Masturbation and Insanity – An 1894 Perspective

In his 1894 Annual Report to the Inspector of Asylums and Prisons, the Medical Superintendent of the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane, Dr. James Russell, opines on the latest scientific research regarding masturbation. He reports that “the new school of psychology teaches that masturbation is merely a symptom of insanity – not it’s cause; that the persistent masturbator is either the victim of an hereditary or acquired neurosis for which he is not responsible.”

He states, “My own opinion tends to largely confirm this theory. It is true that many masturbate who do not become insane, but when persisted in, in the face of warning and advice, it is unmistakable evidence of a weak mentality, and soon hurries the unhappy victim on from one stage of mental degeneration to another with terminal dementia to wind up the scene.”

To avoid the “terrible calamity” Russell suggests that “the company, associations and literature should be carefully selected, trashy love stories should be discarded, and everything calculated to excite erotic passions should be religiously avoided.”

There you go. You’ve been warned.

(Image clipped from 1894 Report to the Inspector of Asylums via Google Books)

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