I’ve long enjoyed the doctor – patient subcategory in porn, but little did I know until recently that this genre is rooted in historical fact. In early America, women suffering from hysteria, which I think is the old-fashioned word for anxiety, were regularly treated by their male physicians with “pelvic massage” – read:  orgasm!

From Ariel Levy’s New Yorker piece this week, I learned, “For centuries, physicians had been treating hysteria in their female patients with “pelvic massage,” but in the early eighteen-eighties Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville patented the first electromechanical vibrator, which advanced this particular medical procedure considerably.”

Can you imagine going to the doctor to get an orgasm? Was it part of the med school curriculum? Wonder if that was covered by insurance in the old days.  Presumably, one could shop around, find the right physician for the job.

Would be nice to know how this affected the patient’s marital sex life as well.  For example, much has been written recently about online porn ruining relationships.  The theory is that men don’t want to have sex with real women because they can beat off to perfect virtual women all the time. (There is also evidence that porn has led to an increase in vaginal rejuvenation surgery, but that’s another topic for another time.)

So – would the reinstatement of medical pelvic massage help or hurt a marriage? The perfected medical technique would probably be better than the treatment she was getting at home.  The treatment that may have contributed to her condition, that is. Would she be desensitized to her husband, the way men are often criticized of being to their wives, left alone in the bed as they callously wack off to online porn?

I guess the modern day parallel is a sex therapist.  I know one sex therapist, but she doesn’t touch patients the way Freud did when he first started practicing.  Again, from Levy’s piece about one doctor, Freud’s mentor, Wilhelm Reich, who made patients strip down to their underwear.  Then, “Reich would touch his patients (as Freud did, too, early in his career), applying strong pressure to their “body armor” in the hope of breaking through their rigidity and repression…His ultimate goal was to stimulate the “orgasm reflex,” an involuntary full-body convulsion distinct from a run-of-the-mill climax.”  That sounds pretty tempting…

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