Thursday, October 18, 2007

Scandlous Victorians: Women and Sexuality

Yes, it is what you think it is.

During a previous SL visit, I engaged in a lively discussion about some of my previous entries, specifically the ones on Victorian Vices. I admitted that I omitted one piece, as I was concerned that it may be too questionable (although I wasn't qute sure). Upon hearing this, I was "challenged" to post this missing entry – practically a "double dog dare". Well, I am not one to back down from a dare or challenge, and speaking from the sake of completeness, I shall post it…
Scandlous Victorians: Women and Sexuality

Victorians held the stereotype that women were incapable of sexual pleasure and endured their husband’s attentions out of affection and a desire for children. For many women, this was true. But Victorian medicine recognized that widows, women unsatisfactorily married, and young women ready for marriage might have unmet psychological needs. The long-established treatment was massage of the procreative organs to induce a convulsive state called "hysterical paroxysm". This was not viewed as a sexual act (after all, sexual intercourse did not produce such states), though doctors such as Freud’s teacher Charcot recognized some connection with sexuality.
Victorian ladies viewing a ... specialized chair.

Originally, this treatment was performed manually. But this was time-consuming, an hour per patient or more. In the 1880’s, doctors began inventing technological aids, vibratory massage equipment that could complete the same treatment in 10 minutes. The first designs were large, floor-mounted units, often powered hydraulically or by small steam engines; electricity made smaller models possible, and by the turn of the century they were widely marketed for home use through mail order catalogues – as a way of restoring health and the glow of youth. Ironically, motion pictures drove the off the market, as early stag films showed their use in unmistakably sexual terms that made them an embarrassment.

Stoddard, W.H. (2000) - Gurps Steampunk, pg. 29, SJG:Austin
[edited for removal of game specific content]

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