How Vibrators Were Invented


Vibrators for women are popular devices, with about 52 percent of women owning one in the United States alone. But what about this sex toy’s history? How did this device come to be? Was it perhaps a tool that doctors used to cure hysterical paroxysm in women in the 19th century? Well, the short answer is no. That is a misconception that has been passed down through the pages of the web. The truth is not as bizarre as that. 

Vibrators to Cure Hysteria

The misconception that doctors used powerful vibrating devices to cure women of hysteria in the 19th century can be traced back to a book that came out in 1999. This book was by Rachel Maines, and it was called “The Technology of Orgasm: ‘Hysteria,’ the Vibrator, and Women’s Sexual Satisfaction.” In the book, she had made a hypothesis that people ended up believing because it sounded like a “cool idea.” However, she had spoken about the topic of vibrators being used by doctors to cure women’s hysteria. She had highlighted that it was merely a hypothesis. 

Other researchers have made statements that call this notion into question. Hallie Lieberman (a Historian who wrote “Buzz: The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy”) had said that there was no proof to support Maines’ hypothesis. Another historian, Helen King, also claimed not to have found any evidence that supported what Maines’ had mentioned in her book regarding the history of the vibrator. The vibrator was not made to induce sexual pleasure to cure hysteria; it was made to massage the patients.  

The Cause of Hysteria Among Women

While we are on the topic of hysteria, let us talk about what people believed caused it. People thought that hysteria was something that women would experience. However, the symptoms of this diagnosis were wide and varied a lot. These were:

  • Irritability 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Too much sexual desire
  • Overly sexual thoughts
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Fainting
  • Nervousness
  • Inability to sleep
  • Fluid retention
  • Heavy abdomen

Basically, being a “problem” for other people. This diagnosis covered a lot and could have been seen as closely related to female sexuality. People believed that women had to undergo pelvic massages to cure hysteria. That might be what created the misconception about the vibrator’s creation. 

However, nowadays, hysteria is referred to as uncontrolled outbursts of emotions, usually that of fear, anger, and even weeping. It could also refer to mental illnesses such as somatic symptom disorder, histrionic personality disorder, or conversion disorder. While we now use vibrators in sexual activities, we cannot deny the fact that reaching an orgasm can still be helpful as a stress-reliever.

Dr. J. Mortimer Granville Came Up With the First Vibrator

Now, back to the history of the vibrator — people say that Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville was the one who invented it. That is partly true. He did invent the electric vibrator in 1883. But the intention behind the device wasn’t female self-pleasure, but a means to relieve muscle pains. The first vibrator was first sold to other physicians as a handheld massage machine for aches — not for hysteria.

However, the device has gone down a whole different road to the one it started on. Now, this toy is connected to female masturbation, and a lot of variations of the original design have come and gone. Nowadays, we have a variety of vibrators to choose from, such as remote-controlled ones, battery-operated ones, and devices in many different sizes and colors. There are also different types like the G-spot vibrators, bullet vibrators, Hitachi magic wands, and rabbit vibrators, just to name a few. 

How Was the Vibrator Used to Cure Hysteria?

People in the 19th century believed that if you were to massage a woman’s pelvis that you’d cure her hysteria. That is why physicians used vibrators so that they didn’t have to massage their patients’ clitorises by hand. That also proved as a quicker method, thus allowing for more patients to be treated. However, as we have mentioned, there are no facts to support this theory. Lieberman refutes the accuracy of this theory. The aforementioned evidence that the vibrator’s original purpose was to massage and not sexually stimulate testifies to that. Overall, no source indicates that physicians used handheld massaging machines to help their female patients reach orgasm.    

Final Thoughts 

If you browse the internet, you will find many varieties from their shapes, colors, features, and you can even find that some people sell the most expensive vibrator online! The vibrator is currently a top-selling device that women use to explore their bodies. However, it did not start as such. It began as a massage machine but only recently became what it is today.