I’ve mentioned previously my new fascination with the upcoming movie, Hysteria. It debuted this week, I believe, at the Toronto Independent Film Festival, and is creating a lot of…yes, buzz…about female sexuality, orgasms, and the history of the vibrator. You must watch the video below. It’s, well…hysterical. (Yes, I know that was a cheap pun – but I enjoyed it, darling!)
Hysteria has certainly gotten tongues, er…wagging about female orgasms and sexuality in general. USA Today said yesterday that it was one of several films this fall creating a trend of female sexuality-themed movies.
The festival acts as a preview of what’s to come, and female sexuality is definitely in the forefront among the film selections playing here this year.
When asked if it was fair to say that erotic matters of the womanly kind were being explored in more than a few titles, TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey says, “Oh, you noticed that, did you?” Indeed.
And ABC News Health even weighed in on the origins of the vibrator as a medical device used by doctors to
pleasure treat their female patients who suffered from “hysteria” (aka sexual frustration caused by a male dominated society who didn’t understand that women have NEEDS too!)
Back then, sex had little to do with women — in terms of pleasure, anyway. The act, considered one of procreation rather than recreation, consisted of penetration and male orgasm. If the woman happened to enjoy it, well that was a bonus. As a result, women suffering from hysteria — a now abandoned medical diagnosis related to sexual dissatisfaction — would seek the help of doctors and devices.
“It turns out to be physically healthy and mentally healthy for people to have an orgasm,” said Susan Heilter, a psychologist and couples therapist in Denver. “People do become more emotionally brittle without that sexual release.”
Emotional brittleness, anxiety, depression were all symptoms of female hysteria. The treatment: pelvic massage until “hysterical paroxysm” or, in other words, a doctor-delivered orgasm.
The quote that really made me chuckle, and wince a little, was this gem:
All this to say the purpose of female orgasm, unlike the sperm-spreading purpose of male orgasm, is a mystery.
I understand they are speaking from an evolutionary biology perspective where the only purpose to all living things is to survive and procreate. But is life really that utilitarian? Must there be a purpose to female orgasm other than our own pleasure? Must it be a mystery? I don’t think so.
What I love about this movie – and the true story behind it, if it is, indeed, accurately portrayed – is what began as a convenient device for misogynist male doctors to “treat” their female patients in an assembly-line fashion was soon taken over by the female population for nothing more than their own pleasure. And according to Rachel P. Maines, author of The Technology of Orgasm, the male doctors weren’t happy to have women take control of their own bodies that way.
But as we continue the fight to change thousands of years of male-domination (and this is not to say I am anti-man, because I’m not – I love men very much), we women have to take back control and charge of our own bodies. Without pointing to politically obvious issues, even in our modern society, it’s clear that this fight is not yet over.
Maybe it will seem too dramatic to say this, but I think one of the purposes of female orgasm (other than feeling GREAT) is to remind ourselves and to remind men that our bodies are not utilitarian baby machines. Nor do they exist merely for the sexual pleasure of men. And even as much as I enjoy fashion, women are not objects that must be shaped into a form that will most flatter the creative whims of a fashion designer.
Women are individuals unto themselves, and our bodies exist first and foremost for our own enjoyment and use – whether that is running, dancing, eating, creating, writing, acting, holding, and yes…even having orgasms. So when Hysteria comes out, why don’t you take yourself out to see it, and go enjoy some champagne and a good vibrator afterwards!