The Provincetown History of Sex Museum by, Toys of Eros
THE BIRTH OF THE VIBRATOR
It all began in ancient Greece, when Hippocrates decided that almost all diseases that befell women were due to an illness of their reproductive system. He called this disease Hysteria. (Hysto is Latin for uterus.) His treatment for hysteria was to induce a “paroxysm.” Hippocrates’ recorded instructions for other physicians, explaining how to induce a paroxysm and cure hysteria:
“Anoint the head of the womb, (yup, the clitoris,) with a mixture of cinnamon, myrrh, and warmed olive oil. Begin rubbing in a circular motion. As the patient nears the cure, her body may stiffen, and she may cry out and grimace in pleasure and pain. She will have convulsions of the lower trunk, and then sink to calm, signifying the hysteria has been cured.”
Astonishingly, for the next 2000 years, physicians believed in Hippocrates diagnosis of hysteria and continued treating it by “pelvic massage.”
In fact, between the 1600’s and the 1940’s, physicians made 75% of their income treating hysteria via “pelvic” massage. Although lucrative, Drs. began complaining about the difficulty of inducing a “paroxysm.”
Excerpt from a medical journal 1702:
“All patients require different techniques, with different motion, speed and force. You may find your fingers and hands cramped and numb, before you can induce a cure. It is a physically demanding treatment that can take over two hours with certain patients.”
As soon as electricity was wired into homes, vibrators were designed and marketed specifically for home use. In fact, the vibrator was the third home electrical appliance available, right after the toaster and the iron. Mainstream publications, including the New York Times, and the Sears Catalog, all carried advertisements for home vibrators. These ads alluded to the effects of an orgasm, but called it a hysterical paroxysm. In 1932, a pornographic film showed a woman masturbating with a vibrator, and all advertisements were immediately pulled from mainstream media. In fact, Sears & Roebucks actually recalled their catalogues and reprinted them without the vibrator ads. After that, advertisements in mainstream publication were never seen again.
Promises from a vibrator ad., 1919:
“Your whole body will virtually tingle with joy. Keen waves of pleasure will throb within you… your self-respect, even, will be increased a hundredfold.”
Oops… The Vibrator is Busted!
In 1932, a pornographic film showed a woman masturbating with a vibrator, and all advertisements were immediately pulled from mainstream media. In fact, Sears & Roebucks actually recalled their catalogues and reprinted them without the vibrator ads. After that, advertisements in mainstream publication were never seen again.
But even after vibrators were exposed as orgasm devices, the medical community still continued treating “hysteria” with pelvic massage. Finally, in 1951, the AMA declared that there was no such thing as hysteria, and inducing a paroxysm wasn’t a cure for anything, it was just a plain old orgasm!