Movie Review- Hysteria….and a little Women’s Hystery for you!

Movie Review- Hysteria….and a little Women’s Hystery for you!

As a sexologist, I have been urging women to pick up their petticoats and run to this recently released feature film that educates us in a most hysterical way about this little known piece of women’s “hystery.” It is the history of the invention of the vibrator, which happened, surprisingly enough, in Victorian times. It was invented to save doctors from the muscular fatigue and the inevitable Carpal Tunnel Syndrome they would develop in treating (by hand) the bored, repressed Victorian women for the condition referred to as “hysteria.” The cure…. a “uterine paroxysm,” was administered at the doctor’s office (bless their little hearts, as they say here in the South). The waiting rooms of these doctor’s offices were filled with proper, well-to-do Victorian women, who came regularly for these very helpful “treatments,” which miraculously cured them of a wide number of ills.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is absolutely wonderful in this movie, as she plays the feisty, outspoken feminist, who has rolled up her privileged sleeves to do meaningful work amongst the poor, struggling to keep the doors of her settlement house school and clinic open. Felicity Jones is equally delightful, playing the part of the demure doctor’s daughter, the archetypal “angel in the house” of the Victorian era. Hugh Dancy is adorable as the young doctor who “gets a clue”, and ultimately takes a stand against the powers
that be, who would pathologize any women for wanting a life of passion and purpose.

I was first introduced to this bit of women’s history by my sexologist friend Gina Ogden, PhD who gave me a copy of the documentary film Passion and Power.

If you are a woman who likes the film Hysteria, Passion and Power is really worth seeing. You will be stunned by more history and certain modern day facts, like the story of the woman who was arrested for a felony in Texas, because she owned more than the allowable number of vibrators. If you want to go deeper, the film Passion and Power is based on Rachel Maines’ provocative best seller The Technology of Orgasm: Hysteria, the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction.

I’d love to hear your comments on this one.

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