The History of the Vibrator, as a Rom Com

There’s a new film coming out, clearly based on Rachel Maines’s fabulous _The Technology of Orgasm_.

From the time of Hippocrates to the Victorian era, diagnosis and treatment of women’s problematic “hysteria” was a consistent theme in medical literature. It featured in the theories of the Greek physician Galen of Pergamon and of the Renaissance alchemist, Paracelsus, while Avicenna, the Muslim founder of early modern medicine, advised women not to treat themselves for the condition. It was, he wrote, “a man’s job, suitable only for husbands and doctors”. This so-called disorder was diagnosed when women exhibited symptoms such as anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability, nervousness, fluid retention, insomnia and erotic fantasy and it took its name from the Greek word for the womb, hysteros, since it was assumed to be the result of a congested or blocked reproductive system.

The practice of stimulation had been going on in doctors’ consulting rooms since at least 1653, with a midwife sometimes called in to carry out a “pelvic massage”. As far back as the 16th century, unmarried women suffering from attacks of anxiety were told to take “vigorous horseback exercise” or make use of a rocking chair or a swing.

Victorian doctors offered treatments in which female patients would submit to stimulation leading to “hysterical paroxysm”, or what we would call an orgasm. Early machines were designed to help doctors who felt unable to complete the task manually.

3 thoughts on “The History of the Vibrator, as a Rom Com

  1. As my husband says: it’s a problem of public health, every woman should be sent a vibrator home by the government. (He’s Dutch, so he tends to think that the government should solve all problems…)

  2. Have I mentioned yet how much I love the Dutch? If there’s a way to raise government funding for better solo orgasms, I’m sure the Dutch will be on the cutting edge.

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