As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. Every since we discovered them, we’ve come up with clever ways to play with our genitals.
This is probably why—when Egyptian Queen Cleopatra needed some royal release, she’d open her private toy chest and take out her favorite hollow gourd, filled with angry bees! No batteries required—a simple recharge meant a violent shake for the buzzing action to begin.
From bees to Victorian-era devices, to centuries of trial and error, the history of the vibe is a bizarre tale full of intrigue and weirdness. Here’s a sampling of just a few vibes throughout history, and how they began to take shape as a woman’s best friend.
Calling Dr. Feelgood
Ironically, vibrators were never intended for a woman’s sexual pleasure but were invented for an entirely different reason—to aid the treatment for hysteria. Oddly enough, prior to the vibrator, doctor’s were manually diddling the ladies to relieve them of their lusty cravings which were disguised as mental ailments. The doctor would diagnose and treat them with the only remedy available, an orgasm.
In 1890, a medical professional came up with the Macaura Pulsocon Blood Circulator. This hand cranked vibe, which resembles a hedonistic egg-beater, was used to relieve chronic disease and headaches. All he had to do was manually power it against the woman’s clitoris and Voila — instant relief from frustration.
The Steam Punk Pleasure
To save his colleague’s hands from exhaustion, Dr. George Taylor designed and patented the Manipulator (placing monster -truck voice over here)! Its massive engine was hidden in another room while the dildo-like apparatus worked the woman through a hole in the wall.
According to vibrator aficionado, Dr. Rachel Maines, “all vibrators are just inefficient motors. The more sloppy the motor — the better the vibration. An efficient motor, such as the one that runs your mini-fridge, would make for a seriously crappy vibe. But the Manipulator, it inefficient as it gets.”
Once homes were wired for electric, the vibrator became the “must have” of electrical appliances for the ladies. With legendary ads in catalogs like Modern Woman and Woman’s Home Companion, it would not take long for women to become avid-consumers. The Oster-Stim-U-Lax was the first to use the “personal touch” by strapping it to the back of your hand. Soon after, inventors of vibrators eventually learned what worked best in making women feel good, but the aesthetics still needed a lot of tender loving care.
From the telephone to power tools, to even nuclear power, the 1940’s to 50’s were a time of great (orgasmic) advances. The Gyro-Later, which looked like a pleasant version of a deadly alien, was one vibe popular with the ladies. It was made out of metal and the first to resemble a feminine pleasure device.
The 1954 Niagara No. 1 was the first vibrator to have force control using a rotary metering device. It was so complicated that no one could understand and use it without the manual. Apparently, it was a joy to use compared to the previous models (clearly, having to stop your antics to put more coal in your steam powered vibrator was not very joyful).
The Hitachi Magic Wand revolutionized the way women get off. It arrived on the market in the 1960s and remains one of the most popular electric “body massagers” today. Attitudes toward sex and sex toys have changed drastically, but no other vibrator has captured the mainstream imagination like the Magic Wand, save for maybe the multi-pronged Rabbit, and the love has gone even deeper since it is now cordless.
Down the Rabbit Hole
In 1984, the designers at Vibratex invented a new dual-action vibrator that featured rotating pearls in the shaft for internal pleasure and cute little bunny for external stimulation. This design eventually revolutionized the sex toy world with a copycat version. At first, sales of this toy weren’t strong, until it was featured on an episode of Sex in the City. Women could not get enough of their Rabbit habit.
Sex toy manufacturers have been clamoring for women’s attention ever since the late 1990’s. Moving away from clunky battery powered vibes, companies began to modernize the function of sex toys—leaving thousand’s of women breathless. Medical grade silicone along with USB rechargeable batteries have made way for sleek luxury brands like Je Joue.
Fortunately for all of us, the vibe has come a long way. The modern woman doesn’t have to pack a separate carrying case containing strange hand-cranked contraptions or better yet, agitated insects. When horny, she can use her vibe in the privacy of her own home, instead of pretending to have an imaginary mental disease. Add that to our great science fiction-like advancements—it’s the golden age of vibrators, everyone!1