Every Kitten loves her toys and what a selection we have to choose from. Sometimes there is nothing better than taking some time, just you and your favourite vibrator (yes, we all have a favourite). But who do we have to thank for one of the most appreciated inventions ever made? Though the history of the vibrator goes right back as far as the Egyptians, and their clay phallus, the motorised ones we know today came from the genius inventors of the Victorian era. So here’s another sexy KK history lesson.
Our Victorian Kittens (1837-1901) lived in a sexually frustrating harsh prim and proper era. Families even supposedly covered up table legs since they were seen as suggestive and risqué. So in an era where women didn’t even get to vote, how on earth did the invention of the motorised vibrator come about?
In the 19th-century, American and European doctors disliked dealing with female patients. This highly male profession saw women as overly emotional and barely capable of rational discussion of their bodies. They believed that women did not experience sexual desire or pleasure and were simply fleshy receptacles for male lust. If a male ejaculated that was enough to fulfil a woman’s needs. Women were socialized to believe that “ladies” had no sex drive, and that duty required them to put up with sex in order to keep their husbands happy and to have children.
During this era, a health epidemic broke out which affected 75% of all women. These ladies were diagnosed with “female hysteria,” Hysteria’s symptoms included chronic anxiety, irritability, fatigue, mild depression, and abdominal heaviness. Early medical explanations were inclined to blame some or other fault in the uterus. (In fact, these women were just suffering from straightforward sexual frustration).
The treatment prescribed was pelvic massage.
This massage of the clitoris was performed manually by the doctor until the patient reached a “hysterical paroxysm” or put more simply orgasm, (although it was not recognised as such).
However, doctors found the process of all this clitoral stimulation by hand tiring and time-consuming, and many complained of sore wrists. They also felt treating this condition was beneath their respectable professional demeanour, yet, as the women kept coming back, it was a very good money maker. In order to combat this problem, George Taylor devised a labour-saving, manually-operated, steam-powered device to do the job for them. Hence, the vibrator was born and was called the “Manipulator” (not a word of a lie).
The “Manipulator” was just the start. By 1900, electricity was introduced and doctors had a wide variety of devices to choose from, making their lives a lot easier, and saving those wrists! Even better from medical professionals’ perspective was the invention of a hand-held vibrator in 1905, allowing women to by-pass the doctor completely and treat their own hysteria. Soon, companies began advertising these home vibrators, using slogans such as “all the pleasures of youth…will throb within you.” (nice!) The home vibrators made economic sense for women as even the higher-end models cost no more than five or so visits to the doctor. Moral police officers worried that the home device would “accomplish little more than the titillation of the tissues.” Nonetheless, they proved quite popular with middle-class women whose homes had the electricity needed to operate the vibrators.
However, the vibrators did not stay popular for long. 1910 saw the birth of pornographic films, where the vibrator was shown, as a device that heightened pleasure. It seems that as soon as the connection between sexual pleasure and vibrators became firmly established, their acceptability as medical treatment vanished and the product disappeared from mainstream society. It was not until the early 1970s when attitudes towards women’s sexual pleasure began to change, that the vibrator again became a common product.
While some of these contraptions now look like they belong more in a torture chamber than anywhere near our lady areas, they serve as a testament to the ingenuity of Victorian inventors.
And for that, we must thank our Victorian ancestors, even though they were kind of the worst.