Female Hysteria & The Manipulator

Female Hysteria – “a tendency to cause trouble for others”

Ah the 1800’s, hailed for beautiful architecture and a host of technical and medical innovations. Just a shame about the lack of women involved in any of those, which meant the birth of a totally sexist and imaginary “condition” known as Female Hysteria. 

Female hysteria ran rampant (not like the rabbit) during this era, symptoms included anxiety, shortness of breath, fainting, sexual desire (lol wot?), insomnia, heaviness in the abdomen, irritability, answering husbands back and so on. Essentially, doctors would diagnose women with this “condition” for anything they couldn’t explain. There’s obviously no way these symptoms were born out of sexual frustration. Nope, you’re wrong, not even worth thinking about. How better to deal with women having sexual desires than to make up an illness?

Now, of course it’s important to remember that Victorian women lived in a v frustrating,  prim and proper era. Apparently, families even covered up table legs as they were “suggestive and risqué”. Nothing like a good bit of solid oak to really get your juices flowing, ey ladies? So, in an era where women had pretty much zero rights, how exactly did the invention of the vibrator come about? Well…

The Manipulator

With the number of women being diagnosed with “female hysteria” on the rise, there was only one possible solution to solve women wanting to be more than just an object when it came to sex. Give their clit a rub obvs, romantic. At least it sounds like men in the 1800’s could find it.

Yup, that’s right. Doctor’s took to manually performing a clitoral massage until the patient reached “hysterical paroxysm” or as us non-weirdos would call it, an orgasm. There was only one (and the rest) problem with this solution, doctors found all of this clitoral stimulation tiring and time-consuming, and many complained of sore wrists, seems some things never change. Lucky for them, a fella named George Taylor devised a cool new device to do the job for them. Lo and behold, the vibrator was born, with this first version being called the “Manipulator” (we’d love to say we were making this up).

Yes, the vibrator was originally conceived as a medical prescription used for treating hysteria and the “Manipulator” was just the start. By 1900, electricity was introduced and doctors had a wide variety of devices to choose from, making their lives a lot easier, phew! Even better for both the doctors and women was the invention of a hand-held vibrator, which arrived in 1905, allowing women to treat their own hysteria from the comfort of their own home. 

Women were deemed to be cured of “hysteria” once they’d reached orgasm. Better than being burnt at the stake, we guess. Most shockingly, hysteria wasn’t officially declassified as a mental health disorder until the 1950s. We’ve come a long way, just the 293932 ways to go then. Want to make a small difference? 

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