Vibrators came about in the 1800s when a British physician got fed up of having cramped and sore hand muscles at the end of a hard days work. Therapeutic massage or valvular massage first began around 500 B.C as a way of ridding women of mysterious illnesses. During the 19th century is was taken up as a treatment for the commonly diagnosed hysteria. Hysteria is a medical diagnosis that is no longer recognised by modern medical authorities. The symptoms of the dreaded hysteria included faintness, nervousness, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in the abdomen, muscle spasms, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, erotic fantasies, tendency to cause trouble and the best one yet, moisture inside the vagina. Treatment for hysteria was to bring the woman to “paroxysm” or as we know it today, orgasm.
Unfortunately up until the 20th century women were believed to be incapable of sexual desire and pleasure. The ‘ideal’ woman would only engage in sex to reproduce, as it was thought serve no other purpose for her. And as I’m sure you can all imagine that left the ladies with more than a touch of sexual frustration or should we say hysteria. Relief through paroxysm was never thought to be an orgasm as women were not capable of sexual feelings, let alone the possibility to reach sexual climax.
Treatment proved to be very profitable as these hysteric women needed (and/ or wanted) this treatment regularly, but it could take hours to reach paroxysm/orgasm and doing so by hand was tedious exhausting work. The technique of vaginal massage or pelvic massage, stimulation of the G-Spot, was also very hard for the physicians to master.
Necessity being the mother of all invention, entrepreneurial physicians began giving their hands a rest and mechanizing the process. Many different designs came about including Hydrotherapy, quite simply shooting water at the woman’s genitals. It worked, but was extremely messy and expensive.
In the 1880’s a British physician invented the first electric vibrator, a cumbersome device that was a permanent fixture in a physicians office. This was a huge breakthrough as it allowed women to reach paroxysm in less than ten minutes and the dear doctors hands were overworked no more.
When electricity became available for home use in the late 19th century everything became some much easier in many ways. Women became avid consumers of electrical appliances. First was the sewing machine, then the fan, the tea kettle, the toaster and would you believe it, the vibrator. Yes, that’s right, the humble vibrator beat the electric vacuum, iron and frying pan into our homes, by at least 10 years.
The electric vibrator was an instant hit. They produced paroxysm quickly, reliably, as often as you could possibly want and without having to leave your home. Woman’s magazines widely advertised these vibrators with claims such as “Relieves all suffering” and “Cures Disease”. These machines were so popular that by 1917 there were more vibrators than toasters in American homes. However in the 1920’s vibrators began to appear in erotic films and photography which made “respectable” women abandon their much loved vibrators.
The ads disappeared from major women’s publications until the 1950’s when they came back as “massagers” rather than vibrators. They were not only disguised in their names but also in what shapes and forms they took on; hairbrushes, back scratchers and even some that were designed to fit onto your vacuum. They stayed advertised like this until the 1970’s when pioneers like Betty Dodson helped us realise what we were capable of. She introduced us to the Hitatchi Magic Wand (one of the best “massages” around), got us masturbating again and gave us our orgasm rather than the ‘medical’ paroxysm.
Today any self respecting women owns or will own one of these magnificent devices and sees it as being in charge of her own sexuality rather than having to wait for anyone to deliver it to her.
As a woman I have found some of this information upsetting as so many women before us went through life not knowing what absolute pleasure they were allowed to have through sex, be it by themselves or with a partner. So come on girls, lets do it for everyone that has missed out….. Oh… and we should thank our doctors dear overused digits.