Doctors Created Sex Toys After Growing Tired of Masturbating ‘Hysterical’ Women

Categories good vibrator, orgasm, sex toys, vibrator

 

One hundred years ago, the vibrator was invented to relieve doctors, whose fingers were frequently cramped from treating “hysteria” in female patients. Afterwards, it became a popular household appliance to help women get off on their own—and wasn’t considered sex toys until the 1920s.

“The first home appliance to be electrified was the sewing machine in 1889,” writes Rachel Maines in her groundbreaking work, The Technology of Orgasm: “Hysteria,” the Vibrator, and Women’s Satisfaction. According to Maines, the electric good vibrator was the fifth home electronic ever invented. It “preceded the electric vacuum cleaner by some nine years, the electric iron by ten, and the electric frying pan by more than a decade, possibly reflecting consumer priorities.”

So why is our conception of pre-sexual revolution women so vacuum-heavy and vibrator-light? Because to those wacky Victorians, stimulating the clitoris wasn’t masturbating—it wasn’t even sexual. Clitoral stimulation was the palliative cure for a disease.

Women in the Victorian era weren’t supposed to be able to feel sexual desire, so hysteria became a disease completely removed from sex. They even renamed the orgasm: If a woman became flushed and happy from her pelvic massage, she was said to have underwent a “hysterical paroxysm.” According to Maines, doctors surrounded themselves in “the comforting minds that only penetration was sexually stimulating to women. Thus the speculum and the tampon were originally more controversial in medical circles than was the vibrator.”

Ancient Greek physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia called the uterus “an animal within an animal.” He theorized that the womb, if left to its own devices, was prone to going walkabout and strangling the woman from the inside: It needed to be lured back into place with sweet-smelling oils. These oils happened to be applied on and around the clit in a vigorous manner, which likely induced a highly restorative effect for the woman.