When a story begins with the words, “This ACTUALLY happened…Really…” you know it’s going to be good! Such is the case with Hysteria, Maggie Gyllenhaal’s newest film about the invention of that oh-so-cherished device…the vibrator. Yeah. Seriously. The opening of the film is a black screen with text proclaiming:
This story is based on true events.
So, by all intents and purposes, the opening screen sets a pretty high standard for the film. Thankfully, the film meets all expectations.
A blatant love story, where boy meets girl, is shocked by girl, falls for girl’s sister because she’s the “proper” girl, then realizes girl’s passion far surpasses the advantages of anything proper, Hysteria does what any chick flick should do, and…BONUS!!! it offers an awesome history lesson! Yep! The story told in the film about the invention of the vibrator IS, in fact, legit! The vibrator was invented and brought into medical practice in order to release the tension in doctors’ hands, wrists, and forearms, brought about by stimulating the clitorises of women in order to bring them into a state of “hysterical paroxysm.”
You see, back in the day, it was believed that most women suffered from an affliction called hysteria. The symptoms of hysteria were varied, and really, as we now know, it was mostly sexual frustration. The root cause of hysteria was a wandering uterus, and stimulating the clitoris in order to send the women into hysterical paroxysm settled the uterus back into place. (This, dear friends, is the reason removal of the uterus via surgery is called a hysterectomy; removal of the hysteria.) As quoted in the film, the thought of the time indicated that, “The female organ, as you know, is incapable of experiencing any pleasure, whatsoever, without penetration of the male organ.”
Women can’t experience pleasure without penetration.
It wasn’t a state tiptoeing the threshold between pain and pleasure on the pain side that caused the paroxysm! It was pleasure! It was an orgasm! About 80-95% of women (depending on which study you read) are physically incapable of experiencing an orgasm WITHOUT clitoral stimulation. The clitoris is the seat of pleasure for women! The entire universe should be grateful that we’ve discovered this. The entire universe should be grateful doctors invented vibrators. (I know I am!) And the entire universe should be grateful that we’ve entered into a state in our societal culture where we can watch a film about the history of the vibrator, made mainstream by interweaving it into a fabulous love story.