CHAPTER IV. SEX IN FEMALE CHILDHOOD
(FROM 12 TO 14)
What has been said in general about practical observance of the laws of sex hygiene in the preceding chapter for boys, applies to girls as well. If anything the sex precautions taken in infancy should be even more closely followed, as girls are by nature less robust than boys. If children could be raised in entire accordance with natural laws, the sexual instinct of girls as well as boys would probably remain dormant during the period stretching from infancy to puberty. As in the case of the boy, so in that of the girl, any manifestation of sexual precocity should be investigated, to see whether it be due to natural or artificial causes. In either case the proper remedies should be applied.
SEX PRECOCITY IN GIRLS
There are cases of extraordinary sex precocity in girls. One case reported in the United States was that of a female child who at birth possessed all the characteristics usually developed at puberty. In this case the natural periodical changes began at birth! Fortunately, this is a case more or less unique. In little girls and boys undue sexual handling or titillating of their genital organs tends to quiet them, so nurses (let us hope in ignorance of the consequences!) often resort to it. Sending children to bed very early, to “get rid of them,” or confining them in a room by themselves, tends to encourage the development of vicious habits. A single bed, both in the school and in the home, is indispensable to purity of morals and personal cleanliness. It tends to restrain too early development of the sexual instinct both in small girls and small boys.
SEXUAL SELF-ABUSE IN GIRLS
Small girls, like small boys, display an intelligent curiosity as regards the phenomena of sex at an early age. And what has already been said regarding its improper gratification in the preceding chapter, so far as boys are concerned, applies with equal force to them. In their case, however, the mother is a girl's natural confidant and friend. Self-abuse in one or another form is as common in the case of the girl as in that of the boy. As a rule, girls who live an outdoor life, and work with their muscles more than their mind, do not develop undue precocious sexual curiosities or desires. At least they do not do so to the same extent as those more nervously and susceptibly constituted. The less delicate and sensitive children of the country tend less to these habits than their more sensitively organized city brothers and sisters. Girls who have formed vicious habits are apt to indulge in the practice of self-abuse at night when going to bed. If there is cause for suspicion, the bedclothes should be quickly and suddenly thrown off under some pretense. Self-abuse usually has a marked effect on the genital organs of girls. The inner organs become unnaturally enlarged and distended, and leucorrhea, catarrh of the vagina, attended by a discharge of greenish-white mucus, often develops.
RESULTS OF SELF-ABUSE IN GIRLS
Local diseases, due to this cause, result in girls as well as boys. Temporary congestions become permanent, and develop into permanent irritations and disorders. Leucorrhea has already been mentioned. Contact with the acrid, irritating internal secretions also causes soreness of the fingers at the root of the nails, and warts. Congestion and other diseases are other ultimate results of the habit; and these congestions to which it gives rise unduly hasten the advent of puberty. Any decided enlargement of the labia and clitoris in a young girl may be taken as a positive evidence of the existence of the habit of self-abuse. Sterility, and atrophy of the breasts—their deficient development—when the vice is begun before puberty, is another result.
PRURITIS AND FEMININE NOCTURNAL EMISSIONS
Pruritis (itching genitals), though not necessarily caused by self-abuse, may be one of its consequences. Continued congestion causes the genital parts to itch terribly. This itching increases until the desire to manipulate the genitals becomes irresistible. It will then be indulged in even in the presence of strangers, though the girl in question at other times may be exceptionally modest. Girls addicted to the vice also suffer from nocturnal emissions. The general effect of self-abuse is much the same in the case of a girl as in that of a boy, for leucorrhea is injurious in somewhat the same fashion as seminal loss. In the case of girls the greatest injury, however, is due to the nervous exhaustion which succeeds the unnatural excitement.
WHAT MOTHERS SHOULD DO FOR THEIR GIRLS
A healthy girl should be happy and comfortable in all respects. She will not be so, especially with regard to her sex problems, unless she can appeal to her mother as a friend and confidant. While keeping your girl's mind pure and healthy by precept and example, do not forget that the best way to protect her against evil influences and communications is to tell her the exact truth about sex facts, as they apply to her, just as the father should his boy. Keep your girl fully occupied and do not leave her sex education to the evil winds of chance.
Let sex knowledge take its place as a proper, necessary part of her general education. If your daughter feels she can at all times talk freely to you all will be well. Gratify her natural sex curiosity in a natural way. See that immediate medical attention is given inflammations, excoriations, itchings and swellings of her genital organs. Such conditions will lead her to rub and scratch these parts—never to be touched—for relief. If, as a result of the sensations experienced, masturbation results, yours is the sin.