"The Orgasm Rebellion" is a humorous book describing in delicious detail how women were treated for what was called "Hysteria" in 1899 (today women still struggle to orgasm from PIV sex but now we can learn to orgasm with our own vibrators). I asked the author, Frank Lingo, if we could share an excerpt from his book.
Here is Frieda's story:
Frieda Funk, Ida’s young sister-in-law, slunk down the tree- lined street, glancing furtively around to see if anyone could see her. No one was about, so the tall, slim woman wearing a black dress with a bustle and a big black hat covering her blond hair, clomped her high heels up the steps to the doctor’s house.
A sign read “Come in” so Frieda stepped slowly inside and carefully maneuvered the protuberant bustle at her rear thru the door frame. She timidly approached the desk where an older lady, the doctor’s wife, was seated. But Frieda just looked down and couldn’t bring herself to speak.
“Are you here to see the doctor, dear?”
“My name is Netty. What ails you, today, dear?” Netty came around the desk and put her arm around Frieda’s slim waist, guiding her to a bench and sitting beside her.
“I, uh, heard that the doctor can, um, treat women for, uh... uh...”
“Hysteria, you mean?
Frieda nodded and her eyes searched Netty’s for understanding. Netty patted Frieda’s knee and gazed softly into Frieda’s luminous blue eyes.
“First time, huh? Well, don’t you worry, everything will be alright.”
The nurse went back to her desk and Frieda picked up a newspaper to read. Her hands trembled a bit holding the paper and she couldn’t concentrate on it, worried about facing the doctor with her embarrassing problem.
In her mind, Frieda fretted about how it had come to this. Lately she’d been moping around a lot, not feeling like doing the housework. Here she was, scarcely in her twenties and feeling like her marriage was a shambles. Her husband, Bunker, was often sharp with her and their love life had become unpleasant. No longer did he bother to kiss and hug her the way he used to do when he had wooed her into marrying him at the age of 17. These days he just manhandled her for a few moments and then penetrated her, sometimes painfully, before his abrupt finish.
Her sister-in-law, Ida, had noticed how down-hearted Frieda had become. Frieda wouldn’t talk much about it, finding it difficult to describe the sadness and frustration she felt. All she’d confide to Ida was that there was some difficulty between herself and Bunker in the bedroom.
Feeling that somehow it must be her fault, that maybe she wasn’t being a good dutiful wife, Frieda was reluctant to discuss the issue with her husband. So the situation stagnated and she found herself getting grouchy and flying off the handle at him over little things. Bunker said she was hysterical. He seemed to prefer the bottle to her, anyway. He’d stay out late, then come home drunk and have his rough way with her, even if she’d been asleep.
Waiting there for the doctor now, Frieda didn’t know what earthly good it would do to see him. After Frieda had mentioned her hysterical outbursts at Bunker, Ida convinced her to try the treatment. Ida said that doctors now had a machine to relieve hysteria. But Frieda, unsure she’d go thru with it and not wanting Ida or anyone else to know, hadn’t chosen Ida’s doctor but instead picked one that she had overheard a neighbor say was nice.
“The doctor will see you now,” said Netty.
Frieda slowly put down the newspaper but she hesitated to rise. Netty came around and helped Frieda up with an arm around her. “It’ll be alright, honey. You’ll soon feel better.”
Frieda nodded and entered the office as Netty closed the door behind her. Doctor Roland Poland came around his desk to greet her. As he warmly took her hand in his, Frieda noticed that he was about half a foot shorter and about twice as heavy as she was. He was clean-shaven and balding with gray curls on the back and sides of his head. Thru his spectacles he looked caringly at her and Frieda saw a little twinkle in his eye as he spoke.
“Hello, my dear, and what brings you to the old doc today?” Dr. Poland asked with a bit of European accent, gesturing for her to sit in a large upholstered chair.
Frieda sat and hesitated a moment, then averted her eyes and whispered “Hysteria.”
“Ah, a common malady,” said Dr. Poland, nodding as he sat in the chair next to Frieda and leaned toward her. He reached out and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Are you having husband problems, by any chance?”
The simple question and the doctor’s trustworthy manner struck deep in Frieda’s psyche and before she knew it, she was turning her head away to hide her tears.
Dr. Poland stood up beside her and smoothed her hair. “There there, let’s see what we can do. Please sit on the examining table for me, would you?”
Frieda nodded, glancing up to see his comforting gaze as she rose and walked over to sit down on the low table.
“Now, let’s have a look at you. Open your mouth, please. OK, tongue looks fine.” He looked into her eyes. “Are you having any trouble with your vision?”
Frieda shook her head. Then the doctor took out his pocket watch and looked at it while placing his thumb on her wrist. As a minute went by, Frieda collected herself a bit, feeling calmed by the doctor’s touch on her arm.
“Your pulse is normal,” said Dr. Poland, He moved just behind where she sat on the table and placed his stethoscope on her back. “Breathe deeply, please.” After listening to a few ofher breaths, he moved around in front and placed the stethoscope over her heart thru the material of her dress. Again he listened intently, then pulled up a stool and sat down in front of her a bit below eye level.
“Mrs. Funk, you seem to be healthy physically. That leads me to conclude that the problem - if there is one - lies in another realm, possibly the mind or the heart.”
Frieda looked at him expectantly, half relieved to hear that her body was healthy and half anxious at the prospect of having to face the deeper mysteries of her mind and heart.
“How long have these problems with your husband been going on?” asked the doctor.
Frieda thought a moment. She’d never spoken to anyone about her problems, except for barely acknowledging to Ida that there were some. But that’s what she was here for, wasn’t it?
“For a couple of years,” she started. “He won’t - he just - he doesn’t...” Frieda couldn’t seem to finish the sentence.
“Satisfy you?” asked the doctor.
Frieda looked down. ”Yes,” she said softly.
“A common problem indeed,” said the doctor. “Have you discussed your feelings about it with him?”
“I’ve tried but he won’t listen, especially when he’s been drinking. He drinks a lot.”
“What was it like with him when you first got married?”
Frieda’s face brightened. “He was very sweet and thoughtful,” she recalled. “He kind of swept me off my feet. We got married rather suddenly when I got pregnant. He used to kiss me a lot in those days. Long, deep kisses while he held me tight. I felt so safe, so loved in his arms.”
“When did things start to change?” asked Dr. Poland.
“A few months after we got married, I lost the baby. Bunker was very disappointed in me. Then he joined the army and was gone to the war for over a year. When he got back, he started drinking more and staying out late after work. Then when he did come home...” she trailed off.
“Not so sweet then?” asked the doctor.
“No, not sweet at all,” said Frieda. “But I can’t blame Bunker. If I were a better woman and had the baby, everything would be fine.”
“Nonsense,” said the doctor. “It’s not your fault. Many women have miscarriages, and with many causes but none of the causes are because they’re not good enough women.”
Frieda looked at him with both relief and disbelief. She was so used to the guilt hanging on her that it felt strange to think she could throw it off.
“I just don’t know what to do,” she said in a voice barely above a whisper.
“Well, to begin with, you need to understand there’s nothing wrong with you and stop blaming yourself,” said Dr. Poland. “Now I have a very personal question for you - have you ever had an orgasm?”
Frieda blushed and turned her face away. “Doctor, I-I-I don’t, I don’t really know what that is.”
“Yes, many women are so unfamiliar with their own bodies that they don’t know about this simple fact of life. You see, when a woman becomes sexually aroused, the clitoris at the top of her vagina can emerge from its protective hood. The clitoris is like a little button of very sensitive skin. When the clitoris is stimulated, it can bring a woman strong feelings of pleasure that can peak in a spasm that releases her tension,” explained the doctor.
Frieda was a bit befuddled. “I don’t know, I don’t think that’s ever happened to me.” She still looked down in embarrassment.
“It’s time that it did,” said Dr. Poland. “Now, if you’ll let me help, you can discover something wonderful about your body.”
“But what does this have to do with my hysteria?” 14
“Orgasm can be a relief from anyone’s agitation,” answered the doctor. “Men, too, suffer from tension and irritability if they don’t get their sexual release. But many men seem concerned only with their own pleasure and so they leave their women frustrated.”
Frieda then looked in the doctor’s eyes and felt trust for him. “Well, alright, I guess that’s what I’m here for.”
“Good. Now, slip off your undergarment, please.”
Frieda blushed anew. She’d never been naked in front of anyone but her husband and even with him it had been fleeting looks only. But under the bright light of the doctor’s lamp she stood to slide off her bloomers beneath her dress and sat back down on the examining table.
The doctor pulled his stool up close to the foot of the table. He placed each of Frieda’s feet in the stirrups. Then he raised her dress up to her waist. He reached between her legs, thru a mass of blond pubic hair, and used his fingers to pull the hood back off Frieda’s clitoris.
“Take a look, Mrs. Funk.”
Frieda hesitated but then she leaned forward and looked down at her crotch.
“That is your clitoris,” said the doctor, as he gently held it out from its hood. “Some people call it the love button. If it gets the right stimulation, it can give you much pleasure and also relieve your hysteria.”
Frieda’s abject embarrassment of a few moments ago was slowly giving way to curiosity and even a little excitement.
“Touch it for yourself,” suggested Dr. Poland.
Frieda put her hand on her clitoris and felt of it for the first time in her life. She’d touched her vagina many times, of course, but mostly in the course of wiping or ministering to her menstruation. She had occasionally fondled her vagina for pleasure but she knew that was a sin and so she’d quickly stopped as soon as she could summon her sense of righteousness. But she’d never been aware of this hidden part of her privates, and now as she gently ran her fingertip over it, she was getting a new and pleasant sensation.
Almost immediately, tho, her guilt arose and she withdrew her hand.
“Oh, I mustn’t,” Frieda whispered. “It’s impure.”
Dr. Poland held her hand that had just been touching her
clitoris. “As your doctor, it’s my diagnosis that this area requires immediate attention in the treatment of your hysteria.”
Frieda nodded solemnly. Dr. Poland wheeled the vibrating machine in between the stirrups where Frieda’s legs were splayed open. He kept it a few inches away from her as he flipped the switch. The vibrator buzzed at the air and the doctor slowly nudged it near her nook.
“Don’t be afraid, this won’t hurt,” he assured her. “Just a little shock perhaps.”
As the machine met her muff, Frieda let out a sharp “OH!” But soon the shock turned sweet and her loins felt a hum like a song she’d never known.
Frieda moaned a bit and the doctor touched her shoulder. “That’s good,” he said. “Just lie back now and let the machine do its work.”
Frieda reclined on the table, with the doctor and the vibrator down between her legs. She stared at the ceiling as the doctor held the buzzing tip tight to her hood-covered clitoris.
Slowly she felt the pleasure build. The image of her husband, the only person who’d ever touched this area, flicked across her mind. But his picture quickly faded as Frieda held her breath to the titillating tingle. She squirmed a bit and moaned as the vibrator touched buzzed her clit. This made her pull her crotch back slightly from the raw contact.
“No, let it touch there,” said the doctor. “That’s the key to relieving your hysteria.”
Obediently, Frieda moved her muff back to the vibrator and let the doctor guide it. Her eyes grew wide, still staring at the ceiling, as the buzz on Frieda’s slit filled her pretty head with pleasure. Thoughts of romantic love dissolved as she discovered and even reveled in her sexual thrill.
It’s like cake and ice cream, Frieda thought. “Oh, Oh, OOHHH!” her moans grew louder. I scream alright, she thought, and giggled a little.
The vibrator kind of tickled and she giggled more, while moaning in between giggles. Her hands reached down to grab her hips and push.
She pressed her puss to a peak of pleasure provided by the vibrator, instinctively instigating its intensity while her mind meandered in a riot of release.
Frieda abandoned any remnants of restraint as the vibrations overwhelmed her and waves of warmth shot up her spine, encircling her brain. Frieda felt like she would cry but instead she laughed - a loud silly laugh that she couldn’t stop from escaping a place deep inside her chest.
Her laughter subsided as she relaxed the grip on her hips and she felt like she was floating on a pond on a hot summer day.
The doctor had pulled the vibrator away and turned it off without Frieda even realizing it. She casually put her hand to her muff and noticed a warm wetness there.
“Oh, I’m sorry, doctor. I must have peed,” she said.
“No, that’s your sex secretion. It’s a liquid lubricant, commonly called squism,” he explained.
Frieda dipped a finger in her slit and drew her hand up to her nose for a whiff. Without thinking she even put her finger in her mouth to taste herself.
“Hey, not bad,” Frieda said with a laugh.
“It’s good to see you smile, Mrs. Funk,” said Dr. Poland. “What you just had is called an orgasm. It’s a natural and necessary part of your sexuality. Having orgasms regularly will ward off your hysteria.”
Frieda rose from the table and pulled her undergarment back on. “Really? That’s good news,” she said. “How often shall I come in, then?”
“You may come in as needed, Mrs. Funk, but you might prefer to receive your orgasms at home from your husband.”
Frieda thought for a moment of her husband’s rough drunken ways. “I’d prefer coming in to see you, doctor.”
“That’s all right but, you know, there are also methods of self- stimulation that you could do at home.”
“Isn’t that masturbation, doctor? I mustn’t do that. It’s a sin.”
“God gave you your love bud for pleasure, just like he gave you your taste buds to enjoy food and your mind to think and learn.”
“No, no, I couldn’t,” said Frieda firmly. “It would displease Him for me to abuse his gifts.”
The doctor knew he couldn’t hope to argue rationally against her lifetime of Bible school. He put his hand on her shoulder.
“Very well, Mrs. Funk. You come to see me whenever your condition warrants treatment. And you can call me if you ever need anything.”
“Thank you so much, doctor,” she said with a smile. As Frieda finished dressing, she decided to dispense with the bustle. It just felt like extra baggage she didn’t need.
“Could you dispose of this thing for me?” she asked.
Frieda left his office and paid her 75-cent charge to Netty. It felt like she was gliding as she walked out to greet the bright cool day with a breath of fresh air. Frieda felt like a brand new woman. As she walked home, she had a little bounce in her step, a smile on her face and a friendly greeting to people she didn’t even know.