Did you know that vibrators very much like the ones people today shove up their cunts and assholes were invented by physicians in the 19th century to treat a variety of real and imagined ailments in women? You probably knew, didn’t you? Well, I had no idea.
An enterprising doctor named Kelsey Stinner created the first electrical vibrator in the 1880s to aid in the treatment of what the comically uninformed medical professionals of his time had called “female hysteria,” by which they meant to say, “what would you call it?” In the 1800s pretty much anything about a woman’s behavior that a man found unusual or unattractive that was not accompanied by a hacking cough or bloody vomit was linked to hysteria. The good news for the afflicted woman: the most common treatment for hysteria was to induce orgasm. The bad news for the woman: orgasm was induced by the cold hands of a detached, sexually oblivious doctor who regarded the procedure as tedious and time-consuming rather than anything remotely erotic.
Mechanical vibrators had existed before Stinner, and dildos for thousands of years before that; Stinner’s innovation was the creation of the first electrically powered vibrator. I couldn’t find much on vibrators before electricity, but going on what little I know of other Victorian era mechanical devices, I imagine they were steam-driven and weighed about 80 pounds.
In the early 20th century when electricity became available in homes all over the western world, affordable personal vibrators became available at department stores and through mail order services like the Sears-Roebuck catalog. Vibrators were the fifth household appliances to be electrified; American housewives had electric vibrators ten years before they had electric vacuum cleaners and irons. No one had yet thought of the clever “body massager” euphemism that allows K-Mart to sell vibrators to women, men, and children of all ages; the devices were labeled frankly as “vibrators,” they just declined to mention in the ads the use that 99% of all customers would put the devices to seconds after removing them from the box. Vibrators were openly sold to the masses into the 1920s, when someone noticed them being employed in pornography and polite society reluctantly decided that the jig was up. Vibrators were no longer found on the shelves of Bloomingdale’s or Marshall Field’s, or available to order from the pages of the Sears catalog. But the women of America weren’t giving up that easy — not long after vibrators were banished from the mainstream market, the first home interior party was held.