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Book Review – The Technology of Orgasm

June 23, 2008

Image of hydrotherapy used in The Technology of Orgasm

French Pelvic Douche – A lovely (and popular) form of hydrotherapy explored by Maines in The Technology of Orgasm. Photo: wikicommons

Well, I don’t know know about you, but when I’m confined to my room with all nature of unpleasant symptoms due to an encounter with tainted cheese dip I catch up on my reading! Yes, I got exactly what I deserved for eating cheese in Georgia when I was just a few hours away from lactose utopia. I actually read this on the plane to and from the wonderful 99th annual AAFCS conference, held in the land of delightfully untainted dairy: Wisconsin. Enough dairy, enough travel! I will tell you what I learned about orgasms from this dense yet readable and oh-so-worthwhile history of woman’s best friend!

Rachel P. Maines leads her readers on an exploration of several important and still-relevant historical points on her romp through the medical history of female hysteria, and related diagnoses. First, and foremost, is her focus on androcentric sex. Fear not, it’s a concept you already know a bit about: sex based around a male perspective with the priority on his body parts and his pleasure. Whether you currently think of sexuality and gender from that lens or not, you will be unable to deny the impact of patriarchal sexuality on the western world’s past and present after reading this book. I shant (that’s a Wisconsin-ism there) ruin the book’s thunder – read it to learn more. It’s worth it! Maines is a historian with a witty telling and no reservations over using big, chewy, SAT words or diving into the meat and meaning of it all. At 123 (yes, 123) pages this book took me longer than usual to read, due to the density of the material; however, it was time well spent as I now feel smarter both in the “I’m going to win a trivia game” sense, and in the “I feel able to consider and act on things I was previously unaware of” way. I also have a new appreciation for my early 1900s vibe that I got off Ebay a few months ago. It was made in Wisconsin, by the way, just like me. The best stuff comes from there, doncha-know.

The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction

By Rachel P. Maines

1999 – The John Hopkins University Press

ISBN: 0-8018-6646-4

Invest in your community by ordering it from your local, independent book seller.

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