Historically, Western medicine wasn't as concerned with women's health issues. In fact, up until the eighteenth century, there wasn't a complete vocabulary for the female anatomy. Dr. Maines says in her book that, "The vulva, labia, and clitoris were not consistently distinguished from the vagina, nor the vagina from the uterus."
Given that women's health issues weren't a priority, it's no surprise that there wasn't a lot of study into the female orgasm. Most of the medical discussion around female orgasms historically had to do with whether or not they were helpful to conception.
4. Hope You Like the Train, Because It's the Only Way to Get There
Because people only thought about the female orgasm in relation to procreative sex, they thought that orgasms came from penetration. Though modern research has shown that only 25% of women orgasm via penetration, the belief was that women should be sexually satisfied from coitus with their husbands.
5. "What's Her Problem?" "Actually, My Problem Is You"
Women who weren't sexually satisfied by their husbands were explained away in two ways. They were either seen as frigid and incapable of sexual desire, or as nymphomaniacs who could never be satisfied.
There were a lot of sexually unsatisfied women, and doctors had a diagnosis for them - hysteria.
The word "hysteria" is from a Greek word meaning, "that which proceeds from the uterus." Hysteria was a disease diagnosed in women whose symptoms included, but were not limited to, fainting, nervousness, insomnia, muscle spasms, loss of appetite for food or sex, lethargy, shortness of breath and even - wait for it - causing trouble for other people.
Essentially, almost any woman could be diagnosed with hysteria. And lots were, as it was an extremely common diagnosis.
Machines were built so that doctors wouldn't have to tire out their hands. These early machines pumped water, like a high-pressure shower. They had drawbacks, however. The machines were expensive and needed to be installed somewhere that was semipermanent, since they were bulky and required a water source.
They were usually placed in spas that women would have to visit to get treatment.
Vibrators began to be marketed as a home appliance. Ads appeared in women's magazines such as Home Needlework Journal and Modern Women.Its true purpose, however, was never stated. The ads promised to improve women's health and used euphemistic language like, "stimulating the organs" and "sending blood coursing through veins and tissues."
Unfortunately, by the end of the 1920s, the vibrator disappeared from both doctors' offices and mainstream magazines. Though the exact reasons aren't clear, there are two factors that potentially contributed.
First, with film becoming widely available, stag films, clandestinely-made pornographic films, were being created. Vibrators appeared in them and their association with the films may have made them less socially acceptable.
Secondly, physicians gained a greater understanding of women's sexuality. With the veil of medicine lifted, doctors giving orgasms moved from being a medical treatment to, well, just giving women orgasms.
Today, an estimated one-third of adult American women own a vibrator, and those vibrators come in all shapes and sizes, including this fancy necklace.
But they probably wouldn't have existed were it not for the vague and made-up disease "hysteria," which actually didn't disappear from the DSM (the Diagnostic Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association) until the 1980s.