movie just came out and it's causing quite a buzz. HYSTERIA features some frustrated Victorian
Anytime you see "women" and "hysteria" in the same sentence, it has to be about sex. And when I talk about sex, I tend to be explicit, so consider yourself warned.
Back in the 1880s a London physician, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville, invented the electric vibrator. Who knew? In Victorian England, it was okay for men to have orgasms, but women? Not so much.
In the 19th
Century, scientists and doctors believed a woman's "affliction of the
nervous system" stemmed from a disorder of the uterus, which they called
"hysteria." So when people began to see upper-class women emerging from Dr.
Granville's office flushed with excitement and joy, they started wondering what
was going on in there.
Feeling frustrated? See Dr. Granville!
It seems that the good doctor was testing a new kind of treatment, applying his hand with a steady constant pressure to the women's, shall we say, afflicted regions. And those women loved it! That's the good news. The bad news: Dr. Granville wound up with severe hand cramps. Pretty soon he was unable to perform his, uh, duties.
Man, were his patients frustrated. But one day Doc Granville happened to visit his rich friend, Edmund St. John Smythe. Smythe was an inventor and his latest gadget was an electric feather duster. Now, I know what you're thinking, but calm down. Stop laughing.
Granville tried out his friend's electric feather duster, he had a stroke of
inspiration. If he made a few adjustments, he could use it to treat his female
patients! No more hysteria and no more hand cramps for Dr. Granville. Needless
to say, his new gadget, the electric vibrator, was an overnight sensation.
But what's a
movie without romance? So in Hysteria, the good doctor fall for the daughter of
one of his colleagues. Charlotte is a radical feminist, a suffragette before
the votes-for-women movement began, a woman who believes in "free
love." And Charlotte's no fool.
She knows exactly what's getting her father's [and Dr. Granville's] patients off. See the smile on her face? Do they live happily ever after? I haven't seen the movie, so don't know. But I'm a detective so I did my due diligence. What I discovered was an eye-opener.
Hysteria and orgasms
For over 2,500 years the medical profession has been helping well-off women who suffered from "hysteria" by regularly inducing in them an "hysterical paroxysm." You and I call it an orgasm.
vibrator was invented right after the electric sewing machine, fan, teakettle
Guess which appliance the women preferred?
In the late 19th
century, "treatments” with vibrators were one of the most
popular services offered at luxury resorts in Europe and America.
The Sears-Roebuck catalog offered two models
of portable vibrators in 1922, described as "Such Delightful Companions.
Another advertisement promised "All the pleasures of youth ... will throb
Vibrators and Orgasms
But let's get
back to HYSTERIA, the movie. Bat Sheva Marcus wrote her doctoral dissertation on women
and vibrator use, and she thinks the movie raises important issues. Marcus
works at the Medical Center for Female Sexuality in New York. She says that
although the vibrator was invented more than 100 years ago, few women use them. According to Marcus, our society has "a skewed view that an orgasm
produced by a vibrator is not as good as an orgasm produced from
intercourse." She hopes the movie will send a message that orgasms are
In other words, vibrators aren't something to laugh about. Women
should use and enjoy, rinse and repeat.
Women who use birth control are sluts?
Victorian era, discussions about women's sexuality are no longer taboo, but
women still face an uphill battle. [See my Sex and Politics rant] Consider
the debate in Congress over health care coverage for women. Many people don't
want birth control for women to be covered in the health plan. Sex for procreation? Fine, but
women having sex for fun?? Forget about it! These prudes don't want women enjoying sex!
Rush Limbaugh [I call him Limburger] thinks women who use birth control are sluts. Here's what he said about birth control activist Sandra Fluke. "What does it say about a college coed ... who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says she wants to be paid to have sex? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute." He went on to say: "If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay you to have sex, we want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."
Obama called Sandra to
express his support. In her appearance on "Today," Sandra said Rush's
comments were "an attempt to silence me, to silence all of us from
speaking about the health care we need." At Rt: Sandra testifies before Congress.
REMEMBER THIS ANNIVERSARY!
You may not know
this, but June 7, 2012 was the 47th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision
to make birth control legal in the United States. An 1879 Connecticut
statute prohibited the use of birth control and anyone who helped a woman use birth control could be
prosecuted and punished. In 1961, Estelle Griswold and Dr. C. Lee Buxton were arrested and fined for doing so.
Griswold was the executive director of Planned Parenthood of Connecticut, and Buxton was chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Yale's School of Medicine. They challenged the 1879 statute. In 1965, the Supreme Court, in a 7-2 decision [Griswold v. Connecticut], reversed the law, effectively affirming the right to "doctor-patient privacy" and paving the way for the court's 1973 ruling on abortion: Roe v. Wade.
So here's my take. Instead of punishing women for having sex, we should be celebrating the law that allows women who want and need birth control to have it. Don't get me wrong. I love kids. I was thrilled when my daughter was born. But women in the United States should be able to enjoy sex without worrying about getting pregnant. Men don't have to worry about it. Why should women?
I'll probably get some blowback on this one, so have at it. The comment form is right there. NOPD homicide detective Frank Renzi signing off.