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In Part One of this blog miniseries, we learned how Victorian doctors defined “hysteria” and how they treated it. Spoiler alert: doctors used various methods of stimulation to bring women to achieve the “hysterical paroxysm”, i.e., an orgasm.
Around 1879, the electric or electro-mechanical vibrator was introduced into doctors’ tools of the trade for treating hysteria. Vibrators were first used in France, then this method spread to the rest of the European continent, England, and America.
But what did this Victorian stimulation device look like? One perhaps imagines corseted women cowering as a mustachioed doctor approaches with some bizarre Steampunkish contraption… Continue reading
I recently saw a revival of the play In The Next Room, Or The Vibrator Play by Sarah Ruhl. In case you haven’t heard about this play it takes place in upstate New York in the 1880s. A doctor provides treatments for hysteria – to both women and men – using the latest technology, the electric vibrator. In the course of the play there is emotional and sexual discovery amongst all the characters, along with several orgasms.
I originally saw the play in February 2009 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, California. The play had been written for the Berkeley Rep and made its debut there before being launched on Broadway. I’m not a theater regular – I do see shows from time to time – but when I heard about this play, I absolutely had to see it.