Fucking Hysterical: A Timeline of Vintage Vibrators
Not far from San Francisco’s favorite trans bar in the heart of the historically gay-friendly Polk district you’ll find the Antique Vibrator Museum, a vivid exhibit of vibrators dating from the early 20th century through the 1970s.
The museum opened last year inside a sex-toy store called Good Vibrations, where therapist and educator Joani Blank had been displaying a few old vibrators since she opened the shop in 1977. Gradually, customers started to donate their own, then eBay came along, and 36 years later, her small collection has evolved into the Antique Vibrator Museum—home to more than 120 vintage vibrators, along with packaging materials, manuals, print ads, and other vibrator-related ephemera. It’s the biggest collection of orgasm-inspiring devices open to the public today.
“It’s one thing to know about vibrators as sex toys, and quite another to see how many types there were throughout the century,” she says. “It’s also a great example of design and industrial changes in one particular household implement.”
The vibrator itself has a long and storied history rooted in female hysteria, a so-called physical illness that disappeared from medical textbooks in 1952. For centuries, though, hysteria was a legitimate and common diagnosis for women who just needed to get laid, or, at the very least, treat themselves to a few mind-blowing orgasms. But since most women in the old-timey days didn’t even know they could have orgasms, they needed someone—or something—to help. Thanks in part to the Antique Vibrator Museum, here’s a timeline chronicling the evolution of vibrators in history.
200 AD: The Genital Massage
Physician and philosopher Galen of Pergamon prescribed “genital massage” to treat hysteria, which comes from the Latin for “womb.” He wrote that the disorder, as it was known then, was caused by a wandering womb or something. “It certainly was thought of as primarily a women’s disease,” says Dr. Queen. “Some commentators talked about it in nearly sexual terms — it affected virgins and widows more than married women, for instance.”
1650-1660: Coming Along
By 1653, Petrus Forestus started fingering his patients with essential oils so they could achieve a “paroxysm,” which British surgeon Nathaniel Highmore soon figured out was really just a fancy word for orgasm. To treat symptoms of hysteria, doctors would massage the vulva and clitoris until the woman had a “hysterical paroxysm of relief.” But according to Dr. Queen, “Very few doctors said in so many words that they were instigating orgasms through these treatments.”
It has come to my attention that a lot of grown-ass women out there have yet to experience an orgasm, which makes me want to jump off a cliff onto a bed of sharpened dildos. Orgasms are important, and you need to be able to make yourself cum. I know it can be frustrating, but you have to keep trying because the entire world runs on orgasms.
I remember masturbating like it was my homework as a young teen because I knew that eventually I’d get the hang of it, and it would put me on par with the rest of the orgasm-experiencing world. That world, of course, includes 100 percent of adult males, which make up nearly 100 percent of presidents and the majority of CEOs and police officers and professors. I’m not really sure why that part’s important, except for the fact that it would make me really mad if everyone telling me what to do could magically blast cum out of their genitals and I couldn’t. My point is it was a conscious, effortful process for me but I persevered and succeeded.
I noticed that a lot of the “instructions” on how to masturbate were purely physical, but that’s clearly not the only ingredient in an orgasm casserole. As we all know (or should know) girls are mental basket cases, just like their mothers, and their mothers’ mothers, and centuries of some anthropological bullshit that I don’t understand, and sometimes that stuff can really get in the way of everything fun. Therefore, I am going to approach this orgasm problem from a meditative standpoint.
One day as I was driving down a busy street during rush hour, I suddenly realized that I was about to have an orgasm, because I was masturbating. That realization was amazing to me, since I could remember feeling uncomfortable about touching myself in my own bedroom, simply because it was inside my parents’ home. Women’s magazines will probably recommend that you find an isolated spot where you can feel comfortable being alone—like in the shower with the door locked, for instance. But I think you just have to confront what it is that makes you feel so shameful about masturbating.
I used to get worried that someone would see my fingers and notice cervical mucus residue, or see that my face was all flushed and post-orgasm-like. Then I realized: Fuck it. I am a disgusting, gross piece of shit, just like everybody else, and if I don’t have an orgasm today I’m going to end up killing someone.
No one will notice that you were masturbating. No one cares. Join the party.
Sex toys are really great, but with our bank accounts still weeping from the sucky recession we’ve just stumbled out of, we need to get our priorities right. Which means spending our hard-earned/borrowed cash on boring necessities, like food, energy bills, and crank pipes. If it means I don’t have to compromise my hefty meth addiction, I’m always going to pick my brother’s dowdy old Rampant Rabbit over one of those bespoke sex toys that women like Barbara Walters probably own. In these days of hardship, we must make do. We aren’t all Walters.
A book I stole from a hospital waiting room the other day called Make Your Own Sex Toys: A Practical Guide to a Better Love Life instructs you on how to make the moist out of average household items like cucumbers, elastic, and curtain rings. Obviously, because the majority of people don’t tend to masturbate with these items, they describe you pleasuring yourself in ways you’d never thought possible. Well, you might have thought about it, but I’m willing to bet “thinking about it” didn’t result in you shoving it up your vagina.
The guidebook also has some boring stuff about the history of sex toys, which nearly killed my horn. In order to revive it, I decided to try out a few of my favorite ideas “For Her.”
Step 1: Work up a rage at the tweeness of the phrase “Willy Candle.” Use anger to carve a candle into the shape of a penis. Use a knife and your own imagination/previous experience to fashion life-like ridges, veins, pee-hole, etc.
Step 2: Cover it with a condom and shit loads of lube and you’re ready to know what it feels like to fuck something at Madame Tussauds, if you don’t already. (Guilty.)
Result: This one really puts your creative skills to work. I opted for a life-like tip and a smooth shaft—minimal, yet effective. I also decided to leave the wick sticking out of the top for texture and heightened sensation. Use a thick candle and trim it down to size as you go. You can’t put back what you’ve already taken off!
As you can see, mine was a little thick but I was up for a challenge. Unfortunately, despite my efforts to personalize and personify the candle to make it seem more friendly, the wax was too hard and actually hurt me. I also completely over-estimated myself and forgot that I’m basically a virgin (don’t be jealz), so some last-minute trimming was needed.
If you think waiting for a guy to strap up kills the vibe, wait until you’ve picked up a knife and hacked centimeter-thick layers off a “penis.”
Schadenfreude needs to be sincere to be funny. It’s what made “Chocolate Rain” hysterical and everything Tay Zonday did afterward crap. Because self-awareness is the plague of the internet. And plagues never made anyone smile.
“Everyone’s self-aware these days though,” you say. Well, no. There is still at least one group that doesn’t understand what Reddit is. That group is the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the internet’s meme-hunters have just caught wind of a Church-affiliated video that discourages deaf Jehovah’s Witnesses from turning to that most shallow of pleasures, masturbation.
The video is essentially a couple of different signers emotively pleading with the viewer not to crack one off, and because sign language isn’t the most politically correct of dialects, they do this through all of the most obvious gestures that signify masturbation, married to a bunch of guys miming orgasms.
With its dismissive wank gestures and air boob cupping, the overall effect resembles some kind of crude road rage dispute carried out through shut car windows. The fact that the signal for female masturbation looks a bit like a gang sign with its downward-facing V shape only adds to the feeling that you might have just cut up the wrong Cadillac on Compton Boulevard.
Needless to say, a bunch of YouTube comedians have fired up Windows Movie Maker and given us their own mashed up versions of the original. The song choices range from the depressingly obvious (“Ignition Remix”), to the obvious yet still hilarious (“I Touch Myself”), and the pointless meme doubling (“Gangnam Style”).
While it’s all very amusing, I was intrigued as to what the video’s real message was. From what I could tell by the signer’s expressions, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are of the belief that masturbation sends you into a state of unparalleled sexual ecstasy, but all the research suggested the Church was very much in the “save it for the real deal” camp.
I decided to call up my local Jehovah’s branch, but was informed I couldn’t speak to the elder there—not because he was unwilling to talk, but because he was deaf (an irony so thick you could choke a blue whale on it).
Eventually I was redirected to a spokesman named Mark Holman.
VICE: Hi, I was wondering if I could discuss a video that’s gone viral recently? Mark Holman: Yes, of course, what video is this? Is it on our website?
I’m not sure if it’s on your website. I can tell you about it briefly… If it’s not official, I can’t discuss it with you. But I can discuss with you ideas and suchlike.
Great. Well, the video is specifically aimed at deaf Jehovah’s Witnesses and it warns them about the dangers of masturbation. Oh, I haven’t heard of that one, but I’ll keep a look out for it. You can ask me about the themes in the video.
OK, firstly, as a Jehovah’s Witness, what are your views on masturbation? Well, we always go on the Bible’s view, which is that it is something that we should try to steer away from. Masturbation is not something we would suggest doing. We just encourage positive things.
So is masturbation an official “sin”? It’s not officially a sin, but if you think of it as sinful then you shouldn’t do it. We don’t really refer to things as “sins”; if you have a good moral compass and love for the Lord then your actions will be pure. We do not encourage selfish activity.
Is masturbation one of the more selfish things you can do? I don’t see how it can be a non-selfish activity, by its very nature.
I’m a Homo but I Loved Having Sex with This Robotic Pussy
When my boss asked me to review the RealTouch—an interactive sex toy that mimics the interior movements of the privates of living-and-breathing porn stars as you watch them bareback on a computer screen—I felt like Oliver from the Disney cartoon Oliver & Company: an orphaned kitty cat discovered by a six year old heiress. Finally somebody realized that all I want to do with my life is write about the people and places I put my dick, I thought. Dreams do come true in New York City!
Then I read the back of the box and discovered that the RealTouch doesn’t recreate the feeling of putting your dick inside a gay-for-pay straight guy’s butthole; it mimics vaginas (and, according to the box, women’s mouths and assholes as well). I felt like I had been had, but it was too late—I had to press forth by pressing my penis into the opening of a robo-vagina that looked as if it had the ability to castrate me.
For all intents and purposes, RealTouch is about as close as we’ve come to “future sex”—at least as I imagined it as a kid. With this device, along with a webcam and corresponding technologically advanced dildo, you can theoretically have sexual intercourse with RealTouch models and bona fide porn stars via the internet or, if you prefer to wank offline, a series of barebones DVDs that are included with the $300 sex toy (which, according to the RealTouch PR lady, is sold out everywhere).
The thing about technology is that there’s usually a long and frustrating setup process you have to endure before having fun. The RealTouch is no different. It requires three cords, two power boxes, and half a bottle of lube (so it can replicate pussy’s “natural wetness”) to operate. And that’s just the hardware; the software was an entirely Byzantine ordeal.
In other words, it was so fucking complicated I was forced to go to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store to get help installing Windows on my Mac and then the RealTouch software itself. Of fucking course the Apple Store was packed, and multiple employees were busy calming down a freelance graphic designer who was screaming, “THIS IS A CONSPIRACY THEORY!” over her malfunctioning hard drive. Nobody helped me, so I instinctively pulled out my phone and put on a bitch face, taking my cues from the graphic designer. A hippie in a blue shirt (aka an Apple employee) immediately walked over to me. I made a fake crying sound and then said, “I need this software to work right away.”
“What software is it?” he asked.
“It’s porn software.”
“Its for an article for VICE.”
“Aw, that makes sense. Let me help you.”
With the software successfully installed I returned home, but my troubles continued. Figuring out how to unscrew the RealTouch so I could fill the lube reservoir—two rubbery pink rollers that attempt to recreate the natural wetness of a vagina with the slick stuff—tookforever. And before I could get down to business I had to complete my scheduled phone interview with RealTouch representative Scott Rinaldo, who told me that the RealTouch is improving everyday.
When I asked if RealTouch had something against interactive gay sex, Scott said that they’re slowly building a guy-on-guy section and are poised to launch additional products. “RealTouch is the future of connecting people,” he said. “It’s two devices connecting people. We’ve got a product in development that will put us on Oprah—the couple’s product. It’s very mainstream.”
Scott played up how the product allows long-distance couples to fuck through the computer: The female fucks robotic dildos, and the male fucks a RealTouch device; the dildo records her the wetness and tightness, which the RealTouch hotbox replicates on the man’s dick in real time.
“I’ve used the couples product, and it’s amazing,” Scott said. “My wife and I can interact when I’m out of town. I leave home; I come home. I don’t miss her. RealTouch connected me to her.”
Face it, work sucks. No matter how much you love your job, there are still a million things that you would rather be doing than wasting away in a cube, deleting countless emails where your stupid workers replied all when they didn’t need to, and sneaking away to websites like this for a little break to maintain your sanity. Know what you would rather be doing? Sitting at home in your underwear and watching Judge Judywhile you fumble with your naughty bits every so often. Well, you’re going to have to skip the Honorable Judge Sheindlin, but you should be able to go rub one out in the middle of the day to make the drudgery just a little bit more bearable. Here’s how.
Get in the Mood No matter what you do—even if you’re a pornographer, artisanal dildo maker, Jessica Alba’s nipple-tweaker, or Victoria’s Secret dressing room security guard—your job is not sexy to you. In fact, it probably kills your wood faster than a naked grandma pooping on a kitten. If you’re going to sharpen your pencil in the company supply closet, you’re going to have to get it aroused first. Your work computer probably blocks porn, so try sending some dirty texts to a regular sex partner. They don’t have to respond (this is “How to Jerk Off at Work” not “How to Get Laid at Work”) you just have to get thinking about the nasty for your parts to do what they’re supposed to.
The Corporate Washroom Obviously you’re going to head to the bathroom. Duh. Just make sure you lock the fucking door. If your place of business has a single operator rest room, then you’re in the clear. Pull it out and do what you learned inside that tent at camp in sixth grade. If there are a bunch of stalls, take the one furthest away from the door. Letting people think you’re dropping a deuce will give you that much more privacy. If you are a construction worker and your bathroom is a port-o-potty, please don’t jerk off in it. That’s gross. Just go do it in your pickup or something.
Know When to Say When Sometimes, especially in a shared bathroom, you’re going to have to pull the plug on pulling your pud. You know, like if some asshole comes in and starts taking a really juicy shit in the stall next to you. Also, you have about ten minutes in there before someone suspects something kinky is going on. This isn’t one of your hour-long stroke sessions in your bathrobe. Go in there, get it done, and get back to your desk before people start sniffing around.
Octomom Masturbating Is the 38th Wonder of the World
Nadya Suleman—aka Octomom—is about to have sex with herself on my computer screen. Supposedly. I’m beginning to think that it is a lie, because so far she is just twirling back and forth in front of a fountain, making a face like the time I was in traffic, three lanes from the shoulder, two miles from the exit, and accepted that I was absolutely going to have diarrhea in my pants. Now, eight minutes into Octomom: Home Alone, she is trying to balance on a wooden stool, holding both of her breasts in one hand while grabbing her vagina with the other. It is not going well. It looks like someone trying to open the front door while carrying groceries in from the car.
During a Howard Stern appearance to promote Home Alone, Octomom agreed to ride on the Sybian, Stern’s unofficial coronation ceremony for women with little shame and tanned thighs. (For people who don’t watch porn all day, the Sybian is basically an aggro vibrator.) It is impossible to adequately convey how ridiculous her performance on the device was, but understand that witnessing Octomom on the Sybian is basically the internet doing donuts on your front lawn. It was like she was doing her best Sexxi Babez impression, only she based it on phone sex hotline commercials and Cinemax instead of real human behavior. She screamed not in ecstasy but in distress, like a recording of a 9-1-1 call, or the cockpit audio as a plane was about to crash into an ocean. Try as she might, Octomom has all the sex appeal of a tragedy. But not Romeo and Juliet, which I learned in tenth grade was a “tragedy,” but was still sort of hot, particularly during the scene where Mercutio fingers Benvolio’s asshole behind a Sunoco station, but Mercutio can never say anything, because Benvolio is afraid his homosexuality will jeopardize his football scholarship.
Still, despite her inability to have a convincing orgasm in front of strangers, these are prosperous times for the once-bankrupt Octomom. She revealed to Stern that she recently became a sponsor for the coupon website Save Everyday, and the spokesperson for OctoLoan, a lender network that arranges for her to hang out with you down at the bottle deposit. Its website quotes her as saying “OctoLoan is a trusted source that connects you to cash lenders nationwide,” which is like Tony Danza telling you how to become an astronaut, or a giraffe trying to explain the electoral college.
With internet porn-consumption reaching staggering new heights each year, sadly, many of us are becoming desensitized to masturbation. What was once the most anticipated part(s) of our day has become routine—an unconscious act in our growing repertoire of multitasks. If you find yourself falling into a masturbation slump, you might simply need to freshen things up a bit. Here are a few simple scenarios to put some perk back in your jerk.
The Sassy Tourist
Drive to a beautiful scenic overlook along a mountain road. Get out and find a nice, older couple to take a picture of you. When they look at the screen of your camera, they’ll see an earlier picture you took of yourself masturbating. When they look up, you’ll actually be masturbating. A healthy mix of mountain air and exhibitionism can really do the trick.
Get a jar of peanut butter. You might already know where this one is headed. Now get a jar of jelly and a loaf of bread. Make some PB&J sandwiches and hand them out at a mission in the city. A mission near the peep booth where you’ll deservedly stop to masturbate on the way home with a very clear conscience.
Music writer Sophie Saint Thomas wrote this latest installment while on a romantic vacation in Paris with her penis friend. It ended with her barfing, but at least she was able to feel freaky nasty for a little bit.
“Pictures of You” by The Cure
Home from school, finally. I just finished off my after-school snack of cheese, crackers and a cream soda and now I’m lying in my twin bed exhausted about to take a nap before I wake up in time to copy the answers from the back of my algebra book before dinner. I turn, and make eye contact with Robert Smith on the Cure poster that hangs on my wall. I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you, that I almost believe that they’re real. Later in life I will understand it is the makings of my bisexuality and affinity for gender bending, but at the time I am confused as to why his eye liner makes me wet between my legs. Hesitantly, I push my hand down my panties and begin to rub. I imagine Bobby on top of me, grease paint dripping on my forehead, while he spreads my legs and pushes himself inside of me. Bobby, you were bigger, and brighter, and whiter than snow. Rubbing circles, I muster up the courage to insert a finger. I feel an intensity building up, warmth, fear, excitement, and BOOM. And you finally felt the courage to let it all go. So, I suppose this is what an orgasm feels like. Awesome.