his own sex and age, the
reticence which has become habitual to him in his relations with
adults. Why should the child think it "dirty" to fondle and excite his
private parts or to talk about them with his boy friends? The
knowledge which makes us feel as we do is as yet hidden from him.

The same thing is certainly true of conversation about the facts of
reproduction when those who converse are uncorrupted. Another element,
however, at once appears when these facts are divulged by a corrupt
boy, because his manner is irresistibly suggestive of uncleanness as
well as of secrecy. Similarly when self-abuse is fallen into
spontaneously by a boy who is otherwise clean, no sense of indecency
attaches itself to the act. When, however, it is taught by an unclean
boy, there is a feeling of defilement from the first. In boys under
the age of puberty this feeling may overpower the temptation; in boys
above that age it is, as a rule, totally inadequate as a safeguard.

Many people imagine that a boy who is impure must betray himself, and
that if no overt acts of indecency are observed the innocence of a
boy's mind may be safely inferred. Knowledge on these subjects has,
however, been almost invariably gained under conditions of the utmost
secrecy, and the behaviour of adults has effectively fostered the idea
of concealment. Hence we might expect that the secret would be
jealously guarded and that any overt act of impurity would be avoided
in the presence of adults with even greater circumspection than the
public performance of an excretory act. The habit of self-abuse,
moreover, is practised usually under the double cover of darkness and
the bed-clothes. The temptation occurs far less by day than by night,
and a boy who yields to it in the day invariably chooses a closet or
other private place in which he feels secure from detection.

To many people it is inconceivable that a lad can harbour impure
feelings and habits without obvious deterioration; but even if a
child's lapses into these things were associated with conscious guilt,
does our knowledge of human nature justify us in supposing that evil
in the heart is certain to betray itself in a visible degradation of
the outer life? If we believe the language of the devout, we must
admit that the most spiritual of men hide in their heart thoughts of
which they are heartily ashamed. It is not into the mouth of the
reprobate but into the mouth of her devoted members as they enter upon
their sacramental service that the Church puts the significant prayer,
"Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and
from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts in our hearts by
the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit." Inconsistency in adults is far
too well recognised to need proof. In children it is even more
obvious, and for this reason that, looked at aright, it is the faculty
of maintaining the general health of the soul, spite of local morbid
conditions - a faculty which is strongest in the simpler and more
adaptable mind of the child.

Impurity as a disease has a long incubation period. When he contracts
the disease, its victim is often wholly unconscious of his danger;
and, both because the disease is an internal one and is slow in
development, it is a very long time before obvious symptoms appear.
Meanwhile a corruption may have set in which will ultimately ruin the
whole life.



It is difficult to exaggerate the evils which result from the present
system under which boys grow to manhood without any adult guidance in
relation to the laws of sex.

It has already been stated that the immediate physical results of
self-abuse are small evils indeed compared with the corruption of mind
which comes from perverted sex ideas. They are, however, by no means
negligible; and are, in some cases, very serious. The great prevalence
of self-abuse among boys, combined with the inevitable uncertainty as
to the degree of a boy's freedom from, or indulgence in, this vice,
makes it very difficult to institute a reliable comparison between
those who are chaste and those who are unchaste. Greater significance
attaches, I think, to a comparison in individual cases of a boy's
condition during a period of indulgence in masturbation and his
condition after its total, or almost total, relinquishment. I have no
hesitation in saying that the difference in a boy's vitality and
spiritual tone after relinquishing this habit is very marked. The
case _D_ quoted in Chapter I. is, in this respect, typical.

In my pamphlet, _Private Knowledge for Boys_, I have quoted a striking
passage from Acton on the Reproductive Organs, in which he contrasts
the continent and the incontinent boy. But in the case of men like Dr.
Acton - specialists in the diseases of the male reproductive organs - it
must be remembered that it is mostly the abnormal and extreme cases
which come under their notice: a fact which is liable to affect their
whole estimate. The book can be recommended to adults who wish to see
the whole subject of sex diseases dealt with by a specialist who
writes with a high moral purpose.

My own estimate is given in the pamphlet already referred to. After
quoting Dr. Acton's opinion, I add: -

"You will notice that Dr. Acton is here describing an extreme case. I
want to tell you what are the results in a case which is not extreme.
My difficulty is that these results are so various. The injury to the
nerves and brain which is caused by sexual excitement and by the loss
of semen leaves nothing in the body, mind or character uninjured. The
_extent_ of the injury varies greatly with the strength of a boy's
constitution and with the frequency of his sin. The _character_ of the
injury varies with the boy's own special weaknesses and tendencies. If
he is naturally shy and timid, it makes him shyer and more timid. If
he is stupid and lazy, it makes him more stupid and lazy. If he is
inclined to consumption or other disease, it destroys his power of
resisting such disease. In extreme cases only does it actually change
an able boy into a stupid one, an athletic boy into a weak one, and a
happy boy into a discontented one; but in all cases it _weakens_ every
power a boy possesses. Its most prominent results are these: loss of
will-power and self-reliance, shyness, nervousness and irritability,
failure of the reasoning powers and memory, laziness of body and mind,
a diseased fondness for girls, deceitfulness. Of these results, the
loss of will-power leaves the boy a prey not only to the temptations
of impurity, but to every other form of temptation: the deceitfulness
destroys his self-respect and turns his life into a sham."

Of incomparably greater importance than Acton's wide but abnormal
experience and my own narrow but normal experience is the experience
of Dr. Clement Dukes, which is very wide and perfectly normal. No man
has probably been in so good a position for forming an estimate as he
has been. Dr. Dukes thus sums up his opinion: "The harm which results
is moral, intellectual, and physical. _Physically_ it is a frequent
drain at a critical time of life when nature is providing for growth
and development, and is ill able to bear it; it is a powerful nervous
shock to the system ill-prepared to meet it.... It also causes
muscular and mental debility, loss of spirit and manliness, and
occasional insanity, suicide and homicide. Moreover it leads to
further uncontrollable passions in early manhood.... Further, this
vice enfeebles the _intellectual_ powers, inducing lethargy and
obtuseness, and incapacity for hard mental work. And last, and most of
all, it is an _immorality_ which stains the whole character and
undermines the life."

In this passage Dr. Dukes refers to the intellectual and moral harm of
self-abuse as well as to its physical consequences. Intimately
connected as these are with one another, I am here attempting to give
them separate treatment. It is, however, impossible to treat perverted
sex-knowledge and self-abuse separately; for though in young boys they
are found independently of one another, and sometimes co-exist in
elder boys without any intimate conscious association, their results
are identical. In the following pages, therefore, I shall refer to
them jointly as impurity.

The earliest evil which springs from impurity is the destruction of
the intimacy which has hitherto existed between the boy and his
parents. Closely associated with this is that duplicity of life which
results from secrets which may be shared with the coarse but must be
jealously concealed from everyone who is respected. Untold harm
follows these changes in a lad. Hitherto he has had nothing to conceal
from his mother - unless, indeed, his parents have been foolish enough
to drive him into deception by undue severity over childish mistakes,
and accidents, and moral lapses. Every matter which has occupied his
thoughts he has freely shared with those who can best lead him into
the path of moral health.

Henceforth all is changed. The lad has his own inner life which he
must completely screen from the kind eyes which have hitherto been his
spiritual lights. Concealment is soon found to be an easy thing. Acts
and words are things of which others may take cognisance; the inner
life no one can ever know. A world is opened to the lad in which the
restraints of adult opinion are not felt at all and the guidance and
inspiration of a father's or mother's love never come. How completely
this is the case in regard to impurity the reader will hardly doubt if
he remembers that all parents believe their boys to be innocent, and
that some 90 per cent. of them are hopelessly hoodwinked. But this
double life is not long confined to the subject of purity. The
concealment which serves one purpose excellently can be made to serve
another; and henceforth parents and adult friends need never know
anything but what they are told. It is a sad day for the mother when
first she realises that the old frankness has gone; it is a very, very
much sadder day for the boy. There is no fibre of his moral being but
is, or will be, injured by this divorce of home influences and by this
ever-accumulating burden of guilty memories. "His mother may not know
why this is so," writes Canon Lyttelton; "the only thing she may be
perfectly certain of is that the loss will never be quite made up as
long as life shall last."

Another injury done by impurity to the growing mind of the lad is
that, in all matters relating to sex, he learns to look merely for
personal enjoyment. In every other department of life he is moved by
a variety of motives: by the desire to please, the desire to excel, by
devotion to duty, by the love of truth, and by many other desires.
Even in gratifying the appetite most nearly on the same plane as the
sexual appetite - namely, that of hunger - he has more or less regard
for his own well-being, more or less consideration for the wishes of
others, and a constant desire to attain the standard expected of him.
Meanwhile, as regards the sexual appetite - the racial importance of
which is great; and the regulation of which is of infinite importance
for himself, for those who may otherwise become its victims, for the
wife he may one day wed, and for the children, legitimate or
illegitimate, that he may beget - his one idea is personal enjoyment.
One deplorable result of this idea will be adverted to in the next

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Online LibraryMary ScharliebYouth and Sex → online text (page 5 of 7)