My university recently did a production of the play “In the Next Room (the Vibrator Play)” which my roommate did sound effects for and her boyfriend performed in. Naturally, my friends and I went to support them, but there was also some curiosity as to the subject matter and themes of the play (could anything deep really come out of a play about the vibrator?). Being the blunt person I am, I will not sugar-coat it: the play was largely about sex, sexual tension, and various sexual relationships. But while the play was explicit in some ways, it was by no means worse than anything you find in today’s movies and television shows. I would actually argue that it was better because the sexual aspects weren’t thrown in needlessly; they were a device to discuss the role of women, particularly in the home, motherhood, and sex, in the Victorian era.
The play deals with both the beauties and the difficulties of being a mother. The female lead, Catherine, is struggling with the inability to nurse her infant because her milk is inadequate. She suffers horrible feelings of guilt and inadequacy; because she cannot give the baby the one thing it is looking for, she feels that she is a bad mother. Her feelings are further hurt by the attachment she notices the baby fostering for her wet nurse, Elizabeth. Catherine also wondered why Jesus wasn’t born a woman. She says that it is the mother that is eaten, not the child. Although I do not think that Jesus should have been a woman, I can understand her line of thinking. Jesus gave of himself for all of humankind the way that a mother does for her child. I found this part of the play to accurately depict the way in which a mother strives to care for her child and what I imagine is the pain that a mother feels when she cannot do all that she wishes she could.
As far as female sexuality goes, it definitely brought to light something that I’ve been thinking about lately. I believe in saving myself for marriage. But I’m also terrified of when that time comes. What if I’m not good at it? What if I don’t know how to do it? What if I feel ashamed of myself because even though now I’m “allowed” to have sex, it still feels wrong because I’d denied it for so long? What if I don’t even enjoy it because I’m so worried about all of these things? In watching these Victorian-era women wrestle with the concept of their sexuality onstage, I saw a struggle that still goes on within women today- just on a much smaller scale.
While I think saving yourself for marriage is great, whatever the reasons, I think that young women, in a way, are taught to fear their bodies and their sexuality. I guess I’m just not convinced that one day you’ll be able to flip a switch and have sex and not feel weird about it after keeping your sexuality locked up in a box for so long. When I had a boyfriend, I was terrified of overstepping. How far is too far? Am I supposed to feel that? If I feel something, am I sinning? What is all reserved for my husband? There are just so many questions, and honestly, when I think about any and all future boyfriends that I might have, it stresses me out. Because I want to be holy and true to God, but I also think that part of humanity is relationships- even sexual ones- so how are those two reconciled between themselves?
I honestly don’t have an answer, and as I said, I believe in saving myself for marriage and keeping myself true to God, but there’s got to be a way that young women don’t have to be afraid of their sexuality or feel ashamed of it. Because it’s a part of us and a part of our humanity. And one day when I want to share that part of me with my husband, I don’t want to be ashamed of it.