Birth, Babies, and Beyond

Pregnancy, birth, and parenting

Man Oh Man! Which Is Worse: The Diagnosis or the Treatment

A Glimpse into Oddities in Medical History

I rarely post pieces verbatim from other people’s website, but I just couldn’t resist this piece I just read by Elizabeth Stephens, an Australia Research Council Fellow and Deputy Director for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland. When it comes to wacky theories in medical history, this one really tops the charts: It seems that in the mid-19th century, doctors warned men that if they acted unmanly (say had a hankering for sentimental literature or soft trousers, say), they were at risk of leaking semen, otherwise known as spermatorrhea. It lead to, among other things, loss of memory and dignity. Actually, I think the loss of dignity may have been triggered by the treatment, which included acupuncture to the penis. Ouch! If you can bear the details, read Stephens account below. There’ve been so many pieces about female hysteria tied to the womb, it’s a pleasure (at least for me) to read about some illnesses blamed on men and their gruesome remedies.

Spermatorrheoa: The Lesser Known Male Version of Hysteria

 

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Randi Hutter Epstein, M.D., is the author of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank.

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