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The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual…

by Rachel P. Maines

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296463,537 (3.87)10
From the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s, massaging hysterical female patients to orgasm was a staple of medical practice among Western physicians. Hysteria, an ailment considered common and chronic in women, was thought to be the consequence of sexual deprivation. Doctors performed the routine chore of relieving hysterical patient's symptoms with manual genital massage until the women reached orgasm, or, as it was known under clinical conditions, the hysterical paroxysm. The vibrator first emerges as an electromechanical medical instrument in direct reponse to demand from physicians who, far from enjoying the implementation of pelvic massage, sought every opportunity to substitute the services of midwives and, later, the efficiency of mechanical devices.… (more)



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Can't recommend highly enough. As Z. says, Americans think that if anything is doing, it's worth doing with power tools. ( )
  rivkat | Dec 22, 2009 |
WERE YOU AWARE: That hysteria means "womb disease?" That"Susan B Anthony is said to have regarded male behavior at sports events as evidence that men were too emotional to be allowed to vote?" Or perhaps that "What is really remarkable about Western history in this context is that the medical norm of penetration to male orgasm as the ultimate sexual thrill for both men and women has survived an indefinite number of individual and collective observations suggesting that for most women this pattern is simply not the case?"WERE YOU AWARE? With The Technology of Orgasm, you will be. ( )
  damsorrow | Jun 11, 2009 |
Rachel Maines, historian of textiles, kept finding advertisements for vibrators in mail-order catalogues and needlepoint magazines from the Victorian era through WWII. She was surprised enough to take a detour from her needlework research and discovered that these were, in fact, forerunners of today's vibrators, although as time went on their purpose was increasingly disguised as "massage" tools.

When she traced the records of medical journals, patents, and other documents, she discovered the role of the water massage and the electromechanical in the efficient treatment of the Victorian-era diagnosis of hysteria (i.e. womb craziness). This sketch of the technology and culture is a fascinating entrée into the medicalization of normal femininity and does it with a trenchant levity. For my money, she could have written twice as much and included examples of the historical documents in an appendix.

Highly recommended. ( )
  chellerystick | Nov 5, 2007 |
This well researched little gem soon makes it apparent with its discussion of such things as devices for treating sexual frustration in medeaval nuns, the development of steam powered and clockwork vibrators only to be soon replaced by electric ones before for example the vaccum cleaner. or the frustrations of Doctors such as Freud with poor vaginal massage techiques ( they passed the job on to midwives) that until some time in the mid fifties. earth was inhabited not by people but by beings much stranger. ( )
  SimonW11 | Oct 26, 2006 |
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