Icons of Sexual History – John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943)

John Harvey Kellogg, the man who invented cornflakes, was actually a medical doctor. He ran the very popular Battle Creek Sanitarium, a sort of a health and diet resort. although much of his practice was based on his religious principals.

He was a member of the Seven Day Adventists, a denomination which professes vegetarianism, exercise and abstinence from tobacco and alcohol. After one of his books, The Living Temple, was published, he had a clash with the church who believed his writings on God and nature to be too severe to be considered Adventist. He then left this church and dissociated his sanitarium from them.

Kellogg considered sex to be heinous and promoted abstinence for all people. The right diet, he believed, would reduce sexual feelings. Unsurprisingly, after 40 years of marriage, he had no natural children of his own.

In 1897, along with his brother he set up a company to produce whole grain food product, later to become the Kellogg Company. This lead to feuds and breakaway products, but Kellogg held that plain cornflakes were the ultimate antidote to masturbation because they were so natural and nourishing.

His beliefs on the excessiveness of sex were published in Plain Facts About Sexual Life (year unknown). This book turned out to be quite popular and was reprinted several times, also under the “cleaner” title Plain Facts for Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and Hygiene of Organic Life (1877).

One of the especially interesting ideas he raises in his work is hydrotherapy, which he greatly supported. Perhaps if he had a better understanding of female sexuality he would realize that water hoses were and still are a very popular masturbation devise for women. Prior to his time, spas around the world would subtly advertise this as a main attraction.

Even within the bounds of marriage, Kellogg saw sex as an act of procreation and believed that beyond this purpose, all sex was not just redundant, but also bad for one’s health. Being a man of example, it is believed that he and his wife never once did the deed.

Although he was recognized as a skillful surgeon, his knowledge as a physician was misinformed by his personal feelings about sexuality. On masturbation, he warned that it would not only lead to ill-health, but possibly even death. Diseases he claimed that are caused by masturbation include uterine cancer, epilepsy, insanity, mental retardation, urinary tract infection and impotence. Read more about myths related to masturbation.

Nocturnal emissions (wet dreams), he thought to be another cause of masturbation. Since he supposedly neither masturbated nor had sex, it would appear that he was chronically sexually dysfunctional, otherwise he himself would naturally have experienced nocturnal emissions, which occur when a man is not ejaculating as often as the body needs to.

Dr Kellogg believed that although masturbation had such debilitating effects, masturbators could be rehabilitated. He recommended electric shock or forms of chastity belts. He would go so far as to surgically intervene in males and females, by circumcising, sewing the genitals or burning the clitoris with carbolic acid.

Fortunately his cornflakes survived and his misguided, not to mention medically-abusive treatments did not. His name remains – ironically – associated with good health.

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