Hysteria comes from ‘hyster’ (Greek for uterus).
From the phenomenon of the wandering womb believed by the ancient Greeks to hysteria’s popularisation in the 19th century, Victorian males were quick to diagnose female hysteria with the emergence of symptoms such as depression, nervousness, erratic behaviour, loss of appetite, insomnia, sexual desire and so on. It was a hotly discussed topic with George Beard (physician) recording a list of symptoms spanning over seventy pages and others boasting that every female was subject to the disorder.
Attempts to cure, punish and purify it with herbs, fire and sexual abstinence have all been made due to its association with witchcraft. However, one fascinating attempt to deal with hysteria is creative physical therapy treatments which would cause hysterical paroxysms – more simply, sexual massage to orgasm.
Originating as part of the medicalisation of sexuality and the continued cultural struggle for male dominance, the modern vibrator was initially developed as a ‘helping hand’ for doctors curing women of hysteria. It was tiring, time-consuming work repeatedly curing many women of hysteria and, hence, the research and development process to create electromechanical sex toys came in to being.