Hysterical Vibrators.

We only have them because 19th century doctors got tired of giving women hand jobs.

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Courtesy of Dreamstime

The best sex I’ve ever had was with my vibrator.” Eva Longoria

If you believe necessity is the mother of invention, some inventions became necessities long before people realized they were necessities. Such is the case of the vibrator, or what doctors back in Victorian times called a “hand cramp reliever.”

From a historical perspective, the vibrator technically wasn’t created for women. It was created for doctors who were treating sexual frustration in woman, what was known back then as “female hysteria.”

Unlike men who were a rambling, sex-crazed lot, women weren’t supposed to get horny. If they came in the doctor’s office complaining of sleeplessness or erotic fantasies, doctors labeled them “hysterics.” This comes from the Greek word for uterus, which seemed to coincide nicely with the problem women had called “wet between the legs.”

This led to a steady stream of women visiting the doctor’s office for their “paroxysms,” with most leaving unable to do anything except look for a cigarette.

To alleviate this problem, doctors would insert their fingers into the woman’s vagina, producing orgasms. The success rate led to a steady stream of women visiting the doctor’s office for their “paroxysms,” with most leaving unable to do anything except look for a cigarette.

Needless to say, with so many patients requiring stimulation, doctors suffered severe hand cramps. The only solution was to create a mechanical device that could do what a doctor’s hand wasn’t designed to do.

Thus, the vibrator was born, and not a moment too soon according to many medical professionals at the time . They were suffering terrible carpal tunnel syndrome, not to mention dealing with a constant stream of husbands wondering why their wives were smoking.

Early examples of vibrators were basic contraptions, including a steam-run version that was more dangerous than stimulating. By the end of the 19th century, however, with the advent of electricity, the vibrator became a streamlined version capable of sending women into libidinous orbit.

Even horses knew it wasn’t the slightest bit Victorian, and many women got thrown before climax (with some horses requiring remedial courses in doing whatever their owner damn well wanted).

There was still a long way to go. Vibrators were loud, women were still considered “fleshy receptacles for male lust,” and doctors still advised horseback riding. This provided some clitoral stimulation, but horses don’t consider it horseback riding if you’re in the bushes with a woman humping your back like crazy. Even horses knew it wasn’t the slightest bit Victorian, and many women got thrown before climax (with some horses requiring remedial courses in doing whatever their owner damn well wanted).

In any case, with the advent of vibrators, doctor’s hands returned to normal, and women found a way to relieve their horniness with a vibrator — or anything that vibrated — which might include the gas meter.

One enterprising physician, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville, patented the electromechanical vibrator, leading to the modern day vibrator. It caught on in a flash, as they say, producing paroxysms comparable to what shower massages did for women in the 70s.

This led to a new hysteria, with women buying “personal massagers” through mail order like the Sears & Roebuck Catalogue.

Setbacks arose, of course, with women spending more time with “personal massagers” than their husbands. Churches condemned them, pornographers exploited them, and horses wondered why nobody was riding them anymore.

Advertisements for personal massagers virtually disappeared, only to re-emerge again in the early 70s as feminism took hold.

Throw in a couple of wars, a Cuban Missile Crisis, and a Civil Rights Movement, and vibrators took a backseat. Advertisements for personal massagers virtually disappeared, only to re-emerge again in the early 70s as feminism took hold. Women were “doing it for themselves,” finding new ways to pleasure their erogenous zones without involving men — or horses.

Self pleasure reached an all-time high in the late seventies as women exercised their independence with such things as the Water Pik Shower Massage, which sent pulsating jets to the very depths of their pleasure centers (not to mention the ceiling and sometimes even the broadloom).

During a California water crisis in the early 80s, women became “hysterics” again, streaming into psychiatrist’s offices complaining of sleeplessness and erotic fantasies. Seems the dependence on shower massages had reached monumental proportions, leading to one cartoon in Playboy with a man at the bathroom door saying, “That’s not what a Water Pik’s for, you know.”

Around the same time, Hitachi introduced the Magic Wand, still the world’s most popular vibrator. Variations emerged, including the Vibrating Horseshoe available in many colours, including Hot Pink.

These battery-operated little beauties are ergonomically designed to pleasure women in all the right places (which could either mean erogenous zones or restaurants that allow a certain amount of screaming).

No wonder over one third of women own at least one vibrator, many owning several.

In any event, today women can choose from dozens of vibrator models, including tiny travel bullets disguised as lipsticks. No wonder over one third of women own at least one vibrator, many owning several.

More amazing is that vibrators aren’t just for women anymore. Online, there’s what’s known as The Complete Le Wand Pleasure Set, consisting of attachments that let you pleasure your partner, too.

This makes some men “hysterical” just thinking of the invasion about to take place in their nethers. If you’re one of those exploratory types, though, some of these attachments can be a lot of fun.

Whether this can be seen as an advancement or men succumbing to the new “shared intimacy” is anyone’s guess, but it may take time before men are screaming in restaurants, too.

As Germaine Greer once said, “Perhaps women have always been in closer contact with reality than men: it would seem to be the just recompense for being deprived of idealism.”

Anyway, we’ve certainly come a long way from women being “fleshy receptacles for male lust.” As Germaine Greer once said, “Perhaps women have always been in closer contact with reality than men: it would seem to be the just recompense for being deprived of idealism.”

Vibrators have certainly taken women’s idealism to a new level, evidenced by responses on social media forums. By a wide margin, women enjoy vibrators and dildos in terms of timing (meaning any time they bloody well feel like it). On the other side, there’s a limit to what a vibrator can do.

As one woman explained, “You can’t ride a vibrator. It usually isn’t warm and won’t pull your hair or slap your arse…dammit!”

Another said that vibrators are like going to McDonalds, whereas having sex with a guy is like sitting down to dinner. That said, she still conceded, “Depending on the guy, it can be like going through the freakin’ drive-through at McDonalds.”

Vibrators may not be warm, or pull your hair (the steam-powered ones did), but they’re available if you need them, and the fact that so many women do is testament to women’s growing independence.

Whatever the reason for using — or abusing— a vibrator, it’s still a convenience, and God knows conveniences are a big part of everyone’s life these days. Vibrators may not be warm, or pull your hair (the steam-powered ones did), but they’re available if you need them, and the fact that so many women do is testament to women’s growing independence.

As Germaine Greer also said, “You only need a man for certain things, and none of them are necessarily certain.”

The same could be said for horses, but we’re talking about vibrators, and how they came to be, and if it wasn’t for “hand cramps” they might never have been invented.

So necessity is the mother of invention, and we can thank those early physicians for the vibrator, even if it’s led to some frightening attachments which have some men wondering why they’re suddenly hysterical.

That’s an interesting reversal in itself.

Robert Cormack is a satirist, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores. Check out Skyhorse Press or Simon and Schuster for more details.

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I did a poor imitation of Don Draper for 40 years before writing my first novel. I'm currently in the final stages of a children's book. Lucky me.

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