Common side effects include paleness, pimples and paralysis.
Here’s the truth of hands in the pants: It doesn’t just make you go blind — it kills you dead.
Or so preacheth the author of the 1830s tract “Le Livre Sans Titre” (The Book With No Title), another installment in that era’s relentless puritanical assault on the joys of self-abuse. What sets this one apart is that it came illustrated.
Now I’m not one to dismiss the five-finger tango out of hand — as Fred Scrooge says, “Though it’s never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me good, and it will do me good and I say God bless it!” — but after the unsettling 2012 death-by-wank of a Chinese university student, I decided it might be prudent to revisit the 19th-century warnings to see just what masturbation might be capable of. (NB: Fred Scrooge was talking about Christmas, not jerking off.)
Before we get to “The Book With No Title,” though, take a look at what its predecessors had to say about the topic of onanism (an old-fashioned word for masturbation).
The folks at Dangerous Minds, a blog about how bizarre humans are, point out that in 1716, a doctor named Balthazar Bekker — probably played by Benedict Cumberbatch in the upcoming “Wrath of the Soiled Kleenex” — released a pamphlet which blamed a good tugging for:
“Disturbances of the stomach and digestion, loss of appetite or ravenous hunger, vomiting, nausea, weakening of the organs of breathing, coughing, hoarseness, paralysis, weakening of the organ of generation to the point of impotence, lack of libido, back pain, disorders of the eye and ear, total diminution of bodily powers, paleness, thinness, pimples on the face, decline of intellectual powers, loss of memory, attacks of rage, madness, idiocy, epilepsy, fever and finally suicide.”
Holy moly. It sounds like a Chantix commercial.
But the real magnum opus was The Book, which unleashed a harrowing warning against the supposed perils of self-stimulation. Without further ado, I give you The Book’s 16 steps towards death by masturbation:
- He was young and handsome… his mother’s hope.
- He became corrupted! Soon his crime makes him old before his time. His back becomes hunched.
- A devouring fire burns up his entrails; he suffers from horrible stomach pains.
- See his eyes once so pure, so brilliant: their gleam is gone! A band of fire surrounds them.
- He can no longer walk; his legs give way.
- Dreadful dreams disturb his rest; he cannot sleep.
- His teeth become rotten and fall out.
- His chest is burning up. He coughs up blood…
- His hair once so beautiful is falling out like an old man’s; early in life he is becoming bald.
- He is hungry and wants to eat; no food will stay in his stomach.
- His chest is buckling. He vomits blood.
- His entire body is covered with pustules, he is a horrible sight!
- A slow fever consumes him. He languishes; his entire body is burning up.
- His body is becoming completely stiff! His limbs stop moving.
- He raves; he stiffens in anticipation of coming death.
- At the age of 17, he expires in horrible torments.
…and here are the 16 steps, illustrated:
(A special thanks to Dittrick Museum of Medical History’s Jim Edmonson, who went to the trouble of scanning and uploading the book for all the internet to enjoy.)