Two Case Histories of Nymphomania

Wed, 09/07/2011 - 10:03
Submitted by Anonymous

The year was 1856, and Dr. Horatio Storer was a busy boy, burdened as he was with two very trying patients - a couple of thoroughly intractable nymphomaniacs. Which, within the context of Victorian morality, simply meant a woman who (gasp) sought sexual pleasure for her own enjoyment!

He wrote about these troublesome patients and their treatment in the The American Journal of the Medical Sciences. The paper is a hoot to read, and I recently uploaded a PDF version of the file, which you can download here.

First up, is the case of Margaret Murphy, a young, Irish immigrant and unwed mother who sought help for a constant "pricking" sensation in her urethra, as well as a uterine hemorrhage. She also had a great deal of trouble with "micturition" (urination), and her symptoms sounded very much like a typical UTI (urgency, burning, etc.).

But there was another reason for her urinary pain. The good doctors found several suspicious objects in her bladder including: hairpins and a twisted mass of copper wire (don't try this at home, kids). Turns out the poor woman suffered from the "solitary vice" (masturbation) and had some kind of fetish for urethral stimulation. Nor, did she show any real desire to quit, in spite of numerous hospitalizations. She also denied that she that what she was doing was masturbation.

But Storer wasn't the type to be so easily fooled, and he asserted confidently that even though her clitoris wasn't enlarged (a sure sign of nymphomania/masturbation), she was still a champion wanker:

I am inclined to think that she masturbates, though, as is usual, she denies it. Her manners are those of that habit. Her expression, when unconscious of being observed, is at times decidedly lecherous.

Storer didn't buy her denials. And he had his reasons. Perhaps, it was the presence of the especially large cork that had somehow made it's intrepid way into her vagina that had tipped him off. Unfortunately, this cork, which had been forcibly inserted by a bed wrench, turned out to be a real bitch to remove (I can only imagine).

It [the cork]was situated high up in the vagina, very near the os, a little back of and in contact with it, the smaller end being uppermost. "A strong effort was required to start it from its bed." The cork is now in my possession, and is of the size to fit a large jog.

Well, there was only one proper place for ol' Maggie. The nut house.

However, they released her from the lunatic asylum after a few days. And when she again showed up at the doc's doorstep with the remnants of a silver spoon caught in her snatch, a thoroughly disgusted Storer washed his hands of the whole sordid mess.

As previously stated, the patient was sent to the Lunatic Hospital at South Boston on May 30th; but, to my surprise, she again appeared at my office on Juno'21st, asserting that she had that day been discharged as "not insane." She again complained of pricking in the neighbourhood of the bladder, which was not the case when I last saw her. From this, my expectations that she would return to her old habit seem confirmed. I now refused to deal further with her, believing that merely palliative treatment without proper restraint would be useless

The second case, he mentions, fared a little better. Mrs. B, was a young, 24-year-old married woman, who found herself having very unladylike thoughts when in the presence of gentleman, and this distressed her enormously. Also, she liked to fuck her husband - a lot. Way more than what was considered normal for a woman (or way more than the good doctor was probably getting, and his was the deciding voice in her diagnosis).

She and her horny hubby had shagged every night of their married life. She enjoyed sex so much she would frequently lose consciousnesses during the act. This didn't deter her husband in the slightest, he just continued banging away until she either came to or he got off, whichever came first. (Sounds like some of the men I've known).

But Mrs. B was in a little better shape than poor Margret Murphy. She didn't keep "impure companions" or masturbate (whew, she dodged a bullet on that one!), she just liked sex too much. However, if she continued her unbridled copulations, she was destined for a padded room. So, Storer got busy with the treatment, which consisted of:

1. Total abstinence from husband; if not possible otherwise, by temporary entire separation.
2. Meat but once in the day.
3. Brandy and other stimulants not at all.
4. Novel writing to be given up.
5. Hair-pillows and mattress in place of feathers.
6. Cold sponge-bath morning and night.
7. Cold enemata at night.
8. Solution of borax applied to the vagina.
9. Tinctures of henbane, valerian, and lupulin.

Given the fact that Mrs.B and her hubby had gone at it like rabbits every night of their married life, abstinence proved impossible, and Storer reported Mr. B had to leave town for awhile.

But Mrs. B complied with treatment, and the good doctor was a little more hopeful that she and Mr. B could learn to control themselves.

...I nqw [sic] consider the case much more hopeful as regards the mental symptoms, which, bowover [sic], will for some time require decided enforcement of very strict laws. Both the wife and the husband must be taught moderation...

Reading these case histories really shows how just how much social norms have changed - and yet remained the same. Our current take on female sexuality and dysfunction, in many ways, turns the Victorian ideal of proper womanhood upside down. Back then, people worried if women were too interested in sex; now they worry if they're not.

However, some of the treatments for female sexual dysfunction are almost as wacky as sending a woman to a mental hospital for masturbating. In the movie Orgasm Inc, a woman who is clitorially orgasmic goes through a surgery of questionable safety to have a device implanted in her spinal column - all so she can have a proper (hands free) orgasm during intercourse. That's pretty weird.

It would be great if we could develop an understanding and appreciation of the of the individual nature of human sexuality. That we are all different. And that sex is very important to some people, but not to others. Every culture has had norms regarding sexual behavior, and I don't think it would be possible to have no social control on this issue at all. But our culture is obsessed with control, particularly, of female sexuality.

I suspect most of this boils down to economics. At some time in our prehistory, men realized it was economically useful to control women sexually. With the move from a hunter gather society to an agrarian one, children became an economic asset (they could work the farms) and money was transmitted father to son in a private property system. So, women (keepers of the golden egg) had to to be made to tow the sexual line.

Now, Madison Avenue plays on our sexual impulses to sell products, pharmaceutical companies make billions on sexual dysfunction, and politicians get elected based on their abortion stance. The big movers and shakers in our culture have a major stake in what goes on in our bedroom. But sex is a social loose cannon, and the more we try to control and direct it, the more it veers out of control. One solution would be tolerance, and another would be letting go of our obsession with control, which might make tolerance a real possibility. I don't think that this is an unrealistic goal, though, given the present reality, it sometimes seems that way.

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Very informative post.  I

Wed, 09/07/2011 - 12:10
Deera (not verified)

Very informative post.  I also wonder if, in addition to economic reasons, there are a few other reasons for such a desired control over women.  Such as 1) someone to cook for men 2) someone to take care of all of the babies men have the urge to create and 3) someone to always be available to have intercourse.

Hi Deera, I think there are

Thu, 09/08/2011 - 14:45
LilithLand (not verified)

Hi Deera,
I think there are were many reasons for control over women, and you mentioned some of the main ones. I think the underlying cause was still economic. In male dominated, patrilineal culture property is transferred from father to son and given the hard economic conditions that many people lived through in earlier times, a lot of men probably didn't want to support some other guy's DNA. Plus, I imagine given how dangerous intercourse was for women (without contraception) social control was also connected to ensuring that women were made to be ever available to a certain limited number of men, namely their husbands. 

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