[Robert Baden-Powell had consulted with his mother about this section's inclusion in the first edition of Scouting for Boys as published in 1908. He reluctantly removed it under strong advice from his publisher.]
I have told you of the dangers of drink and of smoking which, if indulged in boys, are certain to make you unhealthy in the end and therefore useless as a scout. A good many of you will never feel the want of these so you won't have any difficulty in keeping away from them.

But there is another practice which [is] perhaps more dangerous than either of them and it is one which is sure to tempt every one of you at one time or another. I speak quite openly. People are much too apt to make it such a secret that many boys never hear the truth and suffer in consequence.

You all know what it is to have at times a pleasant feeling in your private parts, and there comes an inclination to work it up with your hand or otherwise. It is especially likely to happen when you see a dirty picture or hear dirty stories and jokes.

Well, lots of fellows from not knowing any better, please themselves in this way until it often becomes a sort of habit with them which they cannot get out of.

Yet I am sure that every sensible boy, if he were told in time of the danger of it, would have the strength not to do it.

So I want to warn you all about it.

The practice is called "self-abuse." And the result of self-abuse is always --- mind you, always --- that the boy after a time becomes weak and nervous and shy, he gets headaches and probably palpitation of the heart, and if he still carries it on too far he very often goes out of his mind and becomes an idiot.

A very large number of the lunatics in our asylums have made themselves ill by indulging in this vice although at one time they were sensible cheery boys like any one of you.

The use of your parts is not to play with when you are a boy but to enable you to get children when you are grown up and married. But if you misuse them while young you will not be able to use them when you are a man: they will not work then.

Remember too that several awful diseases come from indulgence --- one especially that rots away the inside of men's mouths, their noses, and eyes, etc.

So for all reasons be on the look out against this temptation, it is easier to stop it at first than when it becomes a habit. The next time you feel the desire coming on don't give way to it; resist it. If you have the chance just wash your parts in cold water and cool them down. Wet dreams come from it especially after eating rich food, or too much meat, or from sleeping with too warm a blanket over your body or in too soft a bed or from sleeping on your back. Therefore avoid all these.

Avoid listening to stories or reading or thinking about dirty subjects.

You will soon find that the temptation will not worry you so much. Be strong and don't give way to it.

If at first you find a difficulty about it don't be afraid to go and talk openly to your officer about it and he will tell you what to do.

Restrain yourself while you are young and you will be able to restrain yourself when you grow up. It is at present a disgrace and a danger to England that from want of self-restraint among men and women thou- sands upon thousands of children are born every year for whom there is no work and no money --- and so we get such an enormous crowd of poor people and unemployed. I walked round the other day with some of the unemployed to see if they were really anxious to get work. They were. They tried several places but no hands were wanted. Then one of them made the remark which seemed to me very true.

    There's not enough work to go round. The truth is there's too many of us in this world.

--- From Scouting for Boys
The Original 1908 Edition

Robert Baden-Powell
©2004, Oxford University Press
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