You might recall from the Introduction a letter sent in 1885 by a hapless masturbator to the Chikitsa Sammilani, a medical journal published in Bengali from Calcutta. The writer of the letter remained unnamed, as was often the case with such confessional letters sent off in the quest for sound advice from distant and qualified experts. The angst-ridden writer of the letter related how he had been tempted into the sin of masturbation through bad company. While he had kicked the habit after joining the proverbial “English school,” where he had been carefully instructed of its bad effects and subsequently cured of the disorder, he was still paying for his sins. Wet dreams haunted him and sapped his strength; he was all but reduced to a skeleton. He felt faint when he tried to solve difficult problems. His body and visage had turned bloodless and weak. His eyes were blank. His penis had become twisted and reduced in size. He felt as though his entire substance had become depleted. He had no appetite. He was no longer brave. The editor used this letter to

understand the pathology of the nation as a whole: the masturbator was the symptom of a degenerate, enfeebled, effeminate nation. The journal received hundreds of such letters each month, the editor insisted, which suggested to him that masturbation, and other forms of sexual pathology, were not diseases that afflicted individuals, but plagued the entire community and the race.3