In search of the Big Hysterical Paroxysm


The next time hubby takes the kids to the movies and you find yourself “in a mood” and reaching for your rabbit, keep in mind it wasn’t always that easy.

If you were living in Victorian times you might have had to call a doctor.  Women in the 1800’s suffered from something called Female Hysteria with symptoms such as faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and “a tendency to cause trouble”.

A physician in 1859 claimed that a quarter of all women suffered from hysteria.
The cure? A physician would perform “pelvic massage “ …the manual stimulation of the genitals, typically in the patient’s home until the patient experienced “hysterical paroxysm” also sometimes referred to as “hysterical crisis.”  Wealthy women were regularly visited their physicians for a pelvic massage, sometimes as much as once a week.  It makes me wonder if women “falling for their doctor” had its roots in this practice….

This was a task which took time, sometimes hours.  It was at this time in history that the chaise lounge and fainting couch became popular, in order to make woman more comfortable during home treatment.

In 1880, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville invented an electro-mechanical version of the “manipulator”, His invention, “Hammer”, according to the inventor was originally designed for men (although I was not able to find how it was intended to be used??)  It wasn’t long before his device was replacing doctor’s house calls, allowing women to treat their bouts of hysteria themselves in the privacy of their homes.
The only electric devices to predate this vibrating device were the sewing machine, the fan, the kettle and the toaster.  In fact the invention of the “vibrator” pre-dated versions of the plug-in vacuum cleaner by nearly two decades.

So that is how the vibrator came to be, and the rest as they say is history.  But wait, not so fast!  Before you pick up that rabbit to cure the hysteria that ails you…you might want to see if it’s legal!  Turns out that in some states in the U.S. vibrators are illegal.   The law in Mississippi was upheld as recently as 2004 and also bans possession of a sex toy punishable by 5 years in prison.

The states that I could find that have laws banning the sale of/advertisement of sex toys including vibrators are Georgia, Louisiana and Texas…illegal that is if their primary use is the stimulation of the genitalia.  In other words, if the vibrator performs other functions it is completely legal to sell or own one.

battTechnically our ancestors were on the right track.  A page from a Sears catalogue of electrical appliances from 1918 includes a “Home motor” with attachments, billed as ”Aids that every woman appreciates.” Attachments for the home motor included a sewing machine, buffer/grinder/blender/ fan…and of course a vibrator. “Very useful and satisfactory for home service.”

Thank you for reading, you may now return to your regularly scheduled activities….

3 comments on “In search of the Big Hysterical Paroxysm”

  1. The interesting thing is that this “maunual manipulation” was looked upon as being purely a medical practice, not a sexual one. The procedure was performed only by doctors or midwives and was considered to be as innocuous as having one’s blood pressure checked. Only a husband was to provide sexual pleasure for his wife. If it were not considered sexual by the woman and her husband, fine but the poor doctor? I once thought a great career would be a photographer for Penthouse but realistically I don’t think I could handle it. Being a doctor whose task was finger another man’s wife to orgasm all the while pretending it was merely medical….I don’t think so….!

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