The History Of Vibrators Is A Bit Of A Buzz

Believe it or not, the first sex toy sprung to life as the answer to 'women's hysteria'.

You may be surprised to find out about the origin of the vibrator, one of the most used sex toys in history.

In 2011 the movie Hysteria came out, a  light-hearted romantic comedy set in London in the 1880s. The story is about how the British physician Dr Joseph Mortimer Granville, played by Hugh Dancy, invented the first mechanical vibrator.

From the time of Hippocrates to the Victorian area, diagnosis and treatment of women's problematic ‘hysteria’ was a consistent theme in the medical literature. This so-called disorder was diagnosed when women exhibited symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, fluid retention, insomnia and erotic fantasies.

The physicians believed that a woman's display of mental or emotional distress was a clear indication of her need for sexual release. Genital massage became a standard treatment for hysteria -- the objective was to induce ‘hysterical paroxysm’ (better known as orgasm) in the patient.

The massage wasn’t thought of as sexual, and women were often prescribed weekly treatments. These sessions demanded both manual dexterity and a lot of time, so when this portable vibrator was available the physicians were very pleased with their efficiency, convenience and reliability.

The Science Museum in London has a collection of more than 40 early vibrators which were widely advertised at the time. In 1902 Hamilton Beach, an American designer, marketer and distributor of home appliances patented the first electric vibrator and it was marketed for sore muscles.

But when vibrators began to appear in pornography in the 1920s, revealing the devices to the public as sex toys gave them a social stigma, and they fell out of favour. But clever marketing gurus started advertising vibrators as anything but sex toys, to keep them available, but under the radar.

Advertisement for the Barker Vibrator by James Barker in Philadelphia, 1906. (Image: Jay Paull/Getty Images)

Over the past decade, vibrators and other sex toys have become some of the most popular gadgets in the world and a part of most couples’ lives.  We buy them in unprecedented numbers. They are available in classy adult shops, from online retailers, and are sometimes sold at Tupperware-style home parties.

It is easier to buy sex toys now because of the shift to online purchasing with discreet shipping and therefore anonymity. Sales are on the rise especially among the younger generation who have grown up in a culture that is more open to sexuality in many different forms.

Sex toys can be an exciting way to spice up your sex life, either using them on your own or with a partner.

There is a misconception that only people who don't have a sexual partner use them and some people still have stereotypes about who uses sex toys. Sex toys are an amazing addition to sex with a lover; they can make foreplay fun and help to relax and arouse both partners during sex; and they can provide an extra source of stimulation by making it easier to reach sensitive spots.

"Couples who have a playful attitude towards sex will overall have a more satisfying sexual relationship."

In 2014 Swedish brand LELO, one of the most innovative sex-toy companies, launched an update to the sophisticated oral sex simulator ORA 2, the first sex toy to win a Cannes Lions Award in the category of Product Design.  A favourite couples' item is the MIO vibrating penis ring by French company Je Joue – the ring is worn at the base of the penis and restricts blood flow, which makes the erection stronger, and last longer while stimulating the clitoris during sex. When worn below the testicles, their natural retraction towards the body is reduced, which can prolong the time before the man ejaculates.

Another very popular couples toy is the We-Vibe 4, it is waterproof, has six vibration modes and a remote control. All these toys are phthalates-free, which means the toys are hypo-allergenic and body safe.

There are sex aids for men who have had prostate cancer surgery; erectile dysfunction is one of the side effects of this operation and penile rehabilitation is recommended. To encourage blood flow, the doctor may suggest using a vacuum pump and a penile ring, and/or use of a masturbation sleeve to keep the "machinery" running. There are also several aids for people with disabilities, described as being suitable for those with limited mobility, dexterity issues or who suffer from fatigue.

So if you've never thought of adding sex toys to your love-making repertoire, why not give it a try! Couples who have a playful attitude towards sex will overall have a more satisfying sexual relationship.

Feature Image: Vibro-massage at The Beauty Institute of the Lido, Paris, about 1925. (Image: Harlingue/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)