The story of the vibrator is also the story of how hysteria was once treated.
Vibrators got their start during the industrial revolution as medical devices and were used to treat hysteria in women. Hysteria was a catchall diagnosis that included a wide array of women’s medical complaints, from simple irritability to debilitating physical weakness. Many medical experts believed these symptoms were caused by a prolonged lack of sexual gratification. Ironic, especially given that acceptable sexual relationship existed only within marriage and was performed solely for procreation. In fact, a good wife and woman disdained sex as a matter of course.
To help cure a woman’s hysteria, her doctors often gave manual stimulation of her genitals (vulva). As this treatment was more accepted and developed, vibrators were developed to help speed the process of orgasm. Generally it was only the affluent women who were able to afford this treatment. In fact, their doctors would make house calls. The women who experienced hysteria would go to their doctor, sometimes, many times per week to help with her affliction and to report, after her orgasm, her readiness to face the world once more.