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coffee barred How to detect Self Abuse in Young Girls

A vade maecum for Parents and Health Professionals in the detection of the deleterious practice of masturbation in young women

From an unpublished monograph by Clarissa M McTaggart PhD, MB, MRCS(Eng.), LRCP(Lond.) now published for the first time by her great-granddaughter Mercedes Dannenberg

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The injurious effects of the practice of self-abuse upon our young women are too well known to require elucidation or discussion. What is less well known, is the insidious way in which this loathsome vice corrupts the moral sensibilities of the victim, until its meshes are so elaborately interwoven with all her thoughts, habits, and her very being, that it is almost impossible to eradicate its pernicious influence. Consequently, it is important to be able to detect it when first it rears its ugly head, as it may then be much more easily overcome than at any subsequent period. It is often no easy matter to do this, as the victim will resort to all manner of cunning devices to hide her unspeakable vice, and will not scruple to stoop to the most odious falsehoods to conceal it from her closest associates. To be able to accomplish this successfully requires a careful study, first, of the signs by which those who indulge in the practice may be known, and, secondly, of the habits of the individuals who are enslaved to it. It is an established sine qua non that all those who bear the heavy responsibility of bringing up young girls by hand, should possess the highest moral character and self-control, for the victims of this vice are so cunning that not a few parents and guardians have allowed themselves to acquiesce in the very filthiness which they were honour bound to root out.

Dr Clarissa McTaggartMany parents have told the writer that every young girl under puberty ought to be suspected of this disgusting vice. Whilst we hesitate to endorse this remark in full, it behoves us to be vigilant and studiously observe our charges, to criticise most carefully their every habit, so as to be capable of quickly detecting the first indications of this sinful practice. Parents must not think that their children are too good to engage in such sinful abuses. In the writer's experience innate goodness is no protection against this insidious vice when it is presented to the unwarned and ignorant child in the guise of seemingly harmless recreations such as horse-riding or boisterous games. Many a precocious young girl has become addicted to self-abuse through the injudicious use of playground slides and seesaws.

Suspicious Signs

The following twenty-five symptoms, occurring in the mental and physical character and habits of a young person, may well give rise to grave suspicions of evil, and should cause parents or guardians to be on the alert to root it out at the earliest opportunity.

1. General debility, coming upon a previously healthy young woman, marked by emaciation, weakness, lank, greasy hair, or dry, brittle hair, an unnatural paleness, facial pimples, and the general symptoms of exhaustion, when these cannot be traced to any other legitimate cause, may be safely attributed to solitary vice, no matter how far above natural suspicion the individual may be.

2. Premature and defective development is a symptom closely allied to the preceding one. When it cannot be traced to such natural causes as overstudy, overwork, lack of exercise, and other influences of a similar nature, it should be charged to self-abuse. The early exercise of the female genital organs hastens the attainment of puberty in many cases, especially when the habit is acquired early; but at the same time it saps the vital force, so that the system is unable to provide the energies required for growth and development which is needful at this period. In consequence, the hips and breasts remain small, whilst the vagina is precociously enlarged. The mind is dwarfed as well as the body causing the victim to suffer from bouts of enervating melancholia alternating with periods of uncontrollable excitement bordering on hysteria. This defective development is often accompanied by menstrual derangements and abnormal growth, either as unnatural slimness or unnatural fatness, and in a failure to develop the graces and pleasing character which should distinguish early womanhood. Such signs deserve careful investigation; for they can only result from the evil of self-abuse.

3. Sudden change in disposition is a sign which may well arouse our strongest suspicions. If a young woman, who has previously been cheerful, pleasant, dutiful, and gentle, suddenly becomes morose, cross, peevish, irritable, and disobedient, one may be certain that some foul influence is at work with her. When a girl, naturally joyous, open, happy and amiable, becomes unaccountably gloomy, sad, fretful, dissatisfied, and secretive, you may be certain that the she has developed a most unhealthy preoccupation with her private parts.

4. Lassitude is as unnatural for a young girl as for a young kitten. A healthy young woman will be active, playful, full of life and animal spirits. If a girl manifests indisposition to activity, a dislike for play, lifelessness and languor, it is almost certain that this foul vice is at the root of her unnatural want of feminine sprightliness.

5. Facial expression. If that natural brilliancy of expression in the eyes and countenance which marks every healthy and moral young woman, is replaced by an unnatural dullness and vacancy there are strong grounds for suspecting self-abuse.

6. Mental debility without apparent cause should occasion suspicion of evil practices. When a girl who has previously learned readily, mastered her lessons easily, and possessed a retentive memory, shows a manifest decline in these directions, she has probably become the victim of this terrible vice, and is on the slippery slope to speedy mental as well as physical ruin.

7. Fickleness is another evidence of the working of the same deleterious influence; for only a weak mind is fickle, and masturbation is the most common cause of mental insufficiency.

8. Love of solitude is an exceedingly suspicious sign. Young women are naturally sociable, almost without exception. They have a natural dread of being alone. When a girl habitually seeks seclusion without sufficient cause, there are good grounds for suspecting her of sinful habits. The bedroom and the bathroom are the favourite haunts of female masturbators. They should be carefully watched. Experience has shown that the fitment of a two-way mirror, or a discreet spy-hole equipped with a powerful magnifying lens will greatly facilitate such an undertaking.

9. Shyness is not infrequently the result of unnatural vice. Whilst it would be far from correct to say that every girl who is excessively timid is a masturbator, there is a certain feminine timorousness which clinical observation has shown to arise from a sense of shame or fear of discovery that many victims of this dreadful vice exhibit, and which may be distinguished from natural modesty by a little experience. One very common mode of manifestation of this timidity is the inability to look a gentleman, or any other superior person, in the eye. Instead of looking directly at the gentleman to whom she addresses an answer, the female masturbator looks to one side, or lets her gaze fall demurely upon the ground, seemingly conscious that the eye invariably reveals the secrets of a mind enslaved to sin.

10. Boldness, in marked contrast with the preceding sign, is more usually manifested by the chronic masturbator, and is as readily detected as unnatural shyness. The individual seems to have not the slightest appreciation of the proprieties. She will exhibit a preference for immodest clothing which reveal her calves, arms, or breasts, and may go so far as to eschew the use of any undergarments altogether, as well as manifesting the most indecent directness in her conversation. When rebuked, she stares rudely at the person addressing her, often with a very unpleasant leer upon her countenance. In some few cases there seems to be a curious combination of conditions. While mentally fearful, timid, and hesitating, she finds herself, upon addressing a gentleman, staring at him in the most presumptuous manner. Such vicious girls are by no means rare.

11. Prudery — or perhaps we should more properly designate it as false modesty — is another peculiar manifestation of the effects of this vicious practice. The victim is observed to become transformed, by degrees, from a romping, laughing young woman, full of spunk and high spirits, to a sober and self-righteous little Prude. Little do her parents and friends suspect the real cause of the solemn face and pious platitudes which mask the foul practices in which the disgusting little sinner wallows daily — or even hourly. By the aid of friends still more deeply steeped in unnatural vice, she may soon add hypocrisy to her other crimes, and find in her assumed piety a ready pretence for seeking solitude to indulge in filthy orgies of unbridled concupiscence with other vicious girls. Parents will do well to investigate the origin of these affectations in their female offspring.

12. Easily frightened girls are abundant among young female masturbators, though not all easily frightened persons are necessarily addicted to unnatural vice. Clinical experience has proved, however, that solitary vice greatly exaggerates natural fear, and creates an unnatural apprehensiveness. The victim's mind is constantly filled with vague forebodings of evil. She often looks behind her while out walking, and is constantly expressing fears of being watched. Such disordered fancies are the result of a diseased imagination, and they may justly give rise to the gravest suspicions.

13. Confusion of ideas is another characteristic of the devotee of this abominable and artful vice. If she attempts to argue, her points are not clearly made. She may be superficially quick and acute, but is incapable of deep thought or abstruse reasoning, and is often very dull of apprehension. Ideas are not presented in logical order, but seem to fall out promiscuously in conformity with her lewd and promiscuous vice, and fairly represent the condition of a disordered brain. Attempts at joking are generally failures, as the jest is sure to be inappropriate, vulgar or openly libidinous, and no one but herself sees any occasion for laughter, except at her own stupidity or immodesty. Such vile young women are not scarce.

14. Boys. Young girls in whom this habit has become well developed, sometimes manifest a decided aversion to the society of boys; but this is not nearly so often the case as some authors seem to indicate. It would rather appear that the opposite is more often true. Girls usually show an increasing fondness for the society of boys, and are very prone to exhibit marked evidences of wantonness in their company, even going so far as to seek opportunities to invite them into their bedrooms.

15. Round shoulders and a stooping posture in sitting are the classic characteristics of a young female masturbator. Whenever such a young girl seats herself, the head and shoulders droop forward, giving to the spine a curved appearance — a sure and certain sign that her hands are often where they have no business to be.

16. Lower Back pain, in young girls, is a familiar sign of indulgence in unnatural vice due the habitual stooping posture adopted by these vicious libertines in pursuit their filthy pleasures.

17. The gait of a person addicted to this vice will usually betray her to one who has learned to distinguish the peculiarities which almost always mark the walk of masturbators. In a young girl who has recently attained puberty, a slovenly, shuffling walk is to be strongly suspected. Girls, in walking with swinging hips, show none of that modesty which characterises the natural feminine gait, but walk as if they had been all their lives in the bordello. The girl who wriggles along in a style deliberately intended to provoke the very worst desires, is with certainty an habitué of solitary vice.

18. Bad posture in bed should arouse the gravest suspicions of unnatural vice. If a girl lies constantly upon her stomach, or upon her side with her limbs drawn up to her chest, and is often found with her hands about the abdomen, thighs or genitals, it may be considered that she is on the slippery slope to acquire the foulest of habits, if she has not already done so.

19. Lack of development of the breasts after puberty, is a common result of self-pollution. Still it would be entirely unsafe to say that every female with small mammary glands had been addicted to this vice, especially at the present time, when a fair natural development is often destroyed by the constant pressure and heat of 'brassieres'. But this sign should be given due consideration.

20. Capricious appetite particularly characterises women addicted to secret vice. At the commencement of the practice, they almost invariably manifest great voracity for food, gorging themselves in the most gluttonous manner. As the habit becomes fixed, gluttony alternates with semi-starvation, digestion becomes impaired, until the appetite is sometimes almost wanting, and at other times almost unappeasable.

21. Food. One very constant peculiarity of such women is their extreme fondness for unnatural, hurtful, and irritating foods. Nearly all female masturbators are greatly attached to salt, pepper, spices, chocolate, coffee, stimulating liquors, and similar articles, and use them in the most immoderate quantities. A girl who is constantly eating chocolate, or who will drink only coffee, or stimulating alcoholic liquors in quantities without food, is almost certainly enslaved to this foul vice.

22. Vegetarianism. A sudden an inexplicable adoption of vegetarianism is a most dangerous sign. Disgust for meat is one of the traits which a victim of this deleterious vice is almost certain to possess. She seems to loathe any food except raw vegetables such as carrots, courgettes and cucumbers. If not speedily detected and prevented, she will commit the most filthy abuses with these comestibles in order to heighten the pleasure she derives from her secret vice.

23. The use of tobacco is good presumptive evidence that a young girl is also addicted to a practice still more loathsome. Exceptions to this rule are very rare indeed, if they exist, which we somewhat doubt. The same influences which would lead a woman to the use of tobacco, would also lead her to solitary vice, and each sin would serve to exaggerate the other.

24. Acne, or pimples on the face, is almost always among the most suspicious of signs, especially when it appears upon the forehead as well as upon other portions of the face.

25. Hands. An habitually moist, clammy hand, is a most suspicious circumstance in a young person who is not known to be suffering from some constitutional disease.

As previously remarked, no single one of the above signs should be considered as conclusive evidence of the habit in any individual; but any one of them may, and should, arouse suspicion and watchfulness. If the habit really exists, but a short time will elapse before other signs will be noticed; and when several point in the same direction, the evidence may be considered conclusive. Only persistent watching will enable the positive signs to be detected sooner or later, and then there can no longer be any doubt. It is, of course, necessary to give the individual no suspicion that she is being watched, as that would put her so effectually on her guard as to defy detection.

Positive signs of self-abuse

Female masturbatorsThe absolutely positive signs of solitary vice are very few. Of course the most certainly positive of all is detection in the act. This is particularly difficult with younger girls who invariably exercise such consummate cunning in the pursuit of their debasing practice as to defy detection by even the most skilful observer. If a girl is noticed to seek a certain secluded spot with considerable regularity, she should be carefully followed and secretly watched, for several weeks in succession if need be. A pair of high-powered field glasses will be invaluable in prosecuting such researches. Many young women pursue the practice at night after retiring. If the suspected victim is observed to become very quickly quiet after retiring, and when looked at, appears to be fast asleep, the bedclothes should be quickly thrown off under some pretence.

If she is found in a state of extreme excitement, with the hands near or on the genitals in connection with the other evidences, such as a quickening circulation, as indicated by the pulse, or in a state of perspiration, her guilt is certain, even though she may pretend to be asleep; no doubt she has been addicted to the vice for a considerable time to have acquired so much cunning. A careful examination of the clitoris for moisture and congestion, together with the other genital organs, will speedily reveal whether or not the sinner has been abusing herself. But care must be taken not to arouse the victim further, or the consequences could be grave for both the libertine and her guardian, particularly should he be male. Stains upon the night-shirt or sheets, occurring before puberty, are certain evidences of the vice inasmuch as females are not subject, before that time, to any discharge which will leave a stain resembling that resulting from this unnatural practice. The frequent occurrence of such stains after puberty is a most suspicious circumstance.

All these signs should be thoroughly mastered by those who have girls and young women under their care, and if not continually watching for them, which would be a most unpleasant task, such should be on the alert to detect the signs at once when they appear, and then carefully seek for others until there is no longer any doubt about the case.

Editor's Note:
Although this monograph is undated, the reference to anti-masturbation devices mentioned in my introduction, the marginal note by Dr J O Pullen, and the dates of letters with which it was found, make it tolerably certain that it was written between 1882 and 1888 (Dr Pullen died in 1888).

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