Victorians found better living through mechanical engineering with the introduction of the vibrator. Physicians used Joseph Mortimer Granville’s percusser, aka Granville’s Hammer, to treat female hysteria via paroxysm. In other words, women got vibrated to orgasm. Steampunk and DIY culture continues to explore the potential in literature, song and other hands-on experiences.
Our own Liz Mason reviewed Carnal Machines: Steampunk Erotica (Cleis Press, 2011). She found, “There are a few moments where some of the stories feel like McDonald’s Drive Through Steampunk Porn. That is to say, some of the pieces have a tang of erotica with steampunk machines and images name-checked in it. Make a list of steampunk things: goggles, a dirigible, gears, experiments, British accents and so on. Now open this book to any random page. You will probably find something on that list mentioned.”
Jess Fink’s erotic web comic Chester 5000 wordlessly chronicles how an busy inventor created a robotic tool to help his wife while he was engaged in experimentation. Top Shelf published the graphic novel.
Musical storytellers The Absinthe Minded Professors adapted Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as “Pride & Maintenance.” Jane Automatic advanced her social standing through careful use of a porcelain and brass mechanical dancing instructor, equipped with “a good stiff shaft of cherry wood, sanded to perfection, with a polished brass knob on the end, inscribed on the side were the words, ‘For the education and better breeding of young ladies.’”
The Dresden Dolls’ “Coin Operated Boy” needs no explanation.
Not steampunk, but definitely capturing an aspect of maker culture is Timothy Archibald’s Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews (Daniel 13/Process, 2005). The book explores the ingenuity (or maybe engine-uity) of how pasta makers and kitchen mixers can be tinkered into sex toys. Some of the items seem less like toys and more like industrial pistons.
Sex educator, Showtime host and friend to Chicago Steampunks, Sunny Megatron found controversy at Northwestern University with her fucksaw. The adapted reciprocating saw was used at the end of an optional demonstration for a human sexuality course. Students were forewarned and were free to choose to leave, but news of the event made it to CNN. Sunny covered the details at http://www.sunnymegatron.com/fucksaw-at-northwestern-university-the-real-story/.
The thrust of these technological developments seems to be in erecting a testimony to resourcefulness. It puts the “doing it” in “doing it yourself.”