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Damaged Goods Upton Sinclair

Chapter VI

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"How was I to know what he had?" cried the other. "He didn't dare tell me, sir--he was afraid of my scolding him. And in the meantime the disease was running its course. When he realized that he had it, he went secretly to one of the quacks, who robbed him, and didn't cure him. You know how it is, sir."

"Yes, I know," said the doctor.

"Such things ought not to be permitted," cried the old man. "What is our government about that it allows such things to go on? Take the conditions there at the college where my poor boy was ruined. At the very gates of the building these women are waiting for the lads! Ought they to be permitted to debauch young boys only fifteen years old? Haven't we got police enough to prevent a thing like that? Tell me, sir!"

"One would think so," said the doctor, patiently.

"But is it that the police don't want to?"

"No doubt they have the same excuse as all the rest--they don't know. Take courage, sir; we have cured worse cases than your son's. And some day, perhaps, we shall be able to change these conditions."

So he went on with the man, leaving George with something to think about. How much he could have told them about what had happened to that young fellow when only fifteen years old! It had not been altogether the fault of the women who were lurking outside of the college gates; it was a fact that the boy's classmates had teased him and ridiculed him, had literally made his life a torment, until he had yielded to temptation.

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It was the old, old story of ignorant and unguided schoolboys all over the world! They thought that to be chaste was to be weak and foolish; that a fellow was not a man unless he led a life of debauchery like the rest. And what did they know about these dreadful diseases? They had the most horrible superstitions-- ideas of cures so loathsome that they could not be set down in print; ideas as ignorant and destructive as those of savages in the heart of Africa. And you might hear them laughing and jesting about one another's condition. They might be afflicted with diseases which would have the most terrible after-effects upon their whole lives and upon their families--diseases which cause tens of thousands of surgical operations upon women, and a large percentage of blindness and idiocy in children--and you might hear them confidently express the opinion that these diseases were no worse than a bad cold!

And all this mass of misery and ignorance covered over and clamped down by a taboo of silence, imposed by the horrible superstition of sex-prudery! George went out from the doctor's office trembling with excitement over this situation. Oh, why had not some one warned him in time? Why didn't the doctors and the teachers lift up their voices and tell young men about these frightful dangers? He wanted to go out in the highways and preach it himself--except that he dared not, because he could not explain to the world his own sudden interest in this forbidden topic.

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Damaged Goods
Upton Sinclair

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