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Continence differs from chastity in being entire restraint from sexual
indulgence under all circumstances, while chastity is only restraint
from unlawful indulgence. As we have both physical and mental chastity,
so continence should be both mental and physical. Many of the
observations on the subject of "Chastity" apply with equal force to
continence. The causes of incontinence are the same as those of
unchastity. The same relation also exists between mental and physical
continence as between mental and physical chastity.
The subject of continence evidently has a somewhat wider scope than
that of chastity, as generally understood; but as we have considered
the latter subject so fully, we shall devote less space to this, leaving
the reader to make the application of such preceding remarks as reason
may suggest to him are equally appropriate here.
Without stopping to consider the various circumstances under which
absolute continence is expedient, or desirable, or morally required,
we will proceed at once to examine the question, Is continence harmful?
Continence not Injurious.--It has been claimed by many, even by
physicians,--and with considerable show of reason,--that absolute
continence, after full development of the organs of reproduction, could
not be maintained without great detriment to health. It is needless
to enumerate all the different arguments employed to support this
position, since they are, with a few exceptions, too frivolous to
deserve attention. We shall content ourselves chiefly with quotations
from acknowledged authorities, by which we shall show that the popular
notions upon this subject are wholly erroneous. Their general
acceptance has been due, without doubt, to the strong natural bias in
their favor. It is an easy matter to believe what agrees well with one's
predilections. A bare surmise, on the side of prejudice, is more telling
than the most powerful logic on the other side.
"We know that this opinion is held by men of the world, and that many
physicians share it. This belief appears to us to be erroneous, without
foundation, and easily refuted."
[Footnote 6: Mayer.]
The same writer claims "that no peculiar disease nor any abridgment
of the duration of life can be ascribed to such continence." He proves
his position by appealing to statistics, and shows the fallacy of
arguments in support of the contrary view. He further says:--
"It is determined, in our opinion, that the commerce of the sexes has
no necessities that cannot be restrained without peril."
"A part has been assigned to _spermatic plethora_ in the etiology of
various mental affections. Among others, priapism has been attributed
to it. In our opinion, this malady originates in a disturbance of the
cerebral nerve power; but it is due much less to the retention of sperm
than to its exaggerated loss; much less to virtuous abstinence than
to moral depravity."
There has evidently been a wide-spread deception upon this subject.
"Health does not absolutely require that there should ever be an
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