Director Tanya Wexler's 'Hysteria' Sparks Interest in Vibrators
Still there’s plenty of saucy sex talk in Hysteria, much of it at the expense of these rather clueless male doctors who somehow believe that women don’t feel pleasure. In one scene, Charlotte teases Dr. Granville, saying, “It must be difficult pleasuring half the women in the city.” He replies: “Pleasure has nothing to do with it, I can assure you.” And Charlotte retorts, “I suppose that depends on whether you're over the table or on it.”
Later, as Granville explains why his hands hurt, saying, “I must find a way to attend to these women properly,” Smythe is quick to reply, “I believe the French had quite a bit of luck using their tongues.”
Granville’s stuffy reply is the ba-da-bing that makes up some great scenes, but it’s Charlotte’s spitfire intellectualism and activism that makes up much of Hysteria’s joy.
The knowledge about women’s sexuality and the use of sex toys has increased dramatically since the day Dr. Granville patented his vibrator (yes, Hysteria is a true story — sort of). A new report in fact showed that there are more women in the U.S. who use vibrators (53%) than have husbands (51%). In fact, 45% of men also admit to using vibrators.
“The study about women's vibrator use affirms what many doctors and therapists have known for decades — that vibrator use is common, it's linked to positive sexual function such as desire and ease of orgasm, and it's rarely associated with any side effects," Debby Herbenick, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, told Science Daily. According to Herbenick, researchers proved that women who use vibrators are healthier and happier than women who don’t.
Which is why stores that specialize in vibrators and other sex toys have grown exponentially and many of them are led by, owned by, or founded by lesbian or bisexual women: Babeland (which has three stores in New York and the flagship in Seattle); Good Vibrations (which has three stores in San Francisco, one each in Berkeley and Oakland, Calif., and Brookline, Mass.); Sugar in Baltimore; The Rubber Tree in Long Beach, Calif.; Smitten Kitten in Minneapolis; and that’s just the tip of the iceberg if you consider online stores.
In fact, vibrators have become so ubiquitous that Jimmyjane, a luxury sex toy company, gave them out to celebrities attending the premiers of Hysteria in New York as did Good Vibes in San Francisco. One celebrity attendee, Angela Lansbury, got the vibrator and told amused onlookers it was her first. Very few women believed her.
So in our sexually diverse modern world, Hysteria might seem a bit like a throwback, perhaps anachronistic, a film about life as we once knew it. But, if an alarming number of women can’t reach orgasm during sex (some surveys put it between 20% and 43%), have we really come that far from the era captured in Hysteria?
The auteur laughs. “Is that meant to be a pun?” Wexler teases. “Clearly we have progressed. I think it's undeniable. Maybe we can help that last 20% come along with the rest of us.”