19th Century Hysteria Treated With Vibrators

From Washington City Paper
By Cecil Adams

Is it true that Victorian doctors used to masturbate neurotic female patients to orgasm and used special new inventions (e.g., vibrators) to do so? If so, does this have any connection with Freud’s theories on female sexuality? —Rob King, via e-mail

Just a few tweaks: (1) the women were diagnosed as hysteric, not neurotic; (2) vibrators were used, but contrary to rumor that wasn’t their original purpose; and (3) Freud helped end, not start, the practice. But mainly you’ve got it: The medical profession long treated such patients by fiddling with their genitalia—a subject receiving its most thorough examination in Rachel Maines’ The Technology of Orgasm (1998).

YourTango’s Take
Yep, mental health science has sure come a long way. Up until 30 years ago, psychiatrists were prescribing ecstasy and we actually read that someone declared one tab of E was equal to six weeks of therapy. And we’ve read that shock therapy is actually a good way to fight depression. We didn’t think that anything crazier could have gone on in mental health. Until we read this.

We’re wondering why they ended this practice? It seems reasonable that most problems can likely be orgasmed away. See a Dish from earlier today on Lily Allen’s plan to do just that. On a side note: the dictionary formerly defined hysteria as: a neurotic condition peculiar to women and thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the uterus. So doctors thought they could cure it by fiddling around in there. That's very funny. We wish there was a perfect word to describe something very funny, particularly in this context.

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