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.