The History Of the Vibrator

by Rabbit White on October 1, 2009

The vibrator has the interesting past you may expect!

The vibrator has the interesting past that you may expect!

The Vibrator: it was invented because, ironically, masturbation was seen as wrong. Yet it has now become the most popular sex toy the world over, synonymous with masturbation. In my last post, I helped you find what vibrator is right for your first time. Staying on vibrator-theme, let’s take a history lesson on a lady’s best bet for pleasure, the vibrator.

  • You may know that vibrators were used by doctors in Victorian times to treat women with “hysteria.” This was somehow not thought of as sexual. At the time, it was thought that sexual pleasure for a woman came solely through intercourse, the introduction of an inner vaginal device for gynecological care was more shocking than this “massage therapy.”
  • But these “massages” were time consuming and tedious, masturbation was a huge taboo at the time for both men and women and was also seen as mentally and physically dangerous. So telling the patient to treat herself was out of the question–also these women came in week and week out for treatment, entrepreneurial doctors realized there was money to be made, and they began experimenting.
  • Some doctors and spas began offering hydro-therapy, which meant shooting water directly at the genital region. This method was effective, claiming to do the job in under four minutes. It even became quite fashionable in the 19th century. For at home treatments, doctors did suggest rickety trains, horse riding and rocking chairs.
  • In the 1880’s the first vibrator was invented. It was a table cut out with a space for the woman’s pelvis with a steam engine-powered vibrator, made to be a fixture in doctor’s offices.
  • Around the turn of the century vibrators became electrified and hand held, available for home-use. It was the fifth home appliance to be electrified, before the iron, washing machine or vacuum cleaner. They became extremely popular and were widely advertised in womens magazines, promising health, beauty and a special glow.
  • Popular, that is until they also became infamous in stag films. This early porn showed women using vibrators for sexual pleasure and as a direct result, the at-home vibrator fell out of vogue for nearly 50 years. However, it seems many were still bought on the sly as magazines continued to advertise vibrators in their back pages, often marketing them as neck massagers, vibrating hairbrushes, back scratchers, even as vacuum cleaner attachments.
  • Thanks to the second wave feminism of the 70’s vibrators began to flourish underground, known for the first time as the sex toy that they are. Betty Dodson’s book Sex for One is the epidemy of this pro-sex, pro-woman movement.
  • Since the 90’s vibrators have become mainstream. Thanks to visible high end sex stores, the ultra pro-sex approach of third wave feminism and vibrators popping up in pop culture and the media, (something good from Sex and The City.) Now that vibrators are no longer quite as hidden, more and more work is being done in the industry to perfect the popular toy. Which is a win for us all.

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