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The Technology of Orgasm


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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Promotional Information

This title won the American Historical Association's Herbert Feis Prize.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface Acknowledgments Chapter 1 THE JOB NOBODY WANTED The Androcentric Model of Sexuality Hysteria as a Disease Paradigm The Evolution of the Technology Chapter 2 FEMALE SEXUALITY AS HYSTERICAL PATHOLOGY Hysteria in Antiquity and the Middle Ages Hysteria in Renaissance Medicine The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries The Freudian Revolution and Its Aftermath Chapter 3 "MY GOD, WHAT DOES SHE WANT?" Physicians and the Female Orgasm Masturbation "Frigidity" and Anorgasmia Female Orgasm in the Post-Freudian World What Ought to Be, and What We'd Like to Believe Chapter 4 "INVITING THE JUICES DOWNWARD" Hydropathy and Hydrotherapy Electrotherapeutics Mechanical Massagers and Vibrators Instrumental Prestige in the Vibratory Operating Room Consumer Purchase of Vibrators after 1900 Chapter 5 REVISING THE ANDROCENTRIC MODEL Orgasmic Treatment in the Practice of Western Medicine The Androcentric Model in Heterosexual Relationships The Vibrator as Technology and Totem Notes Notes on Sources Index

About the Author

Rachel P. Maines is an independent scholar and a technical processing assistant at Cornell University's Hotel School Library. She is also the author of numerous articles in scholarly and popular publications.


Thorough, original, and surprising. -- Sarah Boxer New York Times Book Review Full of wonderful descriptions of the 'job nobody wanted,' including photographs of early vibrators and vaginal electrodes. -- Jeanette Winterson Times (London) Feminist scholarship exactly as it should be: a work that not only illuminates an astonishing bit of herstory, but does so with a neat balance of anger, wit and humor... A wonderful book. -- Carol Lynn Mithers L.A. Weekly Exhaustively researched... decidedly offbeat. -- Natalie Angier New York Times Here's a provocative history with a chip on its shoulder and a buzz under its skirt... Exhumes startling facts from the underground sexual history of the early twentieth century. -- Will Blythe Mirabella Maines has produced an exhaustive and deliciously savage history of the vibrator-as-sex-aid... This fascinating and exquisitely referenced true story reads like twisted science fiction. Library Journal A titillating and often hilarious account of the rise and fall (as it were) of the vibrator as a medical tool for the treatment of hysteria... A book that can delight as well as enlighten. Journal of the American Medical Association Rachel Maines offers readers a stimulating, surprising, and often humorous account of hysteria and its treatment throughout the ages. Birdbooker Report

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