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The Technology of Orgasm: Hysteria, the…

The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual…

by Rachel P. Maines

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263443,310 (4.06)10



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Can't recommend highly enough. As Z. says, Americans think that if anything is doing, it's worth doing with power tools. ( )
  rivkat | Dec 22, 2009 |
WERE YOU AWARE: That hysteria means "womb disease?" That"Susan B Anthony is said to have regarded male behavior at sports events as evidence that men were too emotional to be allowed to vote?" Or perhaps that "What is really remarkable about Western history in this context is that the medical norm of penetration to male orgasm as the ultimate sexual thrill for both men and women has survived an indefinite number of individual and collective observations suggesting that for most women this pattern is simply not the case?"WERE YOU AWARE? With The Technology of Orgasm, you will be. ( )
  damsorrow | Jun 11, 2009 |
Rachel Maines, historian of textiles, kept finding advertisements for vibrators in mail-order catalogues and needlepoint magazines from the Victorian era through WWII. She was surprised enough to take a detour from her needlework research and discovered that these were, in fact, forerunners of today's vibrators, although as time went on their purpose was increasingly disguised as "massage" tools.

When she traced the records of medical journals, patents, and other documents, she discovered the role of the water massage and the electromechanical in the efficient treatment of the Victorian-era diagnosis of hysteria (i.e. womb craziness). This sketch of the technology and culture is a fascinating entrée into the medicalization of normal femininity and does it with a trenchant levity. For my money, she could have written twice as much and included examples of the historical documents in an appendix.

Highly recommended. ( )
  chellerystick | Nov 5, 2007 |
This well researched little gem soon makes it apparent with its discussion of such things as devices for treating sexual frustration in medeaval nuns, the development of steam powered and clockwork vibrators only to be soon replaced by electric ones before for example the vaccum cleaner. or the frustrations of Doctors such as Freud with poor vaginal massage techiques ( they passed the job on to midwives) that until some time in the mid fifties. earth was inhabited not by people but by beings much stranger. ( )
  SimonW11 | Oct 26, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0801866464, Paperback)

For centuries, women diagnosed with "hysteria"--a "disease paradigm," in Rachel P. Maines's felicitous phrase, thought to result from a lack of sexual intercourse or gratification--were treated by massaging their genitals in order to induce "paroxysm." Male physicians, however, considered the practice drudgery, and sought various ways of avoiding the task, often foisting it off on midwives or, starting in the late 19th century, employing mechanical devices. Eventually, these devices became available for purchase and home use; one such "portable vibrator" is advertised in the 1918 Sears, Roebuck catalog as an "aid that every woman appreciates." The Technology of Orgasm is an impeccably researched history that combines a discussion of hysteria in the Western medical tradition with a detailed examination (including several illustrations) of the devices used to "treat" the "condition." (Maines is somewhat dismissive of the contemporary, phallus-shaped models, which she describes as "underpowered battery-operated toys," insisting that "it is the AC-powered vibrator with at least one working surface at a right angle to the handle that is best designed for application to the clitoral area.") Don't expect any cheap thrills, though; the titillation Maines offers is strictly intellectual. --Ron Hogan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The author explores hysteria in Western medicine throughout the ages and examines the characterization of female sexuality as a disease requiring treatment. Medical authorities, she writes, were able to defend and justify the clinical production of orgasm in women as necessary to maintain the dominant view of sexuality, which defined sex as penetration to male orgasm - a practice that consistently fails to produce orgasm in a majority of the female population. This male-centered definition of satisfying and healthy coitus shaped not only the development of concepts of female sexual pathology but also the instrumentation designed to cope with them.… (more)

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