CHAPTER III. SEX IN MALE CHILDHOOD
(FROM 14 TO 16)
During the first years of child life all those laws of practical hygiene which make for good health should be carefully observed. Every organ of the body should be carefully protected, even at this early age. The genital organs, especially, should not be rubbed or handled under any pretext, beyond what is absolutely necessary for cleanliness. The organs of generation, which we are apt to treat as nonexistent in children, just because they are children, claim just as much watchful care as any others.
SEX PRECAUTIONS IN INFANCY
Even in infancy, the diaper should fit easily about the organs which it covers, so as not to give rise to undue friction or heating of the parts. And for the same reason it should always be changed immediately after urination or a movement of the bowels. No material which prevents the escape of perspiration, urine or fecal matter should be employed for a diaper. The use of a chair-commode as early as the end of the first year is highly to be commended, as being more comfortable for the sex organs and healthier for the child. It favors, in particular, a more perfect development of limbs and hip joints.
EARLY SEX IMPRESSIONS
Sex impressions and reactions are apt to develop at an early age, especially in the case of boys. If the child's physical health is normal, however, they should not affect his mind or body. The growing boy should be encouraged to take his sex questions and sex problems to his parents (in his case preferably the father) for explanation. Thus they may be made clear to him naturally and logically. He should not be told what he soon discovers is not true: that babies are “dug up with a silver spade,” or make their appearances in the family thanks to the kind offices of storks or angels. Instead, by analogy with the reproductive processes of all nature, the true facts of sex may be explained to him in a soothing and normal way.
Too often, the growing boy receives his first lessons regarding sex from ignorant and vicious associates. Curiosity is one of the greatest natural factors in the child's proper development, if rightly directed. When wrongly led, however, it may have the worst consequences. Even before puberty occurs, a boy's attention may be quite naturally drawn to his own sex organs.
NATURAL CAUSES OF INFANT SEXUAL PRECOCITY
Sexual precocity in boys may be natural or it may be artificially called forth. Among natural causes which develop sex precocity is promiscuous playing with other boys and girls for hours without supervision. It may also be produced by playful repose on the stomach, sliding down banisters, going too long without urinating, by constipation or straining at stool, irritant cutaneous affections, and rectal worms. Sliding down banisters, for instance, produces a titillation. The act may be repeated until inveterate masturbation results, even at an early age. Needless laving, handling and rubbing of the private parts is another natural incitement to sexual precocity.
Priapism is a disease which boys often develop. It may be either a result or a cause of sexual precocity, and may come from undue handling of the genital parts or from a morbid state of health. It takes the form of paroxysms, more or less frequent, and of violent and often painful erection, calling for a physician's attention. If the result of a functional disorder, and not arrested, it is in danger of giving rise to masturbation. This morbid condition sometimes seriously impairs the health.
Masturbation, the habit of self-abuse, often formed before puberty, is an artificial development of sexual precocity. Most boys, from the age of nine to fourteen, interest themselves in sex questions and matters, but these are usually presented to them in a lewd and improper manner, by improperly informed companions. Dwelling upon these thoughts the boy is led to play with his sex organs in secret and masturbation results. A secret vice of the most dangerous kind, masturbation or self-pollution is often taught by older boys and takes place, to quote an authority “in many of our colleges, boarding, public and private schools,” and is also indulged in by companions beneath the home roof. If it becomes habitual, generally impaired health, and often epilepsy, and total moral and physical degradation results. Stains on the nightshirt or sheet occurring before puberty are absolute evidence of the vice in boys.
WHAT FATHERS SHOULD DO FOR THEIR BOYS
Make sex facts clear to your boy as interesting, matter-of-fact developments of general natural laws. Ungratified or improperly gratified curiosity is what leads to a young boy's overemphasizing the facts of sex as they apply to him. Make him your confidant. Teach him to think cleanly and to act cleanly, neither to ignore nor to exalt the sexual. Especially, when he himself is directly disturbed sexually, either in a mental or physical way, let him feel that he can apply to you naturally for relief and explanation. If this be done, your boy's sex development before puberty will be natural and normal, and when the more serious and difficult problems of adolescence present themselves, he will be prepared to handle them on the basis of right thinking and right living. Natural and healthy sport in the open air, and the avoidance of foul language and indecency should be stressed. The use of alcohol, coffee and tea by children tends to weaken their sexual organs. Every boy should know that chastity means continence. He should know that lascivious thoughts lead to lascivious actions, and that these are a drain on his system which may spoil his life in later years.
In the education of his children the average man is only too apt to repeat the same mistake of unconsciously crediting the child with the possession of his own feelings and his own outlook, that is the feelings and outlook of the adult. In general, things which may make an impression in a sex way on the adult are a matter of indifference to the sexually unripe boy. Hence it is quite possible for a father to discuss sex matters with his young son and inform him constructively, without in any undue way rousing his sex curiosity or awakening desire. Such talks, of course, should be in accordance with the principles already laid down in the section on “Reproduction.”
If a boy is accustomed and taught to regard sex conditions and matters in a proper and innocent manner, as something perfectly natural, improper curiosity and eroticism are far less likely to be aroused than when this is not the case. For the whole subject will have lost the dangerous attraction of novelty. On the other hand, we find boys who have been brought up with great prudery and in complete ignorance of sex matters (save that which may come to them from impure sources) greatly excited and ashamed by the first appearance of the indications of puberty. Secrecy is the enemy of a clean, normal conception on the part of the child as to the right place sex and the sex function play in life and in the world. It stands to reason, of course, that every least detail of the sex question cannot be intelligently made clear to a little child. But his questions should all be answered, honestly, and with due regard for his age and his capacity to understand what is explained to him.
One very great advantage of an early paternal explanation of sex matters to the boy is its beneficial effect on the mind and the nerves. Many boys brood or grow melancholy when confronted with sex riddles and problems for which they are unable to find a solution; and as the result of totally erroneous ideas they may have formed with regard to sex matters. At the same time too much attention should not be paid the discussion of sex questions between father and son. A father should, so far as possible, endeavor to develop other interests and preoccupations in his boy, and turn his mind as much as may be away from matters sexual, until the age when the youth is ripe for marriage is reached.