People can develop a fetish for just about anything. And making an unpleasant experience into a pleasant one by fetishising some aspect of it is hardly unheard of. It’s one of many theories behind why some people enjoy getting spanked or caned, for example. And I personally know a urine fetishist who spent a rough year in a hospital during his adolescence, recovering from a traumatic injury that left him unable to handle his bodily functions without a lot of hands-on nursing care. (He’s also fond of nurse outfits and rubbery medical stuff of all kinds. Correlation does not indicate causation, but sometimes it’s a clue, right?)
Something I have not encountered (which is not to say she isn’t out there somewhere) is a woman who professes any sexual fondness for medical speculums. Most women report finding them unpleasant, for reasons that seem obvious enough. But in this long article on the history and design of the speculum, I noticed with interest the following account:
In 1850, the Royal Medicine and Chirurgical Society of London held a standing-room-only meeting in which the community heard arguments for and against the speculum. These doctors worried that women would mistake the exam for a sexual experience. The British physician Robert Brudenell Carter reinforced this fear in his 1853 book, On the Pathology and Treatment of Hysteria, writing that he had “seen young unmarried women, of the middle class of society, reduced by constant use of the speculum to the mental and moral condition of prostitutes; seeking to give themselves the same indulgence by the practice of solitary vice; and asking every medical practitioner … to institute an examination of the sexual organs.”
You can parse that as the empty blatherings of a moral panic about female sexuality, but what if we parse it instead as an honest report of observations of fetish behavior, a report that is almost buried in and obscured by the moral panic of the nonetheless attempting-to-report-his-observations doctor? To put it in modern terms, is Dr. Carter telling us that in his practice he encountered young single women who had fetishised their encounters with speculums, who were now sexually excited by speculums, who masturbated to memories of their experiences of being examined with a speculum, and who sought to recreate that fetishised experience at their next medical visit?
It ought not be a surprise, if that’s indeed what Dr. Carter encountered. And if it happened in the early 1800s, surely it still happens today?
Being a typical male-type pig-dog, I have always thoughtlessly assumed that the specula sold as sex toys were mostly about the pleasures of doing: looking, poking, prodding, playing doctor, inflicting (with sadistic intent, of whatever perhaps-mild degree). A woman’s pleasure in these scenarios I might have imagined to be reciprocal: pleasure at being the object of voyeurism, the enjoyment of any good roleplay that excites and inflames your partner, the masochistic pleasures (in whatever degree) of having been inflicted upon. I had never considered the possibility that the speculum itself — or the act of being examined by a speculum-wielder — might have fetishistic power in its own right.
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