By the 1800s women were increasingly diagnosed with hysteria, the treatment for which was a hysterical paroxysm. Today, we call that an orgasm.
Fun fact: The vibrator was the fifth household appliance to become electrified. It came out just after the electric toaster and had the vacuum cleaner beat by about 100 years.Fitting, when you consider the fact that in the late 1800s, getting women off was a higher priority than having a clean floor. After all, if the women were left to stew in their sexual desires for too long, who knows what could have happened?
Obviously, the truth is nothing. Sure, she’d probably be crabby for a few days, but as we know today, nothing would have happened, as women are perfectly capable of controlling themselves.
However, as far as the Victorian medical community, psychiatric community, and several behavioral scientists (ironically, all of whom were composed of men) were concerned, a sexually frustrated woman needed to be attended to immediately, lest her womb wander and her mind be overcome by the dreaded female hysteria.
Female hysteria is the now-defunct term used to diagnose a woman who suffered from any variety of ailments. Symptoms included anything from fainting to erotic fantasies, to a loss of appetite, to “a tendency to cause trouble.” Basically, anything that couldn’t be directly attributed to something else fell under the “female hysteria” umbrella.
The History Of Diagnosing Female Hysteria
The first scientist to describe female hysteria – though without a cure – was Hippocrates.
In his ancient medical texts, written all the way back in 500 B.C., Hippocrates suggested that a variety of ailments that seem to affect females instead of males could be traced back to the womb – the most inherently female body part. Hippocrates believed that the womb was a free-floating, wandering animal. When it moved into an unexpected place or too close to another organ, problems would arise.
Later, from his teachings, the word “hysteria” surfaced, stemming from the Greek word for uterus – “hystera.”
A few hundred years later, a Roman physician named Galen theorized that this hysteria, this movement of the womb, was caused by sexual deprivation. Women who were married had an easy fix – simply enlisting their husbands to help them out. However, for unmarried women, widows, and those who were devoted to the church, things weren’t so easy.
Therefore, Galen proposed the groundbreaking idea of pelvic massage. The result of the massage brought on the intended cure, a “hysterical paroxysm.”
That is, an orgasm. Specifically, a good orgasm.