Noyes on masturbation (c.1850)

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From MALE CONTINENCE by John Humphrey Noyes

[Noyes practiced non-ejaculatory sex for over 25 years, as part of a community founded on that principle. Ejaculatory sex was reserved for deliberate procreation.]

It is seriously believed by many that nature requires a periodical and somewhat frequent discharge of the seed, and that the retention of it is liable to be injurious. Even if this were true, it would be no argument against Male Continence [making love without ejaculation], but rather an argument in favor of masturbation; for it is obvious that before marriage men have no lawful method of discharge but masturbation; and after marriage it is as foolish and cruel to expend one's seed on a wife merely for the sake of getting rid of it, as it would be to fire a gun at one's best friend merely for the sake of unloading it. If a blunderbuss must be emptied, and the charge cannot be drawn, it is better to fire into the air than to kill somebody with it.

But it is not true that the seed is an excrement like the urine, that requires periodical and frequent discharge. Nature has provided other ways of disposing of it. In fact it has an immanent value, and is in its best function while retained. It is the presence of the seed, and not the discharge of it, that makes the bull superior to the ox. The Community has had no trouble from retention of seed; but, on the other hand, has nearly exterminated masturbation by the reflex influence of Male Continence. Masturbation is a disreputable branch of the same seed-wasting business that is carried on more decently in ordinary matrimonial intercourse, and is evidently destined to pass away with it.

Responding to the objection that avoiding ejaculation is unnatural, Noyes said:

Cooking, wearing clothes, living in houses, and almost everything else done by civilized man, is unnatural in the same sense, and a close adherence to the example of the brutes would require us to forego speech and go on "all fours!" But on the other hand, if it is natural in the best sense, as I believe it is, for rational beings to forsake the example of the brutes and improve nature by invention and discovery in all directions, then truly the argument turns the other way, and we shall have to confess that until men and women find a way to elevate their sexual performances above those of the brutes, by introducing into them moral culture, they are living in unnatural degradation.

But I will come closer to this objection. The real meaning of it is, that [sexual self-control] is a difficult and injurious interruption of a natural act. But every instance of self-denial is an interruption of some natural act. The man who virtuously contents himself with a look at a beautiful woman is conscious of such an interruption. The lover who stops at a kiss denies himself a natural progression. It is an easy, descending grade through all the approaches of sexual love, from the first touch of respectful friendship, to the final complete amalgamation. Must there be no interruption of this natural slide? Brutes, animal or human, tolerate none.