Movies speak mainly to the eyes. Though they started talking in words some seventy years ago, what they say to our ears seldom overpowers or even matches the impact of what they show us. This essay proposes to read one more time the issue of homosexuality in Mary Shelley‘s first novel, Frankenstein. In order to offer a new angle on the homosexual component of Victor Frankenstein‘s relationship with his creature when next teaching this most canonical Romantic novel, this essay considers Shelley‘s work alongside four film adaptations: James Whale‘s 1931 Frankenstein, Whale‘s 1935 The Bride of Frankenstein, Richard O’Briens 1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Kenneth Branagh‘s 1994 Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein. These films present their audience with original readings of their source material, readings that can be questioned with regards to their lack of truthfulness to the original works themes and characters.
This book provides a reading of both fictional and medical writings concerned with auto-erotic sexuality in the long nineteenth century. It examines the discourse on masturbation in medical works by influential English, Continental and American practitioners such as J. H. Kellogg, E. B. Foote, Havelock Ellis, Krafft-Ebing and R. V. Pierce, as well as a number of anonymously authored texts popular in the period. The book demonstrates the influence and impact of these writings, not only on the underworld literatures of Victorian pornography but also in the creation of well-known characters by authors now regarded as canonical including Dean Farrar, J. S. Le Fanu, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker. It is not merely a consideration of the male masturbator however: it presents a study of the largely overlooked literature on female masturbation in both clinical and popular medical works aimed at the female reader, as well as in fiction. The book concludes with a consideration of the way the distinctly Victorian discourse on masturbation has persisted into the late-twentieth and twenty-first centuries with particular reference to Willy Russell's tragic-comic novel, The Wrong Boy (2000) and to the construction of ‘Victorian Dad’, a character featured in the adult comic, Viz.
In her 1991 book Women On Top , the best-selling American author Nancy Friday expounds on the benefits to women of masturbation, describing it as ‘a sweet sedative before sleep, a beauty treatment that leaves us glowing, our countenance more tranquil, our smile more mysterious’. 1 The advantageous aspects of ‘selfloving’ for the twentieth-century woman are elsewhere promoted by feminist sexologist Betty Dodson who declares ‘masturbation is our first natural sexual activity. It’s the way we discover our eroticism … the way we learn to
-century manuals had to say on the topic of ‘onanism’, a favoured euphemism for masturbation, Rusbridger asserts ‘If a hundredth of the diseases it was said to cause were really linked with the act the entire Western world would long ago have been wholly populated by blind, impotent, bald, dwarf, epileptic cowards’. 1 Rusbridger’s comedic assessment of these publications may be interpreted as an endorsement of Foucault’s vision of the perceiving post-Victorian society as ‘“We Other Victorians”’. 2 It reflects the mocking disregard of the views of one society by another which
… my father said it was the most fatal curse which could ever become rife in a public school.’ 2 Although, in Eric , the exact nature of ‘It’ is never explicitly identified, given the evidence of the headmaster’s sermon, there are ample grounds to suggest that the ‘evil’ which Dr Rowlands (Eric’s headmaster) railed against was masturbation. The practice of ‘ secret sin ’ was notably condemned in the later work of J.A. Conwell as ‘the greatest curse of blossoming manhood’. 3 Indeed, in his 1897 article, ‘Immorality Among Schoolboys’, M.C. Hime advocates that pupils
The discourse on masturbation, in terms of its cultural implications at least, does not conclude with the Victorian era. Indeed, it persists to the present, in a popular, albeit frequently comedic, form independent of any sustaining contemporary medical support. This much might be gleaned from Philip Roth’s 1969 novel, Portnoy’s Complaint , in which the narrator frantically masturbates himself into a sense of guilt utilising, among other things, his sister’s ‘cotton panties’, a cored apple and a ‘piece of liver’ which he ‘violated
treated as a conventional ailment. 5 ‘Carmilla’, though, fictionalises the symptomatology of what may be a disease – consumption, phthisis or tuberculosis – as an indicator of vampirism, to be diagnosed and cured through an ‘occult’ rather than clinical discourse.
The vampire, the consumptive and the masturbator are all distinguished by their pallor, making the facial complexion a signifier available to sexual, pornographic, medical and pseudomedical discourses. The face was viewed as an important diagnostic aid in clinical practice. In his
Onanism and obsessive behaviour in Our Mutual Friend
filter of nineteenth-century medico-sexual writing, the schoolmaster’s ‘secret past’ and ‘guilty secrets’ are manifested in and narrated through the imagery and discourse of the so-called ‘secret vice’ of masturbation or onanism. In an evocation of the Biblical allusion used earlier by Alfred Hitchcock (see Chapter 3 ), masturbation was described as a ‘Moloch’ by the British physician James Copland in the 1850s. 1 The condition is particularly significant in as much as it provides an important point at which medical discourse meets with religious discourse in
about masculinity and non-reproductive sexualities, focusing particularly on the medico-sexual discourses of masturbation, degeneration and sexual inversion/perversion. When viewed through the filter of these medical discourses, the characters of Teleny and Des Grieux appear to conform to the models of sexual inversion/perversion presented in the case studies of nineteenth-century continental practitioners such as Krueg and Krafft-Ebing rather than to function solely as propagandistically ‘homosexual’ figures. Recalling ‘Westphal’s famous article of 1870 on “contrary
indistinguishable from the use of condoms or the pill – a
‘contraceptive mentality’ was seen to remain. (Add note ‘June,
interviewed 20/ 02/ 2013’). The most commonly used tactic for coping
with periods of abstinence was masturbation. The vast majority of the
interviewees spoke of participating in mutual masturbation, where one
partner manually stimulated the other, while around half also spoke of