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Nymphomania has traditionally been defined as an increased and therefore disturbing sexual drive. It was thought of as a serious medical condition particularly affecting women, who were often given damaging treatments to cure them. These days, the concept has morphed into the term hypersexuality. Words by Taryn Cain 24 April Among other things, Kinsey claimed that female masturbation was normal, that vaginal orgasms were not the norm and that women were as capable of sexual desire as a man; all claims that went against accepted medical lore at the time. The book soon became a bestseller but not everyone was a fan.
Kinsey may have been making light of nymphomania, but a century earlier it was considered a serious medical disorder. The word nymphomania was first printed in English in and at the time it was recognised as a fairly common female disorder. It was understood by both doctors and patients that strong sexual desire in a woman for her husband or, more worryingly, for a man to whom she was not married, could be indicative of disease. A woman suffering from nymphomania could expect to find herself sliding into madness, organ failure and even death. Causes for nymphomania varied. As women were considered to be at the mercy of their bodies, nymphomania could be due to drinking brandy, reading too many books, feeling desire for another woman, being inspected by a speculum, divorce and even frigidity.
Treatment for nymphomania included cold enemas and baths, bland food, bleeding, leeches and even drastic and irreversible surgical options. While nymphomania was a gendered disorder, men were not immune. The male equivalent, satyriasis, had been am ia nymphomaniac since ancient Greece. It was also known as Don Juan syndrome in the s.
While men were expected to have a strong sex drive, and were allowed outlets for that am ia nymphomaniac, it was believed that excessive sexual behaviour would diminish a man mentally and morally. Masculinity became synonymous with self-control, and a man who was unable to do so was considered effeminate, weak and lazy. In serious cases satyriasis could lead to rape, murder or the death of the patient.
Jack the Ripper was believed to be motivated by satyriasis. Prior to the 18th century, nymphomania was a virtually unknown disorder. In ancient Greece the prophet Tiresias even claimed that women were able to experience pleasure nine times greater than a man! By the time of Charles Darwin in things had changed dramatically. Now it was believed that natural selection had made it so the only things a woman lusted after was a respectable marriage and babies. Another consequence of the changing nature of female sexuality was the rise of rape and ravishment in romantic literature from the s.
Rape had always been present in literature, but for a long time it was presented as a crime of passion, with the victims of rape secretly enjoying their violation.
As the female libido slowly disappeared from society, so attitudes on rape had to change as well. Instead of being a mutually enjoyable event, rape instead became a short cut to love, the means for a woman to overcome her own natural inhibitions in order to tame an uncivilised man. Nymphomania also fell out of favour in the 20th century, with people such as Magnus Hirschfeld, Marie Stopes and Masters and Johnson claiming that female sexual desire was a normal part of human sexuality. In the last ten years, many politicians, and celebrities such as Russell Brand and David Duchovny, have sought treatment for sex addiction.
Yet while hypersexual disorder has been considered for inclusion in the DSM, many medical professionals and scientists doubt the disorder really exists. Visit our innovative mobile clinic, which will provide healthcare in emergency situations, on level 2 of Wellcome Collection. We use a third party provider, dotdigitalto deliver our newsletters.
For information about how we handle your data, please read our privacy notice. You can unsubscribe at any time using links in the s you receive. Getting here. Except where otherwise noted, content on this site is d under a Creative Commons Attribution 4. Wellcome Collection. Phallic object, large plaster female figure. Source: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4. Satirical coloured lithograph. Causes, s and treatments of nymphomania in women Kinsey am ia nymphomaniac have been making light of nymphomania, but a century earlier it was considered am ia nymphomaniac serious medical disorder.
Vaginal speculum, Europe, — Satyriasis: the male equivalent of nymphomania While nymphomania was a gendered disorder, men were not immune. The evolution of nymphomania Prior to the 18th century, nymphomania was a virtually unknown disorder. About the author. Try these next. Research for yourself. Discover more in our rich sex and sexual health archives. Read another story.
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