Mark Twain’s Speech on Masturbation (yes, your literary homework for the week boys-and-girls).
Despite having virtually no formal education, Mark Twain (whose real name was Samuel Clemens, 1835-1910) went on to become America’s greatest humorist. As the Encyclopedia Americana puts it, “Twain liberated humor, raising it to high art…. Instead of subduing his humor to seriousness, Twain invaded the citadels of seriousness and freed the humor held captive there.” Of course, he is famous for such classics as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and the children’s book The Prince and the Pauper, but many people don’t know that he also had a taste for ribald humor. The chief example of this is a dinner speech he gave at the Stomach Club in Paris in the spring of 1879, titled “Some Thoughts on the Science of Onanism,” in which he definitely invades “the citadels of seriousness.”
This philosophy became popular with many doctors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. One of the was Sylvester A. Graham (for whom Graham Crackers are named because he advocated unsifted flour.) In his Lecture to Young Men (1834), he wrote on the dangers of excessive sex saying;
Languor, lassitude, muscular relaxation, general debility and heaviness, depression of spirits, loss of appetite, indigestion, faintness and sinking at the pit of the stomach, increased susceptibilities of the skin and lungs to all the atmospheric changes, feebleness of circulation, chilliness, headache, melancholy, hypochondria, hysterics, feebleness of all the sense, impaired vision, oss of sight, weakness of the lungs, nervous cough, pulmonary consumption, disorders of the genital organs, weakness of the brain, loss of memory, epilepsy, insanity, apoplexy—and extreme feebleness and early death of offspring—are among the too common evils which are caused by sexual excesses between husband and wife.
He recommended having intercourse only once a month and certainly not more than once a week.
To cure the evil of self-pollution, doctors tried everything from applying leeches to the genitals to applying powerful irritants to their patients, who were usually either mental patients or children. Sometimes they made the abusers sleep in a straight jacket or with their hands bound to the bedposts. For females, one Chicago doctor recommended clitoral circumcision, while in 1896 an Ohio doctor recommended removing half an inch to an inch of the dorsal nerves of the penis in males. In 1886, the well-known German neurologist Baron Richard von Krafft-Ebing even reported that he applied a hot iron to a little girl’s clitoris to stop her from masturbating. It didn’t work.
Apparently Mark Twain realized all this concern over something completely harmless was seriously misplaced. With his ribald sense of humor, it was the perfect topic for him to make fun of. Here’s the speech:
|Cetewavo the Zulu|
My gifted predecessor has warned you against the “social evil—adultery.” In his able paper he exhausted that subject he left absolutely nothing more to be said on it. But I will continue his good work in the cause of morality by cautioning you against that species of recreation called self-abuse—to which I perceive that you are too much addicted. All great writers upon health and morals, both ancient and modern, have struggled with this stately subject; this shows its dignity and importance. Some of these writers have taken one side, some the other. Homer, in the second book of the Iliad, says with fine enthusiasm, “Give me masturbation or give me death!” Caesar, in his Commentaries, says, “To the lonely it is company; to the forsaken i is a friend; to the aged and important it is a benefactor; they that be penniless are yet rich, in that they still have this majestic diversion.” In another place this excellent observer has said, “There are times when I prefer it to sodomy.” Robinson Crusoe says, “I cannot describe what I owe to this gentle art.” Queen Elizabeth said, “It is the bulwark of virginity.” Cetewayo, the Zulu hero, remarked that “a jerk in the hand is worth two in the bush.” The immortal Franklin has said, “Masturbation is the mother of invention.” He also said, “Masturbation is the best policy.” Michelangelo and all the other old Masters—old Masters, I will remark, is an abbreviation, a contraction—have used similar language. Michelangelo said to Pope Julius II, “Self-negation is noble, self-culture is beneficent, self-possession is manly, but to the truly great and inspiring soul they are poor and tame compared to self-abuse.” Mr. Brown, here, in one of his latest and most graceful poems refers to it in an eloquent line which is destined to live to the end of time—“None know it but to love it, None name it but to praise.”
Such are the utterances of the most illustrious of the masters of this renowned science, and apologists for it. The name of those who decry it and oppose it is legion; they have made strong arguments and uttered bitter speeches against it—but there is not room to repeat them here, in much detail. Brigham Young, an expert of incontestable authority, said, “As compared with the other thing, it is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Solomon said, “There is nothing to recommend it but its cheapness.” Galen said, “It is shameful to degrade to such bestial use that grand limb, that formidable member, which we votaries of science dub the ‘Major Maxillary’—when they dub it as all—which is seldom. It would be better to decapitate the Major than to use him so. It would be better to amputate the os fontis (front bone) than to put it to such a use.” the great statistician, Smith, in his report to Parliament, says, “In my opinion, more children have been wasted in this way than in any other.” It cannot be denied that the high authority of this art entitles it to our respect, but at the same time I think that its harmfulness demands our condemnation. Mr. Darwin was grieved to feel obliged to give up his theory that the monkey was the connecting link between man and the lower animals. I think he was too hasty. The monkey is the only animal, except man, that practices this science; hence he is our brother; there is a bond of sympathy and relationship between us. Give this ingenious animal an audience of the proper kind, and he will straightway put aside his other affairs and take a whet; and you will see by the contortions and his ecstatic expression that he takes an intelligent and human interest in his performance.
The signs of excessive indulgence in this destructive pastime are easily detectable. They are these: A disposition to eat, to drink, to smoke, and tell indelicate stories—and mainly, a yearning to paint pictures. The results of the habit are: Loss of memory, loss of virility, loss of cheerfulness, loss of hopefulness, loss of character, and loss of progeny. Of all the various kinds of sexual intercourse, this has least to recommend it. As an amusement it is too fleeting; as an occupation it is too wearing, as a public exhibition there is no money in it. It is unsuited to the drawing room, and in the most cultured society it has long since been banished from the social board. It has at last, in our day of progress and improvement, been degraded to brotherhood with flatulence—among the best bred these two arts are now indulged only in private—though by consent of the whole company, when only males are present, it is still permissible, in good society, to remove the embargo upon the fundamental sigh.
|Vendome Column Paris|
My illustrious predecessor has taught you that all forms of the “social evil” are bad. I would teach you that some of those forms are more to be avoided than others; so, in concluding, I say, “If you must gamble away your lives sexually, don’t play a Lone Hand too much.” When you feel a revolutionary uprising in your system, get your Vendome Column down some other way—don’t jerk it down.
History 101, pg 223
You read it here first!
Cartoon guy, hey, you. Yes, you. Do you have a moment, I would like to share the Good News of the Bible with you?
I don’t know…
Do you want to burn in hell!!!
Good, then let me share Gods words with you from his book. You’ll thank me when we are in heaven.
Good, then listen to the words of God.
“But Rab-shakeh said unto them, Hath my master sent me to thy master, and to thee, to speak these words? hath he not sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?”
Yeah, that one’s a little heavy if you haven’t been circumcised. How about this one
“Thus saith the Lord, Behold…I will take they wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with they wives in the sight of this sun.” (2 Samuel 12:11)
Did you like that one?
Here’s a better one:
“And it came to pass…that Abslom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her…So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said unto the king, I pray tech, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand…And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister. And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me…but being stronger that she, forced her, and lay with her. (2 Samuel 13:1-2, 6, and 11-17)
Okay, I can see you are a deep thinker, here’s one for you;
(Genesis 19:30-36) “And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him….
Hey wait, where are you going.
You’ll be sorry!!!
Oh god, forgive them for they know not what they do.
(camera rises up to heaven where Jesus and god are looking down.)
God: Get his name, he’s one of us.
Jesus: Yeah, what about the guy with the book?
God: Give him diabetes, no, no, instead, make him blind so he stops scaring off my seekers. How can they not see that that book is definitely the last thing you need to be reading to get up here.
Jesus: I know, I know, I’m so glad that wasn’t around when I was down there.
Blind Religious Man Selling Books of Tape of Charleston Heston reading the bible.