Vintage Vibrators

Posted by Inaayah Jarvis on

Vintage things are all the rage. From household appliances to clothing, everyone loves to get their hands on things from the past. Most vintage products will give you a glimpse into the past, and for vibrators It’s no different.

A vintage vibrator might sound like an appealing idea, but you probably wouldn’t want to use some of them. Old style vibrators might have got the job done, but they weren’t the most pleasant devices to use. Many of them weren’t even designed for sexual pleasure! If you’re still not convinced though, let’s take a walk down memory lane and see just what strange and confusing devices women of the past had to use on their sacred lady parts.

The Finger

While not technically a vibrator, the finger is the most traditional vibrator out there. If you can move it fast enough, it might feel a bit like a vibrator. The fingers have been used for sexual stimulation for many hundreds of years. Unfortunately, the idea wasn’t actually to use the finger for sexual stimulation. The whole thing was a bit of a side effect.

In the past, the sex drive of a woman wasn’t entirely understood. Any time a woman was feeling sexually frustrated, or desperate (for lack of a better word), they were diagnosed with hysteria. This was sometimes called a wandering womb, and was the cause of all kinds of nasty symptoms.

The first treatments for hysteria were genital massages. These massages would release the symptoms from the woman (by causing orgasm), and suddenly all would be right once more. Over time though, the symptoms would return, and more massages would be needed. Strangely though, hysteria didn’t seem to effect married woman nearly as much as the others…

The Hose

A commonly used vibrator today is the simple shower head. The pulsing and pressure of the water can stimulate the sensitive nerves, particularly of the vagina, and is a favourite for many men and women. Women of the past were also stimulated by water, although not quite in the same way. This was still during the time of women’s hysteria being a major problem, and in France, rather than tiring out the poor doctor’s fingers, a hose was used instead. The woman was sprayed with water from this hose (who knows how powerfully), until the hysteria was gone (strangely around the time she reached orgasm).

The Steam-Powered, Coal-Fired Manipulator

In 1869 George Taylor invented the Manipulator. This was the first mechanical vibrator in history, although it wasn’t a pretty device. Women would sit on the table and the motor underneath would cause a small ball to throb through a hole in the table, stimulating the vagina. We still hadn’t reached the time of vibrators being made for pleasure yet, so it’s unlikely that the experience was particularly pleasurable. It did save the doctor’s fingers though! After all, with populations around the world growing, many more women at this point were suffering from hysteria and something had to be done!

Early Electric Vibrators

In 1880, Mortimer Granville invented the first electromechanical vibrator. These models were nothing like what you imagine today, and were gradually improved upon and used for all kinds of functions, but none were intended to bring sexual pleasure. At this time, the notion of hysteria was still in full effect (shocking I know), and masturbation with a vibrator was much more of a covert subject. Some people had begun to see the light though, and some manufacturers would often hide instructions on masturbatory use within the instruction documents for the vibrators.

Many vibrators that were developed were also found to have some great secondary uses. These amazing devices could give massages of all areas of the body, but in particular could cure many ailments such as wrinkles, crow’s feet, and even headaches.

The 1880 original electromechanical vibrator.

1899: The Vibratile. Marketed as a beauty product, this advert appeared in a 19th century magazine.

1900: The Hand-Crank VeeDee. While not an electrical device, this vibrator was still mechanical, so made the process of treating the many ailments a woman might have (including hysteria) much easier.

1914: The Pneumatic Detwiller. One of the most dangerous sex toys ever made, the Detwiller used compressed air or gas to operate, and could blow up the vagina if it malfunctioned.

1930s: “Beauty Products”. When the idea of women’s hysteria began to fade, vibrators were designed to be much more colourful. It was around this time that vibrators were able to become more portable, owing to lightweight materials such as aluminium and plastic becoming more common.

With the old ideas fading away, the main way these devices were marketed was as beauty products. While the claims made by the manufacturers were quite outlandish and hard to believe, many people had begun to realise the sexual potential these devices had. It was still spoken of in hush tones, but word had started to spread of what would ultimately become the modern vibrator.

1940s: In the forties vibrators began to be manufactured more as weight loss devices. There are many more examples from this period such as the infra-red massager above. While the vibration in these models didn’t work particularly well, modern versions of the same designs can still be found in use today.

1950s and 60s: These are some of the last examples of old style vibrators. These were still marketed as weight loss machines, but were mainly used for sexual pleasure as social acceptance grew. Women were finally being freed from the age-old notions, and being allowed to use these devices in the way that we do today.

The Modern Vibrator

The Magic Wand: Perhaps the most famous vibrator in the world. The Hitachi Magic Wand is one of the oldest recognisable vibrators. It is still sold today in much the same design, although Hitachi themselves refused to admit the sexual uses until 2013.

The modern vibrator: With advances in almost all areas that relate to vibrators, the modern designs can look nothing like the vibrators of old. Luckily, we now have a huge range of options to find exactly the vibrator we desire. We also no longer need to face the prejudices and wrong information of the past, as vibrator use is completely acceptable in most western societies.

The Future

With such a wide range of devices in the vibrator’s past, who knows where we’ll end up in the future? Maybe one-day, sexual stimulation will be accomplished purely through brain impulses and manipulation, and people of the 2100s will look back on our rabbits, eggs, and bullets, and wonder what on earth we were thinking.


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