Oh the Victorians, how they amuse me so. If a woman was nervous she was hysterical. If she was giddy she was hysterical. If she was irritable she was hysterical. If she showed any of the 75 pages worth of symptoms one doctor recorded, the woman was hysterical. It seems to me that if a woman was breathing she was considered hysterical. This and how they treated it is the subject of ATC’s next play – In The Next Room (or The Vibrator Play).
But what caused it? No one actually new and the theories that bounced around were somewhere between logical (the stress of everyday life) to the bizarre (the wandering womb, that was a lifeform in itself). No matter what the cause though, this very upper-class disease had to be stopped before it became an epidemic.
Now what were the treatments for hysterical woman? During the Victorian era it was first treated with hydrotherapy. Some physicians recommended a hot soothing soak in mildly scented water. I like that guy. A few recommended a soak in ice water – idiots. But the best treatment of all – inducing the female orgasm. YAY!
Modern vibrators were created to help us calm down. Sweet! Works for me. In 1870′s only doctors were allowed to purchase them, but with the spread of electricity, so spread the use of a vibrator, and by the early twentieth century doctors were prescribing them for home use. BEST MEDICINE EVER! At one point, they could be purchased through the Sears catalog, with a whole page devoted to them and their attachments.
Did it really work? (Does for me) It seems that it has actually been working for centuries. Documents from as far back as the middle ages have been found where it describes midwives doing the job manually for the same reasons. As a matter of fact, it was a common service provided by midwives up until the Victorian era when physicians realized there was a certain loss of income and once again decided that the midwives needed to be eliminated.
A few physicians dove into their new work with great glee, but a few found it distastful and were only in it for the money. The first was in danger of straining his hand, and possibly developing carpal tunnel. The second wanted to figure out the best way to see as many patients as possible for the money. What was a doctor to do?
V-I-B-R-A-T-O-R! That’s right folks, someone figured out how to induce a splendid female orgasm and do it faster through popular mechanics. Now there are thousands of models, in thousands of stores all around the world. Women no longer need a doctor’s prescription to get one. There is even a museum (yes a real museum, and yes I have been there) in San Francisco devoted to the history of the vibrator and it’s evolution, called Good Vibrations. Here is a few words from Dr. Carol King, the staff sexologist, on the subject. Just click her name. And if you get a chance to visit, don’t forget to stop by the gift shop before you leave.
Join us at Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte for In The Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) starting September 14 and running through October 1. Come and you might learn a little something about a personally fun topic. Tickets are on sale now.