It is no secret that masturbation was a serious taboo in the 18th and 19th centuries. Books highlighted the moral failings of a person who masturbated, others believed masturbation was a physical and mental illness that needed to be treated.
This anti-masturbation movement was taken to extremes, particularly in America, where one of the most passionate anti-masturbation campaigners, a Michigan-based physician by the name of John Harvey Kellogg, dedicated his life to encouraging abstinence.
Dr Kellogg believed so fervently that sex was vexatious for the spirit and body that he never engaged in sexual intercourse with his wife, even opting to have two different rooms in their shared house and adopted all of his children.
Image: John Harvey Kellogg, co-founder of the Kellogg Company, Library of Congress
While his belief that sex was evil would be questioned by most western people today, his views on masturbation were even more unusual.
“If illicit commerce of the sexes is a heinous sin,” Kellogg wrote, “self-pollution is a crime doubly abominable.”
He wrote a book, the Plain Facts for Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and Hygiene of Organic Life, in which listed the main causes of a person plagued by masturbation: they included things like bad posture, mood swings and spicy foods.
To remedy this, Kellogg believed the answer was a healthy diet, believing that more flavoursome foods encouraged sexual activity. He came up with two breakfast staples that he believed would curb sexual impulses.
Kellogg developed a few flaky, grain-based cereals, including Corn Flakes, to hinder youths and troubled masturbators from the sinful act. He partnered with his brother and Michigan’s Battle Creek Sanitarium to sell the product. Both Sanitarium and his brother believed sugar needed to be added to the flaky breakfast cereal, but Kellogg was adamant that he would keep the recipe sugar free. For this reason, the cereal was sold under the Kellogg family name.
Despite Dr Kellogg’s best efforts,children and most other consumers who eat corn flakes will always add sugar, fruit or some kind of sweetener to the tasteless corn cereal. Corn Flakes were one of the good doctor's more reserved methods of curbing masturbation, his other more extreme “treatments” included threading silver wire through the foreskin to stop erections for boys and for girls he prescribed rubbing carbolic acid on the clitoris.
Today, as widespread as Kellogg's Corn Flakes are as a breakfast cereal, we seriously doubt that they have had anything like the desired impact that Doctor Kellogg intended.
Lead image: Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Geo Trinity