From the time of Hippocrates until the s, massaging female patients to orgasm was a staple of medical practice among Western physicians in the treatment of "hysteria," an ailment once considered both common and chronic in women. Doctors loathed this time-consuming procedure and for centuries relied on midwives. Later, they substituted the efficiency of mechanical devices, including the electric vibrator, invented in the s. In The Technology of Orgasm , Rachel Maines offers readers a stimulating, surprising, and often humorous account of hysteria and its treatment throughout the ages, focusing on the development, use, and fall into disrepute of the vibrator as a legitimate medical device. 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
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The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction
The Technology of Orgasm
Maines develops a theory of how physicians since ancient time have regarded penetrative, reproductive sex as the norm and medicalized different female expressions of sexuality. This is most obvious in the case of the diagnosis of hysteria. One 17th century source quoted by Maines claims that hysteria was the second most common diagnosis in women after fevers. Women with hysteria were therefore advised to marry or when this was not possible treatments such as horse riding and the use of swings were suggested. Maines suggests that until the development of the vibrator in the late s, doctors did not find this work in anyway fulfilling or enjoyable and whenever possible would delegate it to female midwives. Several messages emerge from this book. Firstly, the medical profession has, since its origins, been male dominated and dismissive of female experiences.
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The Technology of Orgasm
Read the Review. In Pieter van Foreest, called Alemarianus Petrus Forestus, published a medical compendium titled Observationem et Curationem Medicinalium ac Chirurgicarum Opera Omnia , with 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.
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