Hysteria, which in the past literally meant womb disease, has a complex history of cures. The term is no longer used in modern psychology, but until about the 1920s hysteria was considered a common problem afflicting women, its symptoms as wide ranging as nervousness and vaginal lubrication.
In the grand historical scheme of male entitlement, this medical condition simultaneously denied women’s sexuality and labelled it, well, sort of mental.
Of the many cures that different cultures around the world may have had for it, there was a period in western medicine when to give “pelvic massages” to release hysterical paroxysms (aka orgasms) was an accepted and legitimate way to cure hysteria. It was also a good revenue model.
The booming business had one downside, though: the doctors' hands hurt after the many genital massages. The vibrator was born out of this necessity, a curious confluence of medicine and sexuality. The video above, by National Geographic, touches upon the brief history of the vibrator. The scale of demand can perhaps be gauged by the fact that the vibrator was one of the first domestic devices to be electrified.
In the video below, Rachel P Maines, author of The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction talks about what female hysteria really was, explaining how pornography brought an end to this form of medical treatment.
The surprising history of this medical instrument/sex toy was the subject of a 2011 film called, what else but, Hysteria.