Did Ben Franklin really say “Masturbation is the best policy” or was it Mark Twain?

No, that was Mark Twain humorously claiming that Ben Franklin said “Masturbation is the best policy”.

In Twain’s speech on masturbation (which they don’t teach much in schools for some reason), Twain also had Franklin saying, “Masturbation is the mother of invention.”

Ben Franklin may not have left many letters behind regarding masturbation, but he did leave a lengthy note to a dear friend on marriage and, short of matrimony, how to choose a mistress.

Truth be told, this letter that we found in Weird History 101 by John R. Stephens may have been more than a little tongue-in-cheek, but you can judge for yourself:

A single Man has not nearly the Value he would have in that State of Union. He is an incomplete Animal. He resembles the odd Half of a Pair of Scissors.

If you get a prudent, healthy wife, your Industry in your Profession, with her good Economy, will be a Fortune sufficient. But if you will not take this Counsel, and persist in thinking a Commerce with the Sex is inevitable, then I repeat my former Advice that in your Amours you should prefer old Women to young ones. This you call a Paradox, and demand my reasons. They are these:

Because they have more Knowledge of the world, and their Minds are better stored with Observations; their Conversation is more improving, and more lastingly agreeable.

Because when Women cease to be handsome, they study to be good. To maintain their Influence over Man, they supply the Diminution of Beauty by an Augmentation of Utility.

They learn to do a thousand Services, small and great, and are the most tender and useful of all Friends when you are sick. Thus they continue amiable. And hence there is hardly such a thing to be found as an old Woman who is not a good Woman.

Because there is no hazard of children, which irregularly produced may be attended with much inconvenience.

Because through more Experience they are more prudent and discreet in conducting an Intrigue to prevent Suspicion. The Commerce with them is therefore safer with regard to your reputation; and regard to theirs, if the Affair should happen to be known, considerate People might be inclined to excuse an old Woman, who would kindly take care of a young Man, form his manners by her good Councils, and prevent his ruining his Health and Fortune among mercenary Prostitutes.

Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part. The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower parts continuing to the last as plump as ever; so that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one. And as in the Dark all Cats are gray, the Pleasure of Corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal and frequently superior; every Knack being by Practice capable by improvement.

Because the sin is less. The Debauching of a Virgin may be her Ruin, and make her for Life unhappy.

Because the Compunction is less. The having made a young Girl miserable may give you frequent bitter Reflections none which can attend making an old Woman happy.
8th & lastly. They are so grateful!!!

Thus much for my Paradox. But still I advise you to marry immediately; being sincerely

Your Affectionate Friend, Benj. Franklin

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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