So I’ve come across a troublesome issue in my paper, and I thought I’d put it out here to get some ideas on how to address it.

In the late 1800s, Doctors would treat hysteria (a condition only found in women) by manually stimulating their external genitalia in order to bring them to paroxysm (or orgasm). The vibrator was invented as a medical device that would make the Doctors job easier by providing “…effective therapeutic massage that neither fatigued the therapist nor demanded skills that were difficult and time-consuming to acquire.” (The Technology of Orgasm 11). The author the book the previous quote was taken from says that this was a socially acceptable practice because the view of sex at the time was very androcentric, meaning any act that wasn’t penile-vaginal penetration wasn’t considered sexual in nature. She calls this, “Social Camouflage,” and says, “This androcentric focus, in fact, in many cases effectively camouflaged the sexual character of medical massage treatments” (8).

But since that was the dominant view of the time, were these treatments sexual? They are by today’s standards, but are we imposing our ideas of sexuality on the past? Is this an example of merging lifeworlds? I’m just not sure how to reconcile this idea in my paper.

P. Maines. The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Response.  (2001)

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