I saw the movie Hysteria yesterday. I hadn’t heard anything about it prior to reading the blurb as I was perusing the movie listings for my town. The interesting thing occurred after I shared on Facebook that I was gong to see this movie. Friends whispered me and sent private messages asking if it was good, embarrassing, pornographic. They asked if it was a “date movie”. It is a very well made movie about the origins of the vibrator.The movie posters don’t say that obviously; they’re hoping to avoid the titillating effect that would have on our residual junior high personas. Ultimately, if it a social commentary about the tendency to medicalize what was social discontent among middle and upper class women in England. It was the era of the suffrage movement and the worker movement and the growth of the middle class. Hysteria was a medical diagnosis made to describe the anxiety, anger, ennui, emotionality and general seething discontent of women. If their symptoms were extreme, they were permanently institutionalized as mentally ill and had COURT ORDERED hysterectomies. The butchery is skimmed over and minimized. You have to see this very light-heart and sweet movie to understand that framing the discourse from the vantage point of the Jolly Molly. It is astonishing that doctors could keep a straight face while having a thriving, posh, boutique medical ‘practice” of performing on their female patients what we would ALL now consider a sex act. They took themselves quite seriously, these men. And I believe that “modern medicine” simply shifted the name of this disorder from hysteria to anxiety. Is it no wonder that Prozac was (still is) the largest prescribed drug on the PLANET? You can’t write a prescription for sex or orgasms. And when people are programmed to seek solutions from their doctor, suggesting to patients they get regular exercise, have leisurely activities and developing a healthy sex life with their partner falls out of bounds most days. People scoff at the idea that forgetting the laundry and baseball practice and bible study so that you can drag your spouse off to bed for a good healthy romp. Trust me. I have a version of this discussion at LEAST once a week, sometimes once a day. It goes something like this:
Patient: I think I am menopausal. I have no interest in sex. I am depressed. I can’t sleep. I have fatigue. (this woman can be 32 years old and currently menstruating).
Me: Do you like your husband? (partner or significant other)
Patient: yes, of course, I love him.
Me: No…do you LIKE him, is he easy on the eyes? Does he make you laugh? Is he kind?
Patient: Yes (usually, occasionally, they say no)
Me: when you do have sex, is it satisfying, are YOU satisfied? Afterwards do you ask, “why don’t we do this more often?”
Patient: Yes! (and they laugh)
Me: Then my absurd prescription is not for pills but for you to go home and tell your husband that I told him to take you to bed. Forget the laundry, let the kids eat PB&J. YOU two can eat grill cheese and a can of soup. You aren’t depressed. Your anxiety doesn’t need pills. You need intimacy. Go home and have sex. More sex.
They leave laughing. They return still laughing and thankful. We forget that intimacy has become a casualty of life and the pace we live, buried under chores and errands and technology. We are bound by these modern trappings and they are the origins of our ennui. But all that being said, I am positive I will never write a prescription for a Jolly Molly….mainly because insurance companies won’t cover it.