AOH :: GVIBRAT.TXT|
Ways to use a vibrator
GOOD VIBRATIONS: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO VIBRATORS
Once Upon A Time...
I walked a few times past the department store salesclerk who was
eagerly demonstrating the big blue and white massager. "On sale -
- only $19.50 today," she said. Although I had heard about sexual
uses for electric vibrators, I couldn't justify spending twenty
dollars just to try the massager for masturbation. So I turned my
back and asked her to hold the whirring machine to a chronically
tight spot on my right shoulder. The massager was stronger than
any I'd ever felt. The low speed produced a deep throbbing
sensation. The high speed was so fast it either tickled or hurt,
depending on how it was touching me. It hurt my shoulder so good
that I bought it without further hesitation. At the time, and for
some weeks later, I didn't even try masturbating with it.
Up until then, the only way I had masturbated was with my hand,
occasionally using an object in my vagina at the same time. I had
inserted the handle of my electric toothbrush into my vagina,
enjoying the gentle vibrations and warmth, but it had not
occurred to me to use it on or near my clitoris. Within moments
after I held the new blue and white vibrator to my clitoris, I
experienced the most intense orgasm of my life. Although it was
all over before I knew what was happening, I saw great potential
for pleasure in my new toy.
My partner and I, being yard sale and flea market fanatics,
started to collect "antique" and just plain old vibrators and
massagers at every opportunity. After a couple of years, we had
acquired more than thirty treasures. At first, I tried
masturbating with every one and found, to my delight, that all of
them, regardless of size, shape, or intensity of vibration, gave
me orgasms. We kept them amid the jumble of their own cords and
loose attachments in a fabric suitcase under our bed.
Periodically we would haul out the suitcase, untangle a few, and
plug them in for our friends to giggle or marvel at. Some went
out on loan and never returned.
During this time, I was being trained as a sex therapist and was
working with many women who had never experienced orgasm. The
women in my groups who wanted to experiment with vibrators
expressed distress about how awkward they felt purchasing them.
Shortly thereafter, I decided to open Good Vibrations, a vibrator
store especially (though certainly not exclusively) for women,
with a vibrator museum (actually an antique oak showcase) for the
public display of our collection. I also wrote and published the
first version of this book.
Since 1975, I have learned a great deal about vibrators. In the
store, I have had the opportunity to talk with hundreds of women
and dozens of men about all aspects of vibrator use. During this
time, people have talked more and more openly about vibrators.
Sales of vibrators in drug, department and discount stores have
mushroomed. In these settings, of course, advertising and
promotion are still aimed at the consumers' sore muscles and
tired feet. However, once many of these vibrators get home and
out of the box, they probably spend most of their turned-on
moments turning someone on. People are not only using vibrators
more, they are also increasingly talking, writing, and reading
The "Hysterical" History of the Vibrator
Did you ever wonder what mysterious ailment confined the
Victorian woman to her bed? Our prim and proper ancestor had the
doctor scurrying up the stairs with his little black bag and the
servants whispering about "female troubles."
Not infrequently, those "female troubles" were "hysteria,"
believed in ancient Egypt and Greece to be the revolt of the
uterus against sexual deprivation. Webster's reminds us that
"hysteria" derives from "the former notion that hysteric women
were suffering from disturbances of the womb" (now you know why
men are almost never hysterical!) and defines it as a
"psychoneurosis marked by emotional excitability and disturbances
of the psychic, sensory, vasomotor and visceral functions." It
wasn't until 1952 that the American Psychiatric Association
dismissed hysteria as a valid diagnosis.
Historian Rachel Maines has recently provided us with a wealth of
information about the standard medical treatment of "hysteria"
using vibrators. Maines shows that "the electromechanical
vibrator, introduced as a medical appliance in the 1880s and as a
household appliance between 1900 and 1905, represented a de-
skilling and capital-labor substitution innovation designed to
improve the efficiency of medical massage, a task performed since
ancient times by physicians, midwives and their assistants."
Medical massage "from the time of Hippocrates to that of Freud
included the clinical production of orgasm in women and girls."
According to medical and midwifery texts of the 1600s, "the
treatment generally consisted of the insertion of one or more
fingers of one hand into the vagina and the application of
friction to the external genitalia with the other. Fragrant oils
of various types were employed as lubricants in this procedure."
The objective was to induce "hysterical paroxysm," manifested by
"rapid respiration and pulse, reddening of the skin, vaginal
lubrication and abdominal contractions." Sounds very familiar,
doesn't it, but at the time it was considered an activity more
appropriate to the doctor's office than the boudoir!
Maines writes that not all physicians recognized this "paroxysm"
as an orgasm, but some medical authors through the ages do
"comment on the morally ambiguous character of the treatment,
including [one physician] who observes that genital massage
should be reserved 'to those alone who have clean hands and a
pure heart'." Later therapies included massage with a jet of
water, but "hydrotherapists warned that patients were inclined to
demand more treatment than was considered good for them." A
seventeenth century doctor complained of the fatigue factor for
the physician in massage therapy and the long practice and
considerable dexterity required (not to mention the stress of
keeping those hands clean and those hearts pure).
Maines credits George Taylor, an American physician, with a
primary role in the development of the modern vibrator in this
country. In 1869 and 1872 he patented a steam-powered massage and
vibratory apparatus for treatment of female disorders, intended
for supervised use "to prevent overindulgence." By 1900, "a wide
range of vibratory apparatus was available to
physicians....Articles and textbooks on vibratory massage
technique at the turn of the century praised the machines'
versatility for treatment of nearly all diseases in both sexes,
and its [sic] efficiency of time and labor, especially in
gynecological massage....By  convenient portable models
were available, permitting use on house calls...." (So that's
what was inside the doctor's little black bag.)
Until the end of the 1920s, vibrators were advertised in many
respectable women's magazines as home appliances, primarily as an
aid to good health and relaxation, but with ambiguous overtones -
- "All the pleasures of youth will throb within you," reads a
typical ad. Maines believes that the disappearance of vibrators
from doctors' offices and magazine advertisements "may have been
the result either of the adoption of psychotherapeutic treatments
[for hysteria] by physicians, or of the appearance of vibrators
in stag films in the Twenties, or both."
Most of the electric vibrators discussed in this book were
neither designed nor marketed (until very recently) with sexual
uses in mind.
In a 1981 Esquire article, author Mimi Swartz reviewed the
emergence of the vibrator as a big business venture, with sales
totaling about $13 million in 1980. This is a remarkable story
when you consider that the manufacturers are marketing a product
without advertising its main benefit. Imagine trying to sell a
toaster by saying that it is a metal box that gets very hot when
you plug it in -- and that's all. Apparently, this non-existent
marketing approach failed, since several mainstream manufacturers
no longer make vibrators.
Electric vibrators/massagers have been manufactured in the United
States since around the turn of the century (the most elderly in
my collection was made by Hamilton Beach and carries a patent
date of 1902). However, the first electric vibrator openly
advertised for sexual use was an American-made, multi-attachment
model, repackaged with a clitoral stimulator tip, and sold at
first almost exclusively through the mail in the early 1970s.
This particular brand is now sold primarily by discount stores
alongside the hair dryers and electric toothbrushes. The package
insert is pretty tame; all sexual references have disappeared. In
the late 1980s, a well-stocked department or discount store in
some parts of the country may carry as many as four or five
different brands of electric vibrators, and lest rural readers
despair, the Sears catalog has always included a full line of
good quality vibrators (manufactured for them by others). Are you
Interesting, isn't it, that vibrators which lost their
respectability once they were shunned by the medical profession
are now seen as an important tool for women taking control of and
enhancing their sexuality.
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