Vibrator invented in 19th century (thanks!)

Did you know that female hysteria was a once-common medical diagnosis?

Hysteria (noun) is defined as the uncontrollable outburst of emotion or fear. At the end of the 19th century, women with the following symptoms: nervousness, insomnia, depression, muscle spasms, and sexual frustrations, were categorized as suffering from hysteria.

The long list of symptoms associated with hysteria meant that any ailment could fit the criteria. Translation: if a woman is anything other than docile, obedient and proper, she suffers hysteria.

The cure for these women was vaginal massage, or “pelvic massage.”

Women suffering from hysteria (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Women suffering from hysteria (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

The problem with the treatment, although profitable, was that physicians may be required to spend over hours performing vaginal massage before their patients reached “hysterical paroxysm” (aka orgasm). It was a tedious task!

The solution?

In 1870s, electro-mechanical vibrator was invented and implemented for treatment. By the 20th century, portable home-use massagers were sold as women’s health-aids in magazines and mail-order catalogues.

Portable Vibrator, as advertised (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Portable Vibrator, as advertised (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Thankfully the medical diagnosis of hysteria officially ended in 1952; women may embrace the joy of being loud, volatile, mercurial and even argumentative without the fear of being deemed ‘hysterical.’ (Did you know that in extreme cases of ‘hysteria,’ women could be institutionalized?)

On a more cheerful note, the electric vibrator, now battery operated, remains the most popular sex toy in the world. All thanks to, well, hysteria. 

Now battery operated, the electric vibrator remains the single most popular sex toy in the world

TO-Watch: Hystera (2011; Official Selection for both Toronto and Tribeca Film Festival) 

2 thoughts on “Vibrator invented in 19th century (thanks!)

  1. Maurice Chon

    My first thought was…oh! interesting.

    The history of the vibrator is a good indicator of how the Western world has evolved from a patriarchal society that once undermined the value of women. Given that the official diagnosis of hysteria was only abolished 60 years ago (during the Civil Rights Movement) the West has come a long way in implementing gender equity, however, because of the sudden paradigm shift in the treatment of women, it has also led to another institutionalization of women steeped in our understanding of sex and beauty and there is no greater culprit and prescription than media’s portrayal of women.

    On a much lighter note, at least now husbands don’t have to spend hours trying to …you know what. =P Although it does beckon the question, the men back then were probably only fixated on receiving pleasure and the least bit interested in reciprocating it.

    Reply
    1. Sherry Post author

      Looking on the bright side, with the invention of this little piece of machinery, both men and women are happy and satisfied!

      Reply

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