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Read the Review. In Pieter van Foreest, called Alemarianus Petrus Forestus, published a medical compendium titled Observationem et Curationem Medicinalium ac Chirurgicarum Opera Omniawith a chapter on the diseases of women. For the affliction commonly called hysteria literally, "womb disease" and known in his volume as praefocatio matricis or "suffocation of the mother," the physician advised as follows:.
As Forestus suggests here, in the Western medical tradition genital massage to orgasm by a physician or midwife was a standard treatment for hysteria, an ailment considered common and chronic in women. Descriptions of this treatment appear in the Hippocratic corpus, the works of Celsus in the first century A.
Given the ubiquity of these descriptions in the medical literature, it is surprising that the character and purpose of these massage treatments for hysteria and related disorders have received little attention from historians. The authors listed above, and others in the history of Western medicine, describe a medical treatment for a complaint that is no longer defined as a disease but that from at the least the fourth century B. This purported disease and its sister ailments displayed a symptomatology consistent with the normal functioning of female sexuality, for which relief, not surprisingly, was obtained through orgasm, either through intercourse in the marriage bed or by means of massage on the physician's table.
I shall place this disease paradigm in the context of androcentric definitions of sexuality, which explain both why such treatments were socially and ethically permissible for doctors and why women required them. Androcentric views of sexuality, and their implications for women and for the physicians who treated them, shaped the development not only of the concept of female sexual pathologies but also of the instruments deed to cope with them. Technology tells us much about the social construction of the tasks and roles it is deed to implement. Although massage instrumentation has had many medical uses in history, I am concerned here only with its role in the treatment of a certain class of"women's complaints.
In evaluating these technologies, the perspective of gender is ificant: for example, men typically react to figure 1 by wincing, and women laugh. Clearly, where technologies impinge on the body, especially its sexual organs, the sex of the body matters. When the vibrator emerged as an electromechanical medical instrument at the end of the nineteenth century, it evolved from massage technologies in response to demand from physicians for more rapid and efficient physical therapies, particularly for hysteria. Massage to orgasm of female patients was a staple of medical practice among some but certainly not all Western physicians from the time of Hippocrates until the s, and mechanizing this task ificantly increased the of patients a doctor could treat in a working day.
Doctors were a male elite with control of their working lives and instrumentation, and efficiency gains in the medical production of orgasm for payment could increase income. Physicians had both the means and the motivation to mechanize. The demand for treatment had two sources: the proscription on female masturbation as unchaste and possibly unhealthful, and the failure of androcentrically defined sexuality to produce orgasm regularly in most women.
Thus the symptoms defined until as hysteria, as well as some of those associated with chlorosis and neurasthenia, may have been at least in large part the normal functioning of women's sexuality in a patriarchal social context that did not recognize its essential difference from male sexuality, with its traditional emphasis on coitus.
The historically androcentric and pro-natal model of healthy, "normal" heterosexuality is penetration of the vagina by the penis to male orgasm. It has been clinically noted in many periods that this behavioral framework fails to consistently produce orgasm in more than half of the female population. Because the androcentric model of sexuality was thought necessary to the pro-natal and patriarchal institution of marriage and had been defended and justified by leaders of the Western medical establishment in all centuries at least since the time of Hippocrates, marriage did not always "cure" the "disease" represented by the ordinary and uncomfortably persistent functioning of women's sexuality outside the dominant sexual paradigm.
This relegated the task of relieving the symptoms of female Women wants hot sex Climax New York to medical treatment, which defined female orgasm under clinical conditions as the crisis of an illness, the "hysterical paroxysm. There is no evidence that male physicians enjoyed providing pelvic massage treatments. On the contrary, this male elite sought every opportunity to substitute other devices for their fingers, such as the attentions of a husband, the hands of a midwife, or the business end of some tireless and impersonal mechanism.
This last, the capital-labor substitution option, reduced the time it took physicians to produce from up to an hour to about ten minutes. Like many husbands, doctors were reluctant to inconvenience themselves in performing what was, after all, a routine chore.
The job required skill and attention; Nathaniel Highmore noted in that it was difficult to learn to produce orgasm by vulvular massage. He said that the technique "is not unlike that game of boys in which they try to rub their stomachs with one hand and pat their he with the other. These patients neither recovered nor died of their condition but continued to require regular treatment. Russell Thacher Trall and John Butler, in the late nineteenth century, estimated that as many as three-quarters of the female population were "out of health," and that this group constituted America's single largest market for therapeutic services.
Furthermore, orgasmic treatment could have done few patients any harm, whether they were sick or well, thus contrasting favorably with such "heroic" nineteenth-century therapies as clitoridectomy to prevent masturbation. It is certainly not necessary to perceive the recipients of orgasmic therapy as victims: some of them almost certainly must have known what was really going on.
The androcentric definition of sex as an activity recognizes three essential steps: preparation for penetration "foreplay"penetration, and male orgasm. Sexual activity that does not involve at least the last two has not been popularly or medically and for that matter legally regarded as "the real thing. That more than half of all women, possibly more than 70 percent, do not regularly reach orgasm by means of penetration alone has been brought to our attention by researchers such as Alfred Kinsey and Shere Hite, but the fact was known, if not well publicized, in centuries.
This majority of women have traditionally been defined as abnormal or "frigid," somehow derelict in their duty to reinforce the androcentric model of satisfactory sex. These women may constitute most of the hysterics of history, whose s make plausible Thomas Sydenham's argument in the seventeenth century that hysteria was "the most common of all diseases except fevers. When marital sex was unsatisfying and masturbation discouraged or forbidden, female sexuality, I suggest, asserted itself through one of the few acceptable outlets: the symptoms of the hysteroneurasthenic disorders.
Historically, women have been discouraged from masturbating on the grounds that this practice would impair their health, and most men before this century even to this day, some would argue have not understood that penetration alone is sexually satisfying to only a minority of women. Even those husbands and lovers who may have known did not always want to take the trouble to provide the additional stimulation necessary to produce female orgasm.
Medical authorities as recently as the s assured men that a woman who did not reach orgasm during heterosexual coitus was flawed or suffering from some physical or psychological impairment. The fault must surely be hers, since it was literally unimaginable that any flaw could be discovered in the penetration hypothesis. If the penis did not represent the ultimate weapon in sexual warfare, claims to male superiority would rest entirely on the statistically greater potential of the male biceps and deltoid muscles, which did not in themselves seem equal to the task of sustaining patriarchy in Western civilization.
Female orgasm and the means of producing it were and are anomalous from a biological as well as a political and philosophical point of view. Its lack of correlation with fertility and conception remains counterintuitive even—perhaps especially—in an age of greater scientific understanding of human reproduction. The biological function of the female orgasm is controversial. In both the recent and the distant past, it seemed only reasonable to assume a priori that men and women would be sexually gratified by the same act of penetration to male orgasm that made conception possible.
That stimulation of the external genitalia in women should be necessary in most cases remains unexplained. As a historian, I would not p to speculate on the physiological and evolutionary questions raised by this issue. I look forward with interest to the of current inquiries by evolutionary biologists, reproductive physiologists, and physical anthropologists.
The question of female orgasm in history is deeply clouded by the androcentricity of existing sources. Medical authors, for example, have addressed female orgasm mainly from a prescriptive viewpoint; popular writers only occasionally mention it at all. Before the middle of this century, even in literature, references to female orgasm are conspicuous by their absence, even from works purportedly built around sexual subject matter. In the development of Western medical thought on the subject of sexuality, it has been thought both reasonable and necessary to the social support of the male ego either that female orgasm be treated as a by-product of male orgasm or that its existence or ificance be denied entirely.
Historically, both strategies have been used, but there has also been a persistent undercurrent of recognition that the androcentric model of sexuality does not adequately represent the experience of women. Confusing the medical discussions of these issues, as Thomas Laqueur has pointed out, is the failure of the Western tradition until the eighteenth century to develop a complete and meaningful vocabulary of female anatomy.
The vulva, labia, and clitoris were not consistently distinguished from the vagina, nor the vagina from the uterus. Thus it is difficult, in reading the premodern literature of gynecology, to decipher treatment descriptions in which the female genitalia are undifferentiated.
Female sexuality is often referred to in masculine terms, such as the references to the secretions of the Bartholin glands as "semen" or "seed. I intend to sketch here the contours of male medical and technological response to discontinuities between male and female experiences of sexuality through the social construction of disease paradigms.
Situated in the vulnerable center of every past and present heterosexual relationship, the potentially destabilizing issues of orgasmic mutuality have historically been shifted to a neutral and sanitized ground on which female sexuality was represented as a pathology and female orgasm, redefined as the crisis of a disease, was produced clinically as legitimate therapy. This interpretation obviated the need to question either the exalted status of the penis or the efficacy of coitus as a stimulus to female orgasm. Furthermore, it required no adjustment of attitude or skills by male sex partners.
What Foucault calls the "hystericization of women's bodies" protected and reinforced androcentric definitions of sexual fulfillment. Part of my argument here rests on the vague and sexually focused character of hysteria as defined by ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and modern medical authorities before Sigmund Freud.
Many of its classic symptoms are those of chronic arousal: anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability, nervousness, erotic fantasy, sensations of heaviness in the abdomen, lower pelvic edema, and vaginal lubrication. The Women wants hot sex Climax New York states described by Freud and a few others are rarely mentioned by physicians before the late nineteenth century. During the syncope some hysterics were observed to experience, as Franz Josef Gall pointed out in the second decade of the nineteenth century and A.
King some seventy years later, the subject's apparent loss of consciousness was associated with flushing of the skin, "voluptuous sensations," and embarrassment and confusion after recovery from a very brief loss of control—usually less than a minute. That hysterics did not become incontinent during their "spells" as epileptics did, and apparently felt much better afterward, led some physicians to suspect their patients of malingering.
Doctors pointed out that epileptics often injured themselves when they fell, but that hysterics rarely did so. I do not mean that all women diagnosed as hysterical were cases of sexual or rather orgasmic deprivation; some were no doubt afflicted with other mental or physical ailments whose symptoms overlapped ificantly with the hysterical disease paradigm.
Joan Brumberg has pointed out, for example, that in the nineteenth century many physicians believed that anorexia in young girls was a hysterical disorder. But the sheer of hysterics before the middle of this century, and their virtual disappearance from history thereafter, suggests it is perceptions of the pathological character of these women's behavior that have altered, not the behavior itself. The partial or complete loss of consciousness—or more properly, of reactivity to outside stimuli—was variously interpreted and described over time.
Aretaeus, like Plato, believed that the inflamed and disconnected uterus was suffocating or choking the patient, a theme dwelt on at considerable length in late classical, medieval, and Renaissance medical writings. The uterus, engorged with unexpended "seed" semen in Latinwas thought to be in revolt against sexual deprivation.
The cure, consistent with the humoral theory popularized by Galen, was to coax the organ back into its normal position in the pelvis and to cause the expulsion of the excess fluids. When the patient was single, a widow, unhappily married, or a nun, the cure was effected by vigorous horseback exercise, by movement of the pelvis in a swing, rocking chair, or carriage, or by massage of the vulva by a physician or midwife, as described by Forestus in the paragraph quoted above.
If hysteria was for the most part no more than the normal functioning of female sexuality, the inducement of the crisis of the disease, called the "hysterical paroxysm," would in fact have provided the kind of temporary relief physicians described. Only a handful of the medical authorities who advocated female genital massage as a treatment for hysteria, however, acknowledged that the crisis so produced was an orgasm. In the nineteenth century, as Women wants hot sex Climax New York by Peter Gay and others, the received wisdom that women required sexual gratification for health came into conflict with newer ideas regarding the intrinsic purity of womanhood.
A not uncommon resolution of the conflict of medical philosophies over women's sexuality was the compromise position that women ardently desired maternity, not orgasm. This pro-natal hypothesis not only preserved the illusion of women's spiritual superiority while explaining their observed sexual behavior but also reinforced the ethic of coitus in the female-supine position as a divinely ordained norm. As Gay rightly points out, this proposition also protected the male ego and the androcentric model of sexuality. Freudian interpretations after presupposed sexual drives in women, placing these in a new kind of androcentric moralism, that of psychopathology, that was to persist into our own time.
In the new paradigm, hysteria was caused not by sexual deprivation but by childhood experiences, and it could be manifested in propensities to masturbation and to "frigidity" in the context of penetration. These two "symptoms" were also evidence, in the Freudian view, of female sexual development arrested at a juvenile level.
The mystique of penetration thus could remain unchallenged even as the theoretical ground shifted under the medical and sexual issues. Real women, according to Freudian theory as well as earlier authorities, experienced mature sexual gratification as a result of vaginal penetration to male orgasm and accepted no substitutes for the "real thing. That this principle relegated the experience of two-thirds to three-quarters of the female population to a pathological condition was not perceived as a problem.
This androcentric focus, in fact, in many cases effectively camouflaged the sexual character of medical massage treatments. Since no penetration was involved, believers in the hypothesis that only penetration was sexually gratifying to women could argue that nothing sexual could be occurring when their patients experienced the hysterical paroxysm during treatment.
Even the nineteenth-century physicians who excoriated the speculum for its allegedly stimulating effects and questioned internal manual massage saw nothing immoral or unethical in external massage of the vulva and clitoris with a jet of water or with mechanical or electromechanical apparatus. Freudian and later interpretations of hysteria and masturbation helped undermine this camouflage, and when the vibrator, used in physicians' offices since the s, began to appear in erotic films in the s, the illusion of a clinical process distinct from sexuality and orgasm could not be sustained.
In the evidence I present here on the histories of sexuality and medical massage in hysteria, it is important to stress that the voices of women are seldom heard. It is a rare person of either sex who sees fit to leave a record even of his or her most orthodox procreative marital sexuality, let alone of experiences with masturbation. In most historical times and places in Western culture, a woman's keeping such a record would have been unspeakably shocking and unchaste; its discovery might have subjected her to severe social sanctions.
Even historians of male heterosexuality struggle with the lack of primary material; what remains may be fragmentary, or revised by embarrassed heirs or publishers. Historians must rely on largely prescriptive androcentric and pro-natal medical sources for much of our information on humanity's most intimate activities, because we have nothing else. Nearly all my sources relate to members of the middle to upper classes of white women in Europe and the United States, and it would be presumptuous to generalize from them to other cultures, classes, or races.
The electromechanical vibrator, invented in the s by a British physician, represented the last of a long series of solutions to a problem that had plagued medical practitioners since antiquity: effective therapeutic massage that neither fatigued the therapist nor demanded skills that were difficult and time-consuming to acquire. Mechanized speed and efficiency improved clinical productivity, especially in the treatment of chronic patients like hysterics, who usually received a series of treatments over time.
Among conditions for which massage was indicated in Western medical traditions, one of the most persistent challenges to physicians' skills and patience as physical therapists was hysteria in women. This was one of the most frequently diagnosed diseases in history until the American Psychiatric Association officially removed the hysteroneurasthenic disorders from the canon of modern disease paradigms in Mechanized treatments for hysteria offered a of benefits to Women wants hot sex Climax New York of the technology—doctors, patients, and patients' husbands.
Not only did the clinical production of the "hysterical paroxysm" provide a palliative for female complaints and make patients feel better, at least temporarily, it resolved Women wants hot sex Climax New York dissonance of reality with the androcentric sexual model. And since mechanical and electromechanical devices could produce multiple orgasms in women in a relatively short period, innovations in the instrumentation of massage permitted women a richer exploration of their physiological powers.
Although manual, hydriatic, and steam-powered mechanical massage offered some of these advantages, the electromechanical vibrator was less fatiguing and required less skill than manual massage, was less capital intensive than either hydriatic or steam-powered technologies, and was more reliable, portable, and decentralizing than any physical therapy for hysteria. Within fifteen years of the introduction of the first Weiss model in the late s, more than a dozen manufacturers were producing both battery-powered vibrators and models operated with line electricity.
Some physicians even had vibratory "operating theaters" see fig. Although manufacturers and users of massage technologies have called the instruments by a variety of names, here I use a relatively consistent nomenclature deed to emphasize the differences among various types of massage apparatus.
First, a true vibrator is a mechanical or electromechanical device imparting a rapid and rhythmic pressure through a contoured working surface, which is generally mounted at a right angle to the handle. The applicators usually take the form of a set of interchangeable rubber vibratodes contoured to the anatomical surfaces they are intended to address. Vibrating dildos, a variant of the vibrator, are usually straight-shafted and are deed for vaginal or anal insertion. A massager, as the term is used here, is a device with flat or dished working surfaces deed mainly for manipulating the skeletal muscles.
All of these are distinct from the electrodes used in electrotherapy, which imparted a mild electrical shock to the tissues they were applied to and thus are technologically related to the vibrator only in a collateral way. As we have seen, manual massage of the vulva as a treatment for hysteria or "suffocation of the mother" is continually attested in Western medicine from antiquity through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation and well into the modern era.
I have already quoted Forestus's description of the basic manual technique, which seems to have varied little over time except in the types of lubricating oils. Medical descriptions of this procedure were more or less explicit in their instructions to doctors, according to the temperament of the author. A few, like Forestus and his contemporary Abraham Zacuto —expressed reservations about the propriety of massaging the female genitalia and proposed delegating the job to a midwife. The main difficulties for physicians, however, were the skills required to properly locate the intensity of massage for each patient and the stamina to sustain the treatment long enough to produce.
Technological solutions to both problems seem to have been attempted fairly early in the form of hydrotherapeutic approaches and crude instruments like rocking chairs, swings, and vehicles that bounced the patient rhythmically on her pelvis. We know very little about the ancient use of hydrotherapy in hysteria.
Baths, however, particularly those built over hot springs, have a long history of association with sensuality and sexuality. Saint Jerome ? Roman bath configurations usually included piped water that could have been used in this way, but evidence is lacking.Women wants hot sex Climax New York
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