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 Title[ Penis Captivus, William Osler's Captivating Penchant

 Author[ Charles G. Roland

 Type[ AOS Meeting Abstracts/Presentations

 Date[ 1997

 Talk_#[

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                    PENIS CAPTIVUS, WILLIAM OSLER'S CAPTIVATING PENCHANT

                                                          Charles G. Roland, MD

One of Osler's most provocative publications was the pseudonymous letter of 1884 on penis captivus, or vaginismus.  Most Oslerians, at least those of this overinformed and sometimes jaded dying decade of the millennium, know about the E.Y. Davis letter in the Medical News of Philadelphia.. Egerton Y. Davis, "Vaginismus," Medical News [Philadelphia] 45: 673, 13 December 1884.

As of: May 30, 1999

Interestingly, Cushing managed to avoid identifying the subject matter of the letter in his Life of Osler,. Harvey Cushing, The Life of Sir William Osler, Vol. 1, pp. 240-241.  [NB: No mention of vaginismus per se, only Parvin's interest "...in the action of the perineal muscles."]

 even though this biography was published in the sometimes naughty 1920s.  Similarly, Osler's ultra-protective second cousin, W.W. Francis, wrote about some of the E.Y. Davis flights of joie de vivre without mentioning penis captivus.. W.W. Francis, "At Osler's shrine," Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 26: 1-8, 1937.  [NB: No mention of vaginismus.]

  Even in the sexually liberated 1970s, Bill Bean -- scarcely one to blanch at naming a shovel -- wrote a long paper on Egerton Yorrick Davis and never alluded to vaginismus or penis captivus.. William B. Bean, "William Osler: the Egerton Yorrick Davis alias," in: John P. McGovern and Chester Burns, (edits.) Humanism in Medicine (Springfield: Charles C Thomas, 1974, pp. 49-59.

 

My purpose is threefold: first, to review the infamous letter and some commentaries written upon it by individuals less reticent that Cushing and Bean; secondly, to survey briefly the historical observations on this topic; and thirdly, to suggest a possible source for Osler's awareness of the subject and, perhaps, his interest in it.

First, however, some definitions are called for.  "Vaginismus" was defined by J. Marion Sims, who invented the term.  He said, "...by the term Vaginismus I propose to designate an involuntary spasmodic closure of the mouth of the vagina, attended with such excessive supersensitiveness as to form a complete barrier to coition.". J. Marion Sims, "On vaginismus," Transactions of the Obstetrical Society (London) 3: 356-367, 1862; see p. 362.

  "Penis captivus" has been identified as that condition "...in which the penis is caught inside the vagina, is held there by the muscular spasm, and cannot be withdrawn.". Max Huhner, A Practical Treatise on Disorders of the Sexual Function in the Male and Female 2nd edit. (Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company, 1924), p. 183.

 

Some writers use the term vaginismus to encompass penis captivus, while others differentiate between them.  Osler, or Davis, was of the first group.

                                                    THE DAVIS LETTER OF 1884

The Davis letter is introduced in the Medical News as having been received through the courtesy of the editor of The Canada Medical and Surgical Journal.  In 1884 the editors were George Ross and Thomas G. Roddick.. Charles G. Roland and Paul Potter, An Annotated Bibliography of Canadian Medical Periodicals, 1826-1975 (Toronto: The Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine, 1979), p. 13.

  The letter was stimulated by an anonymous editorial entitled "An uncommon form of vaginismus.". Anonymous, "An uncommon form of vaginismus," Medical News [Philadelphia] 43: 602-603, 1884.

  Unlike Davis, Osler was on the editorial staff of the Medical News and knew that Theophilus Parvin had written this item.. Harvey Cushing, The Life of Sir William Osler, Vol. 1, p. 241.

  Parvin wrote, in the course of his editorial, that Hildebrandt, a contemporary German gynecologist, had stated "...that cramp of the levator ani may cause contraction of the upper part of the vagina, so that a speculum, or a swollen glans penis, as in coition, may be forcibly retained.". Anonymous, "An uncommon form of vaginismus," p. 603.

 

"Davis" was reminded by Parvin's editorial of a case he had seen when he was in practice in Pentonville, England.  He was sent for late one evening by a gentleman described as being "...in a state of great perturbation...."  The letter then details the case:

At bedtime, when going to the back kitchen to see if the house was shut up, a noise in the coachman's room attracted his attention, and, going in, he discovered to his horror that the man was in bed with one of the maids.  She screamed, he struggled, and they rolled out of bed together and made frantic efforts to get apart, but without success.

As an aside, I would suggest here, as a precipitating factor, the officious intrusion by the employer of the coachman and the maid.  Her understandable shock and terror at suddenly seeing her master appear -- so unwelcomely -- in the midst of ecstasy surely must have induced the extreme constriction of the circum-vaginal muscles that thus led to the situation "Davis" described.  But let me resume the quotation:

He was a big, burly man, over six feet, and she was a small woman, weighing not more than ninety pounds.  She was moaning and screaming, and seemed in great agony, so that, after several fruitless attempts to get them apart, he sent for me.  When I arrived I found the man standing up and supporting the woman in his arms, and it was quite evident that his penis was tightly locked in her vagina, and any attempt to dislodge it was accompanied by much pain on the part of both.  It was, indeed, a case "De cohesione in coitu."  I applied water, and then ice, but ineffectually, and at last sent for chloroform, a few whiffs of which sent the woman to sleep, relaxed the spasm, and relieved the captive penis, which was swollen, livid, and in a state of semi-erection, which did not go down for several hours, and for days the organ was extremely sore.  The woman recovered rapidly, and seemed none the worse.

I am sorry that I did not examine if the sphincter ani was contracted, but I did not think of it.  In this case there must have been also spasm of the muscle at the orifice, as well as higher up, for the penis seemed nipped low down, and this contraction, I think, kept the blood retained and the organ erect.  As an instance of Jago's [sic, Iago's] "beast with two backs," the picture was perfect.  I have often wondered how it was, considering with what agility the man can, under certain circumstances, jump up, that Phineas, the son of Eleazar, was able to thrust his javelin through the man and the Midianitish woman (vide Exodus); but the occurrence of such cases as the above may offer a possible explanation.

It was typical of Osler to close with a Biblical reference.  It was also typical that in writing this section, Osler obviously did not trouble to check his references, since there are several minor errors in the text.

. See William D. Tigertt, "An annotated life of Egerton Yorrick Davis, MD, an intimate of Sir William Osler," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 38: 259-297, 1983; see p. 263: Phineas should be Phinehas, Eleazr should be Eleazar, and the passage is from Numbers (25: 7-15), not Exodus.

 

There is a nice satirical touch in placing Davis's site of practice in Pentonville.  This is a district of London containing a major British prison.  "What better location," Tigertt asks, "for an example of penile incarceration?". Ibid., p. 262.

 

                                                          THE COMMENTARIES

There have been numerous commentaries either specifically about the Davis letter, or that included some mention of it.  Others have referred to the concept of penis captivus in general.  Several of these will be mentioned in the course of the discussion.  But I should perhaps quote from one of the general group of commentaries.  This is less concerned with the physical entity than with its subconscious motivation.  Kroger states: "Vaginismus is often the muscular expression of an unconscious sadistic desire to castrate the man by using the vagina to suck in the penis, to cut it off, and possibly retain it as an organ for themselves.". William S. Kroger, Psychosomatic Gynecology, Including Problems of Obstetrical Care (Hollywood: Wilshire Book Co., 1962), p. 316.

  Being neither a Freudian nor a woman, I have no comment.

                                HISTORICAL DESCRIPTIONS OF PENIS CAPTIVUS

There exist, first, several apparently hearsay reports about anonymous victims. These seem highly questionable.  The captivity usually took place in or near a holy place; the victims are freed only after confessing sins or otherwise placating the diety.  The message seems heavy-handedly obvious but does little to authenticate the episodes.

Loomis cites one of these quasi-religious instances: "A certain [potent] man, coming with his wife one Sunday to hear the divine services in the church of St. Clitaucus, lay with his wife on the bank of a stream not far from the church.  After the sin was committed he could not become separated from her, remaining inseparably joined to his wife.  He cried out to his companions loudly: 'Go to the tomb of the martyr Clitaucus, and promise that the meadow which I seized forcefully and without justice will be restored; I humbly beseech that he intercede for me.'  When this was done [i.e. the promise made] he was freed immediately from the dreadful bond.". C. Grant Loomis, "Three cases of vaginism," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 7:97-98, 1939.  Translation by Dr. Lester S. King.


Another very similar event, or the description of a supposed event, also comes from Loomis’s brief article.  For the translation of this passage I am indebted to my former colleague, Dr. Lester King:

A certain seducer, one of the companions of King Clito, polluted the womb of a certain woman on the coffin of a venerable bishop.  They copulated like dogs and then were unable in any way to become separated.  At length they came to the attention of the glorious martyr Guignerus, and by the merit of Christ as witness and the intercessions of the faithful, they were freed.. Ibid., pp. 97-98.


Whether there is any literary or anatomical significance in the fact that the first example refers to St Clitaucus and the second to King Clito is problematic.  Were these not-so-subtle allusions to the clitoris?

Somewhat more convincing cases, chiefly because the accounts concern identified real individuals (inevitably, only the male participants!) Exist.  This example was translated by Prof. Paul Potter:

Such a case of cohesion once befell a certain well-known person by the name of Pierre Borel (1620-1689), who remained joined in coitus just in the manner of dogs.  This occurred either, as Borel himself thought, because of the excessive ardour of the swollen genital parts, or because these parts had been heated and irritated by zybethus [civet, in Rolleston], with which he, on the advice of a friend, had anointed his glans for the purpose of augmenting his pleasure.  It was necessary to soften [relax] the said parts with frequent rectal injections, so that he could eventually be separated.. Petrus Borel, Historiarum et observationum med.-phys., 2nd hundred, 31st observation, p. 133; cited in D.M. Schurigius, Spermatologia (1737), pp. 314-315.  Translation by Prof. Paul Potter, University of Western Ontario, 31 January 1997.  


Zybethus apparently was used as an aphrodisiac in earlier days.  If Rolleston is correct in equating zybethus and civet, then the connection to modern aphrodisia is obvious: civet oil is a common constituents of perfumes.  Christian Johann Lang (1619-1662) noted that a violent spasmodic affection of the female genitals results from excessive anointing of the glans penis with zybethus.   This “...not only causes the male and the female to experience stimulation and joy, but also afterwards holds them bound so tightly together that they can hardly be pulled apart by force.". Opera Medica, vol. 2, Praxis, Chapter 23, page 145; cited in D.M. Schurigius, Spermatologia (1737), pp. 314-315.  Translation by Prof. Paul Potter, University of Western Ontario, 31 January 1997.  


A similar case was recorded by Daniel Ludwig (1625-1680).  This was reported to him by a man who experienced vaginismus on his wedding night; afterwards he reported that “...not only his glans but also the foremost part of his penis had been most firmly seized.". Christian Paullini, Cynograph. Curios., p. 54; cited in D.M. Schurigius, Spermatologia (1737), pp. 314-315.  Translation by Prof. Paul Potter, University of Western Ontario, 31 January 1997.  


Saxo Grammaticus (?1150-1216) wrote that the inhabitants of Rügen, a German island in the Baltic Sea, are held together in coitus like dogs.  He commented that it was no wonder these people feared the power of their gods, by whom they believe their debaucheries have often been thus punished.  “If any males in that city of Carinthia used, in their cohabitation with a woman, to be caught together with her, and the two were unable by their own movement to pull themselves apart, both were hung up on poles from the opposite sides in order to afford, in their unusual connection, a mocking spectacle for the populace.". Saxo Grammaticus (?1150-1216), cited by Johann Weier, Opera Omnia, Amsterdam, 1660, Part 1, Chapter 9, page 22; cited in turn by D.M. Schurigius, Spermatologia (1737), pp. 314-315.  Translation by Prof. Paul Potter, University of Western Ontario, 31 January 1997.  


Another brief example comes from the writings of Diemerbroeck, the 17th century anatomist: "When I was a student in Leyden I remember there was a young Bridegroom in that Town that being overwanton with his Bride had so hamper'd himself in her Privities, that he could not draw his Yard forth, till Delmehorst the Physician unty'd the Knot by casting cold Water on the Part.". Cited in J.D. Rolleston, "Penis captivus: a historical note," Janus 35: 196-202, 1935; see p. 200.

 

Finally, Rolleston cites Henrichsen, who recorded a case of vaginismus without any history of penis captivus.  The spasm was relaxed by inserting the finger through the anal sphincter; Henrichsen went on to suggest that this procedure should be used in cases of penis captivus, but Rolleston had not found any case reported where this suggestion was put into practice.  “According to Stoeckel even in the cases in which chloroform has been used, forcible introduction of the finger into the vagina is necessary to release the swollen and discoloured organ.". J.D. Rolleston, "Penis captivus: a historical note," Janus 35: 196-202, 1935; see p. 201.


                                 FICTIONAL DESCRIPTIONS OF PENIS CAPTIVUS

In his searing novel of World War Two, The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski portrays penis captivus in a brutal rape of a young Jewish girl who had been found, slightly injured, on the railway tracks.  The man who found her was named Rainbow; after discussion in the town about her fate, Rainbow took her to his home for the night.  Later, in his barn, Rainbow tears off the girl’s dress:

Rainbow sat at the girl’s side and stroked her body with his big hands.  His bulk hid her face from me, but I could hear her quiet sobbing broken occasionally by a cry.  Slowly Rainbow took off his knee boots and breeches, leaving on only a rough shirt.

He straddled the prostrate girl and moved his hands gently over her shoulders, breasts, and belly.  She moaned and whined, uttering strange words in her language when his touch grew rougher.  Rainbow breathed heavily.  He lifted himself on his elbows, slipped down a little, and then fell on her with a thud.

The girl arched her body, screamed, and kept opening and closing her fingers as though trying to grasp something.  Then something strange happened.  Rainbow was on top of the girl, his legs between hers, but trying to break away.  Every time he lifted himself, she screamed with pain; he also groaned and cursed.  He tried to detach himself from her, but seemed unable to do so.  He was held fast by some strange force inside her, just as a hare or fox is caught in a snare.

He remained on top of the girl, trembling violently.  After a while he renewed his efforts, but each time the girl writhed in pain.  He also seemed to suffer.  He wiped the perspiration off his face, swore, and spat.  At his next try the girl wanted to help.  She opened her legs wider, lifted her hips, and pushed with her good hand against his belly.  It was all in vain.  An invisible bond held them together.. Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird (London: W.H. Allen, 1966), pp. 208; see p. 96.

There follows a description of the phenomenon in dogs.  “From man’s friend they became nature’s practical joke.”. Ibid, p. 97.  The scene becomes increasingly violent between Rainbow and his victim.  He cries for help, a crowd collects, and someone sent for a witch-midwife.  When she arrived, she “...kneeled by the locked couple, and did something to them with the help of others.  I could see nothing; I only heard the girl’s last piercing shriek.”. Ibid, p. 98.  She was dead, and the next day her body was abandoned back on the railway tracks.

                                                 DOES PENIS CAPTIVUS EXIST?

This is a question that arises naturally enough.  That vaginismus occurs seems certain and unquestioned.  James Ricci, in his text published in 1945 but reporting on gynecology in the 19th century, cites 130 references to vaginismus up till 1900.. James V. Ricci, One Hundred Years of Gynaecology, 1800-1900 (Philadelphia: The Blakiston Co., 1945), pp. 551-553.

  But many writers have expressed the opinion that penis captivus is a suspect concept.  This is evidently one of those areas of human existence that require personal experience -- either as a victim or as medical attendant -- to permit certainty.  

A distinguished urologist, Earl Nation, doubts that penis captivus has occurred or can occur.. Earl F. Nation, "William Osler on penis captivus and other urologic topics," Urology 11: 468-470, 1973; see p. 469.

  Nation indicates his agreement with Jacobsen, who asked: "Have the solemn recitals of such cases by professors of obstetrics and gynecology to convulsed and credulous students been anything but hokum?  Has the human penis ever really been in captivity?  We doubt it.". A.C. J[acobson], "Penis captivus: myth or actuality?  With some notes on Sir William Osler's Alter Ego" Medical Times 73: 52-54, 1945; see pp. 52-53.

  But Jacobsen's tone is so jocular that I cannot be certain that he was himself serious in doubting.  

Altaffer has joined the ranks of the unconvinced; he wrote about the Davis letter and commented that most authorities agree that no documented cases have occurred in modern times.. L.F. Altaffer III, "Penis captivus and the mischievous Sir William Osler," Southern Medical Journal 76: 637-641, 1983; see p. 638.

  He, in turn, seems to have relied chiefly on the opinions of Bondurant and Cappannari.. Sydney W. Bondurant and Stephen C. Cappannari, "Penis captivus: fact or fancy?" Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality 5: 224-233, 1971.

  These authors discuss very briefly some of the historical descriptions before concluding: "...it is highly improbable for spasm of the pubococcygeus and bulbospongiosus to be severe enough after penetration to cause penis captivus.  We also feel that the normal male response to a contraction of this type would be relaxation of the penis, allowing withdrawal.". Ibid., p. 233.

  Plainly there is a research project here crying out for study.  

But penis captivus has its believers.  Lachman concludes his article on the topic by stating that although Osler's case was fictitious, the occurrence itself is quite real, "...particularly to the victims and may lead to serious consequences.  This was true in one particular case known to the author in which the male participant committed suicide two days after the event."

. Ernest Lachman, "Anatomy as applied to clinical medicine," New Physician 16: 301-303, 1967; see p. 303.


Another even more tragic event took place in Poland about 70 years ago.  In a thesis written in Paris in 1931, Pilz recorded:

We remember a case of vaginismus with penis captivus which occurred in 1923 at Warsaw and ended by double suicide.  It was in the spring, a couple of young students stayed behind in the garden after closing time.  In the midst of their amorous sport a violent spasm occurred imprisoning the penis.  The keeper alarmed by the desperate cries of the young man ran up.  The doctor of the municipal ambulance after giving an anaesthetic to the woman separated the couple.  The matter might have been forgotten, but the journalists in their greed for sensational facts did not fail to publish the adventure.  The next day two revolver shots put an end to the mental sufferings of the two lovers.. A. Piltz, Thèse de Paris 1931, No. 376; cited in J.D. Rolleston, "Penis captivus: a historical note," Janus 35: 196-202, 1935; see pp. 200-201.


And note Rolleston's comment that "[a]t the present day administration of chloroform to the female partner is usually necessary to relax the vaginal spasm.". Ibid., p. 201.

  The wording suggests that the condition was known to Rolleston clinically.  He further adds a postscript to the effect that a colleague has brought to his attention the Davis letter.  The case, he says, "...though entirely fictitious so closely resembles those described by previous writers that it has been quoted in some standard works of sexology....". Ibid., p. 202.


                                        OSLER'S INTRODUCTION TO THE TOPIC?

In the minutes of the regular meetings of the Montreal Medico-Chirurgical Society there is an entry germane to the subject of vaginismus.  The relevant meeting took place on 16 February 1877, a Friday.  Here are the pertinent portions of the minutes of this meeting:

Dr. F.W. Campbell then read a very interesting case of Vaginismus in a young married lady.  The patient was a lady of about aet 25 of good proportions and apparently in perfect health, who had been married for the space of three weeks, during which time the marriage had not been consumated [sic] notwithstanding vigorous and often repeated efforts on the part of her husband; each attempt being attended with excruciating pain.  Dr. Campbell being consulted proposed an examination; and upon attempting to introduce the index finger well lubricated with warm oil found it utterly impossible to do so, owing to intense spasm of the sphincter vaginae.  Assisted by Dr. Kennedy the patient was placed under chloroform (it taking over two ounces to produce complete insensibility).  On examination the os uteri was found to be intensely congested and its mucous membrane exfoliating in places; the carunculae myrtiformes of the hymen, which had been previously ruptured by attempts at coition, were enlarged and congested having the appearance of raspberries; these carunculae were extremely sensative [sic] the slightest touch producing spasm of the sphincter even under chloroform.  They were therefore carefully removed by scissors and the part touched with the solid stick of silver nitrate.  The patient was directed to use frequent injections of warm water, this was followed by injections of sulphate of zinc and the daily introduction of graduated metal bougies and in about 3 wks the patient was quite cured.

Dr. H. Howard related a case in an insane lady in whom the spasm was so intense as not to admit of the introduction of a common probe; this patient afterwards confessed to having been addicted to masturbation and the Dr. gave it as his opinion that the disease was a very common result of that practice.

Dr. Kennedy considered the carunculae as the cause of the trouble owing to their extreme irritability.

Dr. Buller considered that the altered state of the secretions owing to nervous excitement might be the cause of the trouble.  

Dr. Trenholme mentioned that he had never had a case of vaginismus in his own practice but considered that the congestion &c might be produced by continuous excitement of the genital organs in a person of strong sexual desires.. Montréal, Québec, McGill University, Osler Library Archives 38/65/S/4/6/ Montreal Medico-Chirurgical Society.  Minute Book.  Vol. 1, 1865-1882.


Among the list of attendees is the name of William Osler, then Professor of the Institutes of Medicine at McGill Medical College.  Could this clinical information have been the spark for his E.Y. Davis letter in the Philadelphia Medical News on the same topic?  Obviously, the subject matter in Montreal was vaginismus by Sims' definition, not penis captivus.  But I find it easy to visualize some of the Montreal physicians chatting after the meeting, perhaps over cigars and brandy.  The conversation about the evening's cases could easily have become ribald and Rabelaisian.  There might have been speculation as to what would have happened to the newly married couple had the man successfully forced an entry and the woman's spasm then became acutely worse.  Even if that conversation did not take place, there is no reason to suppose that the painful but titillating possibility would not have occurred to Osler spontaneously. That, at least, is my hypothesis.

However, I must attempt to deflect any criticism of my title.  The reader may protest that one episode does not establish a "captivating penchant."  Anticipating some concern over this question, I can state that the E.Y. Davis letter of 1884 is by no means the sole surviving instance of Osler's interest in the topic of penis captivus. There were at least two other instances, though neither of them was published by Osler.  

In 1893, the Johns Hopkins medical faculty looked seriously at the propriety of issuing a clinical journal, tentatively named the Archives of Medical Science.  As part of their planning, they had dummy issues prepared, with a contrived Table of Contents on the cover, though only blank pages inside.  Of the Big Four, Welch, Halsted, and Kelly each invented a title for a non-existent article.  Osler did not.  But one Egerton Y. Davis contributed "Further researches of the maladie de Hildebrant.". This circumstance was described by Tigertt, "An annotated life of Egerton Yorrick Davis," p. 267.

  You will recall that it was Hildebrandt who reported a case of penis captivus in the Archiv für Gynecologie in 1872, and that Theophilus Parvin quoted Hildebrandt in his seminal editorial.

The other mention of penis captivus occurred in 1911.  Osler recorded the dreams he had had the night of 16/17 January.  In one of these, he saw outside Christ Church "...a society lady's toy dog 'stuck' to a bitch about six times his size.  Lady frantic.  I helped her to get the dogs into a house near by.". Charles G. Roland (edit.), "Sir William Osler's dreams and nightmares," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 54: 418-446, 1980; see p. 431.

 

Some may feel that they now know more than they care to about our famous colleague.  Personally, I take some pleasure in knowing that Osler had a slightly racy or salacious side.  There is some discomfort in encountering the too-good person.

                                                                              





 





HISTORICAL OR CLINICAL STUDIES OF PENIS CAPTIVUS

Anonymous [Theophilus Parvin], "An uncommon form of vaginismus," Medical News [Philadelphia] 43: 602-603, 1883.

Egerton Y. Davis, "Vaginismus," Medical News [Philadelphia] 45: 673, 13 December 1884.

Max Huhner, Disorders of the Sexual Function (Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Co., 1924), 2nd ed., pp. 180-189, 306-307.  First edition, 1918, contains precisely the same reference to Davis, also on p. 184.  See Nation, 1973.

A.C. J[acobson], "Penis captivus: myth or actuality?  With some notes on Sir William Osler's Alter Ego" Medical Times 73: 52-54, 1945.

C. Grant Loomis, "Three cases of vaginism," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 7:97-98, 1939.  Translation by Dr. Lester S. King.

D.M. Schurigius, Spermatologia (1737), pp. 314-315.  Translation by Prof. Paul Potter, University of Western Ontario, 31 January 1997.  

F. Kräupl Taylor, "Penis captivus -- did it occur?" British Medical Journal 2: 977-978, 1979.  "In Bloch's The Sexual Life of Our Time, there is the following footnote: 'A few years ago a remarkable case of this kind occurred in Bremen.  One of the dock labourers was having sexual intercourse in an out-of-the-way corner of the docks, when the woman became affected with this involuntary spasm, and the man was unable to free himself from his imprisonment.  A great crowd assembled, from the midst of which the unfortunate couple were removed in a closed carriage, and taken to the hospital, and not until chloroform had been administered to the girl did the spasm pass off and free the man.'". F. Kräupl Taylor, "Penis captivus -- did it occur?" British Medical Journal 2: 977-978, 1979; see p. 977.


"I should like to mention that [case] of a completely healthy young woman, married

for six months and at present being treated by me.  Her husband has had to refrain from intercourse for some time, because it always caused his wife to have spastic vaginal contractions.  They are most painful to him and...did on several occasions end in a spasm of the constrictor cunni which sometimes lasted more than ten minutes and made it impossible for the couple to seaparate.". Ibid., p. 978.


Richard Roberts, "Penis captivus," British Medical Journal 2: 1591, 1979.  Merely points out the spurious nature of Taylor's "Davis" case.


COMMENTARIES ON OSLER'S EYD LETTER

L.F. Altaffer III, "Penis captivus and the mischievous Sir William Osler," Southern Medical Journal 76: 637-641, 1983.

Sidney W. Bondurant and Stephen C. Cappannari, "Penis captivus: fact or fancy?" Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality 5: 224-233, 1971.

Ernest Lachman, "Anatomy as applied to clinical medicine," New Physician 16: 301-303, 1967.

Earl F. Nation, "William Osler on penis captivus and other urologic topics," Urology 11: 468-470, 1973.

William D. Tigertt, "An annotated life of Egerton Yorrick Davis, MD, an intimate of Sir William Osler," JHMAS 38: 259-297, 1983.


COMMENTARIES ON EYD, NO MENTION OF PENIS CAPTIVUS

William B. Bean, "William Osler: the Egerton Yorrick Davis alias," in: John P. McGovern and Chester Burns, (edits.) Humanism in Medicine (Springfield: Charles C Thomas, 1974, pp. 49-59.  

Harvey Cushing, The Life of Sir William Osler, Vol. 1, pp. 240-241.  [NB: No mention of vaginismus per se, only Parvin's interest "...in the action of the perineal muscles."]

W.W. Francis, "At Osler's shrine," Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 26: 1-8, 1937.  [NB: No mention of vaginismus.]

B[ayard] H[olmes], "The relation of medical literature to professional esteem," Lancet-Clinic 114: 113-115, 162-164, 221-223, 465-468, 1915.

Earl F. Nation, "Osler's alter ego," Diseases of the Chest 56: 531-537, 1969.



VAGINISMUS BUT NOT PENIS CAPTIVUS

Anonymous, "Mental vaginismus," St. Louis Cour. Med. 13: 256-257, 1885.

G. Granville Bantock, "On vaginismus," British Gynaecology Journal 2: 448-462, 1886-1887.

E.V. Debout, "De la contracture spasmodique du sphincter vaginal et de son traitement," Bulletin Géneral Thérapeutique 61: 110-127, 1867

Geo. E. Fell, "Vaginismus," Buffalo Medical and Surgical Journal 26: 289-297, 1887.

Howard Kelly, Medical Gynecology (New York: P. Appleton & Co., 1908), pp. 662; see pp. 286-290.  See Nation, 1973.

E. Heinrich Kisch, The Sexual Life of Woman in its Physiological, Pathological, and Hygienic Aspects (New York: Allied Book Co., 1928), pp. 204, 207-209.  See Nation, 1973.

Thomas More Madden, "The treatment of vaginismus," Dublin Journal of Medical Science 83: 129-134, 1887.

Joan Malleson, "Vaginismus: its management and psychogenesis," British Medical Journal 2: 213-216, 1942.  "Vginismus need have no relation to an unstretched hymen, and can occur with equal severity in the woman who has borne children as in the virgin.  It is known to appear as a secondary protection to some physical lesion (such as urethral caruncle, salpingitis, etc.) which would otherwise cause dyspaeunia, but such cases are rare compared with the 'idiopathic' vaginismus, and will not be dealt with here.  It is important to realize that a true vaginal spasm cannot be voluntarily produced -- that is, it cannot be consciously employed by a woman to avoid coitus -- and it may appear in spite of the utmost conscious willingness to accept the coital act.". Joan Malleson, "Vaginismus: its management and psychogenesis," British Medical Journal 2: 213-216, 1942; see p. 213.


                                                                   ENDNOTES


1. Egerton Y. Davis, "Vaginismus," Medical News [Philadelphia] 45: 673, 13 December 1884.


2. Harvey Cushing, The Life of Sir William Osler, Vol. 1, pp. 240-241.  [NB: No mention of vaginismus per se, only Parvin's interest "...in the action of the perineal muscles."]


3. W.W. Francis, "At Osler's shrine," Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 26: 1-8, 1937.  [NB: No mention of vaginismus.]


4. William B. Bean, "William Osler: the Egerton Yorrick Davis alias," in: John P. McGovern and Chester Burns, (edits.) Humanism in Medicine (Springfield: Charles C Thomas, 1974, pp. 49-59.


 5. J. Marion Sims, "On vaginismus," Transactions of the Obstetrical Society (London) 3: 356-367, 1862; see p. 362.


6. Max Huhner, A Practical Treatise on Disorders of the Sexual Function in the Male and Female 2nd edit. (Philadelphia: F.A. Davis Company, 1924), p. 183.


7. Charles G. Roland and Paul Potter, An Annotated Bibliography of Canadian Medical Periodicals, 1826-1975 (Toronto: The Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine, 1979), p. 13.


8. Anonymous, "An uncommon form of vaginismus," Medical News [Philadelphia] 43: 602-603, 1884.


9. Harvey Cushing, The Life of Sir William Osler, Vol. 1, p. 241.


10. Anonymous, "An uncommon form of vaginismus," p. 603.



11. See William D. Tigertt, "An annotated life of Egerton Yorrick Davis, MD, an intimate of Sir William Osler," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 38: 259-297, 1983; see p. 263: Phineas should be Phinehas, Eleazr should be Eleazar, and the passage is from Numbers (25: 7-15), not Exodus.


12. Ibid., p. 262.


13. William S. Kroger, Psychosomatic Gynecology, Including Problems of Obstetrical Care (Hollywood: Wilshire Book Co., 1962), p. 316.


14. C. Grant Loomis, "Three cases of vaginism," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 7:97-98, 1939.  Translation by Dr. Lester S. King.


15. Ibid., pp. 97-98.


16. Petrus Borel, Historiarum et observationum med.-phys., 2nd hundred, 31st observation, p. 133; cited in D.M. Schurigius, Spermatologia (1737), pp. 314-315.  Translation by Prof. Paul Potter, University of Western Ontario, 31 January 1997.  


17. Opera Medica, vol. 2, Praxis, Chapter 23, page 145; cited in D.M. Schurigius, Spermatologia (1737), pp. 314-315.  Translation by Prof. Paul Potter, University of Western Ontario, 31 January 1997.  


18. Christian Paullini, Cynograph. Curios., p. 54; cited in D.M. Schurigius, Spermatologia (1737), pp. 314-315.  Translation by Prof. Paul Potter, University of Western Ontario, 31 January 1997.  


19. Saxo Grammaticus (?1150-1216), cited by Johann Weier, Opera Omnia, Amsterdam, 1660, Part 1, Chapter 9, page 22; cited in turn by D.M. Schurigius, Spermatologia (1737), pp. 314-315.  Translation by Prof. Paul Potter, University of Western Ontario, 31 January 1997.  


20. Cited in J.D. Rolleston, "Penis captivus: a historical note," Janus 35: 196-202, 1935; see p. 200.


21. J.D. Rolleston, "Penis captivus: a historical note," Janus 35: 196-202, 1935; see p. 201.


22. Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird (London: W.H. Allen, 1966), pp. 208; see p. 96.

23. Ibid, p. 97.

24. Ibid, p. 98.

25. James V. Ricci, One Hundred Years of Gynaecology, 1800-1900 (Philadelphia: The Blakiston Co., 1945), pp. 551-553.


26. Earl F. Nation, "William Osler on penis captivus and other urologic topics," Urology 11: 468-470, 1973; see p. 469.


27. A.C. J[acobson], "Penis captivus: myth or actuality?  With some notes on Sir William Osler's Alter Ego" Medical Times 73: 52-54, 1945; see pp. 52-53.


28. L.F. Altaffer III, "Penis captivus and the mischievous Sir William Osler," Southern Medical Journal 76: 637-641, 1983; see p. 638.


29. Sydney W. Bondurant and Stephen C. Cappannari, "Penis captivus: fact or fancy?" Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality 5: 224-233, 1971.


30. Ibid., p. 233.



31. Ernest Lachman, "Anatomy as applied to clinical medicine," New Physician 16: 301-303, 1967; see p. 303.


32. A. Piltz, Thèse de Paris 1931, No. 376; cited in J.D. Rolleston, "Penis captivus: a historical note," Janus             35: 196-202, 1935; see pp. 200-201.


33. Ibid., p. 201.


34. Ibid., p. 202.


35. Montréal, Québec, McGill University, Osler Library Archives 38/65/S/4/6/ Montreal Medico-Chirurgical Society.  Minute Book.  Vol. 1, 1865-1882.


36. This circumstance was described by Tigertt, "An annotated life of Egerton Yorrick Davis," p. 267.


37. Charles G. Roland (edit.), "Sir William Osler's dreams and nightmares," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 54: 418-446, 1980; see p. 431.


38. F. Kräupl Taylor, "Penis captivus -- did it occur?" British Medical Journal 2: 977-978, 1979; see p. 977.


39. Ibid., p. 978.


40. Joan Malleson, "Vaginismus: its management and psychogenesis," British Medical Journal 2: 213-216, 1942; see p. 213.




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