Not everyone is on board with the health benefits of masturbation. The fact that we get to talk about it at all nowadays is an important advancement. Society wasn’t always this open minded about self pleasure but like most events in history it’s tolerance has ebbed and flowed depending on the culture and the time. In some ancient cultures, and even a few more modern ones, masturbation is thought as a natural and normal part of life. There was a fervor against masturbation in the 18th, 19th century and early 20th century when not only was it a religious issue but a medical one. During this time medicine was still nothing much more than a guessing game laden with folk wisdom and very little actual science. Many treatises were written about the perils of masturbation. It was said to lead to a variety of maladies of the mind and body and often thought of as a disease that could have fatal consequences. Even naturally occurring nocturnal emissions were diagnosed as the disease Spermatorrhea. The Victorian era saw a plethora of anti-masturbation and nocturnal emission prevention device patents. Hard to believe these cruel and often painful devices were ever created much less used.
Jaws That Bite, Claws That Catch
Pointed teeth and sharp clamps seemed to be a popular Victorian idea for preventing erections which might lead to ejaculation, or worse yet lure you to touch yourself then lead to ejaculation or orgasm. There were a variety of sheaths that used tiny teeth to wake the wearer in the hopes of stopping any potential night emissions. One of the most popular among anti-masturbation research articles is the Spermatorrhea ring or Jugum Penis. It has a teeth filled trap that went around the penis and was clipped so it was secured at the base. This device was sure to wake you if getting aroused during sleep thus deterring nocturnal emissions and masturbation. Not all painful measures used pointed teeth but other ways to use pain to wake the wearer. The Bowden device was a metal cover that was slipped over the penis and clipped to the pubic hairs. Basically if you became aroused, it ripped out pubic hairs as a sure fire way to wake you. The pain of tearing out pubes would put a damper on that impending erection too.
Sheaths and Trusses
There were a variety of sheaths and trusses given patents in the Victorian Era. Sheaths seemed more of a rarity with trusses, basically male chastity belts, being more common. The goal was to either prevent your member from growing thus preventing the possibility of ejaculation and/or prevent yourself from touching and manipulating said erect penis. One example is a mechanical sheath created by Raphael Sonn in 1906. This tight metal sheath had a close enough fit that removal would cause intense pain or mutilation. It could only be opened with a tiny key. Harvey Stephenson’s Spermatic Truss patented in 1876 was a device that strapped the penis into a pouch that was then strapped to the leg to prevent erection. A later version of this device didn’t strap the penis to the leg but instead provided a spike-lined pouch to deter erections. Cage devices that were even recommended by medical journals may not necessarily have prevented erections but prevented being about to do anything with them. Fitting over the penis the cage would prevent masturbation by preventing the hand from coming into contact with the penis. You could also get a metal covering for the penis and testicles, sort of a steel codpiece worn under clothes, was a way to prevent the wearer from getting aroused or touching themselves. Examples of these metal casings show holes for urination and a bit of air circulation. It looks like they attached to your waistband or may have had a waistband of their own.
Shock Therapy and Alarming Options
Albert Todd created a device in 1903 that you slipped your member and testicles into and if your penis grew beyond a certain length would trigger an electrical discharge to the testicles. This metal sheath with a series of coils attached to a harness was designed to be worn at all times. Other devices used electricity to trigger an alarm system. A cord or wire would be placed on the penis so that an alarm was triggered if there was growth or movement during the night. This was often marketed as a way for parents to monitor their young boys. In 1899 George Dudley came up with a device that when triggered by an impending erection rang a bell to wake the wearer. Joseph Lees created a harness in 1989 that had an “alarm loud enough to waken even a heavy sleeper.” Lees also created a kinder and gentler version of this device that used “soothing classical music or other pleasing medium” by attaching a gramophone to the device.
Cold Showers, Hot PJs and Armored Bodysuits
Frank Orth developed a “cooling” device in 1893. Putting on these cooling underpants the penis was put into a pocket that was between two levers. Should an erection happen, a small fan would be activated to send cold air through tubes to shrink the erection. There was also a version that used cold water to cool the organ so that “the erection subsides and no discharge occurs.” Basically it’s the Underoos version of a cold shower. There were other devices that tried to keep not only your body cool but also the distracting fabric of your bedclothes away from your genitals. An odd device that hooks to your raised knees created a tent of sorts to keep fabric away from your groin. As if that wasn’t enough, full body coverings were used to prevent wandering hands from getting to genitals. Ellen E Perkins developed “sexual armor” in 1907, a cloth bodysuit with metal plates that had locking zippers. Her device was created because “It is a deplorable but well known fact that one of the most common causes of insanity, imbecility and feeble mindedness, especially in youth, is due to masturbation or self abuse.” It saddens me to see this device was marketed for the institutionalized, more specifically mental patients, as a way to stop them from touching themselves. Such cruelty.
An Era Devoted to Extreme Anti-Masturbation
The list of anti-masturbation and excessive emissions techniques seems endless while researching this era. At its peak they used everything from circumcision without an anesthetic, metal staples, exercise, electric shock, extreme fear tactics and modified diets to cure this terrible disease that was ruining physical and mental health. Once we get into the 1930’s and 40’s these extreme ideas start to wane. The Kinsey era arrives and we start to understand that sexual bodily functions are normal and healthy. During the Victorian Era, even though their doctors were attempting to cure Hysteria with manual stimulation and vibrators, it was not thought of as bringing on orgasms for women. Women had their own brand anti-masturbation devices and techniques geared towards them too but that’s an article for another day.
There are several months out of the year that get so busy I can’t even think. August is one of them. On the busiest weekend in August I’m looking forward to a little oasis of free time. I’m sitting in a row of chairs closely lined up together so I decide not to break out the Kindle. It’s mostly got erotica on it right now that is bit more racy than the copy of Fifty Shade of Grey that is being read by an older woman sitting further down the row. I decide to flip through an LA Weekly instead even though I’d rather be reading a book. I am slightly amused by the thought of summer being a time to catch up on reading. You see it written about everywhere and always with a stock photo of someone lying lazily in a hammock or on the beach with book in hand. I always fall behind on my reading during the summer. It’s hard to find real mental down time between keeping the kids occupied enough to not kill each other, family commitments and dancing.
As I rather mindlessly gaze at the pages I stop momentarily on an ad for a romantic getaway. It is in that moment that my mind wanders while looking at the romantically entwined couple in the photo. A private jet and champagne sounds wonderful on this insanely hot day filled with responsibility. I lose myself in the notion of being swept away. Specifically I’m suddenly in an episode of Doctor Who and I’m being invited on an adventure exploring time and space. It may look like I’m reading the same page in the paper for 20 minutes but I’m really somewhere else. Unfortunately my reverie is broken by the women next to me who strikes up a conversation for no other reason other than I’m there and she has nothing else to do. As I am abruptly forced back into reality a word pops into my head. “Escape.”
I had spent some time thinking of this word several weeks ago but it took on a special significance to me at that moment. I was thinking of it in terms of physically getting away. Getting out of an unhealthy situation, getting away from routine or simply going away on vacation. It occurred to me that we could not only physically escape but also mentally escape. We can lose ourselves in a fascinating book, a compelling movie or a favorite television show. I love to escape into books, movies and television. I unfortunately find less time for these things in the increasing hectic state of my life as a Mom of two young kids. Luckily I have one form of escape that has stood the test of time. A place I love to go when there is too much going on and life is overwhelming. Or even just a place to go when there is time to kill. It’s my own head, the theater of the mind, my daydreams.
Daydreaming is sometimes thought of as a waste of time in a culture that seems obsessed with productivity. Recent studies have discovered it has many benefits. Not only can we use it to problem solve or boost creativity it can also help us get through the relentless pressure we often experience. Cost of living on the rise, air travel so expensive it’s out of reach of many and the need to work harder to just get by can be tough on the brain. Taking the time to tune out for a moment can give us the break we need to keep going. Perhaps that’s the allure of Christian Grey and the reason behind the popularity of the Fifty Shades series. Daydreaming about being swept away by a handsome rich man who attends to your every need, even controls your daily life, can be a welcome relief when taking control of your life gets stressful and difficult. Imagining yourself being romanced by vampire boyfriend Edward Cullen, on a pirate adventure with Captain Jack Sparrow, capturing spies like James Bond, exploring along with Indiana Jones or, in my case, racing through time and space with The Doctor are all wonderful ways to escape. We can put ourselves in the starring role as the seductive vampire, the swashbuckling pirate, the super spy or we take the passenger seat and be the Bond girl, the anthropologist sidekick or a Doctor Who companion.
While I’ve used my daydreaming to be creative or problem solve I mostly use it to tell elaborate stories. Books I’m forever writing in my head but never putting down on paper. My daydreams are complex productions in which the concept of escape is played out in storylines that can last for days, weeks and even months. I daydream about being taken out of an ordinary life and led by the hand into an extraordinary adventure. Sometimes I spend a little too much time in this dream world, especially at times when life has been the most stressful, but it’s a survival technique. I need those moments where I become rock star, travel through space, meet a vampire (I prefer Lestat to Edward) or save the world in the nick of time. If I couldn’t daydream I’d have a lot harder time dealing with financial hardships and the challenges of parenthood.
My little mental get away keeps me going. It’s an oasis, a sanctuary. Daydreaming requires nothing to facilitate it and can be done pretty much anywhere. You can continue a storyline from a book or show, imagine that vacation or adventure you’ve always wanted or have those illicit sexy encounters you’ve never had. It can be a safety measure to ease your brain in times of anxiety and a way to work out problems creatively. Going over a future project or recalling the events in a recent meeting can be done while waiting at a street light or washing the dishes. These moments where your mind wanders can provide answers to a difficult problem or help you learn from a mistake. It can also get your mind off of your troubles long enough to relax and reboot your brain. Take a moment to let your mind wander and escape. It could do you a world of good.
Originally published on Silence Cupcake