Good Vibrations: Sex Toys

Posted on 2014.08.24

Vibrators: A History of Personal Pleasure

In the Victorian era women who experienced faintness, irritability, nervousness, or extreme sexual desires, or lack of any at all, may have been diagnosed with hysteria. Doctors would treat their patients with a pelvic massage to cause hysterical paroxysm that would ease their hysteria. Pelvic massage is fancy terminology for masturbation, hysterical paroxysm in layman’s terms means orgasm, and these women with hysteria were probably just frustrated. But in Great Britain at the time, women could be hospitalized for acting “out of the ordinary” and seeing a doctor to get an intimate rub down was a legitimate medical practice.

The vibrator, a device used to stimulate and enhance pleasure, was first invented in France in the mid-1700s. By 1869 a steam-powered vibrator had been invented by Dr. George Taylor, an American physician, whose invention, although awkward to use, was a help to the doctors performing the pelvic massages for their hysteria plagued patients. And in the 1880s, a Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville introduced the electromechanical vibrator. From manual massage and a steam powered device to finally using electricity, the vibrator’s invention and development was primarily for medical purposes, while over the decades its popularity as a sexual device and acceptance into mainstream culture through advertising, television, and movies, has made it a common form of personal pleasure.

Hamilton Beach was the first to patent the electric vibrator for the common consumer in 1902, taking it out of the realm of medical devices and putting it in the homes of regular people. It became the fifth appliance to be outfitted for electric use, following behind the sewing machine, fan, kettle, and toaster. It became popular and ads ran in home-style magazines up until the 1920s when the ads were banned because of their sexual connotation. The sexual revolution of the 1960s saw the return of the vibrator with full force, and by 1968 a cordless electric vibrator was patented, the birth of the modern vibrator still used today.
Now vibrators come in all shapes and sizes. From small clitoral stimulators to dildo shaped devices used for penetration. From ones that can be hooked up to alarm clocks and music players, their transformation follows the development of our own sexual revolution.

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