Odd Obsessions – Vintage Vibrators

You guys asked for more personal posts, so we’re about to get real personal. Today’s Odd Obsession is about vintage vibrators. You read that right — “pelvic massage” gadgets from the 1880s and 1920s. I’m currently taking a Women’s Sexuality course this semester, and I have to say it’s been one of the most enlightening and intriguing classes I’ve taken my entire college career. The last two weeks we’ve spent discussing the female orgasm and recently delved into the fascinating history of the vibrator.

These crazy contraptions were invented to ease 19th-century women afflicted with “hysteria.” Hysteria was essentially a made-up medical condition in the 1800s to describe any and all symptoms stemming from women’s sexual dissatisfaction. Doctors “treated” women of their hysteria by, plain and simple, facilitating a “massage treatment” that stimulated them to orgasm. One of the first vibrators was this horrific egg-beater-like device that was manually controlled by turning a handle round and round. Mechanical vibrators were then ushered in with technological advancements in steam power and later the invention of electricity. Household companies like Sears and General Electric distributed home motors with vibrator attachments, and ads for such gadgets were freely marketed in everyday magazines. Only until these items starting appearing in stag films and erotic photographs did a sexual stigma develop and doctors and society began deserting them in fear of being associated with something overtly pornographic. A sad day for women indeed.

Anyways, hope you guys got as many kicks and giggles out of these as I did. Not only are the devices amazing, but check out that old school packaging design! If you’re curious about learning more, definitely check out the documentary Passion and Power: The Technology of Orgasm.

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11 comments on “Odd Obsessions – Vintage Vibrators

  1. I have to admit, I find this stuff fascinating as well! I highly suggest you check out Mary Roach’s book, “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex” and “Sex at Dawn” by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha. The backwards way that sexuality (especially for women) was viewed is both horrifying and hilarious.

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    • Mary Roach’s book was brought up in our class discussion about sex research as well. I’d definitely be interested to read it myself though!

      The scary part is that people think this craziness is behind us, but there’s still a lot of weirdness revolving around women’s sexuality today. For instance, in Texas, it was illegal to sell vibrators and you couldn’t be in possession of more than 5. One of the women in that Passion and Power documentary was actually arrested for selling a vibrator to some undercover cops who showed up at one of her passion parties (the Tupperware parties of sex toys). This law wasn’t repealed until 2008. :/

  2. That’s amazing! I love history and the fact that people keep/remember things – can you imagine if no one ever did that and we lost everything? Life would suck. That second one reminds me of a fishing rod.. how attractive, I think they’d probably be repulsed if they saw a rabbit nowadays!! xx

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