What is it like to be a nymphomaniac? What are those women like? Are they sexually liberated, or just unhappy people, who suffer from this illness? Where do they come from? How was the public attitude changing towards them? The answers to all these questions can be found in the book by American scientist of history Carol Groneman Nymphomania, which was released in New York and quickly became a scandalous sensation.
The author of the book gave a lot of very impressive instances, studying this phenomenon from the historical and medical angles. In 1970 a 29-year-old woman sued a company in San Francisco, which owned a cable-way. The reason for that was an accident, which took place five years ago. Soothing went wrong with the breaks of the cable-way and the booth, in which the claimant was going, rushed down from the mountain. She landed ok, without being hurt, but some weird things started happening to her. She claimed that she had slept with over 500 men since that accident. Ten of her lovers, who testified at court, stated that it was very easy to seduce her. Five well-known psychologists concluded that the fear, which she experienced during the accident on the cable-way, turned her into a nymphomaniac. The litigation was over with a very good result: the woman received the compensation for the moral damage in the sum of $50 thousand.
A sheriff’s wife was charged with prostitution in Florida in 1991. She claimed that she started having too much of sexual desire after she stopped taking anti-depressants. She had sexual contacts with over ten men daily, and this was explained not with her wish to earn some good money, but with a simple desire to satisfy her sexual needs.
Some feminists even doubt in the existence of such a phenomenon, asserting that it goes about male fantasies, some combination of lust and fear, when a man is afraid of leaving his sexual partner dissatisfied. There is a common opinion about such women – they are like prostitutes. However, nymphomania is internationally categorized as the illness of “increased sexual activity,” which is a big problem for a woman, who has it.
Anyway, nymphomaniacs enjoy ill fame. Their never-ending desire is generally perceived as pathology. A lot of people know several historic characters, sexual female monsters, like Messalina, Roman emperor’s wife, who slept with the security legion of her husband, or the Russian Tsarina Ekaterina, who is very well-known for her countless favorites. But is it possible to draw a line between this sexual insanity and pathology? When is it possible to diagnose nymphomania? There are no exact answers to such questions.
Twenty-four-year-old Miss B. of Boston went to see a gynecologist in 1856 just because of the fact that her daily communication with men (just communication) was turning her on. She was sleeping with them only in her dreams, being afraid of cheating her husband. The doctor was very concerned about the woman and he prescribed her hard mattress, cold shower, and washing her genitals with a special liquid. The prescription did not help at all.
Every woman, who masturbated, or had extramarital relationship in the 19th century, was suspected of nymphomania. Even excessive sexual feelings towards her husband were suspicious. One doctor from New York said that blond women were more subjected to nymphomania than brunets. Back in those days doctors treated women with ice packs applied to their genitals, or ablating ovaries and clits. Rather barbaric, wouldn’t you say.
In the beginning of the 20th century people thought that nymphomaniacs were those women, who lived with a sexually uneducated husband. The sexual revolution of the 1960s changed that outlook. They became the synonym of a liberated woman, and their sexual appetite was considered as a vestige of good health. The sex industry started working at once, presenting insatiable women like Emmanuelle, or Sharon Stone’s character from the movie Basic Instinct.
Since the society acknowledged that women had rights for active sexual life, the line between the sexual liberation and nymphomania went vague. AIDS changed the human morality, and now nymphomaniacs became outsiders again. The lifestyle that is dictated with nymphomania is connected with the fear to catch the fatal disease.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969