Hovering at the Dawn of Electricity
Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room, or the vibrator play is, at its heart, about intimacy in an age of technological revolution, “a play hovering at the dawn of electricity,” as her introductory notes say. Its main male character, Dr. Givings, is very much a progressive Man of Science, interested in Everything New. And nothing is much newer, in the 1880s, than electricity.
Although humans have known about electricity in many of its natural forms for millennia (the word comes from the Greek word for amber; the Greeks’ first notice of static electricity was the sparks created by rubbing fur on amber), as Tom McNichol says in AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War, before the nineteenth century, and especially before Edison, Westinghouse and Tesla, “electricity remained branded in mystery, an eccentric, invisible force with powers that seemed to come from another world.”
$5.95 is a great deal for a vibrator!
Since In the Next Room, or the vibrator play is right around the corner, we'll be feeding you some tidbits related to the play!
Despite the titillation factor of the play's subtitle, electric vibrators were less controversial in the late 19th and early 20th century than masturbation -- and even than the speculum and tampon! They were advertised regularly in mass market publications: Rachel Maine, author of The Technology of Orgasm, became interested in the subject when she started noticing ads in needlework magazines of the period (her original focus of research).