Why all the buzz about vibrators?

There aren’t many electrical appliances that have their own film.

Yet this month, actors Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jonathan Pryce and Rupert Everett started filming. Hysteria, a film on the invention of the vibrator.

Before the movie, there were the parts: the Tony award-winning play, In the next room (or The Vibrator Play) originally staged in Berkeley, CA in 2009 and currently touring the US and, yes, the rock puppet musical “Oh my!” held in New York last year.

Of course, who can forget “The Vibrator Episode” from Sex and the city, the one who made The Rabbit Pearl the “it” vibrator for every modern single girl. Even 17 years old Gossip Girl The star, pop singer and model for Madonna’s daughter Taylor Momsen’s clothing line recently said in an interview that she misses men and her best friend is her vibrator.

Why all the sudden buzz about vibrators?

Well, on the one hand, its invention makes it quite a story.

According to Rachel Maines, technology historian and author of the book Orgasm technology; Hysteria, the vibrator and the sexual satisfaction of women, since 450 BC. The remedy was “genital massage to the point of hysterics”.

Not surprisingly, this “treatment” became very popular among women and, while profitable for physicians, until George Taylor patented his steam “manipulator” in 1869, physicians had to bring women to, uh , “Hysterical climax” manually.

So the first vibrators were basically labor saving devices, much like dishwashers or washing machines. Although there has never been a popular dishwasher-based play, movie, or sitcom episode.

They also don’t ban dishwashers in Alabama (where buying a gun is perfectly legal, of course) or ban appliance makers from using the word “dishwasher.” In their advertising.

Yet even once vibrators moved from being a medical device to a take-out device (apparently in 1917 there were more vibrators than toasters in American homes) their actual use has remained obscure. The first advertisements promised to cure everything from headaches and polio to deafness and impotence. One of the first advertisements for “Vibro Massage” claims to be invaluable for skin tone and skin care. One hundred years later, Trojan recently learned that he couldn’t use the word “vibrator” in advertisements for a new vibrator that will soon be available at major drugstore chains in the United States and eventually Canada.

This mutual acceptance and resistance to the vibrator is typical of our culture, says Joani Blank. The 73-year-old is the founder of Good Vibrations, a revolutionary female-friendly sex shop that she opened in San Francisco in 1977. “Like everything sexual in our culture, we are both repulsed and shocked. , obsessed, fascinated and titillated. ” says Blank, who also wrote The Complete Guide to Vibrators in 1976 and personally owned 100 vintage vibrators which she donated to the Good Vibrations Vibrator Museum. (Yes, you heard that right: A Vibrator Museum. Now home of the 1906 “Shelton Deluxe-Wayne Vibrator”, the 1921 “Polar Cub Type G” vibrator and the 1930 “Super Douglas Vibrator”, which frankly looks more like a belt sander as a source of sexual pleasure. online museum.

But Blank suspects that there is something more to our current fascination with the vibrator than titillation and a good back story. She talks about the sexual awareness workshops they ran in the 1970s and how they sometimes discouraged using vibrators to masturbate because they wanted women to touch each other. “This mechanical device has become a way of keeping a woman away from ‘putting her hand’ on her body,” says Blank. “Likewise, I wonder if the current emphasis on the vibrator is one way of having a public discourse on female sexuality that keeps us at a comfortable distance from it.”

In other words, let it be the daughters of SATC talking about The Pearl Rabbit in public on Cosmopolitans as easily as chatting about their latest pair of Manolo Blahniks, or watching a funny play or movie about a doctor manually inducing a ‘hysterical climax’, joking about vibrators is a way to make a subject more uncomfortable. acceptable.

“I’m glad you’re having a good time, but I could have a better time” is a tough discussion for a woman to have with her man, ”Maines says.

“Attaching it to this funny story makes it easier for you to both laugh and talk about what you’re really talking about, which is female orgasm and the fact that most women need more than penetration to get it. have one. “

In a culture where women often feel inadequate if they are not sexually sensitive, this can be very helpful, says Blank.

“Just because I need a ladder to reach something on the top shelf doesn’t mean I’m unsuitable, it just makes me a little smaller,” she laughs.

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