Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nymphomania: A History by Carol Groneman

While surfing the net I came across an interesting excerpt from a book entitled Nymphomania: A History, Carol Groneman, W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN: 0393322424 . (Leave it to me to find these quirky books.) Have any of you read this? What do you guys think of her book topic? Do you think it would be an interesting read?

You can read 6 pages of Groneman's book at amazon but here is a paragraph of it to give you a taste of her book.

In 1841, Miss T., the twenty-nine-year-old daughter of a Massachusetts farmer, was diagnosed with nymphomania. According to the physicians who described the case in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, her conversation and actions left no doubt that she suffered from the disease: she uttered the "most disgusting obscenities" and moved her body in ways that expressed her uncontrolled "libidinous feelings." Although in good health, she had been restless and morose, exhibiting a "paroxysm of hysteria" when the doctors arrived. After a vaginal examination, they determined that her uterus was enlarged, her vagina over-abundantly moist, but her long and "tumid" clitoris was the telltale sign of nymphomania. They applied various caustics to her genitals to cool her ardor and tried other traditional remedies, such as bleeding and cold-water douches. After several weeks, the doctors pronounced her greatly improved, with "not a symptom remaining referable to nymphomania." This time when she was examined vaginally, she exhibited "every appearance of modesty," including a retracted and very diminutive clitoris.

25 comments:

Command0-182 said...

Okay, as someone who works with CGI and 3DSmax quite frequently. I know that, caustics, is used in reflections and refraction in Mental Ray. Quite useful for getting light to refract in glass or water. But something tell me that that is not what it meant here. Could you enlighten me?

As for the paragraph. Tis rather disturbing. Sounds like they, the physicians, arrived, say she was horny, tortured her, then pronounced her to be in better health.

It reminds me of this article.
(NSFW)
http://edstrong.blog-city.com/christianity_witches__female_sexuality.htm

Gemma said...

I don't have the book so I know nothing more than what is written about it at amazon and at the site where I initially read about the excerpt. Yes, the paragraph is a bit disturbing but at the same time, I find it fascinating and would like to learn more of the history of the *treatment of nymphomania*.

Command0-182 said...

"various caustics"
From wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caustic

"A corrosive substance is one that will destroy or irreversibly damage another substance with which it comes in contact. The main hazards to people include damage to eyes, skin and tissue under the skin, but inhalation or ingestion of a corrosive substance can damage the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. Exposure results in chemical burn."

"Potassium hydroxide is the inorganic compound with the formula KOH. Along with sodium hydroxide, this colourless solid is a prototypical "strong base". It has many industrial and niche applications. Most applications exploit its reactivity toward acids and its corrosive nature. In 2005, an estimated 700,000 to 800,000 tons were produced. Approximately 100 times more NaOH than KOH is produced annually.[1][2][3] KOH is noteworthy as the precursor to most soft and liquid soaps as well as numerous potassium-containing chemicals."

"Calcium oxide (CaO), commonly known as burnt lime, lime or quicklime, is a widely used chemical compound. It is a white, caustic and alkaline crystalline solid at room temperature. As a commercial product, lime often also contains magnesium oxide, silicon oxide and smaller amounts of aluminium oxide and iron oxide. The name lime (native lime) refers to a very rare mineral of the CaO composition.[citation needed]"

Gemma said...

Exactly why did you post this comment, Command0? I merely posted the article excerpt because the whole concept of "treating nymphomania" back in those days is intriguing to me.

Ancient Mariner said...

Ever since the beginnings of our awakening, my dw and I make love at least once a day, every day. When we miss, we go crazy. Even in this “enlightened” 21st century, some people would find that frequency excessive. I wonder whether that would make her a nymphomaniac in their eyes, deserving of “treatment.” And if they were to treat her, they should surely treat me too, since she does not engage in sex in isolation.

Significantly, I don’t even know if there is a medical term for the corresponding affliction in men! I think most diagnoses of nymphomania are made by repressed, inadequate men who feel threatened by female sexuality. I am not sure about “caustics.” Burning someone with chemicals seems pretty extreme, but then some of the other things men do to women are also extreme: removal of the clitoris; removal of the labia minora; removal of the labia majora and then sewing the vulva almost completely shut. It is all genital mutilation, and unfortunately it is still prevalent in Africa and Asia. I am sure these righteous men--many with multiple wives--would object to having their testicles tied off or even removed to control their excessive libidos, yet they have no qualms inflicting this lasting pain on women. It is no wonder that these women become desexed: they probably don’t even want to be touched down there after enduring this torture.

I am not saying that there is not a condition of excessive sexual drive, where someone wants to copulate constantly, to the point of neglecting food and sleep. That condition would be recognized by all of us as bizarre (although I have on occasion suffered sleep deprivation because I wanted to do...other things...) but I think that condition is rare. Consider Bill Clinton and his infamous “bimbo eruptions.” (To me, that term itself is loaded with a false value judgement.) Why were the women “bimbos,” but Clinton was a “philandering husband?” What if it were a woman who had so many partners? She would be called a whore at best, and probably a nymphomaniac too, for engaging in the same behavior as he.

Nothing benign is ever done by men to women to cure this affliction. The abuse, whether it be mental or physical, is deep. In my view, all those “treatments” are just plain quackery.

Command0-182 said...

"Exactly why did you post this comment, Command0? I merely posted the article excerpt because the whole concept of 'treating nymphomania' back in those days is intriguing to me."

I wanted to know what applying "caustics" to one's genitals meant. Since I only understood it as light refracting through glass or water. So I looked it up. And posted it. *Shrug*

Gemma said...

Ah, I see. I thought you knew what it meant and was wondering why you posted the info on it.

History is fascinating to me and I always feel we can deal better with the present and the future when we have an understanding of the past. In my thinking we can apply that theory to women (or men) who are low SD, or have no sexual desire or even those who are plain old frigid. We can learn about how they used to deal with *nymphomania* years ago and work it in reverse to enhance SD, sexual desire or overcome frigidity.

OK, maybe none of you are interested in this topic but I'm just curious enough to purchase the book and learn more about it.

Hiswildcherry46 said...

Hi Gemma,
Waited to see what responses you received. I am always fascinated in histoical, medical info. Will do my own research as well.

I have read much about female mutilation and abhor the entirety of the mindset. I am aware of the older women being the perpetrators of the majority of crimes in these instances. Shame on older women for destroying younger women's sexual responses, tradition and cultural norms be d.mn.d.

Reading the article portion that you included, reminded me of the Cottom Mather chronicles about the destruction of the Salem Witches..horrific autobio. to read. Many were midwives, medical profess-ors, and healers in general who were victimized purely because they were in a male dominated society. What was worse than that was that they were turned in many times by the older women in society....grrr.

To be perfectly honest, I got a chill down my spine when I read your post. There is still a stigma in the church about women being sexually wild, even if it is with their own husbands.

I fear this potential rejection with all the church women I could share with.
I know full well that I would be totally shunned and thought of in the same vein that the Salem Witches were long ago..."a woman to steer clear of as she is involved in unbridled passions."

My husband and I talk of this often as I am a nymph in all manner of the title when I am with him.

There is an important distinction to be made as we freely discuss the joy we have all found with our sexuality in our marriages; WE FIND THIS JOY IN OUR OWN MARRIAGES, WITH OUR OWN SPOUSES.

Knowing that I would be ostracized severely makes me all the more grateful that your site is somewhere where I am free to discuss and learn from, regarding my sexual relationship with my husband. Thank you, Gemma.

job29man said...

I remember reading about nymphomania in some sexology journal once in college. I believe the idea was that the woman has an "insatiable" sexual desire. I.e. she cannot be satisfied... at all. And in her quest for satisfaction she is inclined to cross any moral bound or cultural taboo.

If this is true (and I'm only operating from this vague memory) then a "very strong desire for my husband" would not be nymphomania. If the woman indeed CAN be satisfied by her husband, and if she is not inclined to cross moral boundaries or taboos then she is simply a very libidinous female.

If this is true for you then your husband is a blessed man. And while I do think it is fun to joke about being a "nympho", the sad reality of this state would be tragic.

I'm afraid that the 1851 treatment described earlier was done out of ignorance. While it was cruel, I doubt that it was done in a spirit of cruelty.

If the subject did have bizarre public expressions of uncontrollable sexuality in public with strangers, that she either could not control or had no desire to control, I'd guess she was either mentally retarded or truly suffered from nymphomania or some other disease that breaks down normal social inhibitions.

Gemma said...

This may be totally different than the women back then who were diagnosed as nymphs but in my very limited understanding---

Many of the women who were diagnosed with "hysteria" were ordinary women with ordinary sex drives which weren't being satisfied because they were either single and masturbation wasn't an option OR... they were married and weren't getting enough sex OR... they were married and rarely or never received orgasms. They would go to the doctor with all sorts of emotional and physical issues which they had no idea how to overcome. The doctors discovered that when they would minister man-stim to these women, their health would take a sharp turn for the better. Well, duh... the doctors were bringing the women to O although they thought they were only providing a medical service to the women.

In that same vein, I agree that the treatment described in the article for nymphs was done in ignorance, rather than out of cruelty.

I have only read a few articles on this so my understanding may be way off.

bunnyhunch said...

Gemma: In that same vein, I agree that the treatment described in the article for nymphs was done in ignorance, rather than out of cruelty.
I agree. They were doing what they thought they needed to do based on the knowledge available to them at the time, limited as it was. The story reminds me of the unfortunate practice of performing lobotomies, which were prevalent in fairly recent history.

I wonder what practices performed today will be looked upon as ignorant and bizarre 100 years from now.

Ancient Mainer: Burning someone with chemicals seems pretty extreme, but then some of the other things men do to women are also extreme: removal of the clitoris; removal of the labia minora; removal of the labia majora and then sewing the vulva almost completely shut. It is all genital mutilation, and unfortunately it is still prevalent in Africa and Asia.
This always ires me. I know these practices are often culturally based, but it is still so cruel and soooo wrong. I know there are women's groups that are trying to change things, but it will take a long time.

Ancient Mariner said...

Gemma: Now you have got me interested. Are you saying the (presumably male) doctors were manually stimulating these women to orgasm? They were allowed to to that?? And didn't the women figure out that they could go home and masturbate, and get the same relief?

BunnyHunch: even though certain practices are culturally based, and it looks like older women are doing it to younger women, I find it difficult to believe that women came up with these ideas of harming young women all on their own. Not that they lack imagination, but in my experience, women are much more compassionate and level-headed than that. I suspect that it was instigated by men, then culturally passed on as an elder women's responsibility. Kind of like what we did when I was in boarding school: we would bully the first years, because we had been bullied when we were first year students. It was not right, but we were carrying on the tradition...

Gemma said...

That's my understanding, A.Marina. The doctors felt like they were providing a necessary medical service. Well, it was necessary but they didn't know it wasn't a medical service ;-). Keep in mind the general attitudes regarding women and sex in those days. Sex was supposed to be fun only for the husband, not the wife. Women were taught to merely endure their wifely duty. And women were always told, "You don't touch yourself. That's dirty and nasty," so masturbation was not an option unless they did it in secret accompanied by a lot of guilt and shame. I suppose they figured that it was OK for the doc to give them relief because he was *practicing medicine*. Many married men of those days would negatively view their wives as "bad girls" if the wives seemed to enjoy sex. It was NOT a good time for women to enjoy their sexuality, that's for sure.

bunnyhunch said...

BunnyHunch: even though certain practices are culturally based, and it looks like older women are doing it to younger women, I find it difficult to believe that women came up with these ideas of harming young women all on their own. Not that they lack imagination, but in my experience, women are much more compassionate and level-headed than that. I suspect that it was instigated by men, then culturally passed on as an elder women's responsibility.
I agree, Ancient Mariner. Is it possible you misread what I wrote, or perhaps I'm misreading your response? The women's groups I mentioned are trying to eliminate those practices, they don't perform them. I've heard a few radio interviews on public radio about this topic, and am always thankful someone is trying to do something about it.

Ancient Mariner said...

BH: Sorry I wasn't clear enough. When the time comes to perform these procedures on young girls, it is often the older women of the village --not the men--who do the actual deed. Believing that women were the originators of these cruel practices is what I have trouble with.

Gemma: I find it disturbing that a man would willingly turn his wife over to another man to have her sexually stimulated to orgasm. And during sex with her husband, to have the wife just lying there "enduring" it? Also strange. Those must have been some dark times indeed for women.

Gemma said...

Here are a couple of articles:

http://www.tbd.com/content/article/basic_article.article:::love_life_history_vibrators

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_hysteria

http://www.amazines.com/Female_hysteria_related.html

(Nude photos at this one.)
http://herprivatepleasures.com/hysteria.htm

http://www.centerforfemalesexuality.com/pr/historyfsd.html

Ancient Mariner said...

I took a few days to read the references. Thanks. This quote stands out to me:

“Galen, a prominent physician from the second century, wrote that hysteria was a disease caused by sexual deprivation in particularly passionate women: hysteria was noted quite often in virgins, nuns, widows and, occasionally, married women. The prescription in medieval and renaissance medicine was intercourse if married, marriage if single, or vaginal massage (pelvic massage) by a midwife as a last recourse.”

If they knew this in the second century, how come that, by the 18th, they had forgotten? I am no conspiracy theory adherent, but this really seems like the medical profession taking advantage of social mores to generate a steady cash stream from a bogus diagnosis. In effect, they regarded women’s vulvas as profit centers. Makes me distrust doctors. I was not too impressed with them when I was in college, and they were premeds. I'm still not impressed. Today, we get pushed towards certain drugs because the drug companies give "incentives" to key people...

Gemma said...

I don't have the answer to your question, AMarina.

The big question I had when reading the articles--- If the early 19th century doctors were knowledgeable enough to know that the women needed pelvic massage for relief of *hysteria*, why in the heck didn't they talk to the couple together and direct the husband to go home and 'service' his wife, for goodness sakes? I mean, did the doctors think that the husbands were physically and/or mentally incapable of giving sexual relief to their wives?

I'll post the rest of my thoughts in my next comment.

Gemma said...

The doctors were way off in diagnosing these women with a disease rather than calling it what it was... a high or normal SD... just because they needed more sex than what they were getting.

Hiswildcherry46 said...

Hi again,
Gosh, I simply boil with fury when I read more on this subject. I agree with you, Gemma, that communication with the couple should have been the method of treatment.

With 7 midwife assisted home births in my life history, it is obvious that I am against medical intervention in my life.

There's something inside me that resembles a wild creature when I get a sense of inappropriateness or condescention from a medical professional. I will not be disrespected and am the mother of my children so I fight the bias towards doctors being the authority on everything.

However, I have only good to report about every doctor or nurse who I have had to deal with during my 6th child's years of emergency treatments for her life threatening asthma. We have been so well treated that I laud the skill of those who have literally saved my baby's life so many times.

Yes, we have some awful historical medical injustices on file yet I include my two pennies worth of balance towards necessary praise for those who dedicate their lives to save lives.

Gemma said...

Just so I make myself perfectly clear--- I have nothing but gratitude and respect for all of my doctors. GR and I have the best of the bunch here where we live so I have no agenda against the medical professor.

What those doctors did back then to women who had a sex drive, was just wrong on so many levels. I mean, come on--- The doctors knew they were administering a sexual act with their pelvic massage aka man-stimulation. That's not rocket science! The husbands should have been directed on how to help their wives.

Hiswildcherry46 said...

Hey Gemma,

I totally agree with you and did not think you were dissing medical professionals in the least bit...you are no dummy, Gemma.

Sorry to have gotten your fluff up.

I agree entirely that the doctors who performed sexual relief services knew full well what they were up to and are to be held accountable even in hindsight.

Gemma said...

HWC,

You didn't get my "fluff up". I only clarified where I stand in regards to the medical profession because there is such a force of people who view doctors as the enemy; I don't. I wanted to make sure that none of my readers got the wrong impression of what I have already said in this thread. In other words, I was not addressing my comment exclusively to you.

No hard feelings :-).

Hiswildcherry46 said...

Relieved sigh.. Cyber chats can be difficult at times as we don't have the face-to-face advantage of seeing whether someone is royally ticked off or not.

I enjoy your site, off to read the next post!

Gemma said...

If someone would "royally tick me off" there'd be no doubt; they would know it. A person would have to be extremely and purposely rude and/or deceitful to tick me off.