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.
I’m used to writing about characters and situations and places that actually existed or could have possibly existed (I mean, c’mon, it is fiction). I’m definitely not used to writing stories that take place in some futuristic pseudo-past where women wear corsets — leather corsets! — on top of their clothes. Besides I know absolutely nothing about science or mechanics (except when I was young and owned a VW Bug).
What’s the old adage? “Write what you know”? When you get right down to it, what on Earth does a librarian-art historian really know about erotica, much less Steampunk erotica? Continue reading →
I thought I’d end the year by starting at the beginning, and by doing so, I have to start with the end of a life. Carl Degler, professor emeritus of American history at Stanford University, died on Saturday, December 27, 2014, at the age of 93. It was an article by Degler that was influential on my embarking upon a career writing Victorian erotic romance. Continue reading →
In order to answer this question, we need to establish if there is indeed a question here to answer.
Well, is My Secret Life an autobiography or a work of fiction? If it is a work of fiction, then trying to ascertain who Walter was is moot. If it is autobiographical, then someone (or perhaps several someones) wrote it, and, the question then becomes, who? Continue reading →
This post is not about my secret life, it’s about the infamous tome published c. 1890, authored by a man known only as Walter. The book, My Secret Life, was written as a memoir and is often considered a work of Victorian erotica, which it most certainly is not. It is unabashedly an impressive work of pornography. Unlike a more famous erotic memoir, John Cleland‘s Memoirs Of A Woman Of Pleasure, aka, Fanny Hill which has a plot and a resolution (actually a happy ending), My Secret Life is more a series of vignettes. It does have the elements of fiction: There are running characters; there is development of Walter’s psyche; there is a progression of time. But it lacks any plot. Weighing in between 790 and 1173 pages (depending on the version; this one is cited), My Secret Life is the epitome of the rambling sexual memoir, a prime example of that particular style of Victorian porn. Continue reading →