Stars: Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal
Hysteria is a movie that was released in 2011 with limited distribution. I believe it played downtown Portland for a short time, so I waited until it hit the DVD circuit. For a while, I put off seeing it until a friend at work reminded me about it.
Let me begin this review by saying that if you’re on the prudish side of life and don’t like movies about our evolution when it comes to human sexuality, you probably won’t like this movie. You need an open mind to watch it, but you also need to understand that the content is historically accurate.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching the Victorian era because of my work as an author. Physicians of that day had eschewed thoughts about women when it came to their pleasure in bed. Though we write tons of romance books about handsome men of that era sweeping weak-willed women off their feet to give them hot sex, it’s really overplay. Women were not looked upon as creatures who had orgasms of pleasures. They were merely there to bear children as a result of men having sex with them.
Hysteria is about that time in medical history when doctors thought that women who were over emotional, a condition they termed as hysteria, needed sexual stimulation in the doctor’s office — not in the marriage bed. Women suffering from hysteria would undergo “pelvic massage” – manual stimulation of the genitals by the doctor until the patient experienced “hysterical paroxysm” (orgasm).
The main character is a young doctor who comes to practice with another physician. Hysteria in the female population is out of control and pelvic massage is needed. Shocker, I know. Of course, the new doctor on staff is extremely handsome, so the office is crowded and lined down the street with waiting women to be relieved of their hysteria. As a result of overtaxing himself, he develops carpal tunnel and comes up with the device, which was the first vibrator.
What I find most amusing is that the Victorians were so proper and prudish about so many things. Yet their ignorance in the field of medicine led them to practice a behavior that in today’s society would be criminal. Moral behavior for a woman was expected. However, your doctor could bring you to a pleasurable experience and nothing would be thought wrong of it. Honestly, you have to see the humor in it all. Do women today visit their doctors to be stimulated for pleasure? He’d lose his license and probably end up behind bars. But here we are in the Victorian age, and doctors are actually bringing scores of women to a blissful experience, all in the name of medical treatment. Finally, the vibrator is invented as a device to aid treatment at home and spare the young doctor’s sore hand.
I see nothing morally wrong in the movie or disgusting. It was a day when removal of ovaries was a common practice to calm the female psyche; and unfortunately, many women died because of poor and unsanitary surgical conditions. Men wanted docile females, but over half the population was filled with sexually starved females instead. Kudos to the makers of this movie for addressing such a historically delicate and vibrating subject with much humor.