23 February 2024


Living loving learning

Hysteria is not what I thought it was

5 min read


Warning:  The topic is meant for an adult audience.

A few months ago I downloaded this video called Turn Me On:  The History of the Vibrator.  Never mind why I downloaded it.  That isn’t relevant to this post, hehehe.  I finally got around to watching the video last night and, of course, I got to see thousands upon thousands of dildos and vibrators in all shapes and sizes.  But I was surprised to discover just how interesting the history of the vibrator was going to be.

And then I saw online this movie starring Maggie Gyllenhaal called Hysteria.  This movie shows us how the vibrator came about.

Once upon a time there were women who would be diagnosed with an illness they called hysteria.  Symptoms would be fainting spells, flushed skin, enlarged genitals, sleeplessness and moaning (as if in pain).  Turns out that what they labeled as hysteria was actually an arousal without attaining an orgasm.

It seemed that a lot of women back then couldn’t get off.  Their families would bring them to doctors who would then massage their genitals for them until they get off.  This was not a sexual act back then because there was no penis involved.  For the doctors and patients it was a clinical procedure.

vibrator prototypeStrained hands and several patients later a doctor invented a device akin to a small rolling pin about 2 inches wide with a handle.  From the photo it looked like the roller had little nubs all over it.  The doctor would then use this contraption to stimulate the patient.  Years later, the first vibrator was invented.  It looked like a cork screw with a funky bend and on one end was a spinning disk.  Scary .. but apparently effective.  They discovered that vibration speeded up the “healing process” so that patients would be in and out of their office 10 minutes tops!

A gynecologist they interviewed said that a woman suffering from hysteria is just like a man with an unfulfilled arousal.  When a man gets aroused his genitals get filled with blood.  Once he ejaculates, he goes into paroxysm, the blood drains and he goes limp and he is fine.  When a woman is aroused her genitals get filled with blood, too.  Until the blood is drained (in other words, once she has an orgasm) she suffers from hysteria.

Here is a timeline I saw at bupipedream.com

  • 1653: Doctors recommended the following as an ailment for hysteria: “…we consider it necessary to ask a midwife to assist so that she can massage the genitalia with one finger inside using oil of lilies, musk root, crocus or [something] similar. And in this way the afflicted woman can be aroused to paroxysm…most especially for widows, those who live chaste lives, and female religious…it is less often recommended for very young women, or married women, for whom it is a better remedy to engage in intercourse with their spouses.”
  • Early 1800s: Doctors try other strategies for arousing women including rocking chairs, a swing, and vehicles that bounced the patient rhythmically on her pelvis.
  • 1870: A wind-up vibrator is made available to both spas and physicians, but it has a tendency to run down before the treatment is complete.
  • 1872: An American physician patents the “Manipulator” – a steam-powered massage and vibratory apparatus. He warns treatment should be watched to avoid over-manipulation.
  • 1880s: A British physician invents the electromechanical vibrator for use as a medical instrument.
  • 1900: Other physicians follow suit with contraptions intended to serve as vibrators. Articles and textbooks on vibratory massage technique praised the machine’s versatility for treating nearly all diseases in both sexes and saving physicians time and labor. These vibrators reduced the time of “getting there” from up to an hour to approximately 10 minutes.
  • 1905: Convenient portable models become available, permitting house calls.
  • 1900-1920: Vibrators were advertised in Home Needlework Journal as a health and relaxation aid with which “all the pleasures of youth will throb within you.”
  • 1918: Sears and Roebuck & Company Electric Goods catalog advertises a vibrator attachment for a home motor that also drives attachments for churning, beating, buffing and fan operating
  • 1920s: Stag films started using vibrators as props. Physicians realized that orgasm didn’t necessarily involve penetration. And once they connected “arousal to paroxysm” with eroticism, the vibrator’s era as a medical appliance ended.
  • 1960s: Vibrator re-emerges and is openly marketed as a sex aid.
  • 1970s: Medical authorities still assure men that a woman who does not reach orgasm during sexual coitus was flawed or suffering from some physical or psychological impairment.
  • 1990s: research shows that more than half of all women, possibly more than 70 percent, do not reach orgasm by means of penetration alone.

Whether or not you actually use one or are contemplating using one, this is an interesting video.  I recommend it to open-minded adults.

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