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A brief history of vibrators
29 Dec

A brief history of vibrators

Posted By: Kate Sloan Times Read: 46 Comments: 0

Ah, vibrators. Though now as widespread as some kitchen appliances, there was a time when they were just a wild idea – a mere gleam in the eye of English physician Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville, who invented the vibrator in 1883.

Doctors thought for centuries that a wide variety of female woes were caused by a “wandering uterus.”

While Granville and his mechanical misadventures were documented in the charming Hollywood comedy Hysteria, the film barely touched on the dark history of the “illness” for which it is named. Dating all the way back to Hippocrates in ancient Greece, doctors thought for centuries that a wide variety of female woes were caused by a “wandering uterus.” The womb was said to float around inside the body, putting pressure on other organs and causing a wide variety of health problems both mental and physical, from anxiety to fainting to irritability.

Though some earlier periods in history acknowledged women’s sexuality, by the onset of the Victorian era, it was widely believed that women shouldn’t or didn’t experience sexual desire or enjoyment, at least not “good” women. Many of the symptoms ascribed to “hysteria” at that time, however, sound a lot like sexual frustration – so it makes sense that the standard treatment for the so-called illness might have been genital manipulation by a doctor’s hands – or, later, a vibrating device – until the patient reached a “hysterical paroxysm,” i.e. orgasm. (While widely reported as fact, this notion is actually only a hypothesis put forth by Rachel Maines in her book The Technology of Orgasm.)

The legendary Hitachi Magic Wand massager – now known as the Magic Wand Original – was created in 1968

Over the decades after the invention of the first medical vibrator, more and more vibrators were developed for home use, and sold in catalogues alongside dishwashers, shaving supplies and garden tools. The legendary Hitachi Magic Wand massager – now known as the Magic Wand Original – was created in 1968, and was popularized for sexual use by sex educator Betty Dodson in her “Bodysex” group masturbation workshops shortly thereafter. Decades later, the Magic Wand is still a bestseller.

Vibrators entered the public consciousness even more in 1998, when a famous Sex and the City episode showed one character becoming “addicted” to her rabbit vibrator. Modern and innovative at the time, these vibes offer both G-spot stimulation and clitoral stimulation simultaneously. It’s been almost twenty years since that episode aired, but rabbits are still some of the most-requested toys in sex shops because of it.

In subsequent years, vibrator technology has come even further. Some vibes, like the We-Vibe Sync, can be controlled via app whether you’re in the same room as your partner or across the planet from them. Toys like the Satisfyer combine vibration with pulsating air that creates a suction sensation, mimicking the feeling of oral sex. Consumers have more options than ever, whether they want something heavy-duty and rumbly, or small and lightweight. What a world we live in!

What was your first vibrator? What’s your current fave?

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