The Creepy Origins Of Graham Crackers And Corn Flakes

By Dawn M on Monday, March 24, 2014
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“Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.” —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

In A Nutshell

Masturbation, graham crackers, and Kellogg’s Corn Flakes: Which of these doesn’t belong? Believe it or not, there is a distinct and disturbing connection between all three of the aforementioned things. It turns out that some of our most loved snacks and breakfast foods are actually anti-masturbation foods! Reverend Graham and Dr. John Kellogg, proponents of a theory that denounced masturbation, created these foods in the belief that they could curb one’s desire to masturbate.

The Whole Bushel

In order to understand the connection between these three things, we need some background information. The Swiss physicist Simon Tissot developed the degeneracy theory which stems from the belief that “semen is necessary for physical and sexual vigor in men” (this was long before we knew about testosterone). People who believed in the divergence theory essentially believed that every sperm is sacred and should not be wasted. Sperm should be conserved so that men could develop properly in the way of manly men. Conservation of sperm would also ensure the ability for procreation during marriage: Sex should be solely for procreation so as to not waste precious sperm. This was also extended to include the idea that you should not masturbate nor frequent and waste your sperm on prostitutes.

Over time, the degeneracy theory became known as the abstinence theory in America; its main supporter was Reverend Sylvester Graham. Reverend Graham advocated living a healthy lifestyle through healthy foods, physical fitness, and sexual abstinence. In particular, he advocated abstinence from masturbation. Now the amazing and wonderful graham crackers that we enjoy around the campfire as s’mores are Reverend Graham’s namesake and contribution to healthy eating; I wonder how he would feel if he knew we polluted his healthy food with marshmallows and chocolates?

Now let’s step it up a notch. Reverend Graham’s successor was a man named Dr. John Harvey Kellogg. This physician was so anti-masturbation that it bordered on insanity. He was a very influential and highly published physician. He wrote papers on how to monitor your children for masturbation, and he outlined “39 signs of the secret device” that parents should look for to see if indeed their children were masturbating and wasting precious sperm. These signs including things such as dullness of the eyes, sleeplessness, love of solitude, and round shoulders. But Dr. Kellogg upped the ante and decided that women shouldn’t masturbate either. (You’d think since it involved no loss of sperm, female masturbation wouldn’t have been an issue, but there you have it.)

Dr. Kellogg was so against masturbation that he outlined several forms of punishment to be meted out to those who did dare to touch themselves. Men and boys should be treated by having their foreskin sewn shut with silver wire; if that didn’t work they were to be circumcised without anesthesia. Women and girls were to have their clitorises burned with carbolic acid.

Again: Many people during his time thought he was a genius. Dare we consider how many people actually suffered through this treatment?

With a solid framework of a punishment system in place, Dr. John Kellogg turned his attention to the work of his predecessor and began to focus on the diet. Dr. Kellogg firmly believed that red meat increased sexual desire and he advocated a diet rich in nuts and cereals. He began to develop a sort of anti-masturbation food if you will: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are meant to help decrease your likelihood of masturbation.

Show Me The Proof

Featured image via General Mills
Psychology Today: Graham Crackers and the Mediterranean Diet: Sexual Functioning and Food
HyperVocal: Corn Flakes Inventor John Kellogg Wanted to Sew Your Foreskin With Silver Wire
Monty Python’s Meaning of Life: Every Sperm is Sacred