Vibrators and the Victorians

Vibrators and the Victorians

(Doesn’t that sound like a good book title…I’m so tempted honestly.)


So, I was reading up on something the other day, and before I knew it I was researching dozens of articles on it, since I really doubt I’ll be using it in a book I thought I might as well share with you here.  This post isn’t really kinky and is more informative than especially naughty.

Before the 20th century men in America and certain parts of Europe didn’t believe women actually enjoyed sex or experienced sexual pleasure (hahaha!). Women were just supposed to endure sex for the joy of popping out babies and to please their husbands. Since it was basically a license to be selfish and use the women like receptacles this was probably popular with some men and it’s not like women had many options then.

And women were trained to believe this too (Close your eyes and think about England, dear. It will be over soon. Once you have a baby in your arms it will all be worth it.) so they weren’t expecting anything better. Needless to say, this led to some frustrated women, who didn’t know why they were frustrated. One diagnosis for this was ‘Hysteria’. The word Hysterectomy comes from the same root word because they believed that uncontrollable emotion came from the uterus. Hence, without one, women would be calm and relaxed.

Anyway! Doctors would advise hysterical women to get more sex from their husbands. That didn’t work since most women need external stimulation and if they were getting that from the old man they wouldn’t be there, so more sex didn’t help. Single women were advised to go horseback riding… cause…you know. Giddy-up!

Then a new treatment appeared. This was a perfectly acceptable treatment, and no one was going to complain, least of all the women. Doctors or midwives would uh, basically give women a handjob. Using mineral oil to massage the clitoris and with maybe a little fingering they would cause the woman a ‘paroxysm’. Not an orgasm because women, of course, didn’t have those. Just a little seizure that made the women feel much better.

Oddly enough it seemed to cure the hysteria! It cured it so well that the women came back a lot and told their friends. By the 19th century doctors found themselves spending so much time doing this that they were developing the Victorian version of carpel tunnel and such, at least that’s the story. It was seriously exhausting, one woman after another. Until… someone realized they could make a machine to do it.

Actually, they tried a whole bunch of things…shooting water directly on the ‘spot’ and steam-powered dildos were a thing too, but some women got hurt by those which was probably bad for repeat business. (I tried hard not to picture the ways in which a steam-powered dildo could go wrong–but I had to stop and take a shower so…)Towards the end of the century electricity happened though and that made things much easier.

To be fair I have to present both sides and say some Victorian scholars deny that the first vibrators were for invented for sexual manipulation. They say they were just for massage and that Victorians weren’t the prudes that we think they were, so women didn’t need them to invent them just to get orgasms. I’m willing to buy that, but if the Internet has taught us anything it’s this: No matter how innocent an item, someone, somewhere, will turn it sexual. *Cough* That’s how we ended up with Rule 34!

I’d say women with a happy sex life during those times were probably not seeing the doctor for this sure, but more than a few others must have because I’ve actually seen several genuine Victorian ads selling them for a number of reasons including hysteria.

Some scholars say the doctor thing is a myth too. Do I think doctors were spending eight hours a day masturbating their female clients? Probably not, but there is evidence that it did happen now and then. Plus it’s obviously fun for people to think it did since it’s been used in a number of movies.

Regardless the invention of the vibrator probably cleared up a number of problems. *Ahem*  And eventually they were sold for home use and that was so successful that women just bought them and skipped the doctor entirely. They were advertised everywhere a woman might read. I find this one interesting. This is the Vigor’s Horse-Action Saddle which was also advertised for men, but for them the advertising focus was mostly just for exercise.

For women it went a bit differently. You can see that exercise is mentioned here, but also Hysteria, which we’ve already mentioned as being directly connected to the womb and being too emotional. I think you can draw your own conclusions. But there you go, vibrators are necessary for your mental and physical health.

Have fun. Be safe.

Sources:
https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/all-about-sex/201303/hysteria-and-the-strange-history-vibrators
https://vibrators.com/pages/vibrator-history

https://forgottenhistoryblog.com/vibrators-were-sold-in-the-sears-roebuck-catalogue/

https://mashable.com/2015/02/20/history-of-vibrators/#mnQnaPIqwOqQ

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/10/victorians-invent-vibrator-orgasms-women-doctors-fantasy

2 Replies to “Vibrators and the Victorians”

  1. Great writing! I often think that if people read more about Victorian England, they’d learn some pretty interesting things about sex and how we look at sex today, from the misconceptions to the actual mindset of men and women and, again, how that mindset affects the way we look at things sexual today.

    It’s some pretty fascinating reading!

    Liked by 1 person

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