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