Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Hysteria" on Word Wednesday!

*Let me begin by saying there is a great deal of information below that is sexual in nature.  Some people may find it offensive.  It is not recommended for those under the age of 18 or those who are uncomfortable reading content of a sexual nature.*

Today we look at the word “hysteria”.  Yes, the history of the word “hysteria” is sexual in nature.  Who knew?  Not me! The word itself comes from the Greek cognate of uterus (hystera). 

Yes, he is doing what you think he is doing.

Plato compared a woman’s uterus to a creature that roams through a woman’s body “blocking passages, obstructing breathing, and causing disease” all the way back in the 4th/5th century B.C. In the 2nd century, a physician wrote that the cause of hysteria was sexual deprivation in women with high libidos (most often virgins, nuns, widows, and sometimes married women). The cure? If you were married, the cure was intercourse.  If you were single, the cure was marriage or, if marriage was not an option then the last resort treatment was vaginal/pelvic massage.

There were some who thought the retention of female semen stored in the womb, which mixed with male semen during intercourse, was the cause of hysteria.  If the female semen was not released through regular climax or intercourse, physicians believed that it became poisonous.  Symptoms of the affliction included faintness, nervousness, insomnia, fluid retention, muscle spasms, shortness of breath and irritability.

I'm not making this stuff up - I swear!
In the 19th century, a huge number of physical ailments were considered possible symptoms of this psychological disorder.  There was a variety of theories regarding the cause of the ailment, including the stresses of modern life.  Physicians did not like providing vaginal massage to treat the hysteria, as it was difficult to learn and sometimes required hours of treatment in order to reach the “hysterical paroxysm” (orgasm) required to cure the hysteria.  The chaise lounge and fainting couch become popular home furniture in order to make women more comfortable during treatment. “Massage devices” (the original vibrators) were created as a way that women could treat themselves more quickly and without the need to consult a physician or midwife. 

Now stop the immature laughing, wipe that goofy grin off your face and go about your day! Let's act like grownups people!


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