Essay on Benefits of Medical Language

Submitted By MikaelaONeill1
Words: 1250
Pages: 5

Benefits of Medical Language Sarah Ruhl’s “In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play” offers unique insight regarding the discussion of female sexuality and the concept of Hysteria. During the late 19th century, women were often taught to never speak about their own sexual experiences, and were taught to view any sexual acts (other than those aimed at procreation) as inherently wrong. Hysteria was often diagnosed as proof of the fears regarding female sexuality. In “In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play” the female characters and Dr. Givings use medical language to converse openly about sexual acts with connotations appropriate for the time and setting of the play that would have been considered taboo otherwise, therefore highlighting the absurdity and ignorance surrounding female sexuality. Through stigmas engrained in society by diagnoses such as Hysteria, medical language was a single outlet for the women in the play to discover their own sexual identity. A new sexual identity emerges throughout the play, specifically in Dr. Givings’ patients, when discussion of their own sexuality moved outside the doctor’s office and into their personal conversations. When speaking to Mrs. Givings about her experience with the vibrator, Mrs. Daldry explains her sensation of an orgasm as “… you see unaccountable patterns of light, of electricity, under your eyelids – and your heart races – and your legs feel very weak, as though you cannot walk” (Ruhl 114). The language Mrs. Daldry uses is the same language she would have used had she been explaining the sensation to a doctor. “Unaccountable patterns of light” suggests that the feeling blinded her or affected her vision. This could be interpreted as a symptom rather than an overwhelming sensation from an orgasm. She repeats the word “electricity” that Dr. Givings previously used to describe how the vibrator moves. By repeating a word she heard from the doctor, Mrs. Daldry is emphasizing that the language she is using is appropriate because it was considered appropriate and professional in the setting of a doctor’s office. She then continues to examine that her heart races which is a concern one would raise with their doctor if it happens unnaturally. She is not recognizing the fact that her heart is racing from excitement because that would change the context of which she was trying to explain this new feeling and therefore makes it inappropriate. She ends her statement by saying she feels weak and as if she cannot walk by the end of her treatment. By expressing these new sensations with other women, she is forming a new sexual identity by recognizing the effects of stimulation on her body and relating those feelings to other women.
The characters not understanding that they have experienced an orgasm themselves shows the ignorance within the context and characters of the play. All of these references to Mrs. Daldry’s body and how she felt during the examination highlight an intense orgasm, and the audience is aware of that. The fact that a female orgasm was so novel that the women in the play didn’t even have a word to describe the sensation they experienced reiterates the lack of knowledge surrounding female sexuality at the time of the play. Mrs. Daldry could only explain her orgasm in medical terms because she didn’t know any other way of explaining it. By making her words appropriate for polite conversation, she was opening the discussion of her sexuality and inspiring others to do the same.
Dr. Givings felt the need to keep his words polite and professional with his own wife when first using the vibrator to experiment with her because his idea of a female orgasm was not fully understood and he worried her natural reactions were perverse. He stated his concerns saying, “This is what I feared. In a sick woman the device restores balance, but in a healthy woman it makes you excitable and perhaps even causes some perverse kind of onanism” (Ruhl 95). Mrs. Givings discovering