Some sound advice for our younger readers today, as Steerforth discovers a 1950s sex guide for boys…
Not long ago I found a very instructive book called On Becoming a Man – A Book for Teen-Age Boys by Harold Shryock, M.A., M.D., a teacher at the University of Loma Linda in California.
Published in 1951 it is, first and foremost, a sex guide, but has chapters encouraging financial prudenc e, good posture, regular church attendance and military service.
There is also a stern warning about the dangers of reading fiction, with a fascinating anecdote about a missionary wife who became addicted to novels during a stay in Africa:
This young woman was not able to take advantage of the opportunity to do a work that would have made her a blessing to humanity – all because she had formed the habit of living in the realm of make-believe as created by the authors of the books she read.
Dr Shryock also takes pains to warn his young readers of another danger:
There is a freakish manifestation of human friendship regarding which I shall take this occasion to warn you. I refer to those relationships between members of the same sex that are included in the term homosexuality.
Like some Victorian self-help guides I’ve come across, On Becoming a Man is a curious mixture of sound common sense and the sort of utter nonsense that must have made some of its readers feel completely awful.
“Any youth is wise who controls his special friendship”
(No they’re not. I deeply regret behaving so properly in my youth)
“Teen-age boys think very differently from teen-age girls”
“The remarkable growth of a teen-age boy is often a source of astonishment to his friends and his family”
(I’ve always wondered what The Proclaimers’ home was like)
“A worthy counsellor will not be arbitrary in his judgements”
(But beware of the man in the basebell cap who always has his curtains drawn)
“For each teen-ager, each new venture brings with it a new thrill and a new opportunity”
(Whatever happened to angst and alienation?)
“The habit of saving should be established early in life.”
(So that you can blow it in your early 20s on loose women and poker games)
“Reading is without doubt one of the best means of personal development.”
(In this young man’s case, he’s learning how to build a small explosive device)
This photo is from a 1968 reprint:
“Jack and Joanne had been special friends for about a year. Because of common interests, it was natural for them to begin going steady.”
(Hopefully a common interest in saucy photos)
If a “teen-age” boy can heed Dr Shryock’s advice, then this is the golden future that awaits him:
After all these years, I can finally see the appeal of Jack Kerouac.