This article is a response to the short story Hysteria.


In the medieval period it was believed that a woman’s womb could wander about her body leading to a number of maladies that would later be known as ‘hysteria’. These ‘maladies’ could range from seizures to a woman simply being ‘troublesome’ for which Victorian doctors prescribed ‘hysterical paroxysm’, otherwise known as orgasm through pelvic massage.

Doctors complained the technique was difficult to master and just took too damn long leading to the invention of the vibrator. Purely medical purposes, obviously. These were actually used by doctors and in sanatoriums to treat cases of female hysteria.

Hysteria can also include suffering a ‘fit of the vapours’ which comes from a notion, debunked by the Victorian Era, that women had sperm similar to men. However this sperm could build up in a woman, vaporise and cause ‘fainting fits’. Before reading more on the history of hysteria I always assumed the ‘vapours’ were a reference to the smelling salts that were often used to revive women who had suffered a ‘fit of the vapours’.

And there we were thinking the Victorians were prudes.

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