People, Kate from Whores Of Yore is here with some sad news:

I am sure you have heard this one; Victorian doctors invented the vibrator to masturbate women to ‘hysterical paroxysm’ (orgasm) because they had been finger banging so many patients in an effort to cure them of their hysteria, that frankly, their arms ached. We love this story. I love this story. Hollywood loved this story so much that the film 2011 film, Hysteria, was based entirely on this story. So it is with a heavy heart that I have to tell you, this really is just a story.

Like all debunkings, her evidence is mostly in the negative; what she’s got is absence of evidence where we’d expect to find it:

Not only is there no known mention of Doctors and vibrators in Victorian pornography, there is also no mention of it in the work of the early and pioneering sexologists. Iwan Bloch, Havelock Ellis, Richard von Kraft-Ebing and Freud meticulously catalogued every fetish, paraphilia and known expression of sexual behaviour, but not one of them mention doctors, vibrators and orgasm. Ellis and Bloch even describe some women deriving sexual pleasure from sewing machines and beetroot, but there is no mention of a vibrator. Fifty years later, in his seminal Behaviour in the Human Female (1953), Alfred Kinsey does not mention vibrators in his lengthy and comprehensive chapters on female masturbation.

She ranges widely and eruditely through the available evidence, but nowhere does she find evidence for the medicalization of female orgasm, much less of its mechanization in a medical context.

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