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Adult Blogs - The History of Dildos in America
April 12, 2006 03:00 am

Since the beginning of recorded time the most common health complaint among women was ‘hysteria’, a medical term used to describe a woman in mental or emotional distress and a condition that was thought to be in need of immediate treatment.

To treat the so-called ailment, doctors and midwives massaged the genitals to "hysterical paroxysm," as the orgasm was scientifically termed, to release held-back energies.
The procedure was performed in doctor’s offices, health spas, and the home as a standard medical procedure.

In the mid-1600’s Doctors recommended the following treatment for hysteria:

"...massage the genitalia with one finger inside using oil of lilies, musk root, crocus or [something] similar. And in this way the afflicted woman can be aroused to paroxysm (orgasm)…most especially for widows, those who live chaste lives, and religious females...it is less often recommended for very young women, or married women, for whom it is a better remedy to engage in intercourse with their spouses."

19th century religious proscriptions against self-masturbation meant that Doctors or midwives rather than the individual performed the stimulation. Most doctors did it because they felt it was their duty, but considered it a chore, as manual massage was fatiguing and slow, taking up to an hour to ‘complete’ the procedure.


Beginning in the early 1800’s, Doctors designed many other procedures for arousing women and alleviating the symptoms of ‘hysteria’ for a time including rocking chairs, a swing, and vehicles that bounced the patient rhythmically on her pelvis. It appears however that the women of the day had the problem well in hand.

By 1870 the gentle Doctors got on the right track with a wind-up vibrator made available to both spas and physicians. Obviously no woman was interviewed during the design stage as in field trials it had a tendency to run down before the treatment was complete.

Shortly after the wind up vibrator fiasco, vibrator development took another distinctly male design turn when an American physician patented the "Manipulator" - a steam-powered massage and vibratory apparatus. He warned that patients should be careful to avoid over-manipulation.

steam powered vibrator

Finally, in the 1880’s a British physician invented the electromechanical vibrator for use as a medical instrument issuing in the golden years for dildos. Other physicians followed suit with contraptions intended to serve as vibrators. Articles and textbooks on vibratory massage technique praised the machine's versatility for treating nearly all diseases in both sexes and saving physicians’ time and labor. These vibrators reduced the time of "getting there" from up to an hour to approximately 10 minutes.


By the end of the 19th century, some doctors were advising women to come in for such treatments once a week.

In an effort to better serve the patient, convenient portable models become available, permitting house calls. Vibrators had come of age as an accepted health and relaxation aid.


The electric vibrator was invented right after the electric sewing machine, fan, teakettle and toaster, and before the electric vacuum cleaner, the electric iron and the electric frypan.

The Home Needlework Journal advertised its line of vibrators with the slogan "all the pleasures of youth will throb within you."

As the market became more competitive, ad copy for vibrators was coy and ambiguous. "Be a glow getter," one package insert suggests. And who wouldn't be tempted to experience "that delicious, thrilling health-restoring sensation called vibration," when assured that "it makes you fairly tingle with the joy of living"?

The Sears and Roebuck & Company Electric Goods catalog promotes a vibrator attachment for a home motor that also drives attachments for churning, beating, buffing and fan operating America’s housewives had all but eliminated long bouts of ‘hysteria’ when 1920 Stag films started using vibrators as props. Orgasm without penetration! The vibrator's era as a medical appliance had ended. Advertisements for vibrators gradually disappeared from respectable publications as vibrators transgressed to becoming sex toys.

vibrator1960s: Vibrator re-emerges and is openly marketed as a sex aid.
It is quite astounding that in the 1970’s Medical authorities still assured men that a woman who does not reach orgasm during sexual coitus was flawed or suffering from some physical or psychological impairment. It wasn’t until the 1990s that research showed that more than half of all women, possibly more than 70 percent, do not reach orgasm by means of penetration alone.

Vibrators are now a big business; after all, as a vintage advertisement claims,
"almost like a miracle is the miraculous healing force of massage when rightly applied."


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