Victorian-Era Orgasms and the Crisis of Peer Review
A favorite anecdote about the origins of the vibrator is probably a myth.
by Robinson Meyer, Ashley Fetters via The Atlantic on September 6, 2018
It’s among the most delectably scandalous stories in the history of medicine: At the height of the Victorian era, doctors regularly treated their female patients by stimulating them to orgasm. This mass treatment—a cure for the now-defunct medical condition of “hysteria”—was made possible by a new technology: the vibrator. Vibrators allowed physicians to massage women’s clitorises quickly and efficiently, without exhausting their hands and wrists.
In short, the tale has become a commonplace one in how people think about Victorian sex. And according to a contentious new paper, it may also be almost totally false.
There is absolutely no evidence that Victorian doctors used vibrators to stimulate orgasm in women as a medical technique, asserts the paper, written by two historians at Georgia Tech. “Manual massage of female genitals,” they write, “was never a routine medical treatment for hysteria.”