Invented in the 1800s to cure women of “hysteria”, the history of the vibrator is a weird and wonderful one, and if you were to have suggested to the original inventors that they were creating a device that would give millions of women sexual pleasure, they would have thought you absurd.

In the nineteenth century, overwhelmed by the steady stream of women needing to be cured of “hysteria” by method of handjobs, doctors began inventing the vibrator to save time and spare their fatigued hands. “Hysteria” – from the Greek for uterus – covered a range of women’s ailments that doctors could not diagnose, but commonly the cause was sexual frustration. As the concept of women even having sexual pleasure or desires was not accepted in Europe and America until the 20th century, it is of little surprise women were sexually frustrated, prone to “symptoms” such as irritability, erotic fantasies and wetness between the legs.

The most effective treatment developed required doctors or midwives to use their fingers to “massage” the woman’s genitals, which would cause orgasms. The hysteria symptoms would suddenly be relieved. Doctors named these climaxes “paroxysms”, as clearly without sexual feelings a woman could not experience orgasm…

This socially acceptable new practice proved – unsurprisingly – wildly popular, and soon the poor doctors’ cramped hands needed assistance. After some odd and downright dangerous attempts at mechanised “massagers”, an English physician called Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville patented the electromechanical vibrator in 1800. When, in 1902, and American company called Hamilton Beach started selling electrical vibrators for consumer retail sale, it became only the fifth domestic appliance to be electrified; over a decade before the invention of the vacuum cleaner and the electric iron, the vibrator was preceded only by the electrical fan, tea kettle, toaster and sewing machine.

No longer disguised as “personal massagers”, vibrators have fought their way through decades of being socially unacceptable (pornography films soon followed the invention of film in 1890 and stripped away any pretence of ignorance) to being revived by the emerging feminist movement, and are now a firm favourite with women and men everywhere.

So there you have it, appreciate your vibrator and the journey it has taken to get to you, and make sure you always clean it thoroughly after each use in each new partner or with each new orifice; otherwise there is the risk of STIs being spread from it. Respect each and every aspect of your sex life and most importantly, have fun!

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