No But Really: Graham Crackers Were Invented to Cure Masturbation

Brooke Newberry
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Contrary to what your aunt may have learned in all those “historical” paperbacks she would travel with, apparently during the 19th century there was an elemental thought that masturbation caused mental and physical weakness and would destroy the soul.  NBD. In an attempt to alleviate the most important issue in civil-war era America, Presbyterian minister and dietary reformist Sylvester Graham turned to a baked wheat flour concoction to – um – cure masturbation. 

In his noble attempt at a cure, Graham believed a diet heavy in bland foods would keep our hands where everyone could see them, and by doing so, prevent degenerative diseases.  Invented in 1829, his grahams were baked with high fiber wheat flour.  Graham was an avid vegetarian who advocated the use of roughly ground wheat flour for its high fiber content.  The flour became known as “graham flour,” after the minister himself.  An interesting and very regimented fellow, he was hard on (ha-ha) himself and his followers.  He preached a restrained routine of vigorous exercise, sleeping on a hard mattress, and absolutely no red meat.  Anyone who contacted the vile fever of lust, was to calm the eff down, resist soft pillows (of any type), eat fiber and take icy showers.  Graham prescribed his followers, known as “Grahamites,” a vegetarian diet with the nucleus being his “graham bread,” which he later baked up into what became recognized as the carnal desire-suppressing graham cracker.  Excitedly enough, today’s graham crackers include refined, bleached white flour and high fructose corn syrup as a centerpiece ingredient.  Sylvester would roll over in his hard-mattressed grave.


And here’s another fun fact: Corn Flakes – you know, the box of cereal with a cockerel on the box –  were originally conceived as a dietary remedy for sexual excitement or “self-pollution.”  Mr. John Harvey Kellogg, a vegetarian and ardent anti- “self-abuser,”  was a follower of Graham’s who picked up his idol’s torch – but not in that way – to continue this important work. In fact, Kellogg was so concerned with his own purity, he supposedly had his nurse administer a daily enema to “detox.”  Hm.

What’s perhaps most interesting is that both Graham and Kellogg approached this type of reform from a dietary perspective.  They preferred suppressive carbohydrate products to pure meats, eggs, sugars, and alcohol, anything perhaps of taste and believed flavorful and spicy food inspired too much excitement.  All the high-excitement dishes we crave and purposely seek out today would have been highly discouraged. Two of America’s staples originally intended to curb those plagued by masturbation have become available in a wild variety of arousing flavors: chocolate, cinnamon, honey, and frosted.  Now, masturbators all over the world enjoy these commodities, thanks to the addition of a little sugar and salt. 

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