Herstory of Hysteria
Herstory of pleasure is ancient, but here is one tale to tell from the late 1800s. “Hysteria” was the first mental disorder associated with women. Symptoms of hysteria included depression, insomnia, lack of sex drive, too much sex drive (f*ck that) and “extreme” emotions.
Ancient “Medical” Cures for Hysteria
Hysteria was perceived as a medical problem. In reality, hysteria is an endemic response to systemic oppression of women.
Doctors established two medical recommendations for the relief of hysteria.
- Vibrate a woman’s vagina. Vibration cultivated orgasm. This relieved tension, and therefore relieved hysteria symptoms. Women received this medical treatment in a clinical setting from their doctors.
2. Herstorically, another “cure” for hysteria was a “hysteria-ectomy”, otherwise known as a “hysterectomy”. The Greek root “hystera” means “uterus”. Remove the uterus, remove the hysteria, right?
Reflections on these treatments
We learned of two potential treatments for hysteria. Orgasm or hysterectomy. Orgasm was considered a medical procedure, rather than a pleasure-based experience. The other option, hysterectomy, simply removes the source of pleasure, creation and desire. Fascinating options.
I wish to reframe herstory of pleasure, so we can truly understand it. The root of hysteria is patriarchal oppression of women through systems and energetics that require women to work harder than men for what we have and what we need. Herstorically, not only did we work harder as women, but with all that we did, we were not entitled to own property. This kept us subservient to men.
What is healing?
To heal, we must acknowledge the systems that have kept us small. Next we must claim our pleasure as an aspect of our right to live. This will be the subject of more writing to come.
Pleasure is our birthright.