Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts, 1830-1890

By Jenny Taylor; Sally Shuttleworth | Go to book overview

3. Masculinity and the Control of Sexuality

DISORDERS IN CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH

William Acton, The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs in Childhood, Youth, Adult Age, and Advanced Life Considered in their Physiological, Social and Moral Relations ( 1857), 4th edn. ( London: John Churchill, 1865), 1-3, 7-8, 9, 25-6, 28-9, 183-4.

This much reprinted work is primarily devoted to a study of male sexuality. Despite Acton's opening remarks, it soon becomes clear that he fears that very few children remain in the state of sexual innocence he deems so desirable. In his fears about the dire effects of masturbation, Acton follows a line of thought made popular by Tissot at the end of the eighteenth century, and revitalized in England in the 1840s by the publication of the work of the French doctor, Claude François Lallemand , A Practical Treatise on the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Spermatorrhoea ( 1847). Spermatorrhoea, a condition of enervation caused by loss of semen, was taken up by quack doctors who made a thriving trade out of male sexual fears. Acton, whilst indignant at the quacks, nonetheless regarded spermatorrhoea as a real condition, caused predominantly by masturbation, but also by other forms of excessive drains on the body's resources, as illustrated in the final case-study offered here. Acton argued throughout for continence, an economic hoarding of energy rather than reckless, undirected spending.


NORMAL FUNCTIONS

In a state of health no sexual idea should ever enter a child's mind. All its vital energy should be employed in building up the growing body, and in storing up external impressions and educating the brain to receive them. During a well- regulated childhood, and in the case of ordinary temperaments, there is no temptation to infringe this primary law of nature. The sexes, it is true, in English

-209-

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Embodied Selves: An Anthology of Psychological Texts, 1830-1890
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction xiii
  • List of Illustrations xix
  • Section I Reading the Mind 1
  • 1. Physiognomy 8
  • 2. Phrenology 25
  • 3. Mesmerism 49
  • Section II The Unconscious Mind and the Workings of Memory 65
  • 1. Associationism and Physiological Psychology 73
  • 2. Dreams 102
  • 3. Double Consciousness 123
  • 4. Memory 141
  • Section III The Sexual Body 163
  • 1. Defining Womanhood 169
  • 2. the Uterine Economy 184
  • 3. Masculinity and the Control of Sexuality 209
  • Section IV Insanity and Nervous Disorders 225
  • 1. Moral Management and the Rise of the Psychiatrist 231
  • Section V Heredity, Degeneration, and Modern Life 285
  • 1. Nervous Economies: Morbidity and Modernity 293
  • 2. Concepts of Descent and Degeneration 303
  • 3. Inherited Legacies: Idiocy and Criminality 322
  • 4. Childhood 335
  • 5. Race and Hybridity 352
  • 6 Sex in Mind and Education 373
  • Notes on Authors 389
  • Select Bibliography 413
  • Index 423
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