The history of hysteria is a fascinating one. The idea that the womb is the seat of irrational and emotional behaviour in women has seemed perfectly logical to men throughout history.

In 1801 the condition was finally labelled hysteria, from the Greek word for the womb and was a common diagnosis for a range of ailments including:

  • Faintness
  • Nervousness
  • Sexual Desire
  • Insomnia
  • Fluid Retention
  • Muscle Spasms
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Loss of Appetite

 

The term is thought to originate from ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, who associated these symptoms with the movement of a woman’s uterus throughout different locations in the body. The term hysteria is from the Greek hysteria, which means uterus.

 

The treatment of this disorder was carried out by doctors who used pelvic massage to bring the patient to what was called a “hysteric paroxysm”, (orgasm)relieving the patient of that troublesome tension.

Until the 20th century, it was a commonly held belief by men including physicians that women did not experience sexual desire or pleasure. Women were educated to believe that “ladies” derived no pleasure from sex, and that duty required them to put up with sex in order to keep their husbands happy and procreate.

Not surprisingly, many women found themselves unexplainably sexually frustrated. They complained to their doctors of anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability, nervousness and a whole score of other symptoms that could be neatly labelled as being caused by hysteria. For women that were either not married or unable able to gain relief through the efforts of their husbands, horse-riding was recommended, and in the 1860s, the French advocated directing a powerful stream of water to the area. Masturbation was not an option for any morally upstanding woman as it was branded ‘dangerous’.

A reliable, socially acceptable treatment was offered by physicians, who applied lubricants and then massaged them with one or two fingers inside the vagina and the heel of the hand pressing against the clitoris. With this type of massage, women had orgasms and experienced sudden, dramatic relief from hysteria. Though Doctors never branded it orgasm, merely a medical release, after all, women were not thought to have any sex drive or ability to derive sexual pleasure.

With the rates of hysteria cases being relentless by the early 19th century, physician-assisted paroxysm was firmly entrenched in medical practices throughout Europe and the U.S. A.  The popularity of the treatment presented a problem for the doctors in the form of aching, cramped fingers and hands from all that massage. Indeed in medical journals of the early 1800’s, doctors lamented that treating hysterics taxed their physical endurance. Chronic hand fatigue meant that some doctors had trouble maintaining the treatment long enough to produce the desired result.

Out of necessity physicians began experimenting with mechanical substitutes for their hands. They tried a number of genital massage contraptions, among them water-driven gadgets and even steam-driven dildos. However, the machines were often unreliable and in some cases dangerous.

Then in 1880, an English physician, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville, patented the electromechanical vibrator. It produced paroxysm quickly, safely, reliably, this was the birth of what become a multi-billion pound industry.

Today, in the UK alone it is estimated that we spend around five million pounds a year on vibrators and whilst people in inner London spend 1.7 times the national average on fetish clothing for men,  Coventry is the capital for vibrators or so the stats say.

It seems that vibrators are something that is here to stay, but Mal Weeraratne author of ‘Emotional Detox through bodywork,’who specialises in helping women unblock orgasmic potential says that ‘’vibrators only offer orgasm at a genital level. What needs to happen is for women to release negative emotions so that they can experience full body orgasms.’  Mal offers yoni (vaginal) massages as part of his holistic emotional detox treatment. He explains that this technique is ‘used to clear away deep emotional trauma through female emotional release’. His practice is incredibly busy and he has treated thousands of women from all over the globe. Indeed when it comes to the subject of female orgasm, he knows more than most women! He not only treats women, but also trains men in the practiced art of female release and trains couples. You can read more about his work at www.tantricjourney.com

Thankfully today women are  credited with being able to enjoy active sex lives and as being able to experience sexual desire. It is certain that vibrators have changed dramatically since their invention, but are here to stay. Though in 2016 there was viewer outrage when Presenters Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby struggled to keep straight faces as they talked about an array of vibrators on the market with sex therapist Tracey Cox on TV show ‘This Morning’ . Indeed many viewers were not impressed that the daytime show was discussing sex toys at 11.30am on a Wednesday morning, so it’s nice to see that we haven’t abandoned all of our Victorian sensibilities.

 

 

 

 

 

About Seren Charrington-Hollins

ABOUT SEREN-CHARRINGTON-HOLLINS Describing my work through just one job title is difficult; because my professional life sees me wear a few hats: Food Historian, period cook, broadcaster, writer and consultant. I have a great passion for social and food history and in addition to researching food history and trends I have also acted as a consultant on domestic life and changes throughout history for a number of International Companies. In addition to being regularly aired on radio stations; I have made a number of television appearances on everything from Sky News through to ITV’s Country House Sunday, Holiday of a Lifetime with Len Goodman , BBC4’s Castle’s Under Siege, BBC South Ration Book Britain; Pubs that Built Britain with Hairy Bikers and BBC 2’s Inside the Factory. Amongst other publications my work has been featured in Period Living Magazine, Telegraph, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Great British Food Magazine and I write regularly for a variety of print and online publications. I am very fortunate to be able to undertake work that is also my passion and never tire of researching; recreating historical recipes and researching changing domestic patterns. Feel free to visit my blog, www.serenitykitchen.com