5 They Used Steam-Powered Vibrators on Women
We've previously talked about how vibrators were used to treat the hilariously misdiagnosed female "hysteria." Back in the day, doctors thought that the best way to keep a woman from stressing over silly things like equal rights was to finger-bang her until she achieved a "hysterical paroxysm," usually followed by a relaxing cigarette.
It's important to note, though, that the doctors did not concoct this treatment because they were lonely. They actually saw it as tiresome manual labor, and so, to save time, they eventually turned to machines. And not some slick Silver Bullets, either: We're talking about steam-powered behemoths you'd expect to see in some horrifying porno reimagining of Frankenstein:
Figs. 3 through 9 are just people with pickaxes and torches.
In the mid-19th century, George Taylor invented a coal-powered vibrating machine awesomely called the manipulator to be used for "pelvic and hernial therapeutics," because the 1860s frowned on using words like "stimulate" and "clitoris" in any kind of proximity.
And this is how steampunk Rule 34 was invented.
The female patient would lie on the padded table and straddle that little patch, which would vibrate and give her the "paroxysm" she couldn't get from her husband (Taylor even warned that women must always be supervised while using it to "prevent overindulgence"). While there were wind-up and hand-crank vibrators developed as early as the 18th century, Taylor's was the first to combine the power of skin-melting steam and an uncomfortable closeness to one's private parts -- which here is defined as "less than one nautical mile." Fortunately for the reproductive prospects of the human race, the actual engine part was housed in another room due to its size and the remnants of Taylor's sanity.
4 "Hydrotherapy" Was Basically Waterboarding (or Worse)
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If you do a Google search for "hydrotherapy" nowadays, you'll probably see a bunch of people relaxing away in pools and Jacuzzis. But hundreds of years ago, hydrotherapy looked less like something you'd see in a hotel brochure and more like evidence from a war crimes trial.
Moments before Victorian Rambo snapped.
What you're seeing up there is a legitimate form of hydrotherapy used to treat mental disorders between the 17th and 19th centuries. The idea that water can cure physical and mental ailments dates back to the ancient Greeks, but during the early 1600s, Dutch chemist and physician Jan Baptist van Helmont took that relatively harmless belief and escalated it to "Let's drown the insanity out of these poor bastards!"
"Look, it's this or weird butt stuff. We've had lots of success with weird butt stuff."
Patients undergoing the Helmont cure were usually waterboarded or held underwater until the bubbles stopped, which back then was like a microwave ding letting you know that "mad ideas" have been suffocated out of their head ... if you managed to resuscitate them, that is. The idea eventually evolved into the "bath of surprise," where the patient was unexpectedly thrown into water using complex contraptions seemingly designed by Dr. Wile E. Coyote.
"Always make sure that arrow's pointing north. If shit happens, you're going to need to know which way the border is."
The treatment was an early form of shock therapy designed to snap the person back to reality and waaaaait a minute: Water, surprising the patient ... are we totally sure that all those doctors weren't confusing mental illness with the hiccups?!
"Saying stuff like that is what got you here in the first place, buddy."