Guest Post: “Hysteria” and the History of Vibrators

Posted on: May 18th, 2012 at 6:18 am by

Hysteria, a new romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator, will premiere at the Landmark Sunshine Theater tonight. In celebration of this device, Babeland co-founder Claire Cavanah, who is actually introducing the event, was kind enough to write this post exclusively for Bowery Boogie.

Feeling hysterical? You might need a vibrator for that.

The first electrical vibrator was designed by a doctor as a labor-saving device and used to cure female hysteria. All of this is a hot topic currently with the release of the new film, Hysteria, a romantic-comedy about the invention of the vibrator, starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal. It begins with a true story and the title comes from a series of symptoms medical professionals lumped into a broad category of “hysteria.” The maladies could include everything from nervousness to a general “tendency to cause trouble” – don’t you love that? I personally can’t wait to see Hysteria and will be there for the 9:30 pm showing at the Sunshine Cinema tonight. Please join me! I’ll be introducing the film at 9:25, and the first 50 ticket holders get Babeland gift bags so you can treat your own hysteria after the movie.

Hysteria goes back to the ancient Greeks, who believed that the womb traveled throughout the body and was responsible for various lady-troubles. Treatment was release through orgasm brought on by clitoral stimulation in the doctor’s office. Of course, necessity is the mother of invention and the doctor who invented the vibrator wanted to save his weary hands from further muscle strain. And here we are more than a hundred years later blessed with the evolution of those first designs.

Mark Twain had one!

As folks who are generally curious about such things at Babeland, we collected vintage toys over the years, including some of the early 20th century models. You can visit our SoHo and Brooklyn locations to see displays of some of the vibrators, or view them online at our Vintage Vibrator Museum. There’s some fascinating history in these toys that speaks to our cultural heritage and more importantly, helps us understand how women’s sexuality has been feared, repressed and controlled through various means. Here are some of our favorites and their modern-day counterparts.

Recent Stories

dubai-smoke-shop-rivington
‘Dubai Smoke Shop’ Takes Over for Honey in the Rough on Rivington Street

Once a boutique, 161 Rivington Street is now something completely different. Back in the winter, proprietor Ashley Hanosh decided to shutter the Honey in the Rough boutique after seven years on Rivington Street. She told us at the time that a change was in order, and promptly moved to California. The old digs is currently undergoing conversion […]

38delancey
Evolution Enrichment Center Offers Array of Classes at 38 Delancey Street

It’s back to school, including for 38 Delancey. The condoplex at the northeast corner of Forsyth and Delancey Streets just welcomed its second learning facility on premises. Innovate Manhattan charter school opened on the third floor in September 2012 and has educated a steady stream of students since. Now the Evolution Enrichment Center is taking up […]

Photo: Tasting Table
Rosette Probably Won’t Be Serving Much Longer on the Lower East Side

Nine months after its much-ballyhooed debut, Rosette and its American contemporary cuisine will likely bid adieu to the Lower East Side. The restaurant at 171 East Broadway – opened by Ron Castellano and chef Nick Curtin (Acme) in December 2013 to replace LTO – is now eyed by some new blood. According to application materials on file […]

two-bits-reopened
Two Bit’s Retro Arcade Reopens on Essex Street After Brief Closure

The game’s not up, it seems. Two Bit’s pumped in another quarter to continue playing at 153 Essex Street. That’s right, gamers. The year-old retro arcade bar reopened right before the holiday weekend after a week-long recess. Two Bit’s closed unexpectedly two weeks ago for the second time in three months. It was another instance […]

poplar-tree-liz-christy-2
Decades-Old Poplar Tree in Liz Christy Garden Will Be Cut Down Imminently

Over the last few decades, it’s grown to become a bucolic tower in the Bowery skyline. Time’s almost up, though. The highly visible Poplar tree with Dragonclaw Ivy at the northeast corner of East Houston is at the end of its life. Estimates place its age at roughly forty years. According to the announcement posted […]