To the arguments thus briefly indicated it is no answer to say that sexual union is essentially physical, and that to regard it in any other way is transcendental. Among primitive men eating and drinking were merely animal. We have made them, in our meals, an accompaniment to social pleasures, and in our religious life we have raised them to a sacramental level.
CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH PURITY TEACHING IS BEST GIVEN: REMEDIAL AND CURATIVE MEASURES.
We have now seen that impurity is almost universal among boys who have been left without warning and instruction; that, under these conditions, it is practically inevitable; that its direct results are lowered vitality and serious injury to character, its indirect results an appalling amount of degradation and misery; finally, that there is nothing in sex knowledge, when rightly presented, which can in the least defile a child’s mind. All that now remains is for us to consider by whom and under what circumstances instruction on this subject should be given, and what assistance can be rendered to boys who desire to lead chaste lives.
Without doubt, instruction should be given to a boy by his parents in the home. When young children ask questions with regard to reproduction, parents should neither ignore these question nor give the usual silly answers. If the occasion on which the question is asked is not one in which an answer can appropriately be given, the child should be gently warned that the question raised is one about which people do not openly talk, and the promise of an answer hereafter should be made. Then, at the first convenient hour, the child can either be given the information he seeks or told that he shall hear all about the matter at some future specified time, as for example, his sixth or eighth birthday.
In the absence of questions from a child, the ideal thing would be for the child, at the age of six, seven, or eight, to learn orally from his mother the facts of maternity and to receive warning against playing with his private parts. Whether at this time it is best to teach him the facts of paternity is, I think, doubtful. Canon Lyttelton is strongly of opinion that the father’s share in the child’s existence should be explained when the mother’s share is explained, and there is much weight in what he says. If the question of paternity is reserved, it should not be on the ground that there is anything embarrassing or indelicate about the matter, and, when the facts are revealed, the child should clearly understand that they have been withheld merely until his mind was sufficiently developed to understand them. The only safe guide in such matters is experience, and of this as yet we have unfortunately little.