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It is summer, hot and horny, and I am on a roll. So I am going to continue this theme of beauty, attraction, seduction, sex, love and self-love until I run out of content — or steam, whichever comes first.
These early vibrators looked like excruciating medieval torture devices or something more suitable for use on the kitchen counter or in an automotive garage.
The electric vibrator had its inception in 1869 with the invention of a steam-powered massager, patented by an American doctor. This device was designed as a medical tool for treating “female disorders.” Within 20 years a British doctor followed up with a more portable battery-operated model and by 1900, dozens of styles of electric vibrators were available to the discriminating medical professional.
In 1899, the vibrator was introduced as a home medical appliance. They were electrified ten years before either the washing machine or the vacuum cleaner. They appeared in magazine advertisements by 1904. Good Housekeeping ran a “tried and tested” on vibrators in 1909, claiming they brought a glow to the face. An ad in a 1918 Sears Roebuck catalog of “aids that every woman appreciates” described a $5.95 portable model as “very useful and satisfactory for home service.”
By the 1920s, doctors had abandoned hands-on physical treatments for hysteria in favor of psychotherapeutic techniques. But vibrators continued to have an active commercial life in which they were marketed as cure-alls for ills ranging from headaches and asthma to “fading beauty” and even tuberculosis!
The best sex I have ever had was with my vibrator. – Eva Longoria
The ad copy for these vibrators was coy and ambiguous. “Be a glow getter,” one package insert suggests. And who wouldn’t be tempted to experience “that delicious, thrilling health-restoring sensation called vibration,” when assured that “it makes you fairly tingle with the joy of living”? The vibrator’s usefulness for masturbation was never acknowledged; however, as vibrators began appearing in erotic stag films of the 1920s, it became difficult to ignore their sexual function. Probably as a result, advertisements for vibrators gradually disappeared from respectable publications.
To this day, electric vibrators are marketed solely as massagers and manufacturers steadfastly ignore their sexual benefits. Vibrators are now a big business; they are sold through drug stores, department stores and even the Sears catalog. They are also sold at sex shops where they are proudly promoted as the superior sex toys they are.
Betty Dodson, who is known as the “godmother of the masturbation movement,” recalls how a male lover suggested that they experiment with a barber’s scalp massager. It produced spectacular orgasms that led to a crusade on her part to show women how to use vibrators. Her message was consistent: “Independent orgasm, I guarantee, will lead to independent thoughts.”
A woman with a well-stocked toy drawer isn’t dependent on anyone and is unlikely to hurl herself at a lowlife just for nooky. – Arianne Coheb
Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She is the Midlife Midwife™ offering counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.