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"Stop that or you'll go blind"

Posted by R. Berg on April 17, 2004

In Reply to: "Stop that or you'll go blind" posted by Carol on April 17, 2004

: I know this phrase refers to masturbation and, I am thinking the book "Rape of the A.P.E." discussed its origin to a degree but I haven't been able to relocate a copy of the book. Does anyone happen to know more about this phrase outside of being a deterrent for a teen-age male to do this?

The idea, though maybe not the exact words, goes back more than 100 years. I think parents issued some such warning to small children, not just teenagers.

Two entries from Eric Partridge's "Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British":

"I don't care if I do go blind." A defiant rejection of the once gen. statement that masturbation, whether frequent or even occasional, caused blindness: late C19 - mid 20. Brian W. Aldiss, 1978, adds: 'Ideally accompanied by a brisk slapping of the back of the neck. Words and action generally provoked by a (probably inaccessible) woman'.

"I don't want to be a sergeant-pilot, anyway" was, c. 1935-55, a joc. RAF catchphrase, alluding to masturbation, which has so long been reputed to impair one's mental and physical powers.