Una historia del vibrador

Renaissance instruments for submifigation. From Ambroise Paré, L’Opera ostetrico-ginecologica d’Ambroise Paré, ed. Vittorio Pedore (Bologna: Cappelli, 1966).

En mi cuaderno de notas he encontrado algo que no puedo dejar de compartir. Es el título de un libro que me recomendó Faith Wilding en uno de nuestros largos desayunos en Ljubljana (“de lectura obligada en mis clases”): “The Technology of Orgasm. Hysteria, the Vibrator and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction” escrito por Rachel P. Maines en 1999.

Desde el tiempo de Hipócrates hasta los años 20, masajear a las pacientes femeninas hasta el orgasmo era una práctica corriente entre los médicos occidentales para el tratamiento de la histeria, una enfermedad común y crónica entre las mujeres. Los médicos se resistían a esta práctica porque requería mucho tiempo y durante siglos la ejercían las comadronas. Más tarde, la sustituyeron por sistemas mecánicos incluyendo el vibrador eléctrico, inventado en la década de 1880. En “The Technology of Orgasm” Rachel Maines ofrece a los lectores una versión estimulante, sorprendente y a veces divertida de la histeria y sus tratamientos a lo largo del tiempo, incidiendo en el desarrollo, el uso y la pérdida de reputación del vibrador como práctica médica legítima.[Reseña en Google Books traducida por mí].

The ascending douche at Saratoga, about 1900. From Guy Hinsdale, Hydrotherapy (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 1910).

El primer capítulo se puede leer aquí y las primeras 80 páginas en Google Books. Y aquí una crítica del libro por Gina Ogden de la que reproduzco algunos fragmentos:

It is this medical control of women’s sexuality that is the particular focus of Maines’s book. She outlines the history of hysteria (from the Latin word for womb) as a disease paradigm from the ancient world through Freud, and beyond. “Wombe Furie is a sort of madness, arising from a vehement and unbridled desire of Carnal Imbracement,” observes a seventeenth century medical text. Its sure-fire remedy was sexual intercourse. That failing (if, for instance, a woman’s husband was impotent or if a woman was a nun), removing the symptoms of “unbridled desire” became the special responsibility of her doctor. He (sic) was expected to bring her to orgasm using a manual technique dating from the 1500s, and probably far earlier. Thus evolved an extraordinary phenomenon between physicians and certain of their women patients—periodic therapeutic masturbation sessions. Today, this kind of relationship would be labeled sexual misconduct, and it would hopefully land the doctor in deep trouble.

If you think all of this is bizarre, the medicalization of sexual normality is with us in full vigor today. Spurred by the success of Viagra, the trend in medical circles is increasingly to regard sex as a disease—that is, any kind of sex that doesn’t measure up to the intercourse-followed-by-orgasm standard agreed to by the medical powers that be. It is no secret that this standard leaves out many women, for instance, women without partners, women with women partners, many post-menopausal women, and women who don’t enjoy penile penetration for whatever reasons. But by medical standards, all of these women are considered to be suffering from some sexual disorder or other. To offer an example of what feels like modern day hysteria, a new professional society has been formed under the auspices of B.U. Medical School. Its name is: Female Sexual Dysfunction Society (FSDS). I’m not joking. It makes one wonder exactly what you have to do to join up. Is there a hazing process? Can you get discounts with a family membership? Are you rudely dropped if you get functional? What happens if they find out you own a vibrator?

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