A Quick Jumpy History of Vibrators and Victorian Medicine

Image by Prawny from Pixabay 


We could go all the way back to Cleopatra’s supposed gourd of bees and how it was the first-ever vibrator, but let’s skip that flimsy piece of history and jump to something more mechanized.


There is also no chronological order or test afterward – just a list of interesting facts or hearsay that will make a few minutes of your day more survivable, and your next cocktail party a chance to show off.


Our current understanding of vibrator history is this…


  • Two doctors have been given or taken credit for being the inventors of the first mechanical vibrator - Romain Vigouroux , the Paris Salpêtrière hospital (1878), and an English physician, Joseph Mortimer Granville (who now is called the father of the modern electromechanical vibrator).


  • “The Technology of Orgasm” was written by Rachel Maines in 1999.


  • Her book stated doctors would diagnose women with “hysteria” – this could include shortness of breath, anxiety, fainting, nervousness, insomnia, sexual forwardness, irritability, agitation.


  • The solution to this was to induce “hysterical paroxysm” by giving the patient a “pelvic massage.” (a.k.a, an orgasm)


  • Hysterical paroxysm and the old usage of hysteria are now defunct medical terms.


  • Fun fact, the Greek hystera means 'uterus.'


  • Another claim was that the invention of the first vibrator was because doctors were getting tired from having to … deliver pelvic massages.





  • Recent studies and papers (one being from historian Hallie Lieberman) have uncovered that this might not be true – the machine was real but they questioned the sexual uses.


  • The arguments on the validity of Maines’ research came from the lack of English citations or hard evidence as well as other medical practices and mentalities of the era.


  • Maines’ response was that her book simply presenting a hypothesis (despite that actual wording being more concrete as it the information’s reality).


  • For example, it’s now known that Victorian doctors KNEW about female orgasms and the link to the clitoris – they just thought it was a bad idea (because god forbid women has sexual pleasure). The focus was always on male sexual power, performance, health, and priority.


  • That being said, contraptions like this WERE made and they WERE used in medicine.


  • Adverts promised everything from the cure of headaches to rheumatism. They also came with many, many attachments for various ailments.




I look at it this way …


  • People can make anything sexual (yes, even the buttoned-up lads and ladies of the Victorian era).


  • While these devices certainly existed and were definitely used by doctors, it takes no stretch of the imagination to think that someone would have experimented or thought of using the vibrations in “other ways” – it would be an entirely different conversation whether those uses were consensual, violating, and/or unethically experimental.


  • During the 20th century, there were even obscenity laws put out there telling companies they couldn’t advertise such things for sexual pleasure.


  • How they adapted to adult play instead of medical? Just like every other “catch-all” treatment, doo-dad, or medicine, doctors found out there weren’t really “catch-all” at all. Hence, they stop buying them in large quantities or at all.


  • So what do you do if you’re a company with a product you can’t sell anymore? Find another market.


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What was your first vibrator? Share in the comments.

Have a vibration-filled day!


TagsHistory of Vibrators

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