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.

This image has been archived or removed.

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.

This image has been archived or removed.

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.

This image has been archived or removed.

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.

This image has been archived or removed.

Recent Stories

These are the Top Checkouts at NYPL Branches on the Lower East Side

The New York Public Library has just released every bookworm’s favorite year-end list: 2018’s top checkouts systemwide, by borough, by branch, and by genre. This year’s overall victor of the city library stacks was none other than Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. But Lower East Side branches opted for another bestseller. Seward Park and Mulberry […]

Mayor Heads to Chinatown Today to Discuss Revised Jail Plan (Privately)

Mayor de Blasio is headed to Chinatown this morning for a closed-door meeting to discuss the revised plans for a prison high-rise. The private meet-and-greet with Councilwoman Margaret Chin and other “community stakeholders” follows on the heels of Hizzoner’s cancelation of plans to redevelop 80 Centre Street into a 430-foot glassy jail complex. Nixing this […]

Mount Sinai Inks Deal for Rivington House Behavioral Health Facility

An end-of-year surprise. It appears that health care is in fact returning to Rivington House. And allegedly at the expense of condo conversion. Neighbors to Save Rivington House group disclosed this week that co-owner Slate Property Group recently signed a “Letter of Intent” with Mount Sinai Hospital to move its “Behavioral Health” program into the […]

Long-Vacant Pit on 2nd Avenue will be Plugged with 10-Story Condo

It’s been a hole in the ground for the last eighteen years. Next up, more condos. The splintered plywood just below 2nd Avenue and East 1st Street, as well as the First Street Green art park, shields pedestrians from the detritus below. In what was the former footprint of Irreplaceable Artifacts, which was destabilized and […]

Years Overdue, Bowery-Houston Leg of Roadwork Ending; Resurfacing Soon

Tonight is apparently an event not to miss here on the Lower East Side. The intersection of East Houston and the Bowery finally gets its due and proper. Roadwork on this spot is (supposedly) at the finish line, and tonight supposedly begins the resurfacing. A Boogie informant spoke with a foreman onsite who confirmed the […]