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

Food has always been of great importance to Seren and despite her being renowned for her historical recipe recreations, her culinary skills were not honed, in the kitchens of top restaurants, but in the home kitchen from the age of being able to hold a wooden spoon. When Seren was born her mother was taken ill and so she spent her early years being cared for by her grandmother, Minnie. This was to prove instrumental in the development of Seren’s love of cooking, for her grandmother was an accomplished cook, who’s kitchen was always awash with terrine’s, home-made pastry and traditional puddings. Minnie’s love of good food and her zest for life meant Seren’s childhood was filled with days of hedgerow picking, baking, traditional preserving and cooking recipes from the depths of a family copy of, Mrs. Beeton. She learned from an early age how to make Victorian puddings alongside elaborate noble pies and perhaps this explains her love of pastry making and the reason she won an accolade from The Great British Pie Awards this year. Today Seren has great skill in bringing historical food to life and making it accessible and understandable to the modern cook and diner. Her enthusiasm and love of historical food and British cooking is evident in her presentations and she loves to revive forgotten recipes. She recently took part in ITV1’s Country House Sunday and has given live cookery demonstrations across the country at food festivals, historical houses and castles. Trained as a herbalist and nutritionist, she has a deep understanding of improving health through food. Her interest in historic remedies and herbal folklore eventually extended to researching British food history, and reignited her early passion for cooking. Fifteen years on and Seren has amassed extensive knowledge and is now renowned for her historical food recreations and interpretations. Seren’s interest in food history does not just extend to old recipes and cooking techniques, but to ingredients and manufacturers. From the age of fourteen Seren has collected food and drink packaging from early Victorian to the 1960’s. Her collection is now extensive and provides a wonderful snapshot in time that accompanies her vast knowledge of the development of British food and drink companies throughout history. She also has a huge collection of antique kitchenalia and moulds which she uses to replicate historical recipes and portray past eras. Her training in herbalism and nutrition has not been wasted for despite her merits as a food historian and period cook she also delights in creating British Classic dishes for those with food allergies and intolerances (such as gluten and dairy intolerant). Her botanical knowledge has made her a keen wild food educator and forager that lends unusual as well as historical twists to all her cooking. There are also many points at which food and medicine intertwine throughout history and Seren is able to portray these developments and has also undertaken a lot of research into the British spice trade. To Seren historical food is not a job, but a way of life. Visit Seren's blog: Serenity Kitchen