Until 1952, hysteria was in the lexicon of the American Psychiatric Association. As diagnosed, it included a mixed assortment of symptoms, including faintness, nervousness, sexual desire, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and "a tendency to make trouble." (Wikipedia)
Obviously, this was a grab bag of symptoms, and very open to be cited capriciously.
Part of the problem was the lack of recognition of the sexual nature of women in the 19th century. It was widely believed (or assumed) that good women did not experience sexual desire, and this facile assumption regarding their sexual lives led to their being frustrated.
However, in the 19th century a reliable, socially acceptable treatment became popular. Doctors would apply vegetable oil to women’s genitals and then massaged them with one or two fingers inside and the heel of the hand pressing against the clitoris. (Hopefully, gently!) With this type of massage, women had orgasms and experienced sudden, dramatic relief from hysteria. But the doctors never, ever referred to these climaxes as orgasms. They called them “paroxysms” either beuse of their refusal to recognize clitoral orgasms, or because they were fooling themselves. Or they just didn't want to admit to what the "treatment" was.
Maybe some women even experienced multiple paroxysms!
Anyay, some physicians did a booming business providing their patients with these unrecognized happy endings!
The first mechanical vibrators were developed as a labor-saving device for these doctors. Eventually, the mechanical vibrators were sold through catalogs and in drug stores.
Everything was swell until they figured out what the vibrators really did!
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