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Dear List members, The film 'Hysteria' was 'inspired' by Rachel Maine's book The Technology of Orgasm: Hysteria, the Vibrator and Women's Sexual Satisfaction'. Lesley Hall has a page on her website discussing some of the issues: http://www.lesleyahall.net/factoids.htm#hysteria This also gives links for the lengthy discussions about the book on the old histsex list (this list was initially set up and run by Lesley for several years). And here is a post from 2008 with some information from Cynde Moya and, as I say below, a somewhat mealy mouthed review of the book which I wrote. Cheers, Hera Date Written: Tue, 25 Mar 2008 21:52:22 -0000 Date Posted: Wed, 25 Mar 2008 17:52:22 -0400 Cynde Moya wrote - 'here in America, I do know that they use "Technology of the Orgasm" as training material for the "sex educators" trained at Good Vibrations and Toys in Babeland, two influential feminist sex toy stores that also do sex education.' Dear Cynde and Others, Here is the review I wrote about Maine's book for Women's History Review (My thanks to WHR for letting me post it here). The review is rather mealy mouthed. It explains what the book is about - but doesn't say this is junk history which is what I think of it. Maine has made a career out of this idea - I think people have accepted it so wholeheartedly because it is a fantastic combination of erotic titillation - verging on rape fantasies - male doctors in white coats giving passive women who don't know what is going on orgasms - and the affirmation that somehow the Victorians were just like us - sex was vitally important to them. It also confirms to 'all she needs is a good fuck' beliefs about women despite the thick veneer of intellectualism over the top. I heard Maine giggling away with a right-wing shock jock type on Australian radio about the concept - I don't think the feminists at Good Vibrations would have gone a bundle on that interview. I think this is what takes ideas into the mainstream - appeal across the political spectrum. For Good Vibrations this book gives vibrators a history - all the radical approaches to sexuality gave rise to a search for history in the 70s so it is not surprising they value this. But insisting on it now is a denial of the possibility of radical change, that is social construction, which serious historians of sexuality have moved on to. Maine's idea means we don't have to imagine women for whom sexual passion was a negative force and for whom sexual desire might have been imagined quite differently to the way we do ourselves (ourselves broadly speaking). The interesting thing in the book is the early modern material. But that is not my period and she may be grossly distorting that as well. Cheers, Hera Cook *The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's* *Sexual Satisfaction.* Rachel P. Maines. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999. Pp. xviii+181; illustrations, figures, notes/references, index. ISBN 0-8018-6646-4 Rachel Maines begins her book with a preface describing how she moved from the history of needlework after her curiosity was aroused by advertisements for vibrators in early 20th century needlework magazines. Her own perspective derives, as she tells us, from the era of the Hite Report, and she clearly feels that writing about female sexuality is still gutsy and pioneering, not to say titillating. Maines' central claim is that in order to treat hysteria, physicians produced orgasm in women using the electromechanical vibrator first developed in the 1880s. She argues that what had been a skilled task (giving women orgasms) taking as long as an hour was rendered into a ten-minute operation by 'capital-labour substitution'. The vast numbers of women diagnosed as hysterical then ensured a profitable pool of repeat patients. Maines stitches together several histories and weaves in sources from antiquity to the 20th century in order to make this case. The first chapter explains that male focused definitions of women's sexuality led to the construction of an androcentric model according to which penetration by the penis was fully sexually satisfying to women and clitoral sensation was not perceived as sexual. This, Maines argues, forced female sexuality into a disease paradigm requiring medical treatment, namely the production of orgasm in 'hysterical' women by physicians or midwives. In the next chapter the vast range of symptoms labelled as hysteria and categorized from ancient to modern times as a disease are explained by Maines as being primarily signs of women's sexual tension and lack of orgasm; thus, she argues, hysterical symptoms were "consistent with the normal functioning" of female sexuality and the "androcentric model" of sexuality focusing on penetration was largely responsible for defining them as female pathology. (pp. 2, 112). A fascinating series of quotations from Galen in antiquity through medical writers down the centuries reveals that the genital massage of women to orgasm was suggested to physicians and midwives as a treatment for hysterical symptoms and to ease labour. The early quotes frequently refer to orgasm (including female ejaculation) in explicit terms but this ceases to be the case in the 19th century when pelvic massage and diffuse sensation becomes the subject of discussion. This material could easily tell a different story, not that of the continuity represented by Maines, but one reinforcing understandings of the 19^th century as a watershed in perceptions of female sexuality. The book moves on to describe the wide variety of early mechanical, "hydriatic," steam, and electromechanical devices used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to provide body massages and hydrotherapy. These culminated in the vibrator, a mechanical or electro-mechanical device with interchangeable rubber vibratodes. In passing it is mentioned that vibrators were used by both men and women for many purposes including relief from arthritis and constipation, and for home massage. But from Maines' perspective when, for example, the Swedish Vibrator Company of Chicago described its product as "a machine that gives 30,000 thrilling, invigorating, penetrating, revitalizing vibrations per minute" this could only be "orgasmic phraseology", likewise women's intense pleasure in hydrotherapy, or water massage, could only be sexual (p. 103). In Maines' world there are no other intense physical sensations, no other delights or desires. She argues that the androcentric model of sexuality led vibrators to be considered as medical rather than sexual instruments because they were applied externally. Thus doctors used them for clitoral massage until the 1920s when the use of the devices in early stag films reduced the possibility of 'social camouflage' of their erotic purpose in respectable homes or medical contexts. Maines has received a great deal of publicity and even previous academic reviewers appear to have found her argument convincing. However she does not contextualise her sources. The growth of massage technology needs to be placed in the context of the late 19^th century rise in physiotherapy, a profession that was all too aware of the disreputable sexual aura surrounding massage. Sources on 19th century women usually suggest they had strong inhibitions about male doctors observing or manipulating their genitals. The intense anxiety about masturbation along with much other evidence reveals that knowledge of the sexual function of the clitoris was usual among 19th century doctors. Maines' image of doctors grudgingly putting in the time and skilled labour required to give women orgasms until they were relieved of this tedious task by electricity appears to have appealed to previous reviewers who giggle about reading the book on trains or in other public places. Perhaps the humour arises from the lack of agency or awareness attributed to women, the notion that regardless of the doctor's emotions toward them, or vice versa, women would lie like automaton and obediently orgasm. This bears more relationship to the sexual fantasies collected by Nancy Friday than lived experience. What this book does do very successfully is to highlight the lack of accessible recent research into the history of heterosexual women's sexual experience. Maines' attempt to combine a variety of histories is definitely a step in the right direction and her book suggests a wealth of sources for future research. HERA COOK (Dr) Australian Research Council Fellow University of Sydney