The problem of Hysteria in Victorian women and the invention of the vibrator.
Being a woman in the Victorian era was very stifling indeed, first a young girl was not educated on anything but being a proper housewife and mother, and nothing else. There was very few options for a young woman to begin with. If you were not married, you either worked for low wages as a governess (nanny), scullery maid, or in a brothel. The age of consent for a girl to marry was between 10-13 years old (or a lad, but mostly girls) and once she is married the girl basically the property of her husband and totally subjected to him, as her sole role was is to be a mother and wife.
Under the code of “Victorian Morality” she was not to enjoy sex with her husband for pleasure (his or hers), but was expected to only have intercourse with her husband to produce an heir, and actually she was to discourage any kind of intimate physical contact with her husband. However the women’s fashions of the time was designed to be pleasing to the eye’s of men, yet also by design to be very restrictive for any kind of work, and torturously uncomfortable.
“The fashion of the time included the baroque bonnet, high heels, large skirts, and corsets all of which proved the impracticality of doing any task. The important image of beauty as by defined by soft hands, porcelain complexion, and dainty feet kept women in the household outside of the sun’s rays, and in the visually appealing clothing that served no purpose outside of of emphasizing an image of sexiness to men” (Harrison 34-7).
This static existence of women, and the lack of sexual attention from their husbands led to extreme sexual tension, which in the 1800’s was diagnosed as “Hysteria” which was classified as a “womb disease” by Victorian doctors, who never clearly defined the true cause of this “disease” that upper class Victorian women seemed to be suffering from.
Since hysteria was a so called chronic disease, a short term treatment was developed to deal with this affliction of females. Women would go for treatment to a doctors office, the procedure was called “pelvic message” so that the woman could reach “paroxysm” to relive the poor sick woman.
However messaging a woman’s lower supine lumbar was time consuming and hard work, it could take hours for a patient to reach “paroxysm”, so in 1870 the very first vibrators were invented for physicians to use on their patients.
Across the pond in America, a company by the name of Hamilton Beach started selling the first manual vibrators for women to use at home in 1902, and what was originally strictly a medical office treatment was now available for women to enjoy at home in private, while their husbands spend time at the brothel.