Hysteria Movie Review or The Man to Thank for Vibrators!

Imagine it is 1880 and you are a London housewife. You are unsatisfied with your life, easily irritable, depressed and experiencing insomnia, so you seek a doctor for assistance. If you can afford Dr. Robert Dalrymple and his protégée Dr. Mortimer Granville, you would be diagnosed with “hysteria.” This was considered a plague of their time, a “disabling condition” for at least half the women of London. The cause of this plague? An “overactive uterus.” Here’s the best part:  The treatment for hysteria was…(wait for it)…having your clitoris manually stimulated by your doctor until orgasm. I’m serious. This was a medical treatment to address the nervous system and help put a woman’s uterus back in order.

From: http://open.salon.com/blog/wqbelle/2012/06/19/movie_review_hysteria_plus_my_ramblings_about_the_female_paroxysm_er_orgasmThe movie Hysteria provides a glimpse into the lives of Dr. Dalrymple and Dr. Granville, and their exclusive and lucrative practice in treating housewives of London. But poor young Dr. Granville didn’t know what his new job would entail. The physical strain was too much, and persistent hand cramping (presumably the start of carpal tunnel syndrome) began to interfere with his ability to get women off.

Luckily for Dr. Granville, this eager doctor happened to have a friend and benefactor who was a Lord of London and eccentric inventor. His latest invention was a steam-powered generator attached to a feather duster to ease the strains of housework. However, they saw the potential to extend this technology to ease the strains of Granville’s handiwork. The result? Multiple “paroxysms” in a quarter of the time. The marketability of this as a home product for the relaxation and health of women led to the invention of the portable home “massager,” the precursor to our favorite vibrators today.

I’ve known about the origins of the modern vibrator for many years, but Hysteria helped fill some confusing gaps for me. For example, how was it possible that the doctors didn’t know they were sexually pleasuring their female patients? How did they not know they were inducing an orgasm? Also, wasn’t this type of touching considered very personal and embarrassing? At the time, it was believed that women only experienced sexual pleasure through penetration of a penis. The doctors believed they were triggering a paroxysm which was understood to be a necessary outburst and release of emotion. And as depicted in the movie, the doctors provided their vulva massage to each patient behind a red velvet curtain, draped at the woman’s waist, to maintain modesty.

The history of the vibrator is confusing and truly ridiculous by today’s understanding of sexuality. Despite dabbling in serious topics, Hysteria takes a romantic comedy approach that is entertaining and accessible, but certainly not earth shattering. I recommend it as a worthy rental to tickle your sexual funny bone. And what movie about vibrators wouldn’t have a happy ending?

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker, Sexologist, Sex Therapist

50 Shades of...Condoms, Butt Plugs, & Periods?!

Are there safer sex messages in the hit trilogy "50 Shades of Grey"? With so much controversy around the books, let's look at a few messages around condoms and appreciation of women's bodies.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sociologist, Sexologist, Sexuality Speaker

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Dear Dr. Jenn - Alcohol is a Relationship Buzzkill

Dear Dr. Jenn~

My boyfriend and I have a great relationship and usually get along really well. But recently when we’re out drinking, things get really ugly and we end up in huge fights. I know we love each other a lot, but is this a sign that we’re not compatible? What should we do?


Alcohol is a Relationship Buzzkill

http://www.faithfulforlife.com/how-to-kill-the-beast-in-your-marriage.htmlDear Alcohol Buzzkill,

This is a great question and a frequent problem I hear about in relationships. Alcohol is a double-edged sword—so much fun and a wonderful social lubricant, yet it can bring out the worst in us. I’m going to approach this question from three perspectives.

First, many assume that alcohol is a truth serum and what surfaces while under the influence reveals the “true self.” This is not necessarily true. The interaction between alcohol and the brain is much more complicated than that. So don’t presume that what is said while drunk reveals the truth and means you don’t love each other.

That being said, it is common to have unmet needs and unstated resentments in relationships. These can be triggered while drinking because people use the lowered inhibitions to speak their minds. Therefore, it’s important to create an ongoing safe space in your relationship to voice resentments. This needs to be done in a responsible way that doesn’t involve drinking or defensiveness.

Finally, an obvious and critical suggestion is to cut down on your alcohol consumption. Or at least have a glass of water every so often to slow yourself down. Since this is a known weakness in your relationship, change it or you might lose your boyfriend. If one or both of you become a real ass when drunk, then it’s time to grow up and own it. I think talking this through and making a few shifts in your relationship can ensure this doesn’t become an on-going problem.

Good luck,

Dr. Jenn

(This was originally posted as part of the Pacific San Diego Magazine's Love & Sex Blogger series.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker

Break Through Your Sexual Blocks

What can you do to get past your sexual blocks? Those things that are keeping you from enjoying sex, connecting deeply with others, and embracing intimacy?

I was recently interviewed by Michael Peak, of the Magicial Breakthroughs blogtalkradio program, about my advice around sexuality, and my views on topics from pornography, to holistic sexuality, to creativity. Michael begins with a brief hypnotherapy session to help reduce your sexual blocks, and around 8 minutes in, he starts interviewing me about my practice and perspective.

We touch on some pretty interesting topics! LISTEN HERE.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker

Acupuncture for Low Libido?

How can acupuncture address a flagging libido and sex drive? Dr. Jenn interviews Sacha Landreneau, owner of Hillcrest Community Acupuncture, about libido and eastern philosophies. Also, the bullshit that is the Kansas House Bill 2598 around abortion rights...WTF? And, what's a guy have to say about sluts, spanking, and bacon?

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker

50 Shades of Grey - Why This Book Feels Good

I don’t get it,” my gay friend Sean stated at my video shoot recently. “Why are women aroused by the fantasy of being submissive and how is this new or controversial?” We were discussing the contentious bestseller, Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James. This book, a fan fiction homage to the Twilight Saga, has been labeled “mommy porn” due to its unexpected popularity with married suburban mothers, and its erotic theme of dominance and submission.

Sean poses a good question. Why has this book struck a cord with so many American women? While the United States has a thriving BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism, masochism) community, most of the female readers are not likely already participating in BDSM. In addition, the book is not well written, even by the author’s own admission. Yet somehow it became a word of mouth hit online, long before it was even available in a bookstore. I propose there are several important factors in the success of this book, including beautiful characters, strong personalities, titillating sexuality, taboo dominance and submission, and the romantic evocation of “feeling special.” But before I delve into my analysis of the book’s success, let me offer a brief summary of the plot.

Anastasia Steele, a 21-year old virgin and graduating college senior, meets Christian Grey, an incredibly hot, wealthy, successful 27-year old. They quickly fall for each other, and then she learns of his sexual tastes – to fully dominate the woman he is involved with, both physically and mentally. As well, he has an in-house dungeon where he demands submission. Anastasia waffles between giving in to his whims and fighting his control. Her willful confidence amidst her naiveté is new for Christian, which further arouses him to break his own rules. She feels special, valued, and aroused. However, Anastasia is also disturbed and struggles with his mood swings, controlling sexual tastes, and love of inflicting pain. This novel is just the first of the trilogy, and I have only read one volume so far.

I personally discovered that crappy writing is not as noticeable if the content is turning me on! Despite cringing at the writing style, rolling my eyes at the gender stereotyping, and wincing through some descriptions of pain infliction, I did find much of the content arousing and stimulating. It even made me feel more confident and sexually aggressive. I think I was channeling the attitudes of the characters. This is the power of written fantasy – to embody a new way of being for the reader.

A fantasy of perfection and beauty is pervasive in Fifty Shades of Grey. Anastasia is young, white, innocent, intelligent, slender, attractive, and outspoken yet humble. She’s the quintessential Disney character. Christian is a little bit older than her, wealthy beyond imagination, successful, mysterious, bright, with a hot body and beautiful face. The first time Anastasia has sex, she is easily orgasmic. The first time she performs a blow job, she’s a champ. Christian has never slept in the same bed with a woman or introduced one to his family, yet he quickly breaks all his rules for Anastasia. This all adds up to Anastasia being that “special” girl, who wins Christian’s affection, a la “Pretty Woman.”

And I think that’s a large part of the power of this book. We all want to feel special and desired. Being the object of desire feels good. It’s validating to experience unbridled passion from another; let alone being willing to change your identity due to this passion, and have another willing to change for you. This seems to create an emotional context that grants Anastasia (as well as the female reader) permission to be naughty and explore the boundaries of good girl and bad girl, pleasure and pain, control and surrender. If the reader at home is a powerful, confident woman, Anastasia’s submission means the reader can also experiment with letting go, feel the freedom of surrender, and still be true to her values.

Do I think it is dangerous for our society to have a popular erotic novel with sex tied to violence? Is it sexist, disempowering to women, and rolling back the sexual liberation clock? This is a large part of the controversy, and I’m honestly conflicted in responding. If we lived in a society where sex was open, healthy, and normalized, I could accept the novel as fantasy for fun and stimulation. But we don’t. Sex is much too often mixed with shame, embarrassment, exploitation, misinformation, and abuse. So I think it may be difficult for some to separate pure fantasy from their reality. That being said, I love that we’re talking about women’s arousal and discussing taboo sex. And I enjoyed some arousal of my own. If you have read Fifty Shades of Grey, I would love to hear your opinion about what tickled your fancy or turned your stomach.

(This blog was first posted as part of Pacific San Diego Magazine's Sex & Love Blog.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, Sexologist, College Sexual Health Speaker