One of these things is the ideal start to a day, the other is a nice breakfast.
Cornflakes are, for the eater, about as unremarkable as food gets. They’re pleasant but no more, a means to an end, a way of getting from point A (hungry) to point B (less hungry) rather than a particularly exciting eating experience. They’re a hard food to imagine anyone getting particularly passionate about.
It turns out that’s exactly the point. Cornflakes were invented to be uninspiring—so uninspiring that they would sap the eater of sexual energy and stop them from masturbating.
It seems safe to say that the development of cornflakes did a lot more to eradicate being hungry on the way to work than it did to eradicate masturbation. Cereal’s very popular, but masturbating has its beat.
If cornflakes’ inventors had their way, nothing would get beaten. In 1876, brothers John and William Kellogg started working at the Western Health Reform Institute in Michigan, rebranding it the Battle Creek Sanitarium and repositioning it as an aspirational location to cure all maladies, promising to use cutting-edge technology to provide "a composite physiologic method comprising hydrotherapy, phototherapy, thermotherapy, electrotherapy, mechanotherapy, dietetics, physical culture, cold-air cure, and health training". They coined the idea of “biologic living” for what they considered a healthy body, mind, and soul, combining diet, exercise, and various forms of abstinence—the Kellogg brothers were members of the Seventh-Day Advent Church, and their beliefs were marbled through the health practices pushed by the Sanitarium. They were very enthusiastic about the health benefits of enemas, for instance, recommending a pint of yogurt per day taken half by mouth and half elsewhere.
But sexual abstinence of all kinds was at the core of it all. John Kellogg, the older of the two brothers, was fervently anti-masturbation. He’d do anything to put people off the idea, which he considered to be just about the worst thing anyone could ever do—he claimed masturbating destroyed one’s mental and physical health and could lead to cancer, heart disease, and epilepsy. He sometimes used his surgical training to get involved in a circumcision, as long as it was intended to prevent masturbation. He was enthusiastic about quite barbaric anti-masturbation interventions, including applying carbolic acid to the clitoris and stitching the foreskin closed to prevent erections.
(He was no more a fan of partnered sex, writing that the “peculiar nervous spasm” that accompanied it was “more exhausting to the system than any other”. His marriage is thought to have remained unconsummated.)
And the thinking went that the blander the food, the less likely the sexual arousal, the less likely the masturbation. Corn flakes were developed as an anaphrodisiac, an early-morning libido-destroyer. Start your day as you mean to go on, went the logic: in an unsexy manner as possible.
(The Kelloggs' were inspired in part by fellow Adventist Sylvester Graham, whose followers developed Graham bread and the Graham cracker with similar intentions. In turn, one visitor to the Sanitarium was C.W. Post, who began Post Cereals, later General Foods.)
There are some discrepancies as to who out of William, John, and John’s wife Ella (oddly enough, they both married women named Ella, as did Post) deserves credit for the crispy creation, made by baking dry-milled grain, but their boner-killing breakfast was a hit. People liked it. Former residents of the sanitarium bought bags of the stuff by mail order. There was clearly something in it.
But the brothers fell out over whether to include sugar and went their separate ways business-wise. William, who was pro-sugar (and less hardline than his brother, in that he—whoa—had sex with his wife, eventually having five children) ended up founding the Kellogg Company, which remains enormous today. He became phenomenally wealthy and founded a philanthropic organization. John, the anti-sugar sex-hater, became a vile eugenicist, founding a “race betterment” organization and pushing for the sterilizing of “mentally defective persons”.
The less-unhinged brother won, but did any of what they were pushing for work? No! While cereal is pretty popular, masturbation is more so. A healthy diet—and cornflakes are pretty healthy—actually boosts libido. The convenience of breakfast cereal (as opposed to the cooked breakfasts people ate before) undoubtedly freed up a whole lot of time in the mornings for people to spend as they wished. How many millions of morning orgasms have been had by people knowing breakfast only takes ten seconds to make? If anything, inventing cereal probably increased the amount of masturbation going on in the world. What a big sexy own goal—there’s even a great big cock on the box.