This is the story of one simple invention, the vibrator, and its relationship to one complex human behavior, the female orgasm. The history of the vibrator and its medical use had virtually vanished until historian, Rachel Maines, researching needlework patterns in early 20th century women's magazines, ran across ads for electric vibrators. Piquing her curiosity, she traced the origins of this early electrified appliance and made an astonishing discovery.
Under the guise of a medical treatment, Victorian doctors had used vibrators to relieve women of symptoms of hysteria by masturbating them to orgasm. Why did women need this treatment? Female sexual satisfaction was, and continues to be, misunderstood or, worse, ignored. Almost 70% of women do not reach orgasm by penetration alone. Yet, the social, legal and religious definition of "real" sex is just that: penetration of the vagina to male orgasm. Female orgasm isn't even considered. Is it any wonder that a lot of women were unsatisfied? Their dissatisfaction was labeled "hysteria." Symptoms of hysteria were vague - being cranky, reading French novels while wearing tight corsets, etc. It was a disease manufactured by doctors creating a lucrative clientele and a mutually camouflaged procedure that satisfied both.
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