| Vibrators: A brief history of women's
Along with the light bulb, the advent of electricity in the late 1800's brought about so many new inventions formulated on the fertile soil of creative imaginations. This flood of ingenious devices ushered in new ideas for conveniences from every profession, including doctors, who concocted all sorts of electrically driven machines and gadgets. One such gadget continues to evolve over one hundred years later. It is the vibrator.
The concept, accidentally created like many “brilliant” inventions, was for a mechanized massage apparatus to stimulate the scalp, thus inducing hair growth for balding men. Of course, being of the Victorian era, it was rather ironic how quickly this device was augmented for use as a medical instrument, treating women of the day for their various symptoms and illnesses.
As most medical doctors believed at the time, a woman’s reproductive system was the root cause of a condition they named, "hysteria". Symptoms of the medically deemed, “hysterical paroxysms” included almost every natural anatomical reaction of the female human body, including, but not limited to, nervousness, fainting spells (strangely, the learned doctors never thought to blame this particular symptom on tightly laced corsets that were worn for 8-10 hours a day), insomnia, abdominal pains (usually these were just the standard menstrual cycle cramps or again, maybe the tight corsets?), excessive vaginal secretions, insufficient vaginal secretions, and so on and so on. The common thought was that the build up of unreleased “female semen” during orgasms would decay and grow toxic in the bloodstream. The prescription written for married women for this “hysteria” was to release the “female semen” by having more sex with her husband.
the prescription for the unmarried women, widows and “spinsters” was
the doctor who performed a clinical massage of the clitoris by hand to
the “female semen”. Obviously, this was an embarrassing and
often tiresome task, until the electric
came along. Soon, every well equipped gynecological office and woman’s
had electric powered vibrating devices designed exclusively for
female genitals. Once the word was out about this great new,
assisted “cure”, the ladies lined up for their monthly
early 1900’s a battery powered vibrator was invented, and the rest, as
say, is history! More
and more physicians developed contraptions intended to serve
as vibrators. Articles and textbooks on vibratory massage technique
machine's versatility for treating nearly all diseases in both sexes
physicians time and labor (achieving an orgasm by “hand” often took the
an hour, whereas with the vibrator it was only 10 minutes!).
1920's "Home Version" Electric Vibrator
[note: still called a "vibrator" at this point, not "massager"]
Then, with the development of "home versions" (originally designed by physicians for “house calls”) of the vibrators, advertisements began to appear in magazines like Needlecraft, Woman's Home Companion, Modern Priscilla and in the Sears & Roebuck catalog, with tag lines like: "...all the pleasures of youth will throb within you!"But by the late 1920’s, advertising of vibrators for personal use ceased thanks, in part, to their new use as a “prop” in the new burgeoning realm of stag films. By this time, physicians (and their patients’ husbands) finally realized that a forced orgasm was not a "cure all", so the vibrator's era as a medical appliance waned into the decades of hidden and secretive personal erotic vibrator usage. For nearly forty years thereafter, electric vibrators thrived “under cover” as massage tools or physical therapy devices.
Then, in the early 60's, it re-emerged as a sex-aid toy sold in Adult Toy Shops as a “novelty” item. For the last thirty to forty years, since then, the vibrator has evolved and grown to mind boggling variations, from its earlier, poorer quality battery operated hand held phallic designs to the current day sophisticated remote control devices with multiple attachments.
In 2010, vibrators are now considered mainstream, discussed, demonstrated and advertised freely in the media. It seems like there isn’t a television series that hasn’t at least mentioned the name of vibrators, like the “Rabbit” or the “Magic Wand”. Virginia Slims Cigarettes’ 1968 ad campaign stated, “We’ve come a long way, Baby!” and now, over forty years later, that statement holds truth for the vibrator (in more ways than one!).
In several regions of the African nation of Cameroon, parents try to keep maturing daughters off the market by "ironing" their breasts (pressing them with heated stones and leaves to make them flatter and the girls thus less desirable for sex). The practice reached world media (and News of the Weird) in 2006 as part of a condemnation campaign by the United Nations, but apparently it continues unabated, according to new videos circulated this year and described in The Washington Post in March. According to that writer, who interviewed numerous health officials in Cameroon, the practice apparently has little effect, in that the teenage pregnancy rate remains very high. [Washington Post, 3-4-10]