The electricity that courses through you each time the vibrator hums is one of a kind. But did you know the vibrator was anything but a ‘sex toy’ when it was created? It started from being a tool to alleviate hysteria to being called a ‘massager’ at some point. Where would we be now without its evolution? Hence, we follow the vibrator’s journey through history. If you sometimes wonder how the vibrator came to be, then this is for you. Let’s get to it.
Prioritizing sexual pleasure has been a thing for a very long time. Interestingly, the first phallic sex toys, such as the carved chalk phallus, date back nearly 28,000 years B.C. to the Neolithic Era. These toys were siltstone-made and discovered in German caves.
There’s also the fable about Cleopatra. The Egyptian queen reportedly ordered her servants to fill a carved gourd with bees to stimulate her genitals. The rhythmic buzzing inside the base turned the hollow gourd into a makeshift vibrator.
The 1860s to 1900s
In 1869, physician George Taylor invented the first vibrator. The vibrator’s original purpose was to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety in women, a condition known as hysteria. Even though hysteria has existed since the 13th century, it was still somehow restricted to women.
Before the invention of the vibrator, doctors would give women a treatment known as ‘pelvic massage’ and send them on their way. In hindsight, pelvic massage was simply doctors fingering women on their operating tables.
The invention of vibrators was for the convenience of doctors treating hysteria. It was exhausting to rub one out by hand; hence they invented the machine to do the job.
Doctors thought they were treating a female illness and had no idea they were dealing with sexual frustration. It is hilarious how none of them had any idea that MAYBE women were getting sexual pleasure from the treatment.
The vibrator was invented mainly for the home as a household appliance, a type of “massager” for bodily ailments, and “beauty aids.” The vibrator, powered by a large, unsexy motor, was only the fifth household appliance to be electrified.
The first appearance of vibrators in smut films and pornographic magazines in the 1920s opened women’s eyes to the sexual side of their casually purchased “back massagers.”
According to Babeland’s Vintage Vibrator Museum, the end of the Victorian era’s first machine vibes to the 1930s marked the golden age in vibrator history. Many innovative models, such as the Massage Master II, were introduced to the market during this time. This model has three different heads for “working out those sore muscles.” Yep.
The same clumsy designs that hit the market in the 1920s and 1930s still existed in the 1940s. They were marketed as “massagers” because they were loud, frightening, and resembled a screwdriver. (Not exactly what you’d want to put on your genitals.)
While there were few upgrades to vibrators during this period, the 1952 Niagara Handheld Unit 1 was an interesting addition to pre-existing models. Unlike most one-speed-fits-all devices on the market, the Niagara had a speed control button rather than a simple on/off switch. While still clearly retro, this was the first step toward producing better products.
A popular vibrator made during this period struck the most resemblance with your favorite wand massager: its vintage cousin if you will. The vibrator’s popularity coincided with the arrival of the sexual revolution in the 1960s, and demand among women skyrocketed.
As women gained control of their bodies, they started looking for better toys. The sexual revolution saw an increase in demand rather than an advancement in design. It was the first time society acknowledged women’s pleasure.
The 1970s were a decade of significant improvements on market models such as the Niagara Units of the 1950s. There was also the development of what many consider to be the Cadillac of vibrators: the Hitachi Magic Wand (still sold and used today).
When women started their own sex toy companies, they wanted to make appealing products. They wanted to do away with the rather frightening seven-pound, male-designed, insanely loud vibrating sticks of previous years.
Then came the Fukuoku, one of the first finger vibes, which focused mainly on clitoral stimulation.
Sex toys for women began to get a decidedly stylish upgrade in the twenty-first century. Suddenly, there were toys that not only sought to please various parts of the female anatomy but also sought to appeal to a wide range of aesthetics, such as the super sleek Crave Vesper vibrators. It’s the sex-tech revolution, which combines sexuality and pleasure with cutting-edge technology and minimalist design.
Even more encouraging is the fact that women are now designing sex toys. Creating vibrators for their pleasure is a logical next step – since women best understand by women’s pleasure. We now have hand-held vibrators with varying speeds. What more could one want? It just goes to demonstrate that vibrators can now be considered luxury items, ones that we (hopefully) can use with regularity and openness.
The evolution of the vibrator through time is an amazing one. Women probably would still have to go to doctors to treat “hysteria” if not for the evolution of the amazing tool. I bet you will enjoy using your vibrator even more now that you know its history.
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