I’m sure most of you are more aware of Sylvester Graham’s bland creation than about the man himself. A Presbyterian Minister and the last of 17 children, he took a special interest in health and hygiene, both mental and physical. Indeed, in Graham’s mind you could not have one without the other. As such, he was a devoted member of the temperance movement, a devout vegetarian, and pioneered the movement for consuming only whole-wheat products.
To him this would not only make a person physically healthy but also morally clean, as he claim the moral degradation of America in the 19th century was due to an overabundance of meat and spicy foods. A nice bland cracker would reduce the nation’s sex drive and put it in line to his Presbyterian sentiments.
As you may guess, if regular sex was a thing of shame, the ultimate destroyer of men was masturbation. He spoke out against it frequently and in the selection below he records a conversation he witnessed between a prison chaplain and a jerk-off addicted inmate. Graham claims it is written down verbatim, but well… you be the judge.
“Not long since, as I was passing the cell of one of the prisoners, just at twilight, he spoke to me with a low and tremulous voice and downcast look. “I shant live long,” said he, “don’t you see how poor I am growing? My flesh is almost gone off the bones.” I observed that what he said was true. When I first knew him he had a fair and ruddy cheek; now it was pale an sunken. I suspected the cause and made inquiries accordingly. He confessed that he had become a slave to that vice [ie onanism, ie milking the mamba, ie. making St. Anthony cry], and feared it was doing him harm; but did not dare to speak to the doctor about it, and did not know that he could avoid it; “for” he said , “I seem to have no power over myself. I awake from my sleep and find myself in the act. Three times a night for weeks in succession, I have yielded to it, and frequently without being voluntary in the thing.” He evinced clearly the reciprocal influence between the brain and the genital organs.
“There are several others in prison whom I know to be given up to a similar excess: and without exception, they all have that cadaverous look, bloodless lips, impaired memory, bodily weakness and pain, and those internal complaints, of which Mr. Graham speaks in his lecture.”
The cure for masturbation? A bland diet and rigorous exercise. Then you’ll be too bored and exhausted to do anything impure.