Fucking hysterical!



Early gynecology exam. Doesn’t she look happy, ladies?

I was doing some research yesterday for my next book and while reading this book by Rachel Maines on the history of vibrators I found some very interesting pictures!

Vibrators were developed to save the fingers of doctors who were treating women, both married and unmarried, for ‘hysteria’ – a catch-all diagnosis that covered any and all symptom a woman could name. It was discovered that orgasm, or ‘paroxysm’ would clear up a woman’s general malaise. Marriage was a recommended cure for hysteria, but when that was not possible, or the woman was not receiving strong enough attention from her husband, it fell to the doctor to provide the necessary stimulation. In a purely medical setting, of course!

(I’m not going to go into how ridiculous it was that women’s sexuality was being medicalised, or that how orgasm was supposed to be both distasteful for a woman and yet necessary for her mental and physical health. They didn’t seem to understand that clitoral stimulation is needed for the vast majority of women to achieve orgasm.Hell, they hadn’t bothered to delineate the clitoris from the vulva or the labia until the late eighteenth century. I’m appalled at what nineteeth century women had to go through, and my inner feminist is raring to get going at this manuscript and give the doctor-hero what for on behalf of women everywhere.)

However, doctors (always male, naturally) found manipulating women to orgasm difficult and somewhat distasteful, so the use of hydrotherapy, electrotherapy and primitive vibrators was considered better than manual massage for their patients.

Hydrotherapy – sounds almost relaxing, doesn’t it?


That…that does not look relaxing to me. When you consider that was often cold water, too, I think I’d pass, thank you very much.

Electrotherapy often involved the deliberate collection of static electricity and its application to sensitive areas, using small rollers. When you consider how new the application of electricity to everyday objects was back then, I think that I’d sidestep the electrotherapy too. Weird fact, though: the electric powered vibrator was available for home purchase well before the electric vacuum cleaner or electric iron. I guess women knew what was important back then, even if men didn’t!

This mighty beast is called The Manipulator, and is only a tiny fraction of the actual machine. It was powered by a steam engine (!) which was kept in the next room.

early vibrator


manipulator part 2


You hook it up to the underside of an examination table, which has a convenient piece cut out and off you go – modern, steam-powered orgasms.

Men, of course, were treated for nervous conditions too, but the numbers of men requiring this kind of stimulation were nowhere near the number of women who went through it.

All very interesting food for thought for The Ruttingdon Series Book 4!