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Dr. Catherine Waitinas, an associate professor at California Polytechnic State University, discussed the idea of mesmerism, consent and sex using 19th century texts to equate being in a trance to being under the influence of alcohol or other substances.
Waitinas explained that the dialogue about sex and consent has been around for centuries.
“When we talk about sex and consent; how the questions of consent are rife in our culture have always been there, but in various different [ways],” Waitinas said. In this case, the discussions began with consent before being mesmerized, or put under a trance by another person.
The lines of consent were blurred between the operator, the person who did the mesmerizing or then known as animal magnetism, and the medium, the person who was under the spell of the operator.
Mesmerizing would take place either in social salons, Waitinas said, or in the medium’s home. However, the conversations about consent did not begin until the reaction of becoming equal in magnetism, known as being in a “crisis,” was witnessed.
“It looked an sounded probably a lot like an orgasm,” Waitinas said, which concerned especially the husbands of wives who were going through animal magnetism to treat illnesses such as chronic headaches and even childbirth.
Under a trance state, a person has no control over his or her body, and is therefore left extremely vulnerable, Waitinas said.
“If you can imagine a bunch of fine young ladies of Paris and Vienna gathering together around a mysterious coffee table looking thing and then having something that looks like an orgasm, you can see why these girls run out of Paris and run out of Vienna,” Waitinas said.
She cited various texts that showed the operators lusted after their mediums, and Waitinas explained that the authors essentially had to hold themselves back from raping the women.
“In the home, it becomes more salacious because its much more intimate and the women needed to make sure they had an escort present, because Lord knows what the person mesmerizing them would do to you,” Waitinas said. “You don’t know, first of all hopefully you’ve consented, but who knows what happens afterwards because people didn’t remember what happened when they were in a trance.”
Waitinas drove her point home in stating that being under the influence means that there is no consent to any kind of act.
By Alexa Nash