You probably think nymphomania is something that started from the sexual revolution of the seventies. After all, the middle sixties brought the infamous birth control pill, which definitely created more sex, since the risk of pregnancy has been taken primarily taken away.
Surprisingly, the first medical diagnosis of nymphomania goes much further back than the sixties. The first medical case of nymphomania was reported in 1841. The daughter of a farmer, she was diagnosed with lewd language and behavior and diagnosed with a then-classified disease, nymphomania. After treatments of cold vaginal douches, she was declared cured.
Moving into the Victorian period of time, the belief that strong sexual desire in a woman was a disease continued as the opinion of both doctors and the patients seeking medical help for this so-called “disease”. Control and moderation of sexual urges was considered normal by both men and women of this time. It was believed that this attitude with both sexes produced good health. Even though, this attitude was considered the “norm” for both men and women, any sign of even a mild appetite for sex desire in a female, carries the double standard that the female was on the verge of sexual mayhem. If the female was of what was considered high class in their social standing, this disease carry an even greater concern and stigma with her fellow peers.
Nymphomania continued to be thought of as a disease from the middle seventeen century to the early nineteenth century. By this time gynecology, neurology, and psychiatry was engaged in medical disputes among themselves for the correct medical reason for nymphomania, and by that time, mental reasons were found to have contributed to the disease. Psychiatrists looked away from the female reproductive system to the brain, noting structural differences in the brain caused the disease. Psychiatrists look to cerebral lesions and overexcited nerve fibers in the brain as causes for this disease. By this time in medical history, the medical and the psychiatric community was trying to come up with their own treatment, to lay claim to a cure for what was then still considered a disease.
Before mid-century times gynecologists did their exams with the female fully clothed, asked questions, and look at the face, hands, and feet to make a diagnosis. However, by the turn of the mid-century, the speculum, an instrument inserted in the vagina for more detailed physical examinations was used in female gynecological exams. When this instrument was first introduced in the medical field, it was initially feared that the use of the speculum could create sensations that would bring on the symptoms of nymphomania.
Double standards for appropriate sexual behavior continued to the nineteenth century. Even doctors during this time period acknowledged that is was easier and more accepted more men to fulfill their sexual desires. The Journal of Mental Science at the time reported liaisons that men used to fulfill their sexual urges were “openly condemned, secretly practiced, and tacitly condoned.” These forms of sexual behavior used to ease sexual urges were given the medical term, satyriasis. Cases of satyriasis included men who openly masturbated, exposed their genitals, and men who sexually attacked women, and children. To give the reader an idea of how confusing the medical diagnosis and prognosis was for sexual behavior, behaviors such as flirting, lustful glances, and wearing of perfume by women was interpreted as a mild form of nymphomania. In these same times, the cure for satyriasis in men sometimes used was castration.
As we progressed into the nineteenth century, the proper sexual climate depicted by both sexes brought about the attitude of respectability in sexual conduct. Being respectful meant more sexual control, moderation of sexual activity urges, and desires. Overall, the rules of society demanded self-discipline of both sexes. How were women were supposed to control their husband’s lustful desires? Ironically, by example! The women were supposed to control men’s lusts by the sheer strength of their character, and their social acceptance.
What does all this information and history of sexual behavior tell us about nymphomania in the twenty-first century? We have new medical terms for taboo sexual behavior, such as sexual addiction, porn addiction, gender confusion, just to name a few. What is the common parallel with nymphomania and this new sexual illness and issues? Going into the new century, a new world of sexual issues take prominence. We have children who have gender issues, and wish to change their gender. We have famous athletics who have changed their sex through surgery. What does all this say about what is considered normal sexual behavior and what is considered correct sexual behavior for the individual. The common thread is a moral issue, and basically what is acceptable between the sexes, whether it be male to male, male to female, or female to female.