A Forgotten Malady

The translator’s introduction to the first novel I read by Émile Zola talked about his contemporary Cesare Lombroso with his – to our eyes – arrant nonsense about criminal types. I doubt I would have otherwise encountered the nineteenth-century term “spermatic intoxication”, although I was well acquainted with its opposite.

That is, I was well aware of the Ancient, medieval and Taoist belief that a man had only so many ejaculations in his life and was well advised not to waste them. This notion survived into our own time, lightly disguised as General Jack D. Ripper’s terror over contamination of his Vital Bodily Fluids.

“Spermatic intoxication”, on the other hand, would seem to mean that a man would instead be sickened by not ejaculating. And this belief is equally extant nowadays, though not under Lombroso’s label. A term one may meet instead in highly non-academic contexts is “despunking”. By this is meant that men require frequent testicular voiding, though it is never made clear what will happen to them if they are not duly emptied. Men’s percentage from this notion is only too obvious, but outside of bien-pensant circles it is espoused by many a woman also. I suspect that it is in fact the ruling paradigm of Africa and South-East Asia.

Well, which way round is it? As far as I know, neither belief is actually correct. It would be interesting to trace the two perfectly opposite but erroneous beliefs through history. Funnily enough, it followed from the theory of humours that men were weakened by ejaculation but that female satisfaction was healthy. Medieval doctors, who even believed in squirting, thought the female orgasm essential to conception. We are not the first generation to think that a woman should have her bells rung.

Posted on September 25, 2009 at 17:52 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink
In: AGAINST NATURE, Distrust Of Sex -- The Better Reasons

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