By Brian Arbenz
It sounds like the stuff of urban legends that bedevil corporations by smearing their legendary products: Kellogg’s Corn Flakes were invented as part of a master plan to reduce our sex drives.
Got to be a rumor started by an angry ex-employee, right? Or, just another example of the gullible mass public circulating nonsense.
Well don’t look for the Kellogg Co. to launch a campaign to refute this malicious attack on such a wholesome and iconic part of the morning routines of American households – because to a great extent, it’s true.
Yes, the company whose spectacular popularity was celebrated with the advertising line, “Kellogg’s – The Best To You Each Morning,” has roots in a widespread crusade perhaps best summed up as: “Nothing To You Each Evening.”
Fear not though, for there is no link between that puritanical quest and what you pour into your breakfast bowl today. Still, it’s a documented if tortuous trail back to a powerful multi-national, but scientifically groundless movement to eliminate masturbation.
Physician John Harvey Kellogg was a surgeon, nutritionist and, for much of his life, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. His medical research and religious zeal in the late 1800s led him to prominence in this movement against sexual self-stimulation. Along with this specific goal, the married but lifetime celibate Kellogg passionately wanted to reduce the human species’ interest in sex, seeing masturbation as medically and psychologically dangerous and sexual thoughts overall as good for only moral debasement and spreading disease.
“Masturbation was the worst sin imaginable to him. He believed it led to leprosy, tuberculosis, heart disease, epilepsy, dimness of vision, insanity, idiocy, and death,” psychologist Michael Ashworth writes of Kellogg’s beliefs on the website http://www.psychcentral.com.
“He also preached that masturbation led to bashfulness in some people, unnatural boldness in others, a fondness for spicy foods, round shoulders and acne.” Oh dear…. Kellogg’s opposition to the habit, regrettably, went far beyond the amusingly quirky. He published materials detailing how to perform circumcisions and other procedures to deter masturbation in pubescent children – including techniques designed to use short term pain to extinguish the desire.
Kellogg and his brother, W.K. Kellogg, worked in tandem to develop foods that would aid in achieving this goal, including a cereal whose ingredients and production methods Dr. John Kellogg believed would greatly reduce sexual drive, opening the way for his vision of a celibate society. They called it Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and it became the flagship product of the iconic Kellogg’s breakfast foods company, which was formed in 1906 out of a food company W.K. Kellogg started after a break with his doctor brother.
John Kellogg, Wikipedia said, was an acclaimed surgeon whose patients included Amelia Earhart, Thomas Edison, Johnny Weismuller and former president William Howard Taft. He served as medical officer of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a Seventh-day Adventist owned health and education center in his Michigan hometown which taught what today we would call a holistic program of diet, elaborate exercises and stress reduction methods to maintain health.
Dr.Kellogg advocated vegetarianism, believed there was too much emphasis on expensive curative medicine and provided surgery free of charge to the needy. He had a dark side, though – and on more than just sexual issues. Kellogg promoted the discredited field of eugenics, claiming racial segregation would improve the species. He also believed in frequent enemas and developed one using yogurt.
And if one more lurid piece of history is all that is needed to strip Corn Flakes of its simple noncontroversial image, John Kellogg claimed that nationwide competitor Post Cereals started its rival version of Corn Flakes after a patient, company founder Charles William Post, stole the formula from Dr. Kellogg’s safe in the sanitarium office.
As for the risk that Corn Flakes may actually achieve its purpose of giving you a better night’s sleep than you want, Michael Ashworth of psychcentral.com wrote that there is no link between eating the cereal and experiencing lower sex drive, or becoming celibate.
For more reassurance, simply look across the breakfast table at your kids munching their Corn Flakes just as you did.
Brian Arbenz, 57, of Louisville, has never been a Corn Flakes eater. Yet he has no children. Go figure.