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Haller, professor emeritus of history and medical humanities at Southern Illinois University and author of “The Physician and Sexuality in Victorian America.” After about 1840, Haller said, advice manuals began to focus on the vagina.
Fliess removed Emma’s turbinate bone, but left a wad of gauze behind which created an infection.
When the gauze was finally removed, she nearly bled to death. Haller cautions against what he calls “presentism” when we look at such wrongheaded episodes.
For example, while much of the Victorian era advice was laughably wrong, it was also progressive.
An admonition that women should deny their husbands sex for up to eighteen months after the birth of a child was really a way for women to gain control of their own bodies.
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“Doctors thought all sewing machines were bad for women,” Maines explained.
“They thought the women would turn into lesbians.” Some of the advice was an attempt to apply science to what had been largely superstition or religious stricture. In 1897, for example, German physician Wilhelm Fliess published a treatise called “The Relations Between the Nose and the Female Sexual Organs from the Aspect of Biology.” In it, Fliess expanded on an idea he’d been developing for some time, the “nasogenital reflex.” Perhaps with the bias of his field — he was what we would now call an ear, nose and throat specialist — Fliess argued that the nose was intimately connected to our genitals and that problems with one could manifest as problems in the other.
Masturbation has a been a bugaboo for thousands of years; the Catholic Church still regards it as a disorder.
In the Victorian era, after French physician Francois Lallemand published his “Practical Treatise on the Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Spermatorrhea,” something of a medical panic ensued.
A walk down the memory lane of misbegotten sex theories reveals that such fanciful “truths” often grow from the fertile soil of bias and prejudice.