No intro today, just going straight to the video tape! ::grin::
* * *
-=[ A Brief History of the Vibrator ]=-
Or: The Job Nobody Wanted
As far back as 1653, when physician Pieter van Foreest published a treatise on women’s diseases, women’s sexuality has been sorely misunderstood. To be sure, sexually frustrated women were viewed as suffering from “hysteria” (literally, “womb disease”). van Foreest prescribed what would become known as “vulvular massage” -- suggesting that a midwife or doctor could cure “hysterical” women through “the massaging of the genitalia with one finger inside,” using “oil of lilies, musk root, crocus, or [something] similar.”
This was nothing new. In the Western medical tradition, bringing women to orgasm via genital massage by a physician or midwife was a standard treatment for hysteria, an illness considered both chronic and common in women. Descriptions of this treatment appear as early as Hippocrates and in the first and second centuries, A.D. It’s interesting that very little attention has been paid to a medical treatment for a complaint that is no longer defined as a disease but that from at least the fourth century B.C. until the American Psychiatric Association dropped the term in 1952 was known mainly as hysteria.
The fact is that all the symptomology (<-- new word! LOL) described what is consistent with normal female sexuality, for which relief, not surprisingly, was gained through orgasm, either through intercourse, of by means of a massage on the physician’s table. That normal female sexual functioning was described as a disease can be laid at the feet of a society in which sexuality is seen almost exclusively through a male-dominated (androcentric) perspective. Androcentric (new word!) views not only shaped the definition of sexuality, and their consequences for women, but also the instruments designed to cope with these so-called diseases.
What I found even more interesting was that many doctors detested doing vulvular massage and that’s where the “technology of orgasm” comes in. According to historian Rachel P. Maines (and I borrow heavily from her book, The Technology of Orgasm, today), the vibrator emerged as a response to the demand from physicians for a more rapid and efficient therapy for hysteria. As I mentioned, the diagnosis of hysteria was in actuality normal female sexual functioning. The male-dominant (androcentric) view of sexuality didn’t take into consideration that the androcentric ideal of intercourse failed to consistently produce orgasm in more than half of the female population.
Therefore, the task of relieving female arousal was given over to the medical establishment, which defined female orgasm as an illness. In effect, doctors inherited the task of producing orgasm in women because it was a job nobody wanted.
There is no evidence to show that male physicians enjoyed providing vulvular massage treatments. On the contrary, physicians, part of the male power elite, sought to substitute other devices for their fingers, such as the business end of an almost infinite line of impersonal mechanisms.
At the same time, "hysteria" presented a lucrative market for physicians. Patients never recovered nor died of their condition but continued to require regular treatment. One 19th-century physician estimated that as many as three-quarters of the female population were “out of health,” and comprised the largest market for “therapeutic devices.”
Doctors also found it difficult to bring women to orgasm. The job required skill and attention. One doctor noted the difficulty in producing orgasm through vulvular massage. He stated that it was not unlike “the game of boys in which they try to rub their stomachs with one hand and pat their heads with the other.” LMAO
While the female is expected to reach orgasm during coitus, more than half of all women, and possibly more than 70 percent, do not reach orgasm by penetration alone. While this has been better publicized by modern-day sex-researchers, it was known in previous centuries. The majority of women have been defined as abnormal or “frigid,” somehow derelict in their duty to live up the androcentric model of sexuality.
Historically women were discouraged from masturbating because it was believed this practice would impair their health, and most men in previous centuries (and even today!) have failed to understand that penetration alone is sexually satisfying to only a minority of women.
The second part of this blog will be posted next Friday...