Once upon a time, back in the late 1800s, people in the Western world would work themselves into a tizzy over the mere mention of masturbation. The practice was always frowned upon thanks to Judeo-Christian teachings, but Victorian priggishness, coupled with religious revivals popular at the time, provided a fertile breeding ground for anti-diddling hysteria to reach a fever pitch.
One of the most fervent crusaders against self-love was a Michigan doctor and Seventh Day Adventist named John Harvey Kellogg. And it wasn’t just masturbation Kellogg took issue with — any form of sexual expression whatsoever made his skin crawl, as he believed it had a negative impact on one’s physical, spiritual, and emotional health.
And Kellogg practiced what he preached. He did wed, but never consummated his marriage, and he and his wife kept separate bedrooms. All of their children were adopted. Ah, romance.
Kellogg believed sex was bad, but that masturbation was heinous beyond belief. According to the good doctor, some of the horrific side effects of diddling included insanity, impotence, cancer of the womb, heart disease, epilepsy, acne, leprosy, tuberculosis, mental and physical debility, and of course that old chestnut, “dimness of vision.” Oh, and DEATH.
John Harvey’s solution to this problem was “biologic living,” which was basically a healthy and extremely bland vegetarian diet. He was convinced that meat and seasoned foods increase sexual libido (we can’t have that!) and that plain fare such as nuts and cereals inhibit it.
So nuts and cereals it is.
Kellogg became president of an Adventist sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan at the turn of the century and used his patients as guinea pigs to test his dietary theories. He, his wife Ella, and his brother Will accidentally invented wheat flakes during the process of trying to make an easy-to-digest form of bread. They called it Granose.
They had just created the world’s first flaked cereal, but the name was already taken and its owner was threatening to sue, so the Kelloggs changed their product’s name to granola.
Another “healthy” invention of Kellogg’s was a contraption devised to clean out the ol’ intestinal tract. This mechanical enema machine first ran water through the bowels and chased that with a pint of yogurt — half administered orally, and half administered anally. For some strange reason, this treatment never really caught on.
But in 1898, when Kellogg decided to cook, dry, and roll corn — as opposed to wheat — he finally hit upon a healthy product that both his patients and the general public would clamor for.
Will Kellogg was the brother with the business savvy, and he wanted to add sugar to corn flakes to jazz them up a bit. This horrified John Harvey, who may have been afraid that if corn flakes tasted better, people would eat with one hand and pollute themselves with the other. This was a bone of contention between the siblings for the rest of their lives.
John Harvey took his anti-masturbation nuttiness even further than dietary restrictions. He recommended circumcisions sans anesthesia, so young boys would have negative connotations with their penises, and even suggested sewing their foreskins shut. He advocated applying carbonic acid to a young girls’ clitoris as “an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.”
Jeepers. Issues with sex much, pal?
And before you dismiss this guy as one of those nutjobs teetering on the lunatic fringe, it’s interesting to note that his clients included such well-respected personages as President Taft, George Bernard Shaw, and Amelia Earhart.
So, the next time you’re digging in to a bowl of cornflakes, make sure that both of your hands are above the table, please, no matter how hard, (snort, hard) um, difficult it is, so irresistible an aphrodisiac are those sugary flakes of corn.