Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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Tanya Wexler ’92: A movie about vibrators creates a buzz.

“I wanted to make a Merchant-Ivory movie with vibrators,” Tanya Wexler ’92 tells the New York Times. The director is talking about her new film, Hysteria, which opened May 18 in New York and Los Angeles.

Set in Victorian England and starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hysteria tells the reality-based story of male doctors who diagnosed “women’s problems”—sexual dysfunction, depression, anxiety—as “hysteria,” Greek for uterus. The clinical treatment: “pelvic massage,” designed to relieve uterine disturbances via “hysterical paroxysm,” or orgasm. That was hard work, so one Dr. Mortimer Granville patented an electromechanical labor-saving device: a vibrator. (In this country, a patent for the Polar Cub vibrator went to New Haven’s own A. C. Gilbert 1909MD, better known for his Erector Set.)

A psychology major and member of the a cappella group Mixed Company (in which she met her wife, Amy Zimmerman ’94), Wexler calls Hysteria “a thinking woman’s romantic comedy.”

Still, “I wasn’t trying to do a women’s studies class,” she tells the Times. “I just wanted a movie I wanted to go see.”


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