The Scandal That Could

File this under "Scandals, Unrealized.", a self-described "dream brokerage" that brings community events to Austin, decided that a book called The Technology of Orgasm : "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction (Johns Hopkins University Press, $22 hard) by former Austinite Rachel P. Maines is pretty interesting and deserves more of a publicity "push" than an academic press is typically able to provide, so they recently went about finding venues for Maines to discuss her book, which The New York Times thinks is "stimulating" but also "thorough, original, and surprising." Eileen Keller, president of, initially thought that the LBJ Library on the UT campus would have been a perfect locale for Maines' lecture (the actual location would have been the Thompson Conference Center). "See, I wanted to have it at LBJ because I felt like LBJ stood for civil rights," Keller says. "[The Technology of Orgasm] just reeks civil rights and that is what this is really about. The book is about women's right to orgasm and in Alabama they tried to outlaw the sale of vibrators and [opponents] used this book ... to set a precedent that the medical community had in fact been using vibrators for 100 years to treat women's hysteria. ... We felt that it's a possibility that that same battle could be [happening] in other states and very possibly in Texas." And so when got a message from Tom Hatfield, the dean of continuing education at UT, saying that's request to use the Thompson Center had been denied, their assumption was that it was due to the book's frank discussion of sexual matters. The actual reason, according to Hatfield, is a bit more mundane: He says that "the policy is and has been for a long time ... that an event held in these facilities needs to have an academic sponsor and it needs to be related to a program of the university." Keller had attempted to get the Women's Studies Department to sponsor the event, but department head Lucia Gilbert says that the department can't sponsor an event that charges admission. ( had the idea to charge minimal admission to cover the cost of putting together the event and then host a post-lecture party to benefit the ACLU, which fought the proposed legislation in Alabama and won.) Still, says they thoroughly researched utilizing the conference center and could find no requirement in the application stipulating that a potential event must be linked to an academic department at UT. Given Maines' history with the academy, has ample reason to feel suspicious. Maines tells me that when Clarkson University fired her, administrators told her that "they were afraid the alumni would stop giving money to the school if they found out that there was a professor there who was writing about vibrators, and they also said that I had, and I didn't quite know how to take this, they said I had a very high energy level that wasn't compatible with the rest of the faculty." (Maines will still be coming to town on September 17 and will speak at Mercury Hall; call 476-2548 for more infomation.) ...

If you're a fan of literature that critiques the current state of academia, don't miss this new title: Academic Keywords: A Devil's Dictionary for Higher Education (Routledge, $20 paper) by Cary Nelson and Stephen Watt.

Farewell, Mysteries & More

You have until 5pm on Saturday to say goodbye to Mysteries & More bookstore (11139 N. I-35) and take grocery bags of books out of the store for $5 per bag.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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More Postscripts
The last time we heard about Karla Faye Tucker, she was being executed; now, almost four years later, there's a new novel about her. Or about someone very like her. And Beverly Lowry's classic Crossed Over, a memoir about getting to know Karla Faye Tucker, gets a reissue.

Clay Smith, Jan. 18, 2002

Not one day back from vacation and the growing list of noble souls who need to be congratulated is making Books Editor Clay Smith uneasy.

Clay Smith, Jan. 11, 2002


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