Following Foucault, who, in the opening pages of volume 1 of History of Sexuality, argues that sex is structured and controlled in direct proportion to the number of ways we have of speaking about it (he supports this argument by demonstrating that the Victorian age’s alleged sexual repression coincided, by no means accidentally, with the emergence of sex as an object of scientific knowledge and an explosion of ways of focusing on sex discursively–the advent, as it were, of something called “sexuality”), I think that there is something interesting about the fact that the moment seems ripe for a series of movies (our visual discourse) about the Victorian age’s scientific treatment sex.
It’s the Marxist in me that wants to figure out what, ideologically speaking, accounts for the desire that constitutes the present market for these films. I mean, why should it be funny (“hysterical”) to frame the vibrator, which we now consider a toy, as the serious medical-technological invention it was in its own day (so serious, the trailor suggests, as to be politically empowering for women)? And why should it be thrilling to frame psychoanalysis, which we now consider a laughably archaic pseudoscience, as the serious method that it was (so serious as to be “dangerous”)?
There’s definitely a Frankenstein quality to each narrative:
lo! / lol! scientific man knoweth not what he hath unleashed! the animal that dwelleth inside himself! the autonomous political agent that dwelleth inside woman!