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A nasty history of the vaginal speculum

No medical instrument, apart from maybe the dentist’s drill, incites more anxiety than the speculum, a medical instrument used to investigate body orifices. The vaginal speculum in particular confers on its bearer the right to access and control the female body in the most intimate way. Add that to the complex morality around sex, race and virginity, and the history of the speculum becomes very nasty indeed.

Words by Lalita Kaplish

  • In pictures

About the author

Black and white headshot of Lalita Kaplish, digital editor.

Lalita Kaplish


Lalita is a digital content editor at Wellcome Collection with particular interests in the history of science and medicine and discovering hidden stories in our collections.