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The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction

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From the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s, massaging female patients to orgasm was a staple of medical practice among Western physicians in the treatment of "hysteria," an ailment once considered both common and chronic in women. Doctors loathed this time-consuming procedure and for centuries relied on midwives. Later, they substituted the efficiency of mechanical devic From the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s, massaging female patients to orgasm was a staple of medical practice among Western physicians in the treatment of "hysteria," an ailment once considered both common and chronic in women. Doctors loathed this time-consuming procedure and for centuries relied on midwives. Later, they substituted the efficiency of mechanical devices, including the electric vibrator, invented in the 1880s. In The Technology of Orgasm, Rachel Maines offers readers a stimulating, surprising, and often humorous account of hysteria and its treatment throughout the ages, focusing on the development, use, and fall into disrepute of the vibrator as a legitimate medical device.


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From the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s, massaging female patients to orgasm was a staple of medical practice among Western physicians in the treatment of "hysteria," an ailment once considered both common and chronic in women. Doctors loathed this time-consuming procedure and for centuries relied on midwives. Later, they substituted the efficiency of mechanical devic From the time of Hippocrates until the 1920s, massaging female patients to orgasm was a staple of medical practice among Western physicians in the treatment of "hysteria," an ailment once considered both common and chronic in women. Doctors loathed this time-consuming procedure and for centuries relied on midwives. Later, they substituted the efficiency of mechanical devices, including the electric vibrator, invented in the 1880s. In The Technology of Orgasm, Rachel Maines offers readers a stimulating, surprising, and often humorous account of hysteria and its treatment throughout the ages, focusing on the development, use, and fall into disrepute of the vibrator as a legitimate medical device.

30 review for The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Well now! I don't know why I started to read this particular book. Maybe I thought it would give insight into the "why" of the female orgasm, but recent readings of other publications have given me to understand that scientists still don't have the "why", since female orgasm is not required for conception. The writer, a feminist, would probably attribute some lurid motive to my reading the book, so let's just write it down to morbid curiosity. I was surprised to learn that doctors regularly profi Well now! I don't know why I started to read this particular book. Maybe I thought it would give insight into the "why" of the female orgasm, but recent readings of other publications have given me to understand that scientists still don't have the "why", since female orgasm is not required for conception. The writer, a feminist, would probably attribute some lurid motive to my reading the book, so let's just write it down to morbid curiosity. I was surprised to learn that doctors regularly profited by inducing orgasm in female patients who were diagnosed with "hysteria", a term used for the sexually unfulfilled. It was apparently a distasteful task for the doc, manually getting their patients off presumably while reading the sports pages. I couldn't believe my eyes: maybe there was some potential in my " I'm Not a Gynaecologist, But I'll Take A Look" T-shirt after all. I started to understand the logic one day while sitting in the waiting room at the clinic and casting my eyes over the ladies waiting there...I began to understand why the doc might want to pass the chore off to a midwife. Enter the vibrator! Doctors could now treat hysteria mechanically much faster than the old manual method. According to Maines, many of the hysterical ladies were known for having recurring symptoms, thereby requiring repeat treatments. The vibrator was a godsend, and presumably would enable a midwife or relatively unskilled technician to treat the hysteria and leave the doc with both hands free to peruse the newspaper. When homes became equipped with electricity, the portable vibrator followed quickly and was available to the lady of the house before the electric vacuum and electric iron! Maines goes extensively into the development of the vibrator, much more extensively than actually required to keep within my short male attention span. She is serious about her work, and her research is exhaustive. I have never seen such prolific and detailed notes and references in a book this short. She has been generous with her illustrations depicting vibrators that had more in common with jackhammers than with the sleek sex aids advertised today. She had me starting to think that there was an undertone of disdain for men running throughout the book, but on page 117 she gives evidence of being able to see the other side of the coin: "Western men are expected to be born knowing how to satisfy women in much the same way that women are assumed to be born knowing how to cook. Men have in the past even been held responsible for women's sexuality; Frank Caprio told young husbands in 1952 that "the sexual awakening of the wife [was their] responsibility." So Ms Maines gets it: the female body is a mystery to men, at least initially. If partners were to get together and discuss what works openly and without embarrassment there might be a lot less hysteria in the world. One point that she touches on, (lightly, so as to stay on topic) is the paradoxical double standard applied to those who were in the business of producing orgasms. The doctor could do it and maintain the respect of his profession, but let a sex trade worker produce an orgasm and the cops are raiding the joint! Interesting that in modern times the trend is toward decriminalizing the sex trade but doctors are going to jail for diddling patients. To summarize, it's an informative read, I would call it an eye-opener but not a page-turner, very nicely illustrated and very, very serious. I don't know how she resisted inserting a little levity on a subject that practically begged for it, according to my infantile man mind.

  2. 5 out of 5

    hypothermya

    I wish I could give this book a star for each aspect of it that delighted me. Unfortunately, this site caps me out at five stars, much less the 10 or so stars that this book deserves. This book is exhaustively researched, in a way most other books dealing with the broad subject matter of human sexuality are not. Better, it is superbly organized -- starting out with a clear idea of what topics it is going to cover, and managing to tackle that subject matter in only a scanty 124 pages (with at leas I wish I could give this book a star for each aspect of it that delighted me. Unfortunately, this site caps me out at five stars, much less the 10 or so stars that this book deserves. This book is exhaustively researched, in a way most other books dealing with the broad subject matter of human sexuality are not. Better, it is superbly organized -- starting out with a clear idea of what topics it is going to cover, and managing to tackle that subject matter in only a scanty 124 pages (with at least another 25 pages citing sources). But while other historical texts stop at well researched and an expertly organized discussion of their subject matter (if they even get that far), this text keeps running uphill towards academic and narrative excellence. The author intelligently conveys the social and technological history leading to the invention of the vibrator with a concise and, at times, humorous approach. It takes a bit of skill to get me emotionally engaged in a non-fiction book; and this author was skilled and then some. And even though I found myself being emotionally drawn towards each point she made, I was very reassured by how well-supported many of her points were. Nothing but empirical evidence and the bizarre nature of human history were employed to provoke responses from the audience of this book. I was even more impressed by the authors ability to identify questions raised by her text, and to easily assess whether they lay within the realm of her ability to answer and the scope of her book. Biological questions, moral questions, and several other realms of inquiry are noted -- but no further attempt to address them is made than noting that they exist and noting what historical evidence implies. While I could say that I was left unsatisfied on one count, it's not a very fair complaint: I wish there was more. I wish she had tackled other technologies besides the vibrator, or had researched other societies and their treatment of female sexuality. As it is, I am very satisfied with what was written and am deeply happy to own this book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    I like how well-researched this book is. Two hundred years of medical attitudes towards women's body and sexuality are smartly explained so even the lay person like me could understand. I like how well-researched this book is. Two hundred years of medical attitudes towards women's body and sexuality are smartly explained so even the lay person like me could understand.

  4. 5 out of 5

    p

    Content-wise this book deserves a 5. But the writing style drastically brings it down. Published in 1999, it reads like an unedited 1980s history textbook. It jumps around and at times has very confusing sentences/paragraphs. The chapters don't seem to build on each other, and rather end up repeating themes/facts that were already covered or implied. The content itself you're not going to find anywhere else, and the bare boring facts often are fascinating in and of themselves, no matter how drol Content-wise this book deserves a 5. But the writing style drastically brings it down. Published in 1999, it reads like an unedited 1980s history textbook. It jumps around and at times has very confusing sentences/paragraphs. The chapters don't seem to build on each other, and rather end up repeating themes/facts that were already covered or implied. The content itself you're not going to find anywhere else, and the bare boring facts often are fascinating in and of themselves, no matter how drolly Maines states them. This is the first in-depth discussion of hysteria that I've ever read, and it's amazing how doctors can be so blind for millenia. As a feminist book, I appreciated that it didn't beat you on the head as Maines made her points. Often her points were made in one-sentence humorous sentences sprinkled throughout the book, especially in the introduction. Her points were clear and not overstated. However, as a feminist book I think it omitted another viewpoint. Every time I read how male doctors mis-diagnosed women, I was wondering how many times male doctors mis-diagnosed men as well. The diagnoses seem so obvious in 2013 (and probably 1999 as well), but I think it's premature to blame the androcentric model without evidence of how doctors correctly labeled men in the same time-frames. I very much appreciated the final chapter, "Revising the Androcentric Model," and wish that it had been fleshed out more. This is where the book stops being a history textbook and becomes more of a discussion and where it raises important questions. ie. "Physicians, unlike prostitutes, did not lose status by providing sexual services, in part because the character of these services was camouflaged by both the disease paradigms constructed around female sexuality and by the comforting belief that only penetration was sexually stimulating to women." She spends exactly one paragraph on that very interesting point. Finally, this book is huge on differences between men and women's sexuality, and how simple it is for medical professionals to make mistakes through a narrow lens. Maines rights: "...Errors of this kind not only have prevented us from understanding female orgasm as a physiological phenomenon but have diverted us from fully recognizing how individual and idiosyncratic sexual pleasure is for both sexes." As our culture shifts towards feminism, and as we tear down old social constructs on sexuality, let's be careful that when we construct new social concepts that we aren't as naive and careless in how we understand human sexuality. And that when we fly the flag of "equal rights" that we don't forget or minimize the substantive differences between men and women, and between individuals.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I'm not going to lie, sex is a topic that greatly interests me. This was an incredibly fascinating book about female orgasms. I liked it a lot. I'm so glad someone wrote a book about this topic. I'm not going to lie, sex is a topic that greatly interests me. This was an incredibly fascinating book about female orgasms. I liked it a lot. I'm so glad someone wrote a book about this topic.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This book is awesome. I'm reading it for thesis work but recommend it to you even if you are not an unabashed and wholescale nerd. My only gripe-- having nothing to do with the content or the author-- is that this book is pigeon-holed on the back cover as "women's studies," which suggests to me that culture and history most relevant to women are still considered outside the "androcentric" mainstream and relegated to the scholarly periphery. This book is awesome. I'm reading it for thesis work but recommend it to you even if you are not an unabashed and wholescale nerd. My only gripe-- having nothing to do with the content or the author-- is that this book is pigeon-holed on the back cover as "women's studies," which suggests to me that culture and history most relevant to women are still considered outside the "androcentric" mainstream and relegated to the scholarly periphery.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Justin Cormack

    One of those alas so rare tweeter-woofer crossover moments of academic writing (must get another copy of In Search of Respect actually). Rachel Maines, by accident starting looking at the adverts in the old magazines and catalogues and accidentally discovered the early history of the electric motor, when motors and appliances were still not integrated due to costs, and the vibrator was born. That in turn leads into a fascinating story of medical history - the story of hysteria, a condition that h One of those alas so rare tweeter-woofer crossover moments of academic writing (must get another copy of In Search of Respect actually). Rachel Maines, by accident starting looking at the adverts in the old magazines and catalogues and accidentally discovered the early history of the electric motor, when motors and appliances were still not integrated due to costs, and the vibrator was born. That in turn leads into a fascinating story of medical history - the story of hysteria, a condition that has a long history and an equally quick disappearance in the 1950s. The vibrator was born in its heyday as a mechanical device to relieve junior doctors of the burden of the prescription manual orgasm. If this sounds, well, a trifle implausible, then read this book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    C

    An absolutely fascinating book. Combined with other books I've read recently on the state of obstetrics and childbirth in the United States, Maines' book really sheds some light on how attitudes towards women's bodies become attitudes towards women as a group, and how those are then institutionalized, as in medicine. An absolutely fascinating book. Combined with other books I've read recently on the state of obstetrics and childbirth in the United States, Maines' book really sheds some light on how attitudes towards women's bodies become attitudes towards women as a group, and how those are then institutionalized, as in medicine.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David

    The content of this book (and therefore this review) are NSFW (not safe for work). So, if you're at work, or worse, if you're a co-worker of mine, don't click the "view spoiler" link. :-) (view spoiler)[ In "The Technology of Orgasm", Rachel Maines (PhD. Degree in Applied History and Social Science) lays out her research on "female hysteria", an ancient medical and sociological notion that persisted well into the mid-20th century. In a nutshell, the sexual response of Western/European middle/upper The content of this book (and therefore this review) are NSFW (not safe for work). So, if you're at work, or worse, if you're a co-worker of mine, don't click the "view spoiler" link. :-) (view spoiler)[ In "The Technology of Orgasm", Rachel Maines (PhD. Degree in Applied History and Social Science) lays out her research on "female hysteria", an ancient medical and sociological notion that persisted well into the mid-20th century. In a nutshell, the sexual response of Western/European middle/upper class white women was classified as a disease. Women were often left sexually frustrated by "the failure of androcentrically defined sexuality", and the "solitary vice" was medically and sociologically forbidden to them. So what's a girl to do? Why, shes goes to a doctor, and he literally takes the matters into his own hands. That is, until devices could automate the doctor's task (the techno-chronology of which constitutes the 2nd half of the book). While I was aware of most of this (prior to reading Maines's research), I was astounded at how widespread this practice was, and the duration over which it was the accepted social norm. Maines provides a convincing case that the history of the female hysteria diagnosis resulted from the controlling need to project the male sexual experience onto females (despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary). She explains why this disease paradigm lasted for many hundreds of years, and why it was socially and ethically permissible for doctors to "treat" the disease. Much of this came down to protecting "the male ego and the androcentric model of sexuality" (p9). In setting the stage, she recalls: "...I began to receive invitations to present papers on the vibrator to university audiences. At this point I discovered what I should have realized all along: that some people, most of them male, take my findings personally and resent them as an implied criticism. ... After my presentation, one tenured senor professor (wearing the obligatory herringbone tweed jacket) said he was not entirely convinced by my argument, since the sexual experience of women using vibrators and their predecessors was 'not the real thing.' While I was collecting my wits to formulate some sort of response to this fundamental misunderstanding, one of the women graduate students rescued me. 'Don't you see, Dr. So-and-So? Most of the time, it's better than the real thing.' Her female colleagues nodded solemnly, and Dr. So-and-So subsided. This was clearly not what he wanted to hear. I have since encountered this objection in many forms, of which the most straightforward, as I recall, was the complaint, 'But if what you're saying is true, then women don't need men!' The only possible reply is that if orgasm is the only issue, men don't need women either." (Pxiii-xiv) She explains that the term "hysteria" is from the Greek, meaning "that which proceeds from the uterus." Indeed, "It was not customary until the nineteenth century to distinguish the uterus from the vagina and external genitalia". She traces the concept of female hysteria through the ages, starting with Plato, who referred to it as a disease caused by the uterus, 'an animal inside an animal' " (p23) Given that our societal taboos in these matters are still alive and well, and the fact that anything written online is eternal, I think it better if I just include book excerpts from this point onward: Doctor visits: ---------------------------------- "Because the androcentric model of sexuality was thought necessary to the pro-natal and patriarchal institution of marriage and had been defended and justified by leaders of the Western medical establishment in all centuries at least since the time of Hippocrates, marriage did not always 'cure" the 'disease' represented by the ordinary and uncomfortably persistent functioning of women's sexuality outside the dominate sexual paradigm. This relegated the task of relieving the symptoms of female arousal to medical treatment, which defined female orgasm under clinical conditions as the crisis of an illness, the 'hysterical paroxysm.' In effect, doctors inherited the task of producing orgasm in women because it was a job nobody else wanted." (P3-4) "At the same time, hysterical women represented a large and lucrative market for physicians. These patients neither recovered nor died of their condition but continued to require regular treatment. Russel Thacher Trall and John Butler, in the late nineteenth century, estimated that as many as three-quarters of the female population were 'out of health,' and that this group constituted America's single largest market for therapeutic services." (P5) "This androcentric focus, in fact, in many cases effectively camouflaged the sexual character of medical massage treatments. Since no penetration was involved, believers in the hypothesis that only penetration was sexually gratifying to women could argue that nothing sexual could be occurring when their patients experienced the hysterical paroxysm during treatment." (P10) "Only a handful of the medical authorities who advocated female genital massage as a treatment for hysteria, however acknowledged that the crisis so produced was an orgasm." (P9) Forcing male experience onto females: ---------------------------------- "What is really remarkable about Western history in this context is that the medical norm of penetration to male orgasm as the ultimate sexual thrill for both men and women has survived an indefinite number of individual and collective observations suggesting that for most women this pattern is simply not the case." (P49) "Medical authorities as recently as the 1970s assured men that a women who did not reach orgasm during heterosexual coitus was flawed or suffering from some physical or psychological impairment. The fault must surely be hers, since it was literally unimaginable that any flaw could be discovered in the penetration hypothesis." (P6) "If the normal functioning of female sexuality was defined as a disease, women must have seemed frail indeed." (P38) "We should hardly be surprised that sexuality, existing at the intersection of the mind and the body and bearing heavy, sometimes impenetrable overlays of social construction, should have been subject to successive waves of medical interpretation. What is impressive, however, is that the androcentric paradigm of sexuality -- that sex consists of penetration (usually of the vagina) to male orgasm -- is a fixed point in the otherwise shifting sands of Western medical opinion." (P112) Male fear of female sexual response: ---------------------------------- "Women who wanted more sexual gratification than their partners were willing to provide, however, were serious threats to the androcentric and pro-natal model of sexuality" (P53) "Although [Peter] Gay's views on sexuality are, as we shall see, substantially androcentric, he does raise a question with real significance for understanding hysteria as a disease paradigm: 'To deny women native erotic desires was to safeguard man's sexual adequacy. However he performed, it would be good enough. She would not -- would she? -- ask for more.' If she did, she could be labeled hysterical and sent to a doctor for treatment, thereby both removing the threat to her sexual partner's self-esteem and preserving the androcentric norm of penetration to male orgasm." (P47) "Not only did the clinical production of the 'hysterical paroxysm' provide a palliative for female complaints and makes patients feel better, at least temporarily, it resolved the dissonance of reality with the androcentric sexual model." (P11) "Women who desire or express sexuality outside this context have been perceived as flawed, sinful, or sick, and men consider themselves justified in imposing social and medical sanctions to get compliance with the normative model of female pleasure during heterosexual intercourse that reinforces male self-esteem." (P50) "What is surprising about the androcentric hypothesis is not that it exists, which, as we have seen, is readily explained, but that we have been willing to sacrifice so much to it. Female orgasm is not necessary to conception, so it can take place (or not) outside the context of intercourse without interfering either with male enjoyment of sex or with conception. The central position in history occupied by these two concerns to a large extent explains the omissions, silences, and learned misunderstandings about female sexuality. As long as female orgasm could be medicalized, it did not have to be discussed, which would have called uncomfortable attention to its apparent conflict with the norm of coitus." (P116-117) In discussing her presentations, Maines writes "In mixed groups the women look uncomfortable and ask little, though they laugh just the same; they are aware that it is a major breach of etiquette to mention in mixed company the relative inefficiency of penetration as a means of producing female orgasm. The men are divided into laughter and blank stares: the former, I gather, are those for whom my research confirms that women are as sexual as they had always hoped, and the latter are those for whom it confirms that women are as sexual as they had always feared." (Pxiii) (hide spoiler)]

  10. 5 out of 5

    Celine

    Put in simple terms, The Technology of Orgasm is a history of the vibrator. More specifically, it shows how the vibrator was developed to fulfill a medical need: the treatment of "hysterical" women. Nowadays hysteria is seen as a historical dump-category of any kind of deviant behaviour in women that was not appreciated by Western society. Women were either too frigid or nymphomaniacs, they were too nervous and anxious or too forward. Maines's book is an important entry in the history of sexualit Put in simple terms, The Technology of Orgasm is a history of the vibrator. More specifically, it shows how the vibrator was developed to fulfill a medical need: the treatment of "hysterical" women. Nowadays hysteria is seen as a historical dump-category of any kind of deviant behaviour in women that was not appreciated by Western society. Women were either too frigid or nymphomaniacs, they were too nervous and anxious or too forward. Maines's book is an important entry in the history of sexuality, showing how medical opinion, societal values, and women's bodies intersected in the very lucrative treatment of hysterical women by bringing them to orgasm. Although the (plentiful) evidence Maines brings to the table is generally from doctors's perspectives, there is a feminist backbone to her study. She distances herself from her sources when they define healthy female sexuality as intercourse which involves a vaginal orgasm. This is actually quite rare (it depends on how the question is posed, but the amount of women that achieve a vaginal orgasm reliably is probably only around 10-20%). It was nice to see how she let the ample historical source material speak for itself, while ideologically deconstructing myths of what women's bodies should work like. The Technology of Orgasm is really interesting, and for an academic book, very readable. A casual reader might find the retreading of previous arguments a bit tedious, but Maines's style is accessible and there are plenty of juicy tidbits of information. While it is beyond the scope of her work, it has made me think about how Victorians are always conceived as prudish, yet many women in the end of the 1800s went to their doctors to come - or visited spas which had plenty of dedicated apparatuses that aimed water beams at sensitive bits. Neither of these would be acceptable in contemporary society, once again showing that how a society sees itself does not necessarily translate across the ages. One of my favourite facts from the book is that Freud also tried manual massage of lady bits to treat some of his hysterics, but apparently was no good at it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Henry Le Nav

    I read this book not long after it was published (back around the turn of the century), and yes, let’s get this out of the way, I read it for the salaciousness of its content, that a cottage industry of doctors and midwives existed to treat women for hysteria by giving them external vulva massages to induce a paroxysm, a physical reaction which would move the uterus back to its proper position, relieve congested humors, and thus free the woman of the pelvic discomfort and disturbing dreams and e I read this book not long after it was published (back around the turn of the century), and yes, let’s get this out of the way, I read it for the salaciousness of its content, that a cottage industry of doctors and midwives existed to treat women for hysteria by giving them external vulva massages to induce a paroxysm, a physical reaction which would move the uterus back to its proper position, relieve congested humors, and thus free the woman of the pelvic discomfort and disturbing dreams and erotic thoughts. Then the electric vibrator was introduced and was hailed as a great advancement for this industry because it could attain a paroxysm in a matter of 10 minutes versus the often wrist numbing hour required by manual methods. This treatment was purely medicinal, not at all sexual because no penetration occurred. The book was peppered with illustrations of some of the ghastly devices used in the treatment of hysteria. I loved this book, I gave it 5 stars. I recommended it to friends. I have had the Kindle edition on my wish list forever hoping that it would appear on sale. As I mentioned I was more driven by titillation than historical or technical accuracy, so I did not read this with a critical eye. I am a layman who has an interest in sex like some people have an interest in model trains. I didn’t fact check the book. Good grief, why should I, it is published by John Hopkins University Press. I just enjoyed the book and patted myself on the back for having a superior knowledge of sex, the female anatomy, and how to bring it to orgasm thus sparing my wife the horrors of hysteria--a medical condition no longer recognized. I swallowed the information presented in the book, as they say, hook, line, and sinker. Well apparently I was not the only person who didn’t read it with a critical eye. With few minor exceptions no one seemed to question the content of this book and it became instilled in the popular culture as fact. Well today, I ran into an article published several years ago that disputes most of the content of this book, in fact it shreds it almost line for line: “A Failure of Academic Quality Control: The Technology of Orgasm” by Hallie Lieberman Eric Schatzberg both of the Georgia Institute of Technology was published in The Journal of Positive Sexuality. You can read a PDF of the article at: https://journalofpositivesexuality.or... It is 20 pages of text and 4 pages of references. So I read the entire article, again not fact checking any references. I am layman, not an academic, fact checking is beyond my paygrade. I read it in disbelief. Surely they are making a mountain of a molehill. OK, maybe Maines got a little sloppy with some of her research. Surely the whole book couldn’t be questioned. Liberman and Schatzberg even addressed folks of my particular ilk: Yet the book’s appeal isn’t just sexual. Maines’ story fits narratives of progress in sexual knowledge, allowing readers to see themselves as worldly sophisticates in contrast to the clueless, desexualized Victorians. Physicians look particularly ignorant in this account, having no clue what the clitoris was, let alone an orgasm. Maines also portrays women as victims of profit-hungry physicians. Such victim narratives were a staple of feminists critiques of medical care in the 1970s (e.g., Frankfort, 1972). Women have no real agency in Maines’ account, as the historical actors are all male physicians, and women’s voices are completely absent. However, readers can still view the female patients as heroes who subvert patriarchy by procuring orgasms under the guise of medical treatment. The story is thus paradoxical—women are victims, but the tools used to victimize them bring them orgasms, a delicious irony. Emphasis mine. Yes, that is me, a worldly sophisticate! How dare these eggheads smear one of my favorite books. So when I finished the article I tried to Google a refutation by Maines. I didn’t do an extensive search just a quickie. I found this article in The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/ar... In this article Maines offers up this reply: In an interview, Maines said that she has heard variations of the paper’s criticism before—and that her argument in The Technology of Orgasm was really only a “hypothesis,” anyway. “I never claimed to have evidence that this was really the case,” she said. “What I said was that this was an interesting hypothesis, and as [Lieberman] points out—correctly, I think—people fell all over it. It was ripe to be turned into mythology somehow. I didn’t intend it that way, but boy, people sure took it, ran with it.” Maines added that she was a little surprised it took so long for other scholars to question her argument, given how admittedly “slender” the evidence she gave in The Technology of Orgasm was. “I thought people were going to attack it right away. But it’s taken 20 years for people to even—people didn’t want to question it. They liked it so much they didn’t want to attack it.” Emphasis mine. Ha! Ha! Ha! Worldly sophisticate? Henry you dipshit, you “fell all over it.” Not only did I “run with it” but it took me 20 years to find out that it is just an “interesting hypothesis.” Well fine Ms Maines. A factual book on The Technology of Orgasm will earn you 5 stars. But a poorly researched “interesting hypothesis?” Two stars (only because I liked the illustrations) not that I imagine you give a damn what a yahoo like me would think anyhow. Oh, and I removed it from my Kindle wish list. I see no need to refer to it any longer. References: Hallie Lieberman, Eric Schatzberg. “Failure of Academic Quality Control: The Technology of Orgasm.” The Journal of Positive Sexuality. Volume 4, Issue 2, August 2018. https://journalofpositivesexuality.or... Robinson Meyer, Ashley Fetters. “Victorian-Era Orgasms and the Crisis of Peer Review.” The Atlantic. (Online). September 6, 2018. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/ar...

  12. 4 out of 5

    Fred

    I really like the idea of the microhistory genre, where someone grasps that there is a history of *everything* and seeks to tell that tale. I know its been a trend for a few years, but since this book was published in 1999 and Maines's research goes way back to the 80s, I consider her an early adopter, if not a pioneer. I liked her description of poring through ads in 100 year old periodicals, because I do the same thing. The book is a history of hysteria, which no one quite knew what that was, v I really like the idea of the microhistory genre, where someone grasps that there is a history of *everything* and seeks to tell that tale. I know its been a trend for a few years, but since this book was published in 1999 and Maines's research goes way back to the 80s, I consider her an early adopter, if not a pioneer. I liked her description of poring through ads in 100 year old periodicals, because I do the same thing. The book is a history of hysteria, which no one quite knew what that was, vibrators and orgasms, all interesting. She spent a lot of time reiterating the fact that penises don't actually usually produce orgasms by penetration which was a little hard to take but harder to argue with. Not her original argument, but not one I was accustomed to in the halls of literature I usually frequent. As for hysteria, physicians for centuries apparently subscribed to the "she just needs to get laid" approach, for they would literally prescribe marriage or, barring that, manual stimulation to orgasm (which, amusingly, they decided was to be called the "hysterical paroxysm"). Sometimes this was the task of a midwife, sometimes a physician - never was a girl or woman instructed to take matters into their own hand. After all, one of the leading causes of hysteria was masturbation itself. Duh. So everyone pretended the cure was not masturbation, and then everything made sense. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, they invented vibrators and every kind of electronic stimulator imaginable. To save time and money at the doctor's office. One thing which interested me was her revelation that Abraham Zacuto, mostly known to my kind as the author of a learned Renaissance-era Hebrew history called Sefer Yuhasin, actually came down on the side of the debate that manually produced orgasms on the part of physicians for hysterical women was ethically sketchy. Yet, into the 20th century, women suffering a vague or no illness could go to their doctor and be vibrated to hysterical paroxysm. I don't know if they offered cigarettes or cuddling afterwards.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jessi

    The author variously refers to vibrators as "socially camouflaged technologies," "electromechanical medical instrument" (this one several times,) and ,finallyvibrators. Bringing orgasms to women was the "job that nobody wanted" ... at least until it became lucrative. Until then, women were supposed to get married and then rely on penetration only to do the deed. Especially since masturbation was highly discouraged and at times deemed completely immoral. She says that she fell into this subject as The author variously refers to vibrators as "socially camouflaged technologies," "electromechanical medical instrument" (this one several times,) and ,finallyvibrators. Bringing orgasms to women was the "job that nobody wanted" ... at least until it became lucrative. Until then, women were supposed to get married and then rely on penetration only to do the deed. Especially since masturbation was highly discouraged and at times deemed completely immoral. She says that she fell into this subject as she was researching needlework. Of course, needlework and "hysteria" were both the purview of women so, before this book, there was very little research done on the topic. In the last twelve years, I think there must have been much more on the topic because I remember learning quite a bit about the topic in my sophomore year sexuality class. Of course, the term hysteria was assigned in the days of Aristotle so the idea has been around for a long time and it is therefore no wonder that the idea of sexual revolution for women has occurred in fits and starts. The first electric vibrator came onto the scene in the 1880s. Before then, doctors had to rely on their own two hands (which was tiring, seeing many women a day, and taking up to an hour on each one) or expensive and hard to obtain "water therapies" and even a few "clock-work" type vibrators. After the electric vibrator was invented, the market exploded. There were even advertisements in upscale ladies' magazines. p. 29 "Wives are more healthfull then Widowes, or Virgins, because they are refreshed with the mans seed, and ejaculate their own, which being excluded, the cause of evill is taken away" -- from Nicolaas Fonteyn in 1652

  14. 5 out of 5

    Vlad Golovach

    I got this book to read the history of vibrator (I'm a great fan of history of techne). But this book is so much more! Basically it's about surprisingly effective efforts of both medicos and lay persons to ignore just one relatively simple (and very easy to prove) fact - that women are not necessarily happy with just a penetration. All to keep the useless notion that dick makes a man. Even more alarming (for women of goode olde times) and funny (for me, male from a present) is the long and convi I got this book to read the history of vibrator (I'm a great fan of history of techne). But this book is so much more! Basically it's about surprisingly effective efforts of both medicos and lay persons to ignore just one relatively simple (and very easy to prove) fact - that women are not necessarily happy with just a penetration. All to keep the useless notion that dick makes a man. Even more alarming (for women of goode olde times) and funny (for me, male from a present) is the long and convincing plot of manually performed vulvar massage which apparently did not ring any bell in the doctors minds. How come THOUSANDS accomplished, smart, educated and intelligent men were able to put "two in a pink and one in a stink" without realising that patient is having an orgasm - well, it's beyond my powers to comprehend. Except maybe the very same men haven't even seen female orgasm once?

  15. 4 out of 5

    lola

    WERE YOU AWARE: That hysteria means "womb disease?" That "Susan B Anthony is said to have regarded male behavior at sports events as evidence that men were too emotional to be allowed to vote?" Or perhaps that "What is really remarkable about Western history in this context is that the medical norm of penetration to male orgasm as the ultimate sexual thrill for both men and women has survived an indefinite number of individual and collective observations suggesting that for most women this patter WERE YOU AWARE: That hysteria means "womb disease?" That "Susan B Anthony is said to have regarded male behavior at sports events as evidence that men were too emotional to be allowed to vote?" Or perhaps that "What is really remarkable about Western history in this context is that the medical norm of penetration to male orgasm as the ultimate sexual thrill for both men and women has survived an indefinite number of individual and collective observations suggesting that for most women this pattern is simply not the case?" WERE YOU AWARE? With The Technology of Orgasm, you will be.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    The Technology of Orgasm a great book by Rachel P. Maines . Surprisingly, I’ve had this on my shelf for a very long time. An acquaintance asked me about the subject, and I suggested this book and another one. The research behind this book is huge with facts gathered together over many years and I have recommended whenever curious questions get asked about this. Obviously, it is focused for the female body in terms that anybody can understand. It’s not written for sexual scientists. Those who The Technology of Orgasm a great book by Rachel P. Maines . Surprisingly, I’ve had this on my shelf for a very long time. An acquaintance asked me about the subject, and I suggested this book and another one. The research behind this book is huge with facts gathered together over many years and I have recommended whenever curious questions get asked about this. Obviously, it is focused for the female body in terms that anybody can understand. It’s not written for sexual scientists. Those who have interest will be enlightened. It’s old, but still clear.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Conrad

    Who knew Galen invented the vibrator? There's a lot of nifty material in here on how vibrators were initially advertised, too. Really a great book, if you can get over the initial hump. Who knew Galen invented the vibrator? There's a lot of nifty material in here on how vibrators were initially advertised, too. Really a great book, if you can get over the initial hump.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cate Meredith

    About halfway through I forgot why I wanted to read it. By the end I was just glad it was over.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Vannucci

    Read this book! You will be outraged, amused, and much smarter after you do. Then see the brilliant movie PASSION AND POWER made from this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Johanna

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Fairly dry and academic, but very informative. Basically, men are fragile and insecure, and they couldn't bring their wives to orgasm so they had the doctor do it for them. Except doctors, being men, found it tedious, so they invented machines to do it for them. Except men are fragile and insecure, and they can't handle the fact that they are easily replaced by machines. Voila. History of the vibrator. Fairly dry and academic, but very informative. Basically, men are fragile and insecure, and they couldn't bring their wives to orgasm so they had the doctor do it for them. Except doctors, being men, found it tedious, so they invented machines to do it for them. Except men are fragile and insecure, and they can't handle the fact that they are easily replaced by machines. Voila. History of the vibrator.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sophia

    The origins of this feminist work lie in the author's discovery of turn-of-the-century advertisements of vibrators as therapeutic appliances, designed to save doctors time and labor. What?! Reclaiming the original definition of hysteria from Freudian reinterpretation, Maines shows that in the Western medical tradition, manually massaging female genitalia to orgasm was an accepted practice for treating 'womb disease.' This was accepted as a legitimate condition and treatment, the author argues, be The origins of this feminist work lie in the author's discovery of turn-of-the-century advertisements of vibrators as therapeutic appliances, designed to save doctors time and labor. What?! Reclaiming the original definition of hysteria from Freudian reinterpretation, Maines shows that in the Western medical tradition, manually massaging female genitalia to orgasm was an accepted practice for treating 'womb disease.' This was accepted as a legitimate condition and treatment, the author argues, because of the prevailing androcentric model of sexuality which led women's sexual dissatisfaction to be perceived as a disease. It's a somewhat familiar argument, but accentuated here by the early history of electromechanical vibrators and hydrotherapy as technological advances in treatment. Beyond effectively demonstrating how entrenched society is in the (heterosexual) norm of sex as penetration to male orgasm as the ultimate sexual thrill, there's no shortcut offered here for moving towards a model of orgasmic mutuality. But an interesting work in women's studies/history of science and medical thought nonetheless.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marto Mugss

    It came as a surprise to me that the vibrator was invented in the late 1880s as a time-saving device for physicians, who had been treating women's "hysteria" for years with clitoral massage.Maines, an independent scholar in the history of technology, presents a plain-sailing account of the mechanism from its beginning through the 1920s, when it came into ignominy as a medical instrument. Going beyond a summary of therapeutic advances, however, she wryly chronicles the attitude toward women's sex It came as a surprise to me that the vibrator was invented in the late 1880s as a time-saving device for physicians, who had been treating women's "hysteria" for years with clitoral massage.Maines, an independent scholar in the history of technology, presents a plain-sailing account of the mechanism from its beginning through the 1920s, when it came into ignominy as a medical instrument. Going beyond a summary of therapeutic advances, however, she wryly chronicles the attitude toward women's sexuality in the medical and psychological professions and shows, with clear elucidated insights, how some ancient biases are still prevalent in our society. Her writing is lively and entertaining, and her research is exhaustive, drawing on texts from Hippocrates to the present day.Proving her point about how women's sexuality is still perceived as taboo in some quarters, Maines describes her tribulations in vibrator historiography, including the loss of her teaching job at Clarkson University.A trailblazer and important book, this window into social and technological history also provides a stupendous clear view of contemporary ideas about women's sexuality.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jen McGovern

    So fascinating! Solidly researched. Feels repetitive and dry at times but very worth it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    John Carter McKnight

    A Great Big Idea, but a toothpick-thin book. In 122 pages, Maines covers two thousand years of the history of the medicalization of women's bodies and sexuality, the hundred year history of the vibrator, and dips into contemporary studies of sexuality - while still managing to be a bit redundant. The book's historical scope begins with extensive classical sources, read in the original Greek and Latin, but oddly comes to a stop in the 1970s, with virtually no discussion of the vibrator as a moder A Great Big Idea, but a toothpick-thin book. In 122 pages, Maines covers two thousand years of the history of the medicalization of women's bodies and sexuality, the hundred year history of the vibrator, and dips into contemporary studies of sexuality - while still managing to be a bit redundant. The book's historical scope begins with extensive classical sources, read in the original Greek and Latin, but oddly comes to a stop in the 1970s, with virtually no discussion of the vibrator as a modern product and cultural artifact. While her core research interests are clearly classical and turn-of-the-century, as a pioneer she owed it, I think, to academia to complete the project by bringing her work up to the present, rather than leaving it at the doorstep of second-wave feminism. Still, it's a pathbreaking work of Science and Technology Studies, doing what the field does best: get us to re-examine artifacts in social context. I'd love to teach it to an intro class instead of much of the standard and tedious works of medical STS.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Satrina T

    Once more I'm happy of the times I get to live. I know we, as a society, still have a long -loooong- way to go but thankfully things have improved. Favorite part: Chapter 5 Revising the Androcentric Model. From this chapter I loved the part where it is explained according to a text from 1965 by Alexander Lowen that basically "most men" considered a burden bringing woman to orgasm by clitoral stimulation and also felt that it imposed "a restraint upon his natural desire for closeness and intimacy. Once more I'm happy of the times I get to live. I know we, as a society, still have a long -loooong- way to go but thankfully things have improved. Favorite part: Chapter 5 Revising the Androcentric Model. From this chapter I loved the part where it is explained according to a text from 1965 by Alexander Lowen that basically "most men" considered a burden bringing woman to orgasm by clitoral stimulation and also felt that it imposed "a restraint upon his natural desire for closeness and intimacy." Then, during coitus, clitoral stimulation was a distraction from his sensations and lastly bringing his partner to orgasm after his own climax prevented them from "enjoying the relaxation and peace that are the rewards of sexuality". Men who engaged in this "practice" resented it. Nice book, thoroughly researched. Read as part of Book Riot's 2017 Read Harder Challenge Task 13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I actually didn't even finish this before I had to return it to the library. The subject matter (that doctors used to masturbate women as part of treatment for what was essentially a made-up ailment) is of course fascinating, yet the writing, being part of the Johns Hopkins series in the History of Technology, I suppose, was so, ahem, dry. I was also distracted by the pencil comments of some previous reader, whom I imagined to be a naive undergrad learning for the first time women's place in sex I actually didn't even finish this before I had to return it to the library. The subject matter (that doctors used to masturbate women as part of treatment for what was essentially a made-up ailment) is of course fascinating, yet the writing, being part of the Johns Hopkins series in the History of Technology, I suppose, was so, ahem, dry. I was also distracted by the pencil comments of some previous reader, whom I imagined to be a naive undergrad learning for the first time women's place in sexual history. Which is unfair of me! I guess what I'm ultimately saying is that this book told me little I found surprising, which was what I wanted it to do. (Sorry to Edan for failing to find new, juicy facts - but I think you've got it covered.)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jason Williams

    The people of Lysol ought to be ashamed of themselves. As should Clark University, which fired Maines for this book. It's ironic, since Clark University was an early pioneer in American psychology (before the behaviorists hijacked psych and turned it into an industry) and was the only American college Freud ever set foot on (see Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis). Books like Technology of Orgasm are proof that there is so much more to history than wars and elections and "great men." Indeed, the ve The people of Lysol ought to be ashamed of themselves. As should Clark University, which fired Maines for this book. It's ironic, since Clark University was an early pioneer in American psychology (before the behaviorists hijacked psych and turned it into an industry) and was the only American college Freud ever set foot on (see Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis). Books like Technology of Orgasm are proof that there is so much more to history than wars and elections and "great men." Indeed, the very term "great" comes off as ironic in this case. It must have been some great men, indeed, in charge of hiring and firing at Clark.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    There is not a person on earth, male/female/other, young/old/other, who wouldn't benefit from reading this book. While the author, at times, belabors some points or uses too many like examples, the information she's given is unique and it is absolutely worth slogging through the occasional slow part to walk away from this small tome with that much empowering knowledge. My friend Mark wrote an amazing review which compelled me to go get this book immediately, and if you would like a more thorough There is not a person on earth, male/female/other, young/old/other, who wouldn't benefit from reading this book. While the author, at times, belabors some points or uses too many like examples, the information she's given is unique and it is absolutely worth slogging through the occasional slow part to walk away from this small tome with that much empowering knowledge. My friend Mark wrote an amazing review which compelled me to go get this book immediately, and if you would like a more thorough breakdown, please go to his blog for it! http://openlibrary.org/books/OL360169... Do yourself a favor and read this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Annamarie

    This book is PACKED with politics and fascinating tidbits about the long history of the vibrator. I think it is less accessible than some of the other books in the genre, mostly because it reads very much like a thesis or dissertation, but it is impeccably referenced and does have some humor thrown in. The excuses that the medical establishment came up with for what was essentially orgasm as catch-all therapy are very amusing and horrifying all at the same time. Thankfully technology can finally This book is PACKED with politics and fascinating tidbits about the long history of the vibrator. I think it is less accessible than some of the other books in the genre, mostly because it reads very much like a thesis or dissertation, but it is impeccably referenced and does have some humor thrown in. The excuses that the medical establishment came up with for what was essentially orgasm as catch-all therapy are very amusing and horrifying all at the same time. Thankfully technology can finally (at least mostly) openly cater to what these devices are actually being used for. Long live the vibrator!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    The writing is pretty dense and academic, but this book is pretty much everything you could possibly want to know about the history of "female hysteria," female orgasm, and the rather "interesting" origin of the vibrator. It's full of so much historical research, insights from 19th century physicians and philosophers, images of different vibrator machines and even old advertisements. Once you get through the jargon and overly-academic sentences, you really learn a lot. With that said, this is pr The writing is pretty dense and academic, but this book is pretty much everything you could possibly want to know about the history of "female hysteria," female orgasm, and the rather "interesting" origin of the vibrator. It's full of so much historical research, insights from 19th century physicians and philosophers, images of different vibrator machines and even old advertisements. Once you get through the jargon and overly-academic sentences, you really learn a lot. With that said, this is pretty much the encyclopedia of vibrators, female hysteria, and overall concerns about female sexuality across history, all jam packed in this neat little book.

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