Gyllenhaal awash in vibrators after filming 'Hysteria'

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The Toronto film festival was abuzz Thursday with talk of vibrators after the premiere of "Hysteria," starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, about the invention of the device.

Director Tanya Wexler's romantic comedy chronicles the true story of how two London doctors played by Hugh Dancy and Jonathan Pryce came to invent the first electric vibrator as they treated women said to be suffering from hysteria in the 1880s with the help of a pal fascinated by gadgets (Rupert Everett).

Physically exhausted by treating the women with pelvic massages, they invented a motorized device using the prototype for a spinning feather duster to quicken the climax.

The result also inadvertently contributed to women's sexual independence.

"The majority of women (in the cast and crew) during filming had their own little story about" vibrators, Wexler told a press conference. "It was odd that all of them said they were shy their first time."

Once sold as a medical device or home appliance at Sears and through magazines such as Good Housekeeping, it would evolve into a "sex toy" with names such as the "Hitachi Magic Wand" or the "Rabbit" sold in adult sex shops.

"Now it's just more mainstream," said Wexler. "Still, making fun about the vibrator is much more subversive than porn on the Internet."

During filming, Wexler said she gave everybody on set a vibrator. But getting them there caused a bit of embarrassment for a security guard at a Heathrow airport luggage checkpoint.

"The officer said, 'You have 20 or 30 small electronic devices in your luggage,' and I said, 'Yes, they're vibrators,' and the guy just said, 'Move along,'" she recalled.

Gyllenhaal said she was awash with gift vibrators from friends by the end of filming.

Dancy noted that what drew the most laughs in the film was "the fact that medical men (in 1880) were seriously... diagnosing a non-existing disease (hysteria) and doing what they were doing very casually and totally failing to see anything sexual in it."

"It's astonishing," he added.

The film recalled that doctors continued to diagnose women with hysteria or unmanageable emotional excess until 1952, when the disorder was dropped from medical texts.